Places Restored, Threatened, Saved, and Lost in Preservation Magazine's Fall 2018 Issue
In each Transitions section of Preservation magazine, we highlight places of local and national importance that have recently been restored, are currently threatened, have been saved from demolition or neglect, or have been lost. Here are five from Fall 2018.
Restored: Illinois Governor's Mansion
After a one-year, top-to-bottom renovation, the circa-1855 Illinois Governor’s Mansion in Springfield opened to the public in July. The historic building suffered from severe water intrusion due to poor grading and drainage, which led to wood rot, mold, and crumbling plaster. Additionally, a flood rendered the elevator system inoperable, limiting access to the upper floors. In 2015, Illinois First Lady Diana Rauner and the state’s Governor’s Mansion Association tapped Vinci Hamp Architects for the $15 million overhaul, which was funded entirely by private donations. The firm stabilized the roof, repaired plaster, replaced rotted porches, repointed exterior masonry, and replaced an incompatible 1972 cornice with a sheet metal-and-pressed zinc cornice similar to the original. Landscape architects Massie Massie & Associates also revamped the overgrown landscape and corrected the grading. The mansion, which is now ADA compliant, is open for tours that focus on Illinois’ history and art.
Threatened: Historic Tugboat Urger
The Urger, a 117-year-old National Register-listed tugboat that is one of the oldest working tugs in the nation, may be removed from the New York State (NYS) Canal System and converted into a static land exhibit at a New York rest stop. More than 100,000 schoolchildren have boarded the Urger, and it is considered the unofficial ambassador of the canal system, a National Historic Landmark that turned 100 this year. The Preservation League of New York State (PLNYS) has expressed concern for the Urger’s fate because it believes turning the tug into a dry-land exhibit will likely require removing parts of its historic fabric and boring holes into its hull. The vessel will be dry-docked this winter, and PLNYS hopes the New York Power Authority and NYS Canal Corporation will reconsider their plan to remove it permanently from its historic context.
The farmhouse at Andalusia, where author Flannery O’Connor lived for 13 years until her death in 1964, re-opened for tours this past summer after a 10-month rehabilitation. The circa-1850 dairy and beet farm in Milledgeville, Georgia, had been run as a museum by the Flannery O’Connor-Andalusia Foundation, which gifted it to Georgia College and State University (GCSU), O’Connor’s alma mater, in August of 2017. After carefully documenting the house’s condition, crews spent several months stabilizing cracked plaster and refinishing the historic floors. The interior includes furnishings, clothing, and paint dating to the writer’s time at Andalusia. GCSU plans to eventually do a full restoration of the site’s collections, outbuildings, and 40-acre grounds.
Saved: Rock Island Railroad Depot
In August, the Little Rock and Western Railway agreed to transfer ownership of the circa-1918 Rock Island Railroad depot to the town of Perry, Arkansas. This accord paved the way for the town and the Perry County Historical and Genealogical Society to move the depot to a new location nearby. The nonprofit Preserve Arkansas first notified the Society about the historic structure’s potential demolition in August of 2017, after the railway announced that it planned to expand its locomotive servicing facility on the site where the depot stood. Over the next year, the Society and local news reporter and railroad historian Michael Hibblen helped raise awareness and funds to cover the move, which was imminent as of press time. Once it is restored, the depot—the only frame depot left in the state—will open as a museum.
Threatened: La Salle Building
The Mediterranean Revival–style building where developer George Merrick founded and planned the city of Coral Gables, Florida, may be demolished to make room for a parking lot. The circa-1923 commercial structure housed Merrick’s construction company for a few years in the 1920s. Now called the La Salle Building (named for the family that owns it and formerly operated a drycleaning business there), it is the last of nine original commercial buildings in the Coral Gables central business district. The city’s Historical Resources & Cultural Arts Department had recommended local historic designation for the structure. However, in early 2017, the Coral Gables Historic Preservation Board rejected the recommendation because of alterations that had been made to the building over time. In May of this year, the building’s owner and the city entered into a preliminary lease agreement that all but guaranteed demolition. Members of the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables (HPACG) and others quickly raised awareness of the issue. In mid-July, the city rescinded the lease agreement and began new negotiations with the owner. Karelia Martinez Carbonell, president of HPACG, hopes that city officials will find a new use for the building that recognizes its value to Coral Gables.