Best & Worst of 2006
Our Year-End List of Preservation Woes and Wonders.
By Magazine Editors | Online Only | Dec. 29, 2006
It happens in almost every town in America: A "For Sale" sign appears on a neighbor's lawn. A few months later, the house is gone, and in its place rises a new one—perhaps too tall, perhaps too wide—that just doesn't fit in. Teardowns, fires, and new housing developments threatened historic sites in 2006. But first, the good news.
Ready for Takeoff: Two Saarinen Structures
Empty since 2001, Eero Saarinen's TWA Terminal at New York City's John F. Kennedy Airport will be reused instead of razed. In November, the city's Port Authority, which owns it, welcomed development proposals for the swooping architectural gem, which Steven Spielberg spiffed up before filming the 2002 movie Catch Me If You Can.
Less flashy but just as famous, the birthplace of the cell phone and other inventions got a reprieve this year. When a developer planned to demolish Saarinen's 1962 Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, N.J., a chorus of voices rose in opposition. After hundreds of e-mails from scientists, Nobel Prize winners, and other former employees, developer Michael O'Neill decided to incorporate the 500,000-square-foot main section of the building—a cathedral-like space—into his new office park on the 472-acre campus.
Las Vegas Gives High-Roller Treatment to Strip's Last Modernist Hotel
Once slated for demolition, the 1961 La Concha Motel's shell-shaped lobby instead was dismantled and moved off the Las Vegas Strip to safe haven two miles away. The 1,000-square-foot structure, designed by African American architect Paul Williams (1894-1980), will be renovated as a visitors center. A local developer allowed the Neon Museum time to gather state grants and donations for the $1 million project.
America's Oldest Basilica Restored
The first basilica built in America, Benjamin Latrobe's neoclassical Baltimore basilica, was restored to better-than-original condition this year. Yet the glorious $34 million restoration erased a Baltimore landmark: Preservationists decried the loss of the nearby Rochambeau, a 1905 apartment building, which the Archdiocese of Baltimore razed in September for a prayer garden.
Louis Kahn Returns
Thanks in part to the 2003 documentary My Architect; A Son's Journey, modern architect Louis Kahn is returning to the limelight. His neglected 1957 Trenton bath house was saved in August, when Mercer County, N.J., announced that it will buy the 44-acre site for $7.7 million, restore and place easements on the Bath House, a concrete complex of four 1,400-square-foot pavilions. In December, Kahn's 1953 Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Conn., opened after a three-year renovation. The steel, glass, and concrete main gallery building is considered Kahn's first masterpiece.
Chicago Loses Three Sullivan Buildings
What a way to say happy birthday. On the 150th anniversary of "Father of Chicago" Louis Sullivan's birth, three of the architects' buildings went up in smoke. Two fires started from workers' blowtorches, and police suspected that the third was arson. Called the birthplace of gospel music, Dankmar Adler & Louis Sullivan's 1891 Pilgrim Baptist Church burned down on Jan. 6. An Oct. 25 blaze destroyed the 1887 Wirt Dexter Building, and another destroyed the 1888 Harvey House on Nov. 4. Dispirited preservationists are calling on the city to pass stricter laws to care for historic buildings, especially when they're being renovated.
Theater of War
In Superior, Wisc., Mayor Dave Ross ordered the Nov. 1 surprise demolition of the 1917 Palace Theater, a vaudeville theater that had been closed since 1982, without completing a Section 106 review process. Now a grassroots group is suing the city.
Mass Demolitions at Pensacola
Citing hurricane damage, the U.S. Navy demolished dozens of buildings at the historic Pensacola Naval Air Station, including many that contributed to the National Register-listed historic district there.
Paul Rudolph's Modernist Designs To Be Trashed
It was a tough year for Paul Rudolph's Modernist work. Rudolph (1918-1997), the father of the Sarasota school of architecture and dean of Yale University's School of Architecture, is known for his modernist structures. In Sarasota, Fla., however, a school board decided to demolish his 48-year-old Riverview High School. In Watch Hill, R.I., which lost its signature Ocean House last year, the owner of another Rudolph house wants to tear it down and build a new house.
The potential owner of a house Rudolph designed in Westport, Conn., in 1972 intends to tear it down to make way for a new house with a three-car garage.
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