Preservation Round-Up: It's Brutal Edition

Posted on: November 15th, 2010 by Alex Baca 1 Comment

It was in vogue, once... (image via Flickr User voteprime).

Good afternoon, Nation! Here’s your Monday Preservation Round-Up, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s twice-weekly digest of preservation news and tidbits from around the country. 

What happens to buildings that are largely acknowledged as important, but also largely acknowledged as...ugly? Baltimore's Morris Mechanic Theatre, a true relic of Brutalist architecture, has found itself in that particular gray area. Urbanite Baltimore reports that while the structure of the theatre itself did not manage to gain historic designation, the mixed-use development project intended for the site has been stalled by the economy. The problems do really come down to aesthetics: "But beauty is eye of the beholder, and aesthetics fall in and out [of] fashion, as Johns Hopkins, head of the local preservation group Baltimore Heritage reminds us. 'In the 1940s and ’50s, Victorian buildings like the Engineers Club, the Winans Mansion, and the Marburg Mansion were all considered drop-dead ugly and not worthy of preservation, and those are among our most prized architectural possessions today,' Hopkins says...In the end, this mess over the Mechanic represents a growing wave of historic preservation conflicts taking shape across the country. Modernist buildings from the middle of last century are increasingly falling out of fashion and facing the wrecking ball." 

Historian for Hire has a phenomenally in-depth post that looks at William Degges. William who? Well, he built President Lincoln's Cottage (a National Trust for Historic Site, funny enough): "Projects to construct buildings to house the United States Treasury Department and Patent Office, as well as a new General Post Office and dwellings in which a growing federal workforce could live drew artisans and laborers from around the world to the capital city and provided mostly steady work for increasing numbers of native Washingtonians already in the building trades. The carpenters, bricklayers, and stonemasons who worked under contract to the Commissioner of Public Buildings were skilled mechanics and entrepreneurs whose client base included merchants, bankers, politicians, manufacturers, and military officers. The summer of 1842 began as the nation was entering a third year in economic depression. Two of the builders working in the District of Columbia that summer were Washington carpenter William H. Degges and Philadelphia architect John Skirving." Click through for some fantastic maps, diagrams, and the history of the Degges family (there's even footnotes). 

A guest post on Preservation Journey covers the far-flung (well, it's in Belgium, anyway) Château Miranda: "The Château Miranda, later called Chateau Noisy and located near Celles, Belgium, was built in phases circa 1866-1907. Most of the historical accounts I’ve read online seem to copy each other, but sources say the architects were an Englishman named Milner, followed by Pelchner, who was French. The château was built for Count Liedekerke-Beaufort, whose family also still owns the nearby Castle of Veves. The château was used as a private residence for many years, then occupied briefly by the Germans during World War II, and later converted into a home for children. Exactly how long the property has been neglected seems uncertain, but indications are that it has been out of use since 1991." More on the abandoned castle here (a note: Preservation Journey is open to submissions of more stories like this one. Head on over to their blog if there's something you'd like to share). 

Preservation Portland reports that the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals has reenforced the historic design review process (no more vinyl window free-for-alls!) in Northwest Portland. Preservation in Pink finds a sweet Historic American Engineering Record poster—about trusses (no, really, I'd like one for myself). The Tenement Museum Blog posts about Snapshot! at the Tenement Museum, a fun-looking night were patrons were allowed free liberty to take photos of themselves wherever they so desired. The Columbus, Mississippi Dispatch lets locals know that the Main Street program is successful

With that, enjoy your Monday! Got any tips, news, or otherwise preservation-related fluff? We’d love to include it in the next round. Send us your links on Twitter and Facebook, and maybe you’ll see it here next week! 

Alex Baca, a senior at the University of Maryland, is an intern in the Online Communications department at the National Trust for Historic Preservation and also at the Washington City Paper.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

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One Response

  1. OKmod

    November 15, 2010

    Reading about the Mechanic Theater in Baltimore reminded me of a recent effort to “refresh” our Post Office/Federal Building in Tulsa. Suggestions ranged from re-skinning to razing the Sixties behemoth. The simple concept of non-destructive repurposing was conspicuously absent from the suggestions.

    Fortunately, a stalwart few showed up to point out the fact that not everybody finds the building ugly.