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Preservation Round-Up: Gaga Over Googie Edition

Posted on: January 10th, 2011 by Jason Clement 2 Comments

 

Pancakes anyone? The site of Portland's first Denny's. (Photo: Google Maps)

Good afternoon, Nation, and welcome to this week's first Preservation Round-Up, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s twice-weekly digest of preservation news and notes from around the country.

Today we start with a question: Is your town's first Denny's worth saving?

Thanks largely to their typical sprawl-tastic and/or faux-diner design, I'll go out on a limb and assume that a good handful of you just answered -- perhaps even screamed -- "Absolutely not!" However, for preservationists (and some foodies) in Portland, Oregon, the issue isn't so cut and dry.

In 1963, the local paper ran an advertisement heralding the grand opening of a "new star in Portland's constellation of progress," a place where patrons could park with ease, enjoy air conditioning, and chow down on some USDA Choice Top Sirloin for just over a buck. The ad was complete with a rendering of a hopping restaurant with a check-mark roof and sheet glass windows, all beneath a high flying, starburst of a sign. Welcome to Denny's, which aimed to "satisfy everyone everywhere -- 24 hours a day!"

Fast forward to today. The building -- a rare Googie find with no historic designation -- is boarded up and broken. The owner has an architect and some slick drawings of a new, one-story nightclub that would best the old Denny's by well over 5,000 square feet.

So, what's a preservationist to do? The reader comments on this recent story do a good job of summing up the quandary:

"Where are all the design savvy gentry? Distinct design such as this needs to be preserved. Modernism is all the rage and in a few years even the 'tear the damn thing down' brigade will regret this loss."

"As much as I love modernism (I've owned 2 modernist houses) the building was never in synch with the neighborhood. Also, it's not one of the better examples of Googie. It just looks like a sad wallflower who wore the wrong outfit to the party."

"Sorry but I don't think this is a good idea when a structure with plenty of pop is being replaced by a generic flop. Have you ever heard of the architect who designed the new building. I think not."

"Maybe keep the sign somehow? I love old buildings, but I think that would be a sufficient nod to the past."

The good folks over at Preservation Portland present a variety of arguments for why the building should stay, including what some may see as the common sense one:

Unless there are irreversible structural issues, why demolish a building only to replace it with something that will serve the same essential purpose and will do nothing to add housing density or other social benefits to the community? Such a demolition is a waste of resources and energy.

Aside from architectural legacy and the embodied energy of the bricks and mortar, is there an argument to be made about what the building means to America's food culture? SlashFood.com takes a shot, remembering back when Paris suffered a loss that definitely did a thing or two to its culinary cred:

Tearing down a Denny's isn't going to destroy America's retro culinary culture (that's mostly been done already). But let's fast-forward for a moment to the raising of a grand food market that did exactly that, destroyed the historical heart of one of the greatest city's in the world, ripping out a piece of its soul. Like an amputee with an artificial limb, Paris has never fully recovered from the damage done by tearing down the centuries-old Les Halles market, with its lattice-work pavilions where trucks used to unload produce and goods from all over the country in the middle of the night, spawning a de facto café culture of after-midnight supers with onion soup and platters of pig's feat that disappeared in a flash exactly 40 years ago. Today, Les Halles is a dreary concrete wasteland with a cheerless underground shopping mall surrounded by fast-food joints and t-shirt shops.

And of course, this isn't the first time a Denny's has been at the center of a tricky preservation question. In 2008, Portland's neighbor to the north stood up for one of the chain's locations that looked like a cross between a barn and a ski chalet -- another Googie gem.

So, what do you think? Be it for the architecture, the environment, or quite simply what it says about comfort food in this country, should Portland save its first Denny's?

And with that, let's quickly (my editor means it!) romp through some other preservation headlines that have nothing to do with bottomless pancakes: The South Bronx is going gangbusters on blight, some people have really cool houses, Los Angelenos remember Angels Flight, someone created a new -ism, jazz bites the dust in NOLA, Taliesin turns 100, and residents of downtown Dallas grapple with losing an 85-year-old neighbor.

