December 31, 2014

10 Preservation Wins & Losses in 2014

  • By: Sarah Berger

The year 2014 marked momentous milestones for preservation -- local communities fought for their landmarks, corporations embraced adaptive reuse, and a huge National Parks bill was passed by Congress. At the same time, more significant buildings and places were lost to neglect, demolition, and the test of time.

Since we are an optimistic group here at the National Trust, we want to focus on the positive preservation achievements, of which, there were many. And we will use the losses to propel us forward in our work to save America’s historic places.

As we celebrate our first year at the Watergate building, we are thankful for the growing support of our organization, and of the preservation movement as a whole. Transitioning into 2015, take a look back at preservation’s year in review; we hope it inspires you to make a difference in the New Year!

5 Preservation Wins in 2014

Union Terminal, Cincinnati

Union Terminal, an iconic symbol of Cincinnati and one of the most significant Art Deco structures in the country, opened in 1933 with a capacity of 216 trains a day. The second largest half dome in the world, the 180-foot-wide and 106-foot-tall rotunda features glass mosaic murals by Winold Reiss depicting the history of Cincinnati and the United States. As the Cincinnati Museum Center, the largest cultural institution in the city, Union Terminal houses the Cincinnati History Museum, Cincinnati History Library and Archives, Duke Energy Children’s Museum, Museum of Natural History and Science, and the Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX Theater.

Now, thanks to local citizens who voted "yes" on Issue 8, it will continue to fill both roles for generations to come. On November 4, 2014, voters in Cincinnati and throughout Hamilton County decided overwhelmingly in favor of Issue 8. Roughly $40 million will also be raised for the project through state of Ohio capital grants, state and federal historic tax credits, and private funds.

Daily World Building, Atlanta

The Atlanta Daily World building, located in the Sweet Auburn Historic District was the former home of one of the first African-American-owned newspapers, the Atlanta Daily World. The publication is the oldest black newspaper in Atlanta, and continues to operate today, although it relocated in 2008 following tornado damage. The building was recently sold to a developer who plans to restore and convert it into a mixed-use retail and housing space.

The restoration of this building is great news for the Sweet Auburn District in which it resides. While it will not house the Atlanta Daily World offices, the developer plans to keep historic plaques in the new space as an indication of the newspaper’s impact on the Sweet Auburn Historic District, and greater Atlanta community.

Moffett Federal Airfield Hangar One (Moffett Field, California)

In November 2014, a Google subsidiary signed a deal with NASA to lease Moffett Field near Mountain View, California, and rehabilitate Hangar One, listed as one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Places in 2008. The deal represents a watershed victory for one of the most recognized landmarks in Silicon Valley, built in 1932 as a docking station for the dirigible USS Macon, the largest aircraft in the world at that time.

Advocates, including the National Trust, prevailed in preserving the key structural components of the site after it had been threatened with demolition. Google plans to replace the siding and use the hangar as a scientific and educational facility.

In a statement from David Radcliffe, VP of Real Estate and Workplace Services at Google, it is clear that the company is enthusiastic about this project as well: “We look forward to rolling up our sleeves to restore the remarkable landmark Hangar One, which for years has been considered one of the most endangered historic sites in the United States.”

Green Mountain Lookout, Washington State

The Green Mountain Lookout was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933 at the top of Green Mountain in the North Cascade range of Washington State. It served as an integral part of the region’s fire detection system until the mid-1980s and as a U.S. Army aircraft warning site during World War II. Today, it is managed by the U.S. Forest Service as part of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

In 1984, the Green Mountain Lookout was included within the boundaries of the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area, and in 1987 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Lookout was saved after President Obama signed legislation in April, preserving it for generations to come. Additionally, the structure has been rehabilitated in recent years by the Forest Service with the diligent help of local volunteers and a $50,000 federal grant from the Save America’s Treasures Program.

