Venerable old institutions in England are looking for a fresh look these days. The nearly 200-year-old Old Vic Theatre in London is the latest to make plans for a much-needed facelift. The institutions artistic director, actor Kevin Spacey, is committed to bringing the structure into the 21st century through refurbishment of the current building and expansion into a newly acquired adjacent space.
Earlier this week, Manhattan Borough President and City Controller candidate Scott Stringer announced his $1 million pledge to restore a historic Harlem fire watchtower at the heart of Marcus Garvey Park. In the 19th century, the 47-foot tower served as a lookout point and the bell was raised in case of imminent danger. Today, the tower no longer protects the community but threatens it, showing substantial signs of decay and neglect.
Running a tight race against Eliot Spitzer, Stringer lags behind the former governor in terms of African American votes and is thus seeking to salvage one of the community’s most valued landmarks. The past few days, he has generated good publicity from his ability and desire to fund this restoration project.The $1 million provided by Stringer, along with the $1.75 million contributed by Councilmember Inez Dickens and $1.25 million by Mayor Bloomberg will be used to preserve the tower. The project includes a full restoration of the tower’s cast-iron structure, the removal of deficient parts, and the additional construction of a stainless steel support system.
No one really knows what Thomas Jefferson’s Rotunda, modeled after the Pantheon in Rome, representing the enlightened human mind, and standing at the head of the University of Virginia’s Academical Village lawn in Charlottesville, VA, looked like originally. The structure burned in 1895, the result of an electrical surge from a local streetcar line, and records of the original design are not complete. Over the years, various generations have rebuilt and restored the structure according to their own interpretations of Jefferson’s design and to the needs of the time. Now 40 years after the last major renovations took place for the nation’s bicentennial, UVA has covered the Rotunda in scaffolding and begun the latest round of improvements to the once-crumbling structure.
A Victorian house once home to Nashvillian composer and ethnomusicologist John W. Work III received a full restoration from Columbus, Ohio-based Moody•Nolan, the nation’s largest African-American owned and operated architecture firm, in 2011.
That project recently won three awards: a Citation of Excellence from the Associated General Contractors, a Certificate of Merit from the State Historical Commission and an Honor Award from the Metro Nashville Historical Commission.
In the world of historical preservation, when it comes to restoring a building, there is often the difficult question to answer of when does history begin and end? So many of our significant elderly structures have undergone numerous renovations and additions, such that stakeholders can easily come to loggerheads when deciding exactly what to protect and what to discard. Just such a drama has recently played out in Hondo, Texas—a little town west of San Antonio—where county commissioners have decided to not restore their courthouse to its original 1893 condition. While the project, which was to receive funding from the Texas Historical Commission (THC), would have restored an 1893 clock tower, it also required demolishing two wings of the building that were added in 1938-40 by the Works Projects Administration (WPA).
Last evening a crowd of one hundred or so gathered on museum mile in front of the Guggenheim Museum to mark the completion of its three-year renovation project with a champagne reception and a ceremony officiated by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Arriving fashionably late, Bloomberg addressed the crowd with his typical charisma, candidly remarking that the new restoration is “one of the best facelifts on 5th Avenue.” Bloomberg also stated that despite the tough financial times we have recently come upon, the City will continue investing in art and cultural institutions, like the Guggenheim. At the conclusion of Bloomberg’s speech, the official ribbon cutting ceremony revealed a large sign draped over the front exterior of the building that read, “Good As New.” Marc Steglitz, the Guggenheim Museum’s Interim Director-Elect, later commented that the building is actually “better than new,” but said that he was told that he could not say that in fear of the lurking preservationists in the crowd!