Earlier this month, an email popped into the inbox of individuals subscribed onto Forum-L, the email list for members of National Trust Forum, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s professional membership program. It’s the kind of topic that may seem like a simple question on the surface, but eight days and 28 messages later it proved to be a hot button discussion.
The question: Does an old addition gain significance if it is poorly designed?
The situation: A conversation between a neighborhood association and a local preservation commission regarding an 1890s structure with an addition dating back to the 1920s.
Our email list members presented many a solution—asking about context, significance, and what the intentions were for the home if it was not restored or rehabilitated. Some inquired if the structure and the addition contributed to a historic district, or if it was listed the National Register. Most, if not all emphasized the need to document the addition regardless of the decision.
A few days later, in response to the variety of responses, Forum member Dan Becker presented all of us on the list with “A Fractured Fairytale of Preservation Parables and Possibilities” — his take on the spirited discussion. It had "blog post" written all over it, so here it is:
Once Upon A Time, there was the 100 block of North Bloodworth Street in Oakwood. Echoes of an 1880s neighborhood of commodious frame domiciles were pressed into post-WWII rooming houses, later beset with societal ills where you would not want to be caught dead stroller-rolling your precious patrimony of precociosity, because you might find yourself dead.
The late 1960s design answer to such vexing virulence was of course a bisecting four-lane submerged Boston-style expressway squeezed between the flanking feeder streets with access ramps zooming up and down, bringing the downtown-saving automobile quickly and efficiently into a cavalcade of car parks flanking what remained of downtown after you demolished one-third of it to build the decks, ensuring that there was no there there when you got there.
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