Preservation Honor Roll

Recognizing some of the accomplished individuals and innovative projects recently honored with National Preservation Awards

2010 National Preservation Awards

Eastern
The ever-popular Eastern Market in Washington, D.C.

Credit: Joe Shymanski

Eastern Market
Washington, D.C.

By Lauren Walser

The nation's capital nearly lost a beloved landmark three years ago when fire gutted Eastern Market, Washington's oldest continuously operated public fresh-food market. The April 2007 blaze ravaged the historic South Hall, severely damaging the roof and much of the building's interior. The situation was doubly devastating because Eastern Market was set to undergo a restoration. Once the flames were extinguished, city officials had to begin again, initiating a $20 million project and sheltering displaced merchants in a temporary facility across the street.

Relying on documents and photographs dating back to the 1870s, when Adolf Cluss designed the two-story Italianate hall, crews replaced the roof, re-created many of its steel trusses, and restored skylights—original features obscured for years. They also replicated windows damaged in the fire and restored those that could be saved. Paint analyses were conducted to bring the South Hall walls back to their original salmon-pink color, and the new reinforced-concrete floor was cast with a texture and pattern recalling the original design. Workers also re-created lighting fixtures on the exterior to highlight the market's architectural features.

Crews upgraded all systems, including heating and cooling, to make the building more energy efficient. "The fire actually allowed for some of the new systems to be installed more easily," says Anne Brockett, an architectural historian in Washington's Historic Preservation Office.

Reopened in June 2009, Eastern Market is once again home to food stalls, arts and crafts, live music, and community events. Says Baird Smith of Quinn Evans Architects, the firm that headed the project, "What pleased me most was that when we were all done, people went into the market, and they could tell it was new and fresh, but they loved it because it looked exactly the way they remembered it." 

 

The Historic Fifth Street School
Las Vegas, Nev.

By Elizabeth McNamara

For many preservationists, Las Vegas is best known for its spectacular and controversial demolitions. Think of landmarks such as the Sands and Dunes hotels razed to make way for glitzier, more flamboyant resorts. Some people attribute the demolitions to youth and inexperience. "Las Vegas is a young city and has very few cultural artifacts," says architect and resident Steven van Gorp. "And the movement to save its historic structures has really only come about recently."

One beneficiary of this new focus on preservation stands downtown. The Historic Fifth Street School, a one-story Mission structure built in 1936 that served not only as a school but also as a county courthouse annex and police station, sprawls across an entire city block. For much of its history, the building was largely unloved. "It was tired looking," van Gorp remembers, "neglected and underutilized. I don't think many people even noticed it was there."

In the late 1990s, van Gorp worked in Las Vegas' development and urban planning department, located in the building's north wing. Despite the depressing interior, which had been partitioned into a rabbit warren of cubicles and offices, van Gorp recalls "wandering the halls and noticing little details, like the remaining French doors or the placement of windows. It was built in the desert before air conditioning, and with the windows where they were, I could tell the ventilation worked well."

When van Gorp heard that the city wanted to build a new cultural arts center, he lobbied to convert the Fifth Street School instead. The Las Vegas Redevelopment Agency agreed to restore the structure in 2004 and began work two years later; van Gorp, the agency's project manager, served in a supervisory role.

In September 2008, the $13.4 million rehab was completed, and the Historic Fifth Street School reopened as a home to arts and culture organizations, including the Nevada School of the Arts, the Las Vegas chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the city's cultural affairs division, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas College of Fine Arts.

 

The Land Trust for Tennessee
Nashville

By Lauren Walser

Though only in its 10th year, the Land Trust for Tennessee has the numbers to prove its muscle: 58,000 acres of land protected and 180 conservation projects tackled in 47 counties. The staff of 15, devoted to preserving the state's historic landscapes, has helped conserve the 112-acre Eastern Flank Battlefield Park (site of the 1864 Battle of Franklin), land around the scenic Natchez Trace Parkway, and scores of family farms and historic sites.

