Revitalization

[Slideshow] Detroit's Valentine Distilling Co.

Posted on: July 6th, 2012 by David Garber 6 Comments

 

Last week I spent a few days in the preservationist mecca of Detroit, Michigan. I'll touch on some of my other preservation-related visits on the blog next week, but first -- a photo tour of Valentine Distilling Co., a company we highlighted last year because of owner Rifino Valentine's decision to locate his business in an old building.


The exterior of the Valentine Distilling Co., which has had a number of auto and industrial uses over the past 80 years.

So, like any good reporter, I figured I should stop in for a follow-up -- mostly, I'll admit, because I thought it was a cool company in a cool building, and I wanted to learn more about the distilling process. When I got there, I was greeted by Rifino and his dog, Sherbet, both of whom led me on a tour of the building.

The last user of the c. 1928 one-story brick building was a pool table manufacturing company, so turning it into a distillery was kind of keeping it in the family. And although records of previous tenants are thin, there's evidence that the building was used as an automobile repair shop before that.

 
The building's industrial feel is carried into the interior decor. Even where walls didn't exist previously, Rifino was careful to use bricks, blocks, and windows salvaged from demolished Detroit buildings.

Check out the above slideshow for more of my tour through Valentine Distilling Co., and if they don't already, ask your local bars to consider stocking the preservation-friendly Valentine Vodka. Remember, preservation is just as much about keeping sustainable uses in old and historic buildings as much as it is the process of saving those places in the first place. Cheers!

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.

Discovering Philadelphia's Favorite Places

Posted on: June 27th, 2012 by David Garber

 

If you haven't heard of them already, there's a great organization called Hidden City Philadelphia. Their goal is to highlight the city's unique and under-known special places by connecting them with resources in order to activate them in new and interesting ways.

As self-described on their site, "Hidden City is about transforming that innate, childlike sense of wonder that we all have into inspiration, ideas, and social action around place, making our urban environment a more vibrant, productive, and desirable place to live, work, and play."

This idea is translatable across all cities and towns -- and as much as I could write about all sorts of great things that Hidden City is putting on and getting together (hmm ... sounds like a great idea for an interview), I wanted to call attention to a series of videos they're creating called "My Favorite Place." Check out a couple of the videos below, or click through to see the entire set.

What are your favorite places in the city, town, or countryside that you call home? Are there places out there that people don't know enough about now that could use some creative marketing? Let us know in the comments!

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.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s First Prairie House in Need of Assistance

Posted on: May 31st, 2012 by David Robert Weible

 

From a building preservation standpoint, the B. Harley Bradley House in Kankakee, Illinois, would seem to have it easy. The first of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie style houses, it was most recently purchased by the Wright In Kankakee organization in order to establish an arts and education center and house museum that would be open to the public. With a mortgage financed by the previous owners who had fully restored the house, preservation work isn’t what the organization is worried about. Their biggest job is fundraising to pay back the loan.

This July, Elisabeth Dunbar, executive director and curator of the house, and her team of 55 volunteers will launch a capital campaign to meet their goal of raising the $1.6 million needed in the next eight years to fully finance the house. "People perceive that there is no urgency because there is no immediate physical threat to the home," Dunbar told me, "but now we’re going to be threatened if we can’t pay off the debt."

One major challenge to the fundraising effort is location. Though Bradley House is just an hour from downtown Chicago, it’s south of I-80, a cultural dividing line between the city and the rest of the state, Dunbar says, which keeps it relatively off the radar of Wright fans from up north.

Another fundraising challenge is that Kankakee itself is still recovering from the recession. Though locals provide plenty of moral support, donations are difficult to come by. "If we don’t succeed, my greatest fear is that it will be turned back into a restaurant and the historic fabric of the house will be lost," says Dunbar, who notes that the house is in great physical shape, but there’s simply no market for a seven-bedroom house in Kankakee.

Though the house, now an integral part of the community, hosts classes, poetry readings, and even operas to help sustain it, its need is still great. You can help by donating on the organization’s homepage or by attending one of the many planned events at the house like the juried art show on July 21st and 22nd where entry fees and portions of all art sales go to the foundation.

Interested in reading more about Frank Lloyd Wright? Check out our Spring issue of Preservation magazine.

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.

 

Written by Dana Saylor-Furman

In July of 1900, architect Lansing Colton Holden submitted plans for a Beaux-Arts masterpiece structure to his client, Lackawanna Steel. It was to be the crowning jewel of the vast Lackawanna Steel grounds. Bethlehem Steel bought out Lackawanna Steel in 1922, and closed down in 1982 -- but the place still looms large in the memories of generations of Western New Yorkers.

Built of brick, terra cotta, and incredibly detailed ornamental copper, the elegant-yet-imposing Administration Building spoke to the power and influence of Lackawanna Steel owner John J. Albright and the giant corporation for which he secured the land. Today, that same building is in danger of demolition, and local preservationists are rising up to convince company and city officials that the building is still worth saving.

 
The entire site has been owned by Gateway Trade Center since 1985, but “Old North," as the Beax-Arts building was affectionately called, was allowed to deteriorate with little to no code enforcement by the City of Lackawanna. The city recently condemned the building, claiming that its roof and floor collapses have made it a public danger. The Mayor and inspector continue to push for controlled demolition, wherein the entire building is torn down and sent to a hazardous waste dump due to possible asbestos and toxin contamination. No part of the structure would be reused or saved. ... 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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

 

When I first learned that Annie Gray Dixon, a 17-year-old high school junior from Edenton, North Carolina, was hosting a "Paint for Preservation" art auction garden party to raise money and memberships for the National Trust, my initial thought was "Wow, what a great idea!" followed quickly by "Wait a second, I think I know someone from Edenton -- I just might need to make a road trip out of this!"

Turns out that my friend, a Carolina expat now living in DC, grew up two doors down from the family hosting the event, that his parents were already planning to attend, and -- small town that Edenton is -- that word had spread and people were already hoping we'd come. Reasons enough for me to pack my camera and head on down.


Paint for Preservation's gracious hosts: Gray, Sambo, and Annie Gray Dixon.

Edenton is an anomaly of sorts: a prospering small town completely unconnected to any major metro region or highway. There's a 1940s airport on the outskirts of town with antique vehicles parked in the lot for visiting pilots. The Taylor, Edenton's local main street (which in their case is called Broad Street) movie theater, still sells tickets for seven bucks a pop -- five if you're a kid.

There's no CVS or Walgreen's on Broad Street, but instead you'll find Blount's Mutual Drugs, where the pharmacist, Jim Blount, knows his regulars by name. Whether going to dinner at 309 Bistro, grabbing coffee at Edenton Coffee House, or shopping for supplies at Byrum Hardware, you're likely to run into Jennifer Harriss, the local Main Street director, who checks into all the local businesses and is passionately working to help the town's business scene thrive.

 
And so on Saturday afternoon, after a windblown (read: AC was broken) drive, we arrived in Edenton: the charming postcard town best known to outsiders for its 18th century courthouse (the oldest continuously operating courthouse in America, mind you), plantation and seafaring history, small business culture, and dynamic social scene -- into which, I'd soon learn, the evening's preservation garden party was intricately woven. ... 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.