Restored, Threatened, Lost
By Krista Walton | From Preservation | July/August 2009
The Pagoda The presence of a seven-story pagoda atop an eastern Pennsylvania mountain might seem a little surprising, but locals are used to it: Reading's pagoda has overlooked the city from Mount Penn since 1908. The building, initially constructed as a hotel, is currently a gift shop and café and attracts 30,000 visitors a year. Last year, to mark the pagoda's 100th anniversary, the city of Reading began a $15 million renovation. Workers repaired the roof, repainted surfaces, restored lion medallions, and replaced the lighting system that illuminates the pagoda at night.
Palladium Theater At the opening of this 1940 theater and nightclub on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard, Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra performed and more than 10,000 guests filled the dance floor. The Palladium remained perennially popular and is one of the oldest continuously operated entertainment venues in Los Angeles. Still, by 2008 the building needed updating. COE Architecture International spent $6 million renovating the theater, an effort that included the reconstruction of two original ticket booths and the neon marquee, and the repainting of the concrete exterior. Restoration was completed last December.
William W. Cook Legal Research Building This building in Ann Arbor, part of the University of Michigan's Central Campus Historic District, was ranked one of the favorites in an American Institute of Architects poll. Despite the accolades, the 1931 Collegiate Gothic structure was dark, dingy, and infrequently used by students. During a $6.5 million restoration, workers repaired the detailed plaster ceiling, cleaned historic chandeliers, and updated lighting systems. The new lighting strategy is also ecofriendly: Though the building is now much brighter, officials estimate that it will consume nine percent less wattage overall.
Lowenstein Building Lowenstein's department store opened in 1886 at the corner of Main and Jefferson in downtown Memphis. By the building's centennial, however, Lowenstein's had gone out of business and the structure stood empty. When threats of demolition loomed in the 1980s, the local preservation group Memphis Heritage moved to protect the structure—a struggle that lasted for nearly two decades. In 2002, the city took ownership of the Lowenstein building and offered it for redevelopment. After a fire in 2006 and a $20 million renovation, the landmark reopened earlier this year as a 28-unit apartment house with commercial space on the ground floor.
Fort Gaines Completed in 1862 as one of the forts meant to defend the nation's coastline, Fort Gaines is best known for firing its guns in the 1864 Battle of Mobile Bay, where Admiral David Glasgow Farragut shouted the famous command, "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!" Built on Dauphin Island off the Alabama coast, Fort Gaines has been compromised by powerful hurricanes blowing in from the Gulf of Mexico. Dauphin Island's shoreline is also rapidly eroding. Without funding to stop the erosion and preserve the structure (which retains its 19th-century cannons), Fort Gaines could be lost.
Lafayette Building This Italian Renaissance building in downtown Detroit was constructed as high-end office space. When completed in 1924, the 14-story tower boasted marble drinking fountains and walnut wood trim. Unfortunately, the building was shuttered in 1997 after foreclosure proceedings, and no prospective tenants with adequate financing have come forward in the intervening years. Following multiple failed redevelopment attempts and a review of the potential cost of rehabilitation, the city (which owns the Lafayette) has no555saved. UPDATE: Detroit votes to raze Lafayette Building
Winans-Crippen House This freestanding, Second Empire townhouse in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., was designed in 1871 by John D. Stevens, a renowned local architect who worked on several of the resort city's famed hotels. Though the house stands within the National Register-listed Franklin Square Historic District, it is not listed individually. The owner has requested a demolition permit for the house, but at press time Saratoga's Design Review Commission had not ruled on whether demolition could proceed.
Richmond Hill Inn The centerpiece of the Richmond Hill Inn in Asheville, N.C., was a 120-year-old Queen Anne mansion built for Richmond Pearson, a diplomat and member of the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1980, the mansion was almost razed by its then-owner, but the Preservation Society of Asheville & Buncombe County stepped in and purchased the building with the help of a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A fire destroyed the historic inn on March 19 and caused more than $1 million in damage to structures on the property. Authorities suspect arson.
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