Former Nashville Mayor (and outgoing Tennessee governor) Phil Bredesen founded the nonprofit Land Trust in response to the explosive growth threatening the state's rich agricultural terrain. The trust urges landowners to place conservation easements on their properties, guaranteeing preservation in perpetuity. Landowners retain full ownership and often enjoy tax benefits, and the Land Trust acts as steward, protecting viewsheds, agricultural resources, and historic landscapes.

President and Executive Director Jeanie Nelson credits some of the Land Trust's success to partnerships. A collaboration with the Nashville mayor's office, for example, gave rise to the Nashville/Davidson County Open Space Plan, which is surveying the region's natural and cultural resources to create a comprehensive conservation plan.

"Property is lost every day, property that we all wish we were able to protect," says Emily Parish, land protection manager at the Land Trust. difference is small, and that's a big challenge. But it pushes us to do better work.""The window of opportunity that we have to make a difference is small, and that's a big challenge. But it pushes us to do better work."

 

Sengelmann Hall
Schulenburg, Texas

By Gwendolyn Purdom

Eleven years ago, while looking for real estate, artist Dana Harper walked into Sengelmann Hall, an 1894 building in Schulenburg's downtown historic district. Built by German and Czech immigrants, Sengelmann Hall was an anchoring presence on Main Street, the site of balls and concerts until World War II.

Above the gutted first floor, the 5,000-square-foot dance hall stood untouched, with ribbons still hanging from the ceiling, bottle caps scattered behind the bar, and thousands of glass beads from fancy gowns embedded in the floorboards. "I had an image of people dancing," Harper says, "a vision of the hall full of these women with silk dresses." He bought the property in 1999 and completed a $2 million transformation of the ornate red-brick hall last year.

Determined to bring the building back as a dance hall, Harper enlisted restoration architect David Bucek, of Stern and Bucek Architects, whose team used historical photographs to restore the hall to its original configuration, tracked down an original piano and bench, researched period paint colors, and reconstructed missing features—such as the first floor's bar and front balcony—using reclaimed lumber. Harper purchased the adjacent 1894 City Meat Market building to house a commercial kitchen for a new downstairs restaurant and bakery, as well as space behind the building for a two-story addition containing bathrooms and a staircase. In this way, he conformed to modern accessibility standards while keeping Sengelmann Hall's historic saloon, dance floor, and back-yard beer garden intact.

Sengelmann Hall reopened in 2009, the same year it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and Texans are once again crowding the longleaf pine dance floor, helping rejuvenate Schulenberg's once-sleepy downtown.

Fox Theater
Spokane, Wash.

By Elizabeth McNamara     

In the early 1930s, architect Robert Reamer designed a theater in downtown Spokane so exuberant, so beautiful, so enormous, that not even the Great Depression could diminish the community's enthusiasm for the building. The Fox operated as a first-run movie house and venue for live performances beginning in 1931, and boasted appearances by such Hollywood celebrities as Boris Karloff and Frank Sinatra.

But by the 1970s, theater management had changed dramatically, and new owners divided the 2,350-seat house into a triplex. Mounting losses led to rumors of impending demolition, spurring directors of the Spokane Symphony to take action; the orchestra was looking for new performance space and had played at the Fox in the late 1960s and '70s.

In 2006, after the symphony secured millions of dollars in gifts and pledges, Walker Construction embarked on a $26.5 million restoration. "It was like surgically repairing all your internal organs without damaging skin," says Vice President Ed Walker, recalling how workers replaced the HVAC system and updated the wiring while preserving the theater's signature Deco features, such as the three-dimensional sunburst radiating from the ceiling in a flourish of blues, oranges, greens, and metallic golds. The theater (which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places) reopened in 2007, and the Spokane Symphony now performs regularly in the main performance space, the 1,600-seat Martin Woldson Theater.

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