Places Restored, Threatened, Saved, and Lost in Preservation Magazine's Spring 2019 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 Spring 2019.
In January of 2019, restoration work on Chicago’s 1925 Union Station was completed. The train station, first envisioned by Daniel Burnham, had been experiencing severe water intrusion issues since the 1930s from the 18,000-square-foot skylight above the Great Hall. These leaks had caused damage to plaster walls and statues. Insufficient drainage also contributed to deteriorating plaster and leaks in spaces beyond the Great Hall, including in the stairwells and mezzanines. Starting in 2017, a project team that included architects Goettsch Partners, general contractor Berglund Construction, and structural engineers Klein & Hoffman restored the original skylight, which was composed of non-code-compliant wire glass and cast-iron frames that had required numerous repairs since the ’40s. Crews installed a high-performance skylight above the original to protect it from the elements and reduce energy consumption. Other work included correcting the drainage issues, conducting paint analysis for the conservation of ornamental paintings, and repairing worn travertine steps.
Threatened: Weiss House
The Morton and Lenore Weiss House, a private residence designed by Louis Kahn and Anne Tyng in East Norriton Township, Pennsylvania, faces an uncertain future. Built for the Weisses in 1950 as a place where they could display their collection of contemporary art, the Midcentury Modern house is one of only nine built residences Kahn designed. A developer purchased the site in 2002, two years before the Weisses died, and has listed it for sale several times over the past few years for its development potential. In the meantime, the house has been leased to tenants. Deferred maintenance is causing deterioration, including issues such as condensation and an untreated leak. The nonprofit group Preservation Pennsylvania is hoping to find a compromise with the owner.
Lost: Sepulveda Adobe
In November of 2018, the Woolsey Fire burned through Los Angeles and Ventura counties in Southern California, damaging or destroying sites such as the Sepulveda Adobe in Malibu Creek State Park. Homesteader Pedro Sepulveda built the adobe in 1863 and expanded it several years later. It was enlarged again in the 1920s by its third owner. At the time of the fire, state park employees were overseeing the final stages of a multi-phase restoration of the adobe, which included minor repairs and the creation of exhibits interpreting the house’s history and evolution. The blaze severely damaged—and in some cases destroyed—the roof, the building’s wooden components, the interior spaces, the 1880s adobe shed addition, and the 1920s concrete-panel walls. Park employees are awaiting the official report from a historic preservation consultant, but they believe they may be able to repair some of the walls and install a new roof on the 1863 adobe. They are considering preserving the structure as a ruin with interpretive signage. The additions, however, may not be salvageable.
Lost: Shelor Motor Company Building
In November of 2018, the Shelor Motor Company Building on Milam Street in Houston was demolished. Built in 1928 during the city’s automobile heyday, the Gothic Revival–style car dealership was the last of its kind in an area historically known as “auto row.” The structure, which originally housed a showroom, repair facilities, and automobile storage, was last used by the Houston Press between 1998 and 2013. It became vacant in 2013, the same year Chevron Corporation acquired the building as part of a plan for growing its presence downtown. In 2018, Chevron announced it would demolish the structure. Preservation Houston advocated for saving it, noting that it was a rare surviving example of an early car dealership and that its open interior space could be reused in a number of different ways. Chevron says it will use the empty site as a parking lot while it seeks options for the property’s future.
Threatened: Pure Oil Gas Station
A rare Pure Oil gas station on Nogalitos Street in San Antonio may be demolished for new development. The 1935 structure features an architectural type called “house and canopy” that was Pure Oil’s signature. (The company also favored adding Tudor–style embellishments.) It is the only former Pure Oil station left in San Antonio, where dozens of former gas stations have been turned into coffee shops, restaurants, and boutiques. The owners applied for a demolition permit in 2017. The San Antonio Conservation Society applied for landmark designation to halt the demolition and provided an above-market-value offer for the property, but the owners declined the offer. Several months later, the zoning department approved the landmark designation. As of press time, a final hearing before the city council was set for mid-April to decide the gas station’s fate.