Category: Adaptive Reuse

This Week

A weekly round-up of my favorite preservation related stories from around the web and in the newsClick on the title of each story to jump through to the original article/blog post.

Scaffolding is All Over, Here’s Why The Monuments Still Look Majestic – Smithsonian Magazine

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Scaffolding designed by Michael Graves & Associates circa 2000. Interested in the specifications for the dramatic structure currently enshrouding the Monument? Check this excellent graphic from the Washington Post. Image via Smithsonian Magazine

There’s been so much scaffolding recently in Washington D.C. that it looks like the capital is recovering from an incredibly ruthless alien invasion, a knock-down drag-out superhero brawl, or some other action film-level disaster. In a city as widely visited as Washington D.C., a city where it seems that even structures of the smallest import are national landmarks, it’s not exactly desirable to have the monuments, memorials and buildings concealed behind wood and metal cages.  As a result, D.C. architects have gotten creative.  They are using enormous scrims printed with the image of the building/monument (a practice long used in Europe). And they are using beautifully designed illuminated scaffolding, like that on the Washington Monument.

Fort Lyon Treatment Facility in Colorado– Here and Now

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Fort Lyon was once on Preservation Colorado’s most endangered list. Image via Preservation Colorado

Fort Lyon, a former Army fort and sanitarium that opened after the Civil War feels like an Ivy League college campus – some people call it the Princeton of the Plains. It was a minimum security prison until two years ago when the state shut it down because of the budget shortfall.  Now it has a new life as an experimental drug treatment facility. When the prison closed, it was a huge blow to the region’s economy. State leaders eventually directed more than $10 million to reopen the facility for its new use. Preservation can happen in the most unexpected of ways.

The Awesomely Insane Heaven and Hell Nightclubs of 1890s Paris –  io9

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Le Ciel et l’Enfer was only one of your options if you wanted a morbid night club experience in 1890s Paris. Image via i09

Turn of the century Paris was choc-a-block with macabre night clubs where one could ponder mortality and be heckled by Satan while sipping on cocktails named after pestilence and disease.  Not my cup of tea, I’d probably rather have my libations free of plague and Satan, but these photos are pretty amazing!

Why Do Old Places Matter? – National Trust of Historic Preservation

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The stone walls and moat of Fort Monroe. Image via NTHP

“This series of essays will explore  the reasons that old places are good for people. It begins with what I consider the main reason—that old places are important for people to define who they are through memory, continuity, and identity—that “sense of orientation” referred to in With Heritage So Rich.These fundamental reasons inform all of the other reasons that follow: commemoration, beauty, civic identity, and the reasons that are more pragmatic—preservation as a tool for community revitalization, the stabilization of property values, economic development, and sustainability.”

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This Week

A weekly round-up of my favorite preservation related stories from around the web and in the newsClick on the title of each story to jump through to the original article/blog post.

A New Life for an Old Slave Jail – NPR

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Formerly known as the Alexandria Slave Pen, this ashen gray row house in Alexandria, Va., once housed one of the country’s largest slave-dealing firms. Image via NPR

“President Abraham Lincoln stood on a battlefield in Gettysburg, Pa., 150 years ago [this week] and declared “a new birth of freedom” for the nation. That same year, an African-American man named Lewis Henry Bailey experienced his own rebirth. At age 21, Bailey was freed from slavery in Texas. His journey began in Virginia, where he was sold as a child in a slave jail. Today, the building where Bailey and thousands of slaves once lived before they were sold is the home of the Freedom House Museum and the Northern Virginia chapter of the Urban League, one of the nation’s oldest civil rights organizations.”

Dallas, 1963: City of Hate? – Atlantic Cities

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John F. Kennedy campaigning in Dallas, September 1960. Photograph by Shel Hershorn. Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Image via AC

“In the wake of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Dallas earned a new moniker — the “City of Hate.” It’s a damning nickname. Is it fair? Fifty years ago, Dallas was the nation’s right-wing “center for resistance.” After President Kennedy’s assassination, Dallasites faced years of trouble while traveling around the country. They were sometimes even denied service because of their hometown.  What most non-Texans didn’t realize was that the city had a more glamorous and cultured side as well. It was home to new luxury apartment towers, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed theater and the flagship location of Nieman Marcus. The Fort Worth hotel Kennedy stayed at on his final night transformed his suite into a room filled with sculptures and paintings by Monet, Picasso, and Van Gogh.”

