Places Restored, Threatened, Saved, and Lost in Preservation Magazine's Summer 2022 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 2022.
Saved: Eugene Steam Plant
The former Eugene Water & Electric Board Standby Steam Plant is inching closer to redevelopment. Built in three phases in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, the steam plant helped power and heat the city of Eugene, Oregon, for several decades from a prominent location along the Willamette River. The city had long eyed the site as an adaptive reuse candidate and purchased the property from the utility in 2018, a few years after it ceased all operations. Earlier this year, a group led by developer deChase Miksis won approval for its plan to turn the steam plant into a community hub, though it is still looking to procure more funding to get the project off the ground.
The revamped structure would house a hotel, an arts space, a restaurant, and other public gathering places. Mark Miksis—who grew up in Eugene and remembers riding his bike past the steam plant as a kid—says the goal is to preserve as much of the building’s exterior as possible and reconstruct the deteriorated 1950s portion. Miksis also hopes to save various artifacts from the interior. He adds that the team plans to apply for a National Register listing and hopes to utilize federal and state historic tax credits down the line. “We’re hoping it will be a big draw for the community,” says Amanda D’Souza, a city business development analyst. “We don’t have any other site like this.”
Saved: Industrial Trust Company Building
After nine years of vacancy, Providence’s Industrial Trust Company Building is now on track for revival following owner High Rock Development’s April agreement with the state and other entities to turn the property into mixed-use housing. