Places Restored, Threatened, Saved, and Lost in Preservation Magazine's Summer 2021 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 2021.
Threatened: Concord Gasholder House
In 1888, the Concord Gas Light Company completed its Gasholder House in Concord, New Hampshire. The brick-and-slate building, which stored coal gas used for illuminating both private homes and industrial buildings, was one of hundreds constructed in the United States during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The introduction of electricity and natural gas as a cheaper and safer alternative led to the dismantling of most coal gas plants, including the main Concord Gas Light Company complex.
The Gasholder House fell vacant in 1952 but avoided demolition, eventually becoming the last known extant gasholder in the country with its internal equipment still intact. Vulnerabilities in the structure’s envelope resulted in water infiltration, and a 2013 storm felled a tree that damaged the building’s north roof. Property owner Liberty Utilities pronounced the Gasholder House a safety hazard and began seeking a permit to tear it down in the summer of 2020.
In response, the nonprofit New Hampshire Preservation Alliance named the structure to its 2020 “Seven to Save” list and advocated for rehabilitation, citing other gasholders converted into offices and hotels nationwide. Partnering with the city of Concord, the Preservation Alliance reached an initial agreement with Liberty Utilities in April of 2021 to pursue preservation of the Gasholder House instead of demolition. However, the building still requires emergency stabilization work on its roof and walls to prevent total collapse.
Saved: Stone Cottage
A late-1920s cottage in Seattle overlooking Elliott Bay has been saved. The Stone Cottage was built as a residence for Eva Falk, who collected 15,000 stones by wagon from nearby Alki Beach to make up its facade, added in 1932–33. In exchange for masonry work, Falk offered meals to destitute people struggling during the Great Depression. The structure’s stones and other raw materials contain particular significance to some members of the Duwamish Tribe, who believe they retain the memories of tribal ancestors who once inhabited the land. After Falk’s death in 1997, the cottage passed to her descendants.
Chainqui Development purchased the property from the family in 2018 but allowed local preservationists and nonprofits Historic Seattle and Southwest Seattle Historical Society to develop a relocation and rehabilitation plan. Before Seattle Parks and Recreation could finish evaluating the plan, its review was tabled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The preservation-focused coalition regrouped and began a crowdsourcing campaign in December of 2020 to move the cottage into temporary storage, raising more than $80,000 toward the $110,000 cost of relocation. Stakeholders are now exploring adaptive reuse options and have structurally reinforced the cottage to prepare for relocation, which will commence once the city of Seattle issues a house move permit.
Saved: Mellen State Bank
The Mellen State Bank in Mellen, Wisconsin, was built as the town’s financial center in 1902. Brownstone sourced from Lake Superior’s Basswood Island—also used for the 1873 Milwaukee County Courthouse, now razed—formed the building’s facade. The Richardsonian Romanesque–style structure later served as a tavern and a hair salon before shuttering in 1959. Repurposed as private storage space, it received minimal maintenance over the next 60 years. Despite leaks in the north end of the tin roof, the building remained structurally sound.
In September of 2020, the city of Mellen issued a raze order on the property, declaring it unfit for occupancy and beyond repair. Mellen native Jeff Peters began organizing a coalition to save the former bank and rehabilitate it as a town visitor center, but the property’s owner expressed reluctance to sell. With Peters facilitating, California citrus farmers Jacob and Meredith Sertich successfully purchased the building for $14,000 in January of 2021. (Jacob has family roots in the area.) The newly established nonprofit Mellen Brownstone Center is now fundraising for the estimated $220,000 preservation project, which will include replacing damaged flooring with red oak boards donated by a local lumber company.
Threatened: Atlanta Eagle and Kodak Buildings
Two Atlanta properties significant to the city’s development history and LGBTQ community could be partially demolished. The Atlanta Eagle and Kodak Buildings were completed in 1898 and 1910, respectively, as single-family houses in the Ponce de Leon Avenue corridor. Mirroring the area’s evolution from residential to commercial, the Kodak Building was converted into a business that processed Kodak film, with its namesake steel-framed rooftop signage added in the late 1960s. In early 1985, the Celebrity Club—a popular nightclub that helped launch the careers of drag performers such as RuPaul and Lady Bunny—opened at the Atlanta Eagle site. Although the club closed about a year later, the property soon housed the Atlanta Eagle gay bar, part of an informal chain of independently owned bars founded in New York City after the 1969 Stonewall riots.
The bar remained open until late 2020, when it shuttered because of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the properties’ owner, Shahzad Hashmi, declared his intention to raze the buildings, nonprofits Historic Atlanta and the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation advocated for their designation as local landmarks. As of press time, the city of Atlanta is reviewing a limited version of the designation. This would permit Hashmi to demolish the Atlanta Eagle’s roof and much of the Kodak Building to allow for development above and behind the buildings, but it would protect the historic storefronts and signage.
Lost: Prince Hall Masonic Temple
For more than 50 years, the main temple of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Rhode Island—located in Providence—had served as a gathering place for the local chapter of the Prince Hall Freemasons as well as the city’s Black community. Abolitionist and civic leader Prince Hall founded this branch of Freemasonry in Boston in 1784, nine years after his initiation as one of the first Black Masons in North America. Prince Hall Freemasonry would become the largest predominantly African American fraternity in the world—garnering more than 300,000 members in the United States alone—and expanded to Rhode Island by 1855.
In 1966, the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island acquired an 1890s schoolhouse to use as its Providence temple. The site hosted a variety of public events, including food and toy drives, jazz performances, and wedding anniversary dinners. On the morning of December 25, 2020, a fire broke out in the temple’s basement and destroyed the building’s interior. The fire caused an estimated $1.4 million in damage and, as of press time, demolition may be necessary. Grand Lodge members have raised $635,000 in public and private funds to rehabilitate or rebuild the temple, and they hope to begin work sometime in the fall of 2021.
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