Best & Worst 2005

Our Annual List of Preservation Dreams and Nightmares

Biloxi
A shattered house in Biloxi, Miss.

Credit: Mississippi Heritage Trust

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina eclipsed all cultural disasters in our country's history, killing more than a thousand people, decimating waterfront mansions in 15 historic districts on Mississippi's Gulf Coast before flooding New Orleans, and causing billions of dollars in damage to a city with some of the country's finest historic houses.

Rehabilitating and repairing the city will take time and careful planning. Hopefully, missteps like the hasty demolition of a 1903 building will not be repeated, and New Orleans residents, with the help of the National Trust, will fight against unnecessary teardowns.

Preservation Online's Katrina coverage (as of February 2008, these articles are no longer available online):

The Unkindest Storm

National Trust Focuses on Katrina's Aftermath

In Sudden Demolition, New Orleans Loses First Historic Building Since Katrina

Two Frank Lloyd Wright Cottages Running Out of Time 

Fenway
Fenway's facade

Credit: Julie Cordeiro

Best

Fenway Wins at Home

A year after the Boston Red Sox broke the Babe's curse and won the World Series, the team's owners announced in March that they will remain in the 1912 venue, Fenway Park. With fresh paint and new coveted seats above the Green Monster, the ballpark is safe at home.

Oregon Law Struck Down in Court

An Oregon judge overturned Measure 37, the state's controversial new law that requires governments to reimburse landowners or forgo enforcement of land-use laws when those laws reduce property value. "More and more Oregonians are becoming concerned that Measure 37 didn't strike a balance between land-use planning and property rights," says Bob Stacey, executive director of 1,000 Friends of Oregon, whose lawsuit prompted the October decision. "For every property owner who hits the jackpot with the new Measure 37 claims, new victims are being created." It's not over yet: Stay tuned for the appeals process.

Bridges Over Troubled Waters

These days, many state transportation departments opt to tear down and replace historic bridges that can't support today's heavier traffic demands. In St. Augustine, Fla., however, residents, with the help of the National Trust, fought to save the Bridge of Lions, a signature bridge bedecked with lion heads that has graced the city since 1927.

Theater Comeback

Philadelphia's last movie house, the Boyd Theater, was rescued in January when Clear Channel Entertainment pledged to restore the 1928 structure, as it has the Hippodrome in Baltimore and Boston's Opera House.

One Person Can Make a Difference

Faced with another teardown in Kenilworth, Ill., whose architecturally exceptional houses aren't protected by local laws, a resident stepped forward at the eleventh hour to rescue a 1910 house. But a Daniel Burnham-designed house, along with many of the town's 825 other houses, remain threatened.

Worst

Houses, Houses, Everywhere

Far from urban centers, subdivisions are displacing historic properties—and, in an ironic coup de grace, often taking the names of the buildings they replace. An 1853 cider mill in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., for example, is threatened by the Cider Mill Estates housing development. The former 1869 home of golf guru Kenneth Smith, located on 60 acres in Kansas, could go down for a subdivision. In August, Richmond issued a demolition permit for the city's oldest house so that a developer can build 44 houses on the 1700s estate.

The Circle Is Broken

The three-year battle over Two Columbus Circle, the modern icon designed by Edward Durell Stone in 1964, ended this fall, when workers began permanently changing its facade. Preservationists fought the city's plan to sell the building for $17 million to the Museum of Art & Design, but the sale went through in October, thanks to a carte blanche from New York City's Landmarks Commission, which refused to landmark the modern structure. When scaffolding shrouded the building in November, a live "Shame Cam" began documenting the damage at http://www.landmarkwest.org/webcam/javlw.html.

Fortunately, Stone's 1939 A. Conger Goodyear House was saved in July, when it was sold with protective easements.

Detroit Caught in 1960s "Urban Renewal" Myth

In preparation for the 2006 Super Bowl, the city of Detroit intends to demolish 100 buildings, many of them neglected historic buildings that could be revitalized. In May, the city issued a demolition permit for the century-old Madison-Lenox Hotel, presumably for a parking lot (the Madison-Lenox was on the Trust's 2004 11 Most list). Another hotel, the city-owned 1914 Statler Hilton, was torn down in June, prompting the Trust to name the city's historic downtown buildings to its 11 Most Endangered list. What will be left of downtown Detroit?

Down and Out in Beverly Hills

Despite its history and panache, Beverly Hills remains one of the only Los Angeles suburbs without a historic-preservation ordinance. Consequently, Ira and George Gershwin's former home and office became just another teardown story in August. Less than a week after a developer razed the Gershwin mansion, demolition began downtown on a 1923 theater and 1926 warehouse, months after voters approved a new hotel in its place.  

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