Author Archive

Copper Boom Takes its Toll on Historic Buildings

Posted on: January 11th, 2008 by Preservation magazine 1 Comment

 

Waterbury City HallIt's an all-too-common predicament for historic structures: widespread vandalism, which can derail an already-tenuous preservation plan. In Camden, N.J., an 80-year-old Greek revival Sears, Roebuck & Co. building is facing demolition this year. Abandoned for several years, the building has been broken into several times, much of its copper piping stripped away and many of its rooms now pockmarked, exposed to the elements.

Likewise, the city hall of Waterbury, Conn., has long been at the receiving-end of theft and trespassing. Three years ago, vandals entered the 90,000-square-foot building—designed by Cass Gilbert, the architect behind the Supreme Court headquarters in Washington, D.C.—and opened a water valve on its fourth floor, flooding the structure thoroughly and rendering it uninhabitable. Last year thieves removed a six-foot-long piece of copper pipe, causing significant water damage to the basement and complicating the city's proposed renovation.

It's a disturbing trend, one that thwarts the aims of preservation: Uninhabited historic structures, caught in a limbo-like state amid the preservation vs. demolition debate, are increasingly vulnerable to disrepair and theft, particularly in the light of a booming metal-scrap market.

Money Talks

In recent years, the demand for copper has substantially increased, largely from tech-centric importers like China and India, and scrap metal is now one of America's most lucrative exports. While copper is neither a precious metal nor an energy source, its conductivity makes it ideal for myriad technological and industrial uses. Smelted-down copper fixtures can be formed into wires and rods, key components of most electrical items. Scrap dealers typically pay between $3.30 and $3.80 per pound, or more than $8,000 per metric ton for the metal. The large, heavy copper pipes found in public buildings, such as civic or commercial structures, draw a high price from both legitimate and black-market metal dealers.... Read More →

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.

Best & Worst of 2007

Posted on: December 28th, 2007 by Preservation magazine 1 Comment

 

Is Brooklyn Under Siege?Is preservation becoming more hip? This year, celebrities like Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and Darryl Hannah showed their support of historic architecture and wide open spaces. Longtime building buffs like Diane Keaton, who likes to restore Los Angeles houses, were joined by fellow showbiz types like director Michael Moore, who has promised to rehab a historic Michigan theater.

Here's the best and worst in the world of historic preservation news of 2007, compiled by our magazine editors.

Best

Floodwaters Spare Farnsworth House

A few weeks after Brad Pitt's August visit to the iconic Farnsworth House, floodwaters reached the front steps of the Plano, Ill., house designed by Mies van der Rohe in 1951. Miraculously, only the landscape suffered damage.... Read More →

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.

Oregon Railroad Tries to Get Back on Track

Posted on: December 7th, 2007 by Preservation magazine

 

Mt. Hood RailroadFor a century, the sturdy little Mount Hood Railroad carried lumber, fruit, and passengers through Oregon's Hood River valley, 60 miles east of Portland. But a year ago, disaster struck. November rainfall, surpassing 15 inches, broke records. Part of Mount Hood's Eliot Glacier broke away, releasing torrents that poured off the mountain and damaged local trails, roads, and bridges—and the railroad. The force of the floodwaters literally changed the course of the Hood River at milepost 15, leaving 150 feet of track hanging in the air.

"The track is in place, but there's no land under it. It looks like a suspension bridge," says the railroad's general manager Michelle Marquart. For the past year, the railroad company has been working with an engineering firm to get planning and permitting in place to restore the tracks. "We have a very solid plan, but it is a very expensive plan," says Marquart.... Read More →

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.

Lost: Mid-Century Modern House in Texas

Posted on: December 3rd, 2007 by Preservation magazine

 

Carousel HouseTexas lost a mid-century modern house last month.

Once called the "Carousel House," the circular house in Meyerland was designed and built in 1964 by Robert Cohen, who constructed the house out of wood frames and steel.

In 1987, the elderly Cohens moved out, and the house remained empty until June 2004, when Texas lawyer John O'Quinn purchased it for his classic car collection's manager, Zev Isgur. When Isgur went to jail, the house was deserted.... Read More →

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.

Philip Johnson's Alice Ball House in Jeopardy

Posted on: November 30th, 2007 by Preservation magazine

 

Alice Ball HouseA tiny house with enormous glass walls sits on some of the priciest property in New Canaan, Conn. A town of 20,000, its proximity to New York City (about an hour's commute by train) continues to fuel a steady climb in local real-estate values. And with the current trend toward larger homes, many smaller ones face destruction—even gems.

Christened the "little jewel box" by its designer, Philip Johnson, and named after its original occupant, Alice Ball, the glass-walled house stands at the center of a controversy. But it's not simply a local controversy—it's one that touches not only New Canaan, but also many other upscale metropolitan suburbs. At stake could be the future of post-World War II architecture and the legacies of its architectural pioneers.

The Impasse

The Ball House, built in 1953 as a residence for a single woman, is a doll-sized home that the real-estate listing puts at 1,773 square feet, perched on a 2.2 acre tract of land. The one-story dwelling sports a flat roof and glass walls, all in keeping with its International Style.... Read More →

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.

Illinois Villa Stripped of Landmark Status

Posted on: November 28th, 2007 by Preservation magazine 1 Comment

 

Villa de Chantal, Rock Island, Ill.The city of Rock Island, Ill., rescinded the local landmark designation of the century-old Villa de Chantal on Nov. 12, clearing the way for its demolition.

The Rock Island-Milan School District has proposed a new $9 million building on the National Register-listed villa's 14-acre site.

The Gothic revival Villa de Chantal was built in four portions, two of which were designed by George Stauduhar and completed by 1906: the chapel, dormitories, and classrooms. ... Read More →

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.