Restored, Threatened, Saved, Lost
By Krista Walton | From Preservation | May/June 2009
Astroland A popular landmark on the Coney Island boardwalk since 1962, Astroland has long drawn tourists and New Yorkers alike. Developer Thor Equities bought the property in 2006, and the amusement park was expected to remain open until at least 2010. Last fall, however, park operator Carol Albert announced that Astroland would not reopen because she had not successfully negotiated a new lease. Landmarked rides such as the Cyclone rollercoaster and the Wonder Wheel will remain, but the park's trailers and other rides have been disassembled and put up for sale.
Mt. Calvary Baptist Church This 1890 church was built by freed slaves on property donated by an African American landowner in Ivy, Va., near Charlottesville; its first congregation consisted entirely of emancipated slaves. Sadly, the church suffered years of deferred maintenance and deterioration. Unable to fund comprehensive repairs or restoration, the congregation chose to demolish Mt. Calvary and build a new church. Elements from the original building, such as a wood hand pointing to the sky and wood silhouettes of African faces with teardrops, were saved for use in the new sanctuary.
Guggenheim Museum Nobody ever said Frank Lloyd Wright kept things simple. Officials at New York City’s Guggenheim Museum experienced firsthand just how complicated his work could be when they began to restore the museum’s 45-year-old facade in 2004. Workers used impact-echo technology and laser measuring to repair cantilevered walls, install steel beams for reinforcement, and add insulation to remedy condensation problems. After five years and $29 million, scaffolding has been removed and the Guggenheim can be viewed without obstruction from Fifth Avenue.
Nix House The first LEED platinum-rated building in San Antonio is a Victorian residence completed in 1899. The Nix House, a state historic landmark, was designed by architect Atlee B. Ayres, who went on to design portions of the University of Texas campus at Austin. Portico Residential LLC restored 95 percent of the structure's exterior and, finding the house virtually uninsulated, added new, ecofriendly insulation to meet green standards. Restoration of the Nix House, now a private residence, was completed last December. The project earned a 2008 award for superior restoration from Preservation Texas, Inc.
St. Catherine's Industrial Indian School Like the Santa Fe Indian School featured in Preservation's March/April issue, nearby St. Catherine's Industrial Indian School (called St. Kate's by alumni) is threatened by neglect and faces potential demolition. The 11-acre campus on the heights north of downtown is home to an early-20th-century cemetery and historic buildings built between 1887 and 1938 (including one of the largest adobe buildings of its age in New Mexico). Closed in 1998 and purchased by a private owner, the school has suffered from vandalism and fallen into disrepair. No reuse plan has been proposed for St. Kate's.
People's Savings Bank Last June, floodwaters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, inundated the People's Savings Bank, designed by Louis Sullivan. The noteworthy 1911 landmark survived, but it may not survive efforts to prevent future flood damage: Over the summer, city officials announced plans to build a $1 billion levee and flood wall system that would necessitate razing the historic bank and a number of other structures. Locals are advocating for alternative flood mitigation plans, and have started a petition to oppose levee construction. You can sign the petition online at redefinecr.org.
Woolworth Building This c. 1930 structure in the National Register Midtown historic district of St. Louis sat vacant after Woolworth's drugstore closed its doors in 1993. Now, following a $9 million renovation, the 47,000-square-foot building has been restored and reopened as a not-for-profit youth mentoring organization, an arts center, and a restaurant. During the restoration (completed last summer), the building's limestone and brick exterior was cleaned and repaired, the neon marquee was restored, and all new mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems were installed.
Saint Mary's Academy Early last year, the 1854 Saint Mary's Academy building faced possible demolition; its owners, the Catholic Cemeteries Association, planned to raze the vacant structure for future development. When citizens found out that one of Pittsburgh's oldest ecclesiastical buildings might be torn down, they urged the city council to designate it a city historic landmark, arguing that the brick Greek Revival structure (built by Irish immigrants and used both as a church and girls' school in the 19th century) was an important part of Pittsburgh's heritage. The Catholic Cemeteries Association opposed the nomination, but preservationists prevailed. On December 30, 2008, the council voted 6-2 in favor of the designation.
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