Oh, and it snowed in New York City -- and historic stuff looks pretty in the snow. Behold: A wintery High Line (via Twitter).

Jason Lloyd Clement is an online content provider for PreservationNation.org. He is currently craving breakfast for lunch in a big, big way.

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.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

Preservation Round-Up: The Supersized Edition

Posted on: January 7th, 2011 by Jason Clement

 

Here's to that! (Photo: Flickr User HoyasMeg)

If you're a passionate reader of the Preservation Round-Up (we sure there's a few of you out there...mom), you know to expect a heaping helping of preservation news every Monday and Thursday. That being said, you may have noticed that yesterday was, by all accounts, devoid of any rounding up. We can explain.

It started at 6:30 a.m. with a sore throat. By the time the alarm sounded after snooze number three, things had progressed -- or rather deteriorated -- into shivers and/or feverishness. By snooze number five, I was an achy mass of hazmat struggling to thumb type a sick note. While feeling under the weather is never fun, I am aware that some people can actually make the best of it with comfort food, hot tea, and daytime television. I, however, am not one of those people; after the thrill of watching The Today Show with my feet up wears off, I become a restless basket case.

Thankfully, yesterday wasn't your average sick day.

At precisely 11:46 a.m., mere moments before I was about to start organizing my sock drawer, I received a phone call from a local news station. A reporter had seen something I posted on a neighborhood listserv about a beyond-egregious McMansion going up in my community -- a quaint little corner of Washington full of bungalows and beautifully-shaded lots. Moments later, I was outside my 100-year-old home getting my preservation on. Hence our theme for today.

While I was on camera pointing to infill successes and failures in my own neck of the woods, the good folks over at GreaterGreaterWashington.org were entertaining a similar discussion about development in nearby Montgomery County, where reports show teardowns continue to rear their ugly heads. Starting with a subdivision map from 1951, the well-researched post tracks the various owners and mortgage transactions that lead a 1952 "Belvedere rambler" to be replaced by what the author dubs a Cliffs Notes Home. For those of us unfamiliar with the term, an entertaining, yet dead-on definition:

Cliffs Notes houses are buildings that are out-of-scale and character of the settings where they are built. They draw from a wide array of architectural vocabularies and present them in greatly abbreviated fashion: Revival styles (Colonial, Tudor, Mediterranean), Craftsman/Bungalow, Victorian, and even modernist styles. Elements are sampled from these historical sources and are reconfigured in the exteriors of single homes. For example, a single Cliffs Notes home may have a Queen Anne tower attached to a main block that features a clipped gable roof with false half-timbering details, quoining, Italianate window surrounds, Palladian windows, and a Greek Revival full-height front porch.

Cliff Notes Homes, Starter Castles, Big Box Victorians: Regardless of what you call them, what we're all talking about is development that simply doesn't fit our neighborhoods. The post on Montgomery Country and my own interview inspired me to take a fresh look at the many resources the National Trust for Historic Preservation offers to fight mansionization, which include a toolkit and a glossary. It also left me with a question -- or perhaps an existential crisis -- as I pondered the future of my street, where we have a handful of empty old homes that have seen better days: How long until this issue gets really close to home?

And with an audible gulp, let's shift focus to some of the other preservation-related headlines that caught my eye this week. First the bad news (it's always better that way): Some of San Antonio's missions recently got an unwanted paint job, Georgetown (S.C.) has a lot of abandoned buildings that need some love, a farmhouse and a barn (both historic) face uncertain futures, and Hamburger Heaven -- where the grub ranged from "excellent" to "really good" -- is gone.

