By Krista Walton | From Preservation | January/February 2009
Vanderbilt Hall This grand 12,000-square-foot hall was built in 1913 as the waiting room for New York City's Grand Central Terminal. With five gold chandeliers, coffered ceilings, and pink marble floors, the hall was named a National Historic Landmark in 1976. Time and the shoes of millions of commuters left the space dirty and worn until last fall, when architects and engineers from Stantec completed a $4 million renovation. Workers repaired the marble floor, replaced electrical fixtures, and refinished original oak benches, all while keeping the hall open to the 700,000 commuters and travelers who pass through Grand Central each day.
Ghirardelli Square Originally a chocolate factory, later a retail and office complex, Ghirardelli Square has long been one of San Francisco's most popular destinations. Last summer, architects Hornberger + Worstell completed a renovation of National Register-listed structures around the square, including the 1899 Chocolate Building and parts of the 1911 Clock Tower. The $36 million renovation included seismic upgrades and the construction of a new 100-room hotel.
Manus House This 1960 modernist residence was the last of three Alfred Browning Parker-designed houses in Palm Beach, Fla. The owners applied for a demolition permit in 2008, intending to build a British Colonial-style residence. Though Palm Beach's architectural review commission initially deferred their request, the town council granted a demolition permit, and the house was razed in October. Before demolition, 92-year-old Browning Parker tried unsuccessfully to salvage parts of the house, including the Honduran mahogany staircase and blue Japanese ceramic roof tiles. Read more
Kate Chopin House Built between 1805 and 1809, this Creole structure in Cloutierville, La., was home to novelist Kate Chopin, most famous for her feminist novel The Awakening. In 1965, local resident Mildred LaCaze McCoy opened the building as a house museum where visitors could learn about Chopin's work and the history of Cloutierville. In October, a fire burned the two-story building to the ground. Historic artifacts inside, many donated by Cloutierville residents, were also lost. The 200-year-old structure was named a National Historic Landmark in 1993. At press time, the cause of the fire was still under investigation. Read more
VDL Research House II For almost four decades, architect Richard Neutra lived and worked in his 1963 glass masterpiece overlooking Los Angeles' Silver Lake Reservoir. His widow left the house to the Cal Poly Pomona Foundation, which has been caring for it since 1990. But years of deferred maintenance led to major roof leaks, deterioration of asbestos, and termite damage. The foundation needs to raise $2 million by the end of the year or it might be forced to sell "II" (Neutra's first design burned down) to a private owner. The house remains open for weekly tours. Donations can be made at neutra-vdl.org.
Cambria City Catholic Churches Four churches in the Cambria City historic district in Johnstown, Pa., will close by July, when the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown consolidates five congregations into one. The 1908 Immaculate Conception (right), 1914 Saint Columba, 1901 Saint Rochus, 1911 Saint Stephen, and 1907 Saints Casimir and Emerich churches are located in a 10-block-wide neighborhood that was once home to immigrants who worked in the city's steel mills. A local organization called Save Our Steeples is advocating preservation. The diocese has not yet announced which church will remain open.
Lightner-Young Double House Designed by Cass Gilbert, the side-by-side residences of law partners William Lightner and George Young were built in 1886 in St. Paul, Minn. Subsequent owners divided the Richardsonian Romanesque structure into apartments, and it eventually fell into disrepair. Mohr Construction Company purchased the house in 2005 and hired JLG Architects to restore the distinct stone facades and create a pair of rear porches, designed by Gilbert but never completed. Work on the house concluded last May.
Anderson House When the Medical University of South Carolina took possession of the Anderson House in 2003, the 1802 Federal residence, largely modified in 1838, was in dire need of help. Crews removed the ground-level and piazza enclosures to return the rear facade to its original appearance, and they replaced electrical, plumbing, and mechanical systems. They also completely renovated the interiors. With the $1.4 million project complete, the house, located in downtown Charleston, is now used as office space for the College of Pharmacy.
For more photos, stories, and tips, subscribe to the print edition of Preservation magazine.