Preservation Magazine, Spring 2024

Places Restored, Threatened, Saved, and Lost in Preservation Magazine's Spring 2024 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 2024.

photo by: Lynnewood Hall Preservation Foundation

Saved: Lynnewood Hall

One of the largest residences in the United States, Lynnewood Hall in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, remains shrouded in an “aura of mystery,” says Edward Thome, executive director of nonprofit Lynnewood Hall Preservation Foundation. “Most people have no idea that this house is even here.” Noted architect Horace Trumbauer designed the 100,000-square-foot building. It was constructed by 1899 for Peter A.B. Widener, an investor in the White Star Line, which operated the ill-fated Titanic. (Widener’s son and grandson were passengers on the ship and died when it sank in 1912.) The residence was eventually put up for auction and purchased by a developer, and then sold again to Faith Theological Seminary in 1952.

“It wasn’t until the 1980s that things really started to go south,” Thome says. “The [seminary] director at that point started selling assets from the property to make ends meet.” In 1996, First Korean Church of New York assumed ownership, and by 2012, Lynnewood’s condition worsened as broken windows and leaking downspouts allowed the elements to infiltrate. The owners were steadfast in their desire to see it remain standing, though, turning down offers from developers. After years of building rapport and proving its preservation intentions, Lynnewood Hall Preservation Foundation purchased the home last year, thanks to a pair of private donors. While the restoration is expected to take at least 25 years, the Foundation plans to open the grounds to the public as soon as possible and offer educational opportunities to people learning skilled trades.

Saved: El Corazón Sagrado de la Iglesia de Jesús

An early 20th-century adobe church in Ruidosa, Texas, is crumbling—but Friends of the Ruidosa Church, a volunteer-run, preservation-minded nonprofit, is working to revive its spirit. Located about a quarter mile from the United States–Mexico border, the tiny, unincorporated community was once home to a handful of businesses; a post office; and El Corazón Sagrado de la Iglesia de Jesús, also called the Ruidosa Church and built by the local Catholic diocese in 1915 out of sun-dried adobe bricks. But when the Elephant Butte Reservoir in New Mexico was completed in 1916, the area’s once-arable land went dry, and Ruidosa’s population dwindled.

By midcentury, the town’s businesses had shuttered, and there weren’t enough residents to continue church services. “It started falling into disrepair, and some of the architectural finishes were [stolen] from the building,” such as the original windows and wood floor, says Mike Green, retired architect and Friends of the Ruidosa Church board member. The central entryway is flanked by two towers, and most of one tower crumbled sometime between 1990 and 2004. Without intervention, the other tower soon would have faced the same fate. But thanks to Friends of the Ruidosa Church—which was deeded the property by Presidio County in 2020—it was stabilized in the summer of 2023, with plans to restore it already underway.

photo by: Clara Bensen

In celebration of saving the threatened tower, the nonprofit held its annual Community Day on November 11, 2023. Residents, artists, dancers, and musicians gathered to celebrate the church’s history and bright future as a regional event facility and community space.

photo by: Steve Paul/Historic Kansas City

Threatened: Seventh Church of Christ, Scientist

Preservation nonprofit Historic Kansas City says there are no avenues left to save a historic church facing demolition, marking the end of a five-year-long advocacy effort. Built in 1942, the Seventh Church of Christ, Scientist is a Romanesque Revival–style building clad in buff brick and dotted with red and brown bricks that create a tapestry effect. Ornamental limestone trims the church’s arcades at the main entrance, and a tower rises at the building’s southeast corner. The church’s red clay–tiled gable roof allows it to mesh seamlessly with neighboring Country Club Plaza, a historic shopping center that opened in 1923 and was designed to mimic the Baroque architecture of Seville, Spain.

After nearly 80 years, the church sold its building in 2020 to developers who intend to raze it and replace it with Cocina47, a three-story fine-dining complex that will include a space for the church to continue operating. The height of the proposed development is a small triumph: An earlier iteration of the plan proposed a nine-story building that far exceeded the area’s height restrictions for new development and was blocked by the City Plan Commission following advocacy by Historic Kansas City and neighborhood leaders. But with the Kansas City Council having approved the development plan for Cocina47 in mid-2023, the fate of the historic church is likely set as of press time. “It is true that you lose historic districts one building at a time,” says Jim Wanser, past board president of Historic Kansas City. “This was a rather important little building.”

photo by: Cincinnati Preservation Association

Threatened: Hoffman School

After fighting hard over the past year to save Cincinnati’s Hoffman School building, the Cincinnati Preservation Association (CPA) says demolition is all but certain for the century-old schoolhouse. Built in 1922 in the city’s Evanston neighborhood, the Jacobethan Revival–style building was designed by architecture firm Samuel Hannaford and Sons, which also designed Cincinnati’s now-restored Music Hall (once named to the National Trust’s list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places). As Evanston became a predominantly Black neighborhood in the 1940s and ’50s, the school played an important role in Cincinnati’s Black community, says Beth Johnson, executive director at CPA. Hoffman ceased operations as a school in 2012 as the Cincinnati public school system moved away from using historic buildings due to upkeep costs.

The school was sold to the Christ Temple Baptist Church in 2013, which sold it in 2023 to a developer with plans to tear the building down and construct housing on the site. Following community outcry, CPA quickly took action, attempting to designate Hoffman as a historic landmark and making the case that the existing building could be adapted into housing, as other historic schools in the area have been. But in August 2023, the Cincinnati City Council voted 5 to 4 not to approve the designation. A demolition permit was issued the same month, though the building was still standing as of press time. “We’ll have hope until we see the wrecking ball go through the building,” Johnson says.

photo by: Montauk Historical Society

Restored: Montauk Point Lighthouse

Commissioned by President George Washington and constructed in 1796 on the eastern tip of Long Island, New York, the Montauk Point Lighthouse was in dire need of repair when efforts to restore it began in 2019. Piecemeal fixes had entailed using Portland cement to patch up the masonry, but this only worsened the deterioration. Meanwhile, years of forceful Atlantic waves had eroded the land in front of the lighthouse, adding a layer of vulnerability. As the Montauk Historical Society led the restoration, the United States Army Corps of Engineers simultaneously worked to fortify the shoreline. Both projects finished around the same time and celebrated a joint ribbon cutting in August 2023.

Construction firm Installation Specialties Group led the lighthouse project, which began with restoring its metal dome, catwalks, and the interior of the lantern room. To repair the spalling sandstone walls, contractors chiseled out the problematic Portland cement and filled it with lime putty mortar. For sandstone blocks that needed replacement, project consultants sourced from the same Connecticut quarry that the builders of the original lighthouse may have used. The “cherry on top,” says Montauk Historical Society Executive Director Mia Certic, was a $100,000 grant to restore the still-active lighthouse’s Fresnel lens that had been out of commission since the 1980s. The lighthouse restoration cost about $1.8 million, says Certic, a figure that also included the exterior restoration of the lighthouse keepers’ residence.

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Preservation magazine Assistant Editor Malea Martin.

Malea Martin is the assistant editor at Preservation magazine. Outside of work, you can find her scouring antique stores for mid-century furniture and vintage sewing patterns, or exploring new trail runs with her dog. Malea is based on the Central Coast of California.

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