On the flip side, it's a brand new day for Buffalo's beautiful Genesse Block. These buildings, which "have fascinating stories to tell about the lives of business and tradesmen in Buffalo," have come a long way after decades of neglect, demo pressure, and misguided rehab attempts. Also, Baltimore Heritage reflects on why the West Side matters (note: an amazing story), things are always be discovered at President Lincoln's Cottage, and the Sustainable Cities Collective muses on the benefits of small town sense of place.

And to close us out, I present something you probably will not being doing this weekend. (PS: Can you believe that beautiful train station?)

With that, enjoy both your Friday and your weekend. We promise to return on time -- and hopefully in full health -- on Monday.

Jason Lloyd Clement is an online content provider for PreservationNation.org. This weekend, he will not be exploring the hidden tunnels of the District of Columbia.

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.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

Preservation Round-Up: The Get It Done Edition

Posted on: January 3rd, 2011 by Jason Clement

 

2011: Year of the DIY? (Photo: Flickr User Bitzcelt)

Happy first Monday of 2011, Nation! We're pumped up, well caffeinated, and ready to roll with the year's first installment of the Preservation Round-Up, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s twice-weekly digest of preservation news and notes from around the country.

Today is, of course, a make-or-break day as far as resolutions are concerned. Sure they all sounded like superb ideas when you were laid up on the couch wearing sweat pants and hacking into a cheese ball (not that I'm speaking from personal experience or anything...), but today is about implementation. While I'm not qualified to give fitness or nutrition advice (I think there are apps for that), I can share some handy DIY tips in the event that a renovation/restoration project made your list.

Always a wealth of good information, OldHouseWeb.com is currently offering an array of how-to's to guide you through finding a roof leak (before the contractors come), greening your kitchen cabinets, repairing wood rafters (for all you Arts and Crafts lovers out there), restoring your floors, and avoiding some common character-ruining renovations. Over at ThisOldHouse.com, they have tips -- 100 of them actually -- if you want to DIY on a budget. And if you're hoping to get a little greener this year, see how you can conduct your own home energy audit thanks to TheDailyGreen.com.

And of course, don't forget about the resources we've lovingly prepared for you here at PreservatioNation.org. We've got tips for winterizing your home, a guide to lead paint, some thoughts on installing solar panels, and a map of old-home-friendly contractors should your DIY efforts unexpectedly qualify you for HGTV's Over Your Head.

Now, enough about resolutions and/or getting dirty. Let's dish some preservation, shall we? Landmark West! has launched a walking tour app, which encourages users to look up when strolling down the Upper West Side. Some old theaters are reinventing themselves, but sadly not this one. Things are looking good at Denver's Union Station, historic commercial architecture in Palm Springs has a big, big fan, the fight to save Blair Mountain continues, and state parks are still feeling the crunch.

To close us out, an inspiring little sound bite from Alex Marshall, who has happily witnessed Portland, Ore. bloom in recent decades:

And in the long run, being distinctive is a positive thing for a city because rather than being nowhere, you’re somewhere. It can’t be faked though. It’s about confronting hard choices and making the right ones.

While a lot of things contribute to a city's overall distinctiveness, we think historic preservation is -- without question -- an essential ingredient. So, here's to a new year full of making important places distinctive "somewheres" -- be they our homes or our entire towns.

And with that, enjoy your Monday -- and stick with those resolutions. And as always, if you have any tips, news, or otherwise preservation-related fluff, let us know by sending us links on Twitter and Facebook.

Jason Lloyd Clement is an online content provider for PreservationNation.org. He'll be spending much of 2011 putting the finishing touches on his 101-year-old colonial.

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.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

Preservation Round-Up: The Stuck in the Snow Edition

Posted on: December 30th, 2010 by Jason Clement

 

A swooping Saarinen-designed beauty at JFK International. (Photo: Flickr User Pro-Zak)

Howdy, Nation! Here’s your Thursday installment of the Preservation Round-Up, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s twice-weekly digest of preservation news and notes from around the country.  

