Prentice Hospital Granted Temporary Reprieve

Posted on: November 29th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation


While the effort to preserve Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago continues to garner national media attention -- including this segment that ran last weekend on National Public Radi0 -- the Trust continues to work with its partners in the Save Prentice Coalition on advocacy efforts to save Prentice from demolition.... 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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.


Two weeks ago while in New Orleans, I found myself having a familiar moment at the corner of Tulane Avenue and South Tonti Street, the intersection where one of my favorite buildings in the world -- the old Dixie Brewery -- sits abandoned.

I've made a habit out of checking in on it every time I'm in town, and this visit played out much like my past pilgrimages.

After thumb-typing my way through some requisite Instagramming, Foursquaring, Facebooking, and tweeting, I took off my headphones and sat quietly on the curb, surveying Dixie's bruises and black eyes from my ant's eye view. Unlike the narrow streets of the French Quarter, where the Big Easy high steps by you with the garishness of a Zatarain's commercial, this section of the city can be very quiet -- eerily and somewhat mesmerizingly so.

After at least five minutes of undisturbed building gazing, I was rattled back to reality by the thunderous approach of the 39 bus. As I motioned to the driver that I wasn't actually waiting for a ride, I chuckled to myself about how weird the whole thing must have looked -- just me, the curb, a derelict building, and an empty plastic grocery bag scratching down the street.

After a bit more reflection, though, I think my New Orleans experience is no different than the feeling a lot of preservationists have and are often caught acting on: Sometimes, when you really love a place, you've just got to sit with it for a little bit. You know, take it all in.

It’s the same feeling I got -- or more accurately, that got me -- earlier this year when I walked into Miami Marine Stadium for the first time. Between the awe-inspiring roof (is it modern architecture or alien spacecraft?) and the sensation you get of literally floating on the water, this National Treasure is a wow place in every sense of the word. Just like in New Orleans, the only thing I could do was sit down and take it all in. And unlike Tulane Avenue, the stadium has seats.

Though it has been shuttered since 1992, Miami Marine Stadium is no stranger to folks like me who find themselves needing a moment to absorb what they see. On any given day, its basin is alive with rowers who drift by to marvel at all the interesting shapes, both of the building and the graffiti that covers it.

Photographers are another common sight. Some gain entrance illegally and snap shots when they think no one is looking. Others, like Jay Koenigsberg, ask for permission and get to spend some real quality time with the stadium. The proof is in the pictures.... 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.

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.

The Statue of Liberty Shines Again

Posted on: November 16th, 2012 by Lauren Walser


Relighting the Statue of Liberty.

Last Friday, the lights at the Statue of Liberty were shining brightly for the first time since Superstorm Sandy slammed the East Coast.

The storm, which hit New York Harbor on Oct. 29, caused significant damage to Liberty Island, knocking out its heating, power, and emergency generators, as well as damaging its docks and grounds. The island is currently closed to the public.

In the days following the storm, construction crews worked around the clock to restore permanent power to the monument, providing temporary lighting to the torch and crown on the evening of Nov. 9 before fully restoring power two days later.

“It’s not often you see the Statue of Liberty without the torch lit,” says Paul Natoli, president and CEO of New Jersey-based Joseph A. Natoli Construction Corporation. “It’s important. It’s symbolic. So it was critical that we got that up and running again, as soon as possible.”

The storm hit just one day after the statue’s reopening on Oct. 28, the 126th anniversary of its dedication. The national monument closed in October 2011 for a yearlong, nearly $30 million renovation.

Much of the work took place inside the statue’s pedestal. New code-compliant stairs were built, and three new elevators were installed, including a lift to the observation deck, making that level wheelchair-accessible for the first time. Crews also upgraded the monument’s restrooms, fire alarm systems, and HVAC systems.

“This [renovation] was about making the monument more accessible, more safe, and more welcoming to visitors,” says Michael Mills, partner at Mills + Schnoering Architects, LLC, a firm specializing in preservation and architectural design.

New exterior staircase.

Superstorm Sandy has been one of many hurdles faced by the team of architects and contractors working on the monument. For one, all materials had to be transported to the island via barge.

“Normally on a construction site, your trucks can roll on and off site whenever you want them to,” Natoli says. “But not when you’re working on an island.”

Tight security on the island caused additional challenges, as all materials shipped to and from the island had to go through rigorous security checks by United States Park Police, and all crew members had to undergo thorough background checks before working on the site.

Working within a historic monument provided another layer of complications. Space inside the statue’s pedestal was extremely limited (it is 27 square feet at its widest point), and massive steel beams providing support to the statue crisscross through the space.

“We had to get an elevator and two 44-inch-wide fire stairs up through those beams without touching them,” Mills says.

Mills and his team used laser scanning and three-dimensional modeling to execute their design -- methods that were quicker and more time- and cost-effective than traditional ones.

“It really was like a three-dimensional puzzle,” Mills says.

As work to the statue and Liberty Island continues, the island will remain closed to the public until further notice, according to Mike Litterst, a National Park Service information officer, adding that the NPS is still completing emergency stabilization and assessments to determine the full extent of the damage.

Updates on the statue's status are available on the Statue of Liberty National Monument website.