Manhattan Project & Hinchliffe Stadium

The National Defense Authorization Act, passed on Friday, December 12, 2014, is the first National Parks legislation passed by Congress in five years and is expected to be signed into law by President Obama. Included in the bill are two projects that are part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Treasures program: The Manhattan Project, located in three different states, and Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, New Jersey.

The Manhattan Project was named a National Treasure in 2011 and includes sites in Los Alamos, New Mexico; Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and Hanford, Washington. These sites were top secret locations where the atom bomb was developed, ultimately ending World War II and launching the Cold War era. The Manhattan Project National Historical Park is one of only a few national parks that recognize American science and technology.

The bill also included a provision adding Hinchliffe Stadium to the Great Falls National Historical Park area in Paterson, New Jersey. Named a National Treasure in 2010, Hinchliffe Stadium is the only National Historic Landmark in baseball and one of the few remaining sports venues associated with Negro League Baseball.

5 Preservation Losses in 2014

Oak Flat, Arizona

Included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 was the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange which would be a directed land exchange between the U.S. Forest Service’s lands in Tonto National Forest, Oak Flat Campground, and other lands with Resolution Copper Mining Company, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, a foreign mining company.

The 2,400 acres of public land in exchange are of profound religious, cultural, and historic significance to many Native American tribes in the region. Transferring these lands into private ownership circumvents myriad federal laws enacted by Congress to help protect the irreplaceable resources on our public lands. Resolution Copper will mine copper ore more than 7,000 feet below the surface with a method of mining called block cave mining, which is expected to create a crater at the surface that is two miles wide and 1,000 feet deep, destroying these sacred lands.

Historic Woolworth Building, New Orleans

Built in the 1940s, the Woolworth’s Building in New Orleans was an integral piece of Canal Street. This historic building was not only an important retail space for the city, but also played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement. The first sit-in protest against segregation in New Orleans took place at this building in the fall of 1960. Inspired by sit-ins across the country, protesters spent two years coming to this spot on Canal Street until Woolworth’s finally desegregated in 1963.

The building is currently being demolished so that a mixed-use high-rise development can take its place. It was never officially recognized for the sit-ins and protests that eventually helped New Orleans become de-segregated.

Mummers Theater, Oklahoma City

The Mummers Theater/Stage Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the ultra-modern product of world-renowned architect John Johansen, received the highest award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA), is internationally recognized, became eligible for the National Register for Historic Places before it was even 50 years old … and is now set for demolition, 44 years after its construction.

Despite its decorated history, years of legal battles, and appeals from advocates, the theater is going to be leveled to make way for new construction, due to constant financial difficulties and structural damage caused by rainfall. Built in 1970, Mummers was constructed during Oklahoma City’s Modernist period.

5 Pointz Warehouse, Queens, New York

Referred to as the United Nations of Graffiti, the 200,000-square-foot warehouse complex in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, New York, drew street artists from around the world to legally create and showcase their work. Since the early 1990s, the five-story-high urban canvasses, known as 5Pointz, displayed everything from lifelike portraits of hip-hop icons to works in the style dubbed “aerosol pointillism.”

Due to a lack of architectural significance and the fact that the artwork was less than 30 years old, a proposal to ascribe landmark status to the site was denied in August. In November, preparation for the construction of apartment towers on the property went forward, including the overnight whitewashing of work by as many as 1,500 artists.

Historic Wheatley High School, Houston

Not even a week ago, the historic Wheatley High School in Houston, Texas, was torn down after serving the community for 85 years. An important part of Houston’s history, Wheatley began as a segregated school in 1927 and quickly became one of the largest African-American schools in the country.

The Houston Independent School District was victorious in a court battle to demolish the building, opposing the views of many Fifth Ward residents who are outraged at the outcome. Members of the community feel that an irreplaceable piece of local, and in many ways, national, culture has been lost. The historic school is being replaced by a college preparatory academy serving an all male student body.

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