Snarled snarled snarled – that’s probably how you’re describing this week if holiday travel plans brought you anywhere near a major airport. Thanks to the Great and Mighty Post-Christmas Snowpocalypse of 2010, which blanketed and then crippled swaths of the south and northeast in inches of white stuff, arrival and departure reader boards across the country have been lit up like the Vegas strip with the following messages: CANCELLED! NADA! DELAYED! FUGETABOUTIT!  

And while being stuck is rarely fun, Caroline Stanley over at Flavorwire recently reminded us that some airports are in fact really beautiful (ahem, historic) places. Eero Saarinen's iconic 1962 TWA Flight Center at JFK International made her list, which overall is a nice mix of old and new architecture from around the world. And while most airports aren’t inspiring places (some are downright dreadful), keep this thought-provoking tidbit from an oldie but goodie issue of Preservation magazine in mind as you rush to your next gate or make a nest out of sweatshirts on the floor:  

These days, we pass through airports as quickly as possible, suffering the long lines and flight delays and quick-tempered ticket agents with the knowledge that we'll end up somewhere else at the end of our travels, somewhere better. In our post-9/11 world, we ask only that our airports be safe, convenient, and easy to navigate. If they have free Wi-Fi, all the better. In an earlier, more innocent time, airports were places in which to linger, miniature cities that weren't just gateways to other places but exciting destinations themselves; the best-designed terminals inspired visitors who had no intention of leaving the tarmac to dream of takeoff and the skies. Many of today's airport terminals, with their high-end shopping and art installations, are striving to be, among other things, great public spaces once again.  

Because of the surge of flight delays, some of you might be spending time in a city that isn’t home or your final destination. If that’s the case, we hope you’re eating your feelings in style. This week, Forbes shined a scrumptious little spotlight on America’s best historic restaurants, where diners dig in while surrounded by some amazing period architecture. Check it out – and get hungry.  

In preservation news, New Orleanians are rocking the sticky notes and Miss Aretha Franklin, Stephen Decatur gets some ink in the blogosphere, Detroit's landmark park receives a civic intervention, and Brooklyn's brownstones are saved from demolition. Huzzah!  

And now a housekeeping note: The end (of 2010) is near. That means it's time to reflect...and look forward. Preservation magazine gets us started with its annual best/worst list, National Trust staffer Priya Chhayna crafts her preservation resolutions, and a good handful of place-lovers share on Facebook what they want to save in 2011. Check it all out and join the conversation. And once you get fired up (you will), consider making a year-end gift to the National Trust. It will help ensure that 2011 is full of success stories for our little round-up.  

And with that, enjoy your last Thursday of 2010 and have a hap-hap-happy New Year. And as always, if you have any tips, news, or otherwise preservation-related fluff, let us know by sending us links on Twitter and Facebook.  

Jason Lloyd Clement is an online content provider for PreservationNation.org. His favorite historic airport terminal is Dulles International's beautiful Saarinen-designed edifice.

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.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

This Place Matters: How We Measure a Year

Posted on: December 14th, 2010 by Jason Clement 1 Comment

 

This time of year, two songs end up in near constant rotation on my iPod: "Christmastime Is Here" (à la Charlie Brown) and "Seasons of Love" (à la Rent).

The former because it's simply what the holidays sound like to me. Slow, sweet, and savory – like sitting by a fire and, well, just sitting. The latter because it poses the perfect question as the final days of December dangle ornament-like and then fall from the calendar: How exactly do you measure a year?

When you think about it, there are a lot of ways. Going back to my perpetually undercharged iPod, I could count the number of times I’ve played my all-time favorite song ("Vogue," 538 spins). Or I could use that handy Facebook app that creates a montage of your year in status updates (I said that?!?). And then there’s always the catchy measurements my inspiration suggests – midnights, sunsets, cups of coffee.

But what about preservation? How do you – as the cast of Rent infectiously croons – “measure, measure a year?” Simple: This. Place. Matters.

