In what has become a recurring irony, the poor taste of 20th century corporations has been saving the day for historic buildings across the country. Now as companies like Walgreens and CVS rehabilitate dilapidated banks into drugstores, St. Louis might be getting its first look in decades at a historic Isamu Noguchi designed ceiling hidden above a drop ceiling in what’s now a U-Haul truck rental warehouse.
On October 13, 1965, the New York Times ran a piece of architecture criticism on its front page, above the fold, spanning five out of seven columns. The writer was Ada Louise Huxtable, and the topic was the looming decimation of downtown Salem, Massachusetts—near Huxtable’s summer home in Marblehead. “Urban Renewal Threatens Historic Buildings in Salem, Mass.,” read the headline. “Foes Fear Plans Will Mar Old New England Heritage.” Those were the dark years between the demolition of New York’s Penn Station in 1963 and passage of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966.
Before the Department of Homeland Security moves into its old insane asylum home, the National Historic Landmark will need some intense TLC
Although a designated landmark, the proposed new site for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the heart of the St. Elizabeths West Campus, Washington D.C., is an intense fixer-upper. Working with architects Shalom Baranes Associates and contractor Grunley Construction, the General Services Administration proposes a total renovation of the 264,300 square foot Center Building, a collection of seven connected structures that served as patient treatment rooms and administrative offices for the original Government Hospital for the Insane. It later became known as the St. Elizabeths Hospital.
Design professionals are being sought for a consulting role to provide a conditions assessment of the historic First Presbyterian Church complex in Stamford, Connecticut. As part of a multi-year campaign to repair, conserve, restore, and upgrade the complex, the selected team will be expected to complete an architectural analysis of the current conditions of the building and provide recommendations for its rehabilitation and restoration as part of Phase I.
Indian officials have proposed that high-rises be built on the site of Edwin Lutyens-designed bungalows dating from the 1920s and 1930s, threatening Delhi’s colonial era architecture, according to the Guardian. Lutyens’ Delhi, a 3,000-acre zone containing the Mughal Garden at Rashtrapati Bhavan, has endured monsoons, riots, and acid rain, but now many of the area’s government buildings, parks, and homes have met a new menace: a scheme to loosen planning limitations to permit construction of high-rise structures.
Local nonprofit Alphawood Foundation Chicago and longtime owners the Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation announced Tuesday a joint fundraising campaign aimed at fixing water damage that, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, “urgently requires a multi-million-dollar rescue effort.”
Cincinnati’s 1938 Frederick and Harriet Rauh House by architect John Becker is a success story of preserving modern architecture. The house was nearly demolished for a McMansion several years ago, but the Cincinnati Preservation Association (CPA) initiated a restoration project in September 2011 and the revolutionary International Style abode is now complete after just over a year of renovation. The CPA will celebrate the renewal of the Rauh House by hosting a two-day symposium, “Preserving Modern Architecture,” taking place on April 24 and 25.
New York City’s financially-strapped Department of Education is seeking to cash in on a 99,000 square foot lot on 70th Street just west of Broadway, but a local elementary school and the legacy of one of America’s first Modernists stand in the way. If the Department gets its way, the three-story P.S. 199, designed in 1963 by Edward Durell Stone, will be sold to developers and replaced by a 340-foot-tall luxury residential tower in the already crowded Upper West Side neighborhood.
The slow and tortured demise of Chicago’s Prentice Women’s Hospital now has an official stamp: according to the Chicago Tribune, Northwestern University was issued a demolition permit for the Bertrand Goldberg cloverleaf last Friday. Wrecking crews will be on site in a few weeks after asbestos abatement wraps up, and there are sure to be protesters around the construction fence.
Of course, as seems all too common, the city is also busy readying soldiers for the next preservation battle. The 1957 Edo Belli-designed Cuneo Memorial Hospital is targeted for demolition, but Uptown residents have reached out to Preservation Chicago for support seeking landmark status. The group listed the building on its 2012 list of seven most-threatened structures in the city. Add this to what happened to Prentice and it isn’t a good year to be a midcentury modernist hospital in Chicago.
Northern Illinois may not have pyramids (you’ll have to go to elsewhere in the Midwest for that) but the Egyptian Theatre continues Pharaoh Ramses II’s reign over downtown DeKalb, IL. As this post in PreservationNation describes, the movie house has undergone a series of restoration efforts since it landed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Designed by architect Elmer F. Behrns in 1929, the theater’s pharaoh sculptures, scarab stained glass, and winged orb marquee fell into disrepair by the late seventies, when the theater closed. It reopened in 1983, but renovations continued until recently. In the last six years building rehabilitation and maintenance exceeded $1.5 million, but creative fundraising—the owners, Preservation of the Egyptian Theatre, Inc., sold the theater’s original seats when they were replaced in 2011 and even started running popular haunted tours—have helped fill the financial gap.
The building owners hope to continue renovations, including replacing the carpeting and installing air conditioning.