Places Restored, Threatened, Saved, and Lost in Preservation Magazine's Fall 2020 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 2020.
Saved: Chandler House
After years of uncertainty, the Chandler House in Manchester, New Hampshire, has been saved. The mansion was constructed by businessman and New Hampshire state senator George B. Chandler and completed in 1890. After its 1915 purchase by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester, it served as a bishop’s residence and later a convent, falling vacant in 2015. With demolition looming, the Manchester Historic Association began searching for a buyer, and the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance placed the house on its 2015 Seven to Save list. The Currier Museum of Art and the diocese discussed ways of saving the property for three years, but the diocese filed a demolition permit application in early June. Local preservationists responded by holding rallies outside the mansion and garnered more than 7,000 signatures for a petition to save it. In addition, Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig penned a letter to the diocese indicating her support for preserving the building. The diocese reached a sale agreement with the Currier in September. The Currier, which is located across the street from Chandler House, plans to rehabilitate the mansion, restoring the exterior and using the first floor as a museum dedicated to Manchester and New Hampshire history.
Restored: The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park
The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park in El Paso, Texas, has opened following an extensive rehabilitation. Built in 1930 as the El Paso Hilton Hotel, the 19-story Art Deco building was the seventh high-rise built by Conrad Hilton and remained the tallest building in El Paso for more than 30 years. Hilton hired architect Henry C. Trost, who took inspiration from Southwestern pueblos in his design. The building was renamed the Plaza Motor Hotel before closing in 1991 and stood vacant until local businessman Paul Foster purchased it in 2008. Architecture firm Cooper Carry was chosen to lead the rehabilitation in 2017. It exposed the double-height lobby atrium that had been covered with a drop ceiling during a midcentury renovation, restored original viga detailing and precast concrete reliefs, and re-created the hotel’s historic canopies based on Trost’s drawings. Old photographs and newspaper articles guided the selection of interior materials such as mohair and tooled leather, as well as the restoration of the building’s stained-glass skylights. State and federal historic tax credits combined to make up 45 percent of the funding received for the project, which cost more than $78 million. The hotel welcomed its first guests in June of 2020.
Restored: 11-F Recreation Building, Granada Relocation Center
The 11-F Recreation Building in Granada, Colorado, was built around 1942 as part of the Granada Relocation Center, one of 10 sites selected by the War Relocation Authority to incarcerate Japanese Americans during World War II. At its peak the camp, commonly known as Amache, forcibly detained more than 7,300 people in prison-like conditions. When Amache closed in 1945, nearly all its 556 structures were demolished or sold for their material. The city of Granada purchased the recreation building and moved it near the center of the town for use as a maintenance shed and, later, storage space, removing about 40 feet from the building’s length in the process. It remained there until 2018, when nonprofit Friends of Amache worked with the city to move it back to its old location, replacing it on its original foundation. Construction company A&M Renovations split the building so it could replicate the missing 40 feet, and then performed vital roof and ceiling frame repairs. It also discovered small brick landings likely constructed by 11-F internees, buried more than a foot deep outside the foundation. Partially funded by a grant from the National Trust, the $437,000 restoration was completed in June of 2020. Friends of Amache and the Amache Museum plan to interpret the building for the public, adding signage and historically accurate furnishings.
Lost: Sheboygan Municipal Auditorium and Armory
Completed in 1942, the Sheboygan Municipal Auditorium and Armory in Wisconsin was commissioned by the Works Progress Administration to house the United States Army’s 32nd Infantry Division. It soon became a key multipurpose center, hosting events from Johnny Cash concerts to political rallies for Hubert Humphrey and Jesse Jackson. The Art Moderne–style structure also served as the home arena for Sheboygan’s NBA franchise—one of 17 original teams—and was the venue for the first game featuring a racially integrated, major professional-league basketball team in 1942. The building fell vacant in 2014, in part due to deterioration caused by neglect and deferred maintenance, but it remained structurally sound. After several adaptive reuse proposals failed, and a bid to host the Milwaukee Bucks’ D-League team fell through, the city of Sheboygan agreed to sell the property in April of 2018 to the nonprofit Armory Community Project, which intended to preserve it as an event space. However, the city gave the group only eight months to secure about $7 million in funding. The Armory Community Project raised more than $5 million before the deadline, but the city terminated the agreement after an intermediate financial benchmark could not be met. Demolition began in July of 2020, with no current plans for development on the property.
Threatened: Rancho Los Amigos
The south campus of Rancho Los Amigos began in 1888 as the Los Angeles County Poor Farm. Located in Downey, California, the county-operated working farm provided room, board, and health care for indigent men and women who arrived in the decades after the California Gold Rush. Patients harvested vegetables and tended to animals in exchange for lodging. The site grew to encompass more than 102 buildings and 540 acres while evolving into a long-term rehabilitation hospital, taking the name Rancho Los Amigos in 1932. Over time, many of the hospital’s functions shifted to the newly constructed north campus of Rancho Los Amigos, and most of the original buildings fell vacant by the late 1980s. As the site deteriorated due to neglect and arson, multiple proposals to redevelop Rancho Los Amigos in a historically sensitive manner stalled. In June of 2020, the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors approved a plan to raze more than 60 historic structures, making way for new administrative buildings. The Los Angeles Conservancy, which supported the earlier redevelopment proposals, continues to advocate for alternatives that would preserve a greater portion of the south campus. It is unclear when demolition will proceed.