You’ve seen the smiling faces. You’ve seen the beautiful places. Those photos– those warm point-and-shoot  moments suspended in time thanks to the pioneering efforts of Flickr – are our movement. This is people saving places. Better said: This is people loving places.

So, as I hit replay one more time on "Seasons of Love," I invite you on a quick digital stroll through my ten favorite This Place Matters moments of 2010. As you go, keep one thing in mind: What place should you honor with a photo?

Camera shy? Ha! That didn’t stop this Main Street enthusiast.

Nothing but love for our nation’s parks – and their dedicated rangers.

Honestly, I’m not sure if this is a This Place Matters photo or a still from Glee. Regardless, I adore everything about it. Jazz hands!

In full disclosure, historic theaters are my preservation crush. Quick… next photo or this might get inappropriate.

Kids + This Place Matters = Big-Time Heartstrings

I love a parade!

My colleague Julia Rocchi rocking the Twitters while we were filming Austin Unscripted. Note: This food truck lot matters. A lot.

Sometimes homemade signs say it best.

And this year's PhotoShop award goes to...

Now this is a group effort.

These were some of my faves, but you can check out all our photos in our This Place Matters slideshow.

Jason Lloyd Clement is an online content provider for PreservationNation.org. Since you've made it this far, he is wondering why you aren't already snapping your next – or your first – This Place Matters photo.

Updated December 14, 3:50 p.m.

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.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

Shop Local on Small Business Saturday

Posted on: November 9th, 2010 by Jason Clement 2 Comments

 

Main Street, Durant, OK

Main Street, Durant, OK

Welcome to the ninth glorious day of November.

It may seem silly now, but in a matter of weeks, many of us will find ourselves seconds away from going to the mat over the store’s last box of crispy-onion-topping-things thinking (perhaps screaming), “Why on Earth didn’t I plan for Thanksgiving sooner?”

Don’t fret. When both your breathing and your blood pressure return to normal, continue reading. I have the important questions you should ask yourself now before anyone gets hurt or charged with a misdemeanor.

First and foremost, are you going to roast it, fry it, or smoke it? If roasting was your answer, there’s an important, stuffing-related corollary: Traditional or something fused and/or nouveaux? If frying is your game plan, I have a follow-up that may or may not be gleaned from personal experience: Is your home insurance paid in full?

And then there’s the rest of what’s on the table to think through. Should you open that can of cranberry stuff even though Uncle or Aunt So-And-So is consistently the only one who reaches for it? How many pies are too many pies? Would it be smart to program five minutes of calisthenics between courses as a preventative measure against food coma?

Main Street, Toccoa, GA

Main Street, Toccoa, GA

Jokes aside, Thanksgiving is about much more than irrational and unimpeded face stuffing; it’s the official launch of the holiday shopping season. While the thought of standing in line at dawn on Black Friday for a half-priced thingamajig seems to have an inexplicable draw on folks who’ve been cooped up with family, there is another option.

It’s called Small Business Saturday, and – as the name brilliantly suggests – it’s your chance to get your shop on while simultaneously supporting the local merchants who are the heartbeat of your Main Street.

Launched by American Express OPEN, this movement is intended to show local businesses – the ones that boost our economies and preserve our neighborhoods – some love going into the busy holiday shopping season. The National Trust for Historic Preservation is proud to be a partner in the effort, but we need you – and your holiday shopping list – to make Small Business Saturday a success.

So, between choosing your pies and your place settings, take a moment to check out www.smallbusinesssaturday.com for ways you can help spread the word about this great initiative. Then, come Saturday, November 27, pack that turkey sandwich to go and take a stroll down Main Street for a day of shopping you can feel good about.

Oh, and perhaps some much-need cardiovascular activity.

Jason Clement is an online content provider at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He'll be spending his Small Business Saturday shopping at the Barracks Row Main Street.

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.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.