Round the Blogosphere 11-15-2010

I gave jrgordon the day off on the weekly news roundup because I realized it’s been two months since our last blogosphere roundup. I’ve been starring posts like mad in my Google Reader, and if I don’t post them for y’all to see soon, the list will be too overwhelming, both for you and for me. So here goes.

From the MDAH Collections Blog “A Sense of Space”:

  • The recent addition of a number of historic quad maps to MDAH’s digital imagery collections, and a follow-up post, listing even more maps available. I really like the “zoomify” interface for these maps that allows me to get in really close without too much loading time to make me wish I hadn’t bothered clicking the zoom button in the first place.
  • On a similar theme, the blog posted a map of the Gulf Coast in 1906 that begins to answer my question about streetcar lines from a couple of weeks ago. Thanks, y’all!
  • October was “Historic Markers Month” on the MDAH blog, with photos of various markers highlighting significant places around the state, beginning with the Oct 5 post about the “Battle of Corinth.”
  • And a series of posts about the Governor’s Mansion by guest blogger Mary Lorenz, curator of the Mansion. The second and third posts in the series especially focus on the Greek Revival architecture of the building and show clips from pattern books that influenced architect William Nichols, such as Minard Lafever’s The Beauties of Modern Architecture. And if you’re interested in the Governor’s Mansion, don’t forget our very own re-print of W.S. Hull’s 1909 Report on the Governor’s Mansion earlier this year.

Our other Mississippi bloggers have been busy too:

All is not well down New Orleans way. On November 2, the Preservation Resource Center blog announced that the Modernist Carver School auditorium, determined eligible for the National Register for its architectural significance, will be demolished with FEMA funds. The New Orleans chapter of DOCOMOMO followed that post up with a more lengthy explanation of the breakdown in the Section 106 process, whereby federal agencies are required by law to consider the effects of their activities on historic buildings:

We still do not understand why FEMA never sought public comments for the Carver High School auditorium building. The Section 106 process in New Orleans does not appear to be functioning in the spirit of the National Historic Preservation Act. Section 106 does not mandate preservation, but is supposed to encourage it. Yet too many buildings are being demolished. In fact, in the past 5 years, have any of the historic buildings under Section 106 review in New Orleans not ultimately met their demise?

As you may recall, I’ve had the same question regarding Katrina-damaged buildings on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, most recently regarding the Gulf Park campus of USM, where the administration building was alleged by officials to be beyond repair, even though it is located behind the two historic dorm buildings they want to save and thus received less of a hit from the storm surge. Word on the street is that, as I predicted back in March, the administration building will indeed be demolished, while the front two buildings will be saved.

Another post out of New Orleans, this one on the Regional Modernism blog, shows the level of destruction, especially of public school buildings, that has occurred there since Katrina:

In the past two years the mid 20th century modern public school has become an endangered species in New Orleans. Of the city’s thirty public schools designed and built in the 1950s, today only four are left standing. Soon only one may remain.

One. Out of thirty? . . .

One piece of good news out of our friends to the south, at least good news for those wanting to learn more about the Modernist architecture of New Orleans. You can download the tour of Modernist buildings on Canal Street that the local DOCOMOMO chapter gave last month, and take the tour yourself on the streetcar for only $1.25. Who said fun isn’t cheap?

Some of you may have been following the rumblings out of Chicago the last couple of years regarding the 100-year-old Michael Reese Hospital building, one of the few buildings that was spared demolition on a much larger campus when Chicago was bidding unsuccessfully for the Olympics. Most of the later campus was designed by Modernist architect Walter Gropius–the city demolished all but one of his buildings, but always said it would save the Prairie-style hospital building for re-development. Well  . . . maybe not, as reported by the Chicago Tribune’s Cityscape blog. First, the city reported that squatters have taken over the building and then verified that Mayor Daley had decided to have the building demolished after all:

“All along, they said this was the lone building they were going to save,” said Jim Peters, the president of Landmarks Illinois, an advocacy group. “So much for that.”

Peters went on in a later post to describe the 20-minute meeting at which the demolition permit was approved without public comment and at which inflated numbers for renovation were thrown around to justify the demolition (characterizing the proposed budget as “the art of the infeasibility study”):

The biggest disappointments. No public process or notice (this entire thing was “publicly” decided in four days—shades of Soldier Field, remember?). No attempt to issue an RFP for the building during the one year the city owned it. No attempt to consider what type of mothballing should have been done at the time they decided to save. No comparison of apples-to-apples costs at stabilization vs. demolition.

On the one hand, I guess I’m kind of glad to see that this kind of smoke and mirrors stuff is going on all over the place. On the other hand, how many more of these stories have to be told before we all wake up to the fact that preservation is quickly losing ground to the bureaucratization of America?

We started out as a grassroots movement, one that was vocal and organized, and we thought we had won a place at the table when preservation was made a part of the governmental planning process. But now it turns out, preservation has been co-opted. We’re just a check box on somebody’s form before they move on to demolition, and this is all being done in the name of the public and with public funding. Meanwhile, most people assume that their public officials are acting in good faith, that the numbers they are presenting are accurate, that the building must really be unsaveable. And those who question anything are shunted into either pro-forma public meetings or interminable federal consultation meetings that produce nothing but more demolition. What’s the answer, fellow preservationists?

More random offerings:

and last but not least,

  • Foam Home of the Future might actually make it.” You too could own your own house made entirely of polyurethane insulation foam! But you’ll have to move to Minnesota. And probably change your accent. And winterize your car. Buy a pair of boots. Start saying “soda pop.” Become a Vikings fan. Learn to drive in snow. . . . If that’s all worth it to you, the house is priced at a fairly reasonable $212,000.

Categories: African American History, Banks, Bridges, Civil Rights, Gulf Coast, Historic Preservation, Hospitals/Medical, Modernism, Preservation Law/Local Commissions, Recent Past, Schools

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