Places Restored, Threatened, Saved, and Lost in Preservation Magazine's Summer 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 Summer 2020.
Restored: Sawmill, Sheldon Jackson School
The sawmill building of the former Sheldon Jackson School in Sitka, Alaska, has been revitalized as a research support center and gift shop for the Sitka Sound Science Center (SSSC). One of 17 contributing structures to the campus, which is designated as a National Historic Landmark District, the 1941 sawmill housed classes in European boat building and wood-milling techniques for Alaska Native students. After the school shuttered in 2007, many of its buildings were deeded or sold to organizations and a summer camp. In 2010, SSSC purchased two, including the sawmill. Used primarily for storage after its machinery was sold in 1976, the building’s wood pilings and galvanized metal siding had severely deteriorated, but its original spruce floorboards and trusses remained functional. With guidance from local preservation experts, contractors, and architecture firm Welsh Whiteley Architects, SSSC decided to deconstruct the sawmill and rebuild it on a new concrete foundation, preserving its original frame. Workers replicated the original metal siding while salvaging some of it and reusing it on the interior. Funded by a combination of grants, public funds, and individual contributions, the $1.2 million project was completed in June of 2020.
Lost: Gary Water Tower
An octagonal, 133-foot-tall water tower in Gary, Indiana, was completed in 1909, just three years after the establishment of the city. Constructed by the Gary Heat, Light & Water Company, the tower was part of a waterworks complex designed by John W. Alvord, a Chicago civil engineer who oversaw the water supply system for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. The company covered the tower’s steel columns with a concrete shell and a decorative cornice, transforming it into a community landmark. In 2019 the tower’s most recent owner, Indiana American Water, announced its intention to raze the building, which was also known as the Jefferson Park Water Tower. Indiana American cited safety and structural issues, as well as redundancy with a new water tower nearby. A City of Gary employee informed nonprofit Indiana Landmarks in February of 2020 that the city supported preservation as an alternative, but Indiana American Water’s demolition permit was approved later that month. With no further avenues for recourse or discussion, demolition began in April of 2020.
Restored: Trust Building
In 1928, the Title Insurance and Trust Company opened its new headquarters, a 10-story Art Deco office building in the heart of Los Angeles’ financial core. Its terra cotta facade, gilded ceiling decorations, travertine interior walls, and marble floors conveyed its significance, and artist Hugo Ballin created polychromatic tile murals to adorn the entrance. Following several ownership changes in the 1970s, the Trust Building temporarily housed the Los Angeles Central Library and was used as a filming location for movies such as The Dark Knight Rises and Divergent. The property had been mostly vacant for more than a decade when Nelson Rising—who began his career as a lawyer working in the Trust Building—and his company Rising Realty Partners purchased it in 2016. Crews began restoring the structure, removing layers of paint and acoustic tiles to reveal its original ceilings. Shear walls were added to help bring it up to modern earthquake standards, and its exterior terra cotta and murals were fully cleaned. The $40 million renovation, designed by Architectural Resources Group and Gensler, was completed in Feburary of 2020, and the building will contain retail stores, restaurants, and office space.
Restored: Bacon's Castle Slave Quarter
The last surviving slave quarter on the grounds of Bacon’s Castle, a former plantation in Surrey, Virginia, has been restored. Constructed out of wood and brick in two stages between 1829 and 1848, the two-story building was once one of many dispersed across the site and likely housed three or four families of enslaved people. It later served as rental lodging for sharecroppers and other tenants before nonprofit Preservation Virginia purchased Bacon’s Castle in 1973, operating the historic site as a house museum. With the intention of telling the fuller story of life on the property, which is a National Historic Landmark, work commenced on restoring the slave quarter in mid-2018. Its four window sashes had become compromised, and its south chimney was leaning into the adjacent gable, further damaging the decayed wood siding. To relieve pressure on the gable, craftsmen temporarily removed some of the bricks that were protruding from the chimney stack and pressing into the siding, cutting them down before reinstallation. Roughly 25 percent of building’s siding needed replacement, while the rest was stripped, washed, and repainted. Repairs were completed in November of 2019. New signage interprets the structure for visitors, describing the building’s evolution over time.
Saved: Gottlieb's Department Store
The former Gottlieb’s Department Store in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, was saved from the wrecking ball less than a week before its planned demolition. Morton Gottlieb and his family built the two-story structure in 1906, operating their business on the ground level for about 80 years while taking up residence upstairs. The building also held a post office until 1917. The Gottlieb family sold the building in the 1980s or ’90s, but it remained in use as retail space. Cracks in the foundation formed—signaling uneven settling—and the floor on the second level became warped.
Developer Joseph Carannante purchased the property in 2018, only to discover it was structurally unsound. Carannante secured a demolition permit in the summer of 2019. Meanwhile, water infiltration caused further damage. Point Pleasant Beach lacked historic ordinances that could protect the building, but town mayor Paul Kanitra began reaching out to potential buyers willing to preserve the building’s historic integrity. He eventually arranged a meeting between Carannante and local residents Steve and Sue Fisher. With only days to spare, the Fishers agreed to purchase the building for $960,000 in December of 2019. The Fishers hope to rehabilitate the store as some form of publicly accessible space, but as of press time, plans are on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
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