Letters

Send your letters to Preservation@nthp.org, 1785 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, D.C., 20036, or submit a comment below. Please include your full name, address, and daytime telephone number. All letters may be edited for length and clarity.

Nov/Dec 2008 homepage imageYour Trust

I was very pleased to see that a National Preservation Award was given to Jane Blaffer Owen (November/December). I was born in New Harmony, Ind., and I was there during the period when Ms. Owen began her preservation and conservation work. One specific preservation effort affected me personally: In 1913, my grandfather George Wardelman bought the large brick building that had been a dormitory and later became an opera house. He converted it into an automobile repair shop and service station. The building was in my father's possession until 1967, when the state purchased it and hired him as a consultant to assist in restoration. Those efforts took the structure back to the opera house period, and public programs are often conducted there these days. Thanks very much for bringing back a lot of good memories!
Jack E. Garrett
Monroe Township, N.J.

Reporter

Before people get the wrong idea about Lexington, Ky., I would like to say that the c. 1930s picture of the now-demolished block ("Lost," Transitions, November/December) did not represent what it looked like prior to demolition. The wonderful buildings shown in the picture had been virtually destroyed long before the wrecking ball took the first swing. Unfortunately, the developers did not have enough vision or desire to try to incorporate anything of historic significance that may have remained, such as the building from 1826 that still had some character. It is always sad to lose historic buildings, because they're what make our cities and towns unique. It is even sadder when they're replaced by a nondescript high-rise of expensive hotel rooms that the city does not need and that very few people think is a good idea—much less a good fit.
Carol Christianson
Lexington, KY.

Save America's Treasures

As a long-time supporter of historic preservation in my community, I was cheered to see both the article on the barn preservationist Jan Corey Arnett ("Making a Difference," Reporter, November/December), who rallied her community to save a modest structure, and the piece praising the continued preservation at Val-Kill, Eleanor Roosevelt's equally modest home in Hyde Park ("Save America's Treasures," November/December). Like the barn, Val-Kill was saved by the concerted efforts of community members who sought to protect the threatened home of their beloved neighbor. Val-Kill was preserved by those of us who advocated our cause with elected leaders at town, county, state, and national levels. By May 1977 we had persuaded Congress to support legislation making Val-Kill a National Historic Site. I am glad to have been part of it and thank Save America's Treasures for its contributions.
Joyce C. Ghee
Hyde Park, N.Y

Return Of A Grande Dame

As an architectural historian and a Chicagoan with a long-standing affection for Chicago's Palmer House hotel (November/December), I was initially pleased to learn that Preservation covered the recent renovation of that great old hostelry—until I read the story and noticed a factual error that calls for correction. Jonathan Eig described the lobby prior to the renovation as "drab and musty, more train station than parlor." I remember the lobby as one of the most spectacular hotel foyers in the country—years before the renovation! The lobby dates from a time when hotels in all major cities regarded the décor of their entryways as a principal means of attracting guests. Chicago is fortunate that the Palmer House preserved its lobby as well as renovated it.
Franz Schulze
Lake Forest, Ill.

Jonathan Eig responds: Mr. Schulze has a point. The lobby was not always drab and musty. In its day it was quite handsome, but it had become badly neglected, thickly coated in tarnish and dust, and had turned into something of a void instead of the shining gathering place its designers had intended. The renovation preserved and restored much of that glory, and for that, as Mr. Schulze says, we are indeed fortunate.

Walking The Line

There was a mention in a November/December article about how the Mason-Dixon Line separated Delaware and Maryland. There's more to the story. First, the boundary made Delaware the only state east of the famous line. Second, many people who thought they were Marylanders turned out to be Delawareans. Delaware was once part of Pennsylvania, so many old houses have been in three states without ever having moved.
Robert H. Robinson
Georgetown, Del.

The Back Page

I realize Preservation is not published for an audience of specialists, but Dwight Young's "The Brutal Truth" (November/December) does a disservice to what I think is the magazine's mission of building an informed constituency for historic preservation. I can assure you that I.M. Pei's Third Church of Christ Scientist can be defended without any embarrassment as the work of an important architect and stylistic period. The fact that this period is now not well-appreciated is not the issue; one has only to think of the reception of Victorian architecture in the 20th century to be reminded that preservationists should think for the ages and not the moment.
Bruno Giberti
San Luis Obispo, Calif.

The Back Page referred to Third Church of Christ as having "a slab of concrete that sticks out of the facade like a giant pull-tab, and supports a peal of bells." The late Ronald Barnes, carillonneur of Washington National Cathedral from 1963 to 1975, had an equally irreverent description for that chime. Perhaps quoting local gossip of the day, he referred to it as "Mary Baker Eddy's earring."
Carl Scott Zimmerman
St. Louis, Mo.

If You Go …

In the past, I was frequently frustrated reading your otherwise excellent articles by the failure to give any clues that would allow the reader to visit the sites you write about. Though many are places that offer public tours, you rarely gave an address. May I compliment you on including that information more frequently in recent issues, with the "If you go…" box in "Artful Escape" (September/October) and the detailed walking tour of Seattle in the November/December issue. Keep up the good work of sharing these details whenever you can.
Elaine Locke
Washington, D.C.