WWI Created New Culture of Mourning – Deutsche Welle

Historian Jay M. Winter explains how the First World War permanently changed the culture of mourning. Whether Verdun, Shoa, or 9/11, what remains of the deceased is often only a name. Before WWI, mourning centered around the place where the physical remains of a person was entombed. Because of the massive number of casualties and the way in which soldiers perished during WWI, there was not a body to bury/burials were lost in the back and forth movement of the frontlines. It was at this point that spirtualism and seances became popular. It was also at this time that the list of names on memorials became an accepted practice in mourning: “The names were the things that mattered. The names are all that mattered. In war memorials you’ll see them, in churches, in Germany, all over the world. What matters is the list of the names in the parish or the town, the school or the university. It is the names. It is a way of bringing the bodies back home in a metaphorical sense of the term. Those names defined families that were empty, that had absences.”

Where Were You? 50 Memories to Mark 50 Years – Here and Now

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Many listeners’ memories of the Kennedy assassination include Walter Cronkite on CBS. In this image, Cronkite removes his glasses while announcing the death of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963.(Getty Images). Image via Here and Now

Here & Now has been receiving emails, web comments, Facebook messages and tweets (and even one fax) from listeners, with their memories of the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, 50 years ago today. Many of these stories share common threads: Class lessons interrupted, seeing parents and teachers cry, being glued to the television for days. Memories also came from foreign countries, on board planes, in hospitals and in the telephone room of an Air Force base. We’ve loved reading them and wanted to share 50 here to mark 50 years past.”

Memorializing Tragedy: JFK Assassination in Dallas

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The Kennedys riding in Dallas Motorcade just moments before the assassination. Image via the Newseum

Just a few months shy of the fiftieth anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, a 1920s apartment building in Dallas was demolished causing local controversy and national headlines.  The building, at nearly 90 years old, was historical and eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, to be sure, but the controversy over its demolition was not based on either fact.  Instead, the controversy arose from the building’s link to the death of JFK

Eight months prior to the assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald and his family lived in the apartment building for about six months.  It was there that Oswald ordered and had delivered the gun that killed President Kennedy.  And it was there that investigators believe Oswald, a twenty-three year old former marine, planned the assassination.

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Demolition of the 1920s apartment building where Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly planned the assassination of JFK. Image via NBC

This is only the latest incident in which the city of Dallas has struggled with its connection to the infamous assassination. In its immediate aftermath, many wanted to sweep the tragedy under the rug.  A citizen effort led by a local merchant resulted in a monument that continues to inspire controversy. Later, painted Xs mysteriously appeared on Elm Street where the president was struck by bullets, the Sixth Floor Museum in the book depository became a place of interpretation for thousands of people who visit Dallas each year, and finally, this year dozens of commemoration events will take place all over the city.

Immediately following the president’s assassination, the most prominent advocate for moving forward without memorializing the tragedy was then Dallas mayor, R.L. Thornton. He felt Washington was the appropriate location for any monuments to the slain leader. Though the “city of hate” stigma may have been undeserved, what Mayor Thornton did not realize is that place memory is powerful.  Memorial or not, the City of Dallas will always be remembered as the place where the vibrant and popular 35th president was killed.

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Exterior of the JFK Memorial in Dallas designed by Phillip Johnson. Image via janusson.ca

Local merchant king, Stanley Marcus, moved forward with a memorial choosing Harvard educated Phillip Johnson (ironically, the Kennedy administration had just months before rejected Johnson’s candidacy for  the Fine Arts Commission after a review of his career as an American fascist and Nazi propagandist in the 1930s). Inspired by Mies Van Der Roe, Johnson designed a box of white pillars linked together and floating above the ground.   Approved by Jacqueline Kennedy and funded by donations, the monument was meant to symbolize the freedom of Kennedy’s spirit. Johnson described it as “devoid of expression or moralizing” and “monumental in its empty presence.”   It is  “a place of quiet refuge, an enclosed place of thought and contemplation separated from the city around, but near the sky and earth.”

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Interior of JFK Memorial. The concrete pillar with round decorative elements have been criticized for resembling giant legos. Image via jaatmaa.com

Reviews were not especially generous when it was finally opened to the public in 1970. The long delay, necessitated by the construction of an underground parking facility, was yet further indication of where the city’s true priorities stood. Recently, LA architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne wrote:

The memorial by Philip Johnson, for its part, also symbolizes the city’s deep ambivalence about commemorating the assassination. A spare cenotaph, or open tomb, designed to be built in marble, it was instead cast in cheaper concrete. And its location east of the assassination site suggested an effort to tuck the history of that day away.

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An X marks the spot on Elm Street on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013 where the first bullet hit President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963 near the former Texas School Book Depository, now known as the Sixth Floor Museum, background, on Dealey Plaza in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero). Image via The Concord Monitor

While Dallas’ JFK memorial remains divisive, millions of people who visit the city each year seek out sites associated with the assassination. They come to just walk the “Grassy Knoll” at Dealey Plaza to reflect on the tragedy. They gaze into the traffic zooming along Elm Street. Up until this week, they could look from the Xs painted on the pavement marking the places where Kennedy was struck by bullet(s) to the sixth floor windows of the Texas School Book Repository where Oswald perched that fateful day. (The Xs where removed earlier this week during street repairs made in preparation for tomorrows commemorations. Mysteriously, the  city does not know who painted the Xs or has maintained them over the years).  And they visit the Sixth Floor Museum housed, as the name would indicate, in the space where Oswald fired on Kennedy. The museum “chronicles the assassination and legacy of President John F. Kennedy; interprets the Dealey Plaza National Historic Landmark District and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza; and presents contemporary culture within the context of presidential history.”

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Visitors to the Sixth Floor Museum gaze at Dealey Plaza from the same window from which Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly fired the fatal shots that killed President Kennedy. Image via The Sixth Floor Museum

Tomorrow, among other commemorations planned across the city, a new memorial to Kennedy will be unveiled in the grassy knoll area of Dealey Plaza. An austere plane of aluminum alloy the size of a large door, it bears the concluding words from the speech JFK was to deliver upon his arrival at the Trade Mart, but never did. “We, in this country, in this generation, are — by destiny rather than by choice — the watchmen on the walls of world freedom,” he was to say, before concluding with an invocation from Scripture: “Except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen waketh but in vain.”

By marking the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination with fanfare and memorials, the city of Dallas is moving forward in its efforts to make peace with the role it played in the death of one of America’s most popular political and celebrity figures.

 

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Pullman train car guest rooms at the Crowne Plaza in downtown Indianapolis.

Last week, the National Trust for Historic Preservation held its annual conference in Indianapolis.

The venue was an awesome example of adaptive use – a hotel and convention center housed within America’s first Union Station! Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Crowne Plaza features authentic Pullman train car guest rooms resting on their original tracks. Pretty unbelievable!  Though I didn’t get to see inside the rooms, I can attest that guests can still hear the muffled rumblings of trains passing through because the hotel is adjacent to an active Amtrak train station. If you are ever in Indianapolis you should definitely check it out!

Turning Failure into Opportunity, Lexingtonians Embrace Centrepointe

Five years after an entire city block was razed in downtown Lexington, Kentucky, its people have learned to turn lemons into lemonade.

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Only in Lexington, Kentucky, the “horse capital of the world”- A twilight polo match in the center of historic downtown.

Google the failed development known as Centrepointe and reams of newspaper articles and blog posts will flood your results screen.  It reads like a soap opera- the (some might say greedy) developer, the hometown opposition, and the plot twist: death and financial ruin.

It started out as plan for urban renewal right out of a 1960s handbook.  Developer, Dudley Webb wanted to demolish an entire city block in the center of the city’s historic center, in order to build a new mixed-use property with a hotel, restaurants, offices and condos. In the past, Webb spearheaded successful downtown development  and even won awards and accolades from preservationists for his Victorian Square project.  In light of this, preservationists and concerned citizens hoped to dissuade Webb from demolition. Instead,  a tooth and nail battle over the fate of the block ensued.

Though the block contained some of downtown’s oldest buildings and more than a few beloved local business, and despite the fierce opposition faced by Webb, the block came down – only for the city to find that his mysterious main financial backer died suddenly. Without leaving a will.

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Stomping the divots (just like in Pretty Woman!) at Centrepointe field.

The whole deal went belly up, leaving Lexington with a large grassy field at its center.  Despite dozens of new designs for the development and promises by Webb that construction is eminent, the lot remains nothing but grass behind a wooden fence.

In the meantime, Webb has granted various groups in the city permission to utilize the Centrepointe field for events – a genius PR move.  Festivals that once lined the streets have found a new home at Centrepointe including festivities surrounding St. Patrick’s Day and Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Some rather unusual events have also taken place at Centrepointe, including the Alltech National Horse Show, and most recently an exhibition polo match.

Marketed as a once in a lifetime event, the twilight match was rumored to have been conceived of and executed in just 7 days!  It was so fun and unique that it’s almost a shame that something will eventually be constructed on the lot. This author votes that downtown Twilight Polo should become a new Lexington tradition! Viva the grassy field!