Damaged support dock on Liberty Island.

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.

Lauren Walser

Lauren Walser

Lauren Walser is the Los Angeles-based Field Editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys writing and thinking about history, art, architecture, and public space.

200-Year-Old Medical Building Still Healthy After All These Years

Posted on: November 13th, 2012 by David Robert Weible


Davidge Hall circa 1891.

This November marks 200 years since Davidge Hall was built to house the College of Medicine of Maryland in Baltimore, which was rechartered as the University of Maryland when it opened in 1812. And though the medical profession has come a long way from bloodletting, and physicians no longer compete with apothecaries and barbers for customers, the building itself hasn’t changed much.

Really the only significant change to the structure -- which replicated a blueprint at the University of Pennsylvania developed by Benjamin Latrobe, the second architect of the Capitol and friend of Thomas Jefferson -- has been the demolition of the 15-foot-high security wall that once ringed its perimeter, aimed at thwarting attacks from angry mobs.

"People weren’t donating their bodies to science and you didn’t have an anatomy class without a body, so we resorted to grave robbers at that time," says Larry Pitrof, executive director of what is now the Medical Alumni Association of the University of Maryland, which is housed in the structure. "[Using cadavers] was really contrary to religious beliefs back then, so there was a lot of public opposition [to the school]."

He’s not kidding either. In 1807, just four blocks from the future site of the school, a flock of hooligans riled by similar practices destroyed the anatomic theater of John Davidge. It was that event that galvanized a group of local physicians to lobby the state for a charter for a medical school -- the building named after, you guessed it,  Davidge himself -- and personally fund its construction.

Anatomical Hall, the third-floor lecture hall.

For the same reason, many areas of Davidge Hall that were used for dissections remained secret until the use of cadavers became more acceptable around the beginning of the 1900s.

Now, two centuries after classes began, Davidge Hall is the oldest surviving continually used building for medical instruction in the United States. It’s seen wars, multiple hurricanes, and yes, plenty of bodies. Though advances in medical technology, the widespread use of projection screens for educational purposes, and an explosion of student enrollment rendered the structure outdated in the 1950s, the building’s main theater still plays host to medical symposia and conferences on a daily basis.

The last major restoration of the building was completed in 2001 when the roof was replaced and period windows were installed. Going forward, Pitrof says the plan is to completely restore the interior to the way it looked in 1820, when the building was first considered complete. There are also plans to install a new HVAC system, though funding for both projects is yet to be finalized.

"It’s an enduring symbol [of medicine in this country] and it showing no signs of really wearing out yet," says Pitrof.

Davidge Hall today.

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.

David Robert Weible

David Robert Weible

David Robert Weible is an assistant editor at Preservation magazine. He came to DC from Cleveland, Ohio, where he wrote for Sailing World and Outside magazines.

The Unexpected: A Few Words on Architecture and Imagination

Posted on: October 17th, 2012 by Priya Chhaya 1 Comment


Honeycombed, rounded edges. Craggy towers, insectile caverns, seamlessly beautiful. Straight boxed edges, clean lines, looking within from without.

Prompted, in part, by the ongoing discussions about Prentice Hospital in Chicago, I’ve been thinking about a few of my favorite buildings, trying to pinpoint exactly why I am drawn to particular structures over others.

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia.

  1. Creativity. I love skylines of distinction, where buildings can be so in sync with the urban rhythm, yet unique and versatile. The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. The Seagram Building in New York City. The Disney Concert Hall in LA. The Guaranty Building in Buffalo, NY. Each of these buildings, some with longer histories than others, tells a story through their fluid lines, curves, facades, and stained glass.
  2. Imprints of lives long gone. Classical colonial plantations and vernacular architecture tells us of how people lived. Upstairs, downstairs, private and public. Stories of class struggle and enslavement. Narratives of freedom and revolution. As a historian, one of my favorite things to do is to “read” a building. What can we learn about the lives that inhabited this space? How did they live? What are the invisible boundaries that separated one group from another? What can we see and understand about the human experience at Monticello, Robie House, The Tenement Museum, slave cabins, sod houses, and igloos?
  3. Imagination. Buildings can invoke far-off lands or spark narratives of non-existing worlds on imagined planets -- where we could be in the future, far from the cookie-cutter and the monotonous. I see this vision in Prentice Hospital, or the contrast between the brutalist War Memorial Center section and newer sleek Santiago Calatrava design of the Milwaukee Art Museum. And, for a quick glimpse beyond our borders, I see it in the Taj Mahal and the ever awe-inducing Sagrada Familia. All of these buildings inspire -- both in their grandiosity and their expression.

The Santiago Calatrava-designed section of the Milwaukee Art Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

These buildings don’t have to be beautiful. What sets them apart is that they have their own vocabulary, their own sense of being, and their own narratives. More importantly, they are a spark for looking beyond -- outside boxes -- to encourage new heights, adventures, and innovations. And there is something galvanizing about seeing the magical and lofty in a human-made structure. They are settings for old histories and new stories. They are more than the expected.

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.

Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya is Associate Manager for Online Content, Preservation Resources at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A public historian at heart, she sees history wherever she goes and believes that it is an important part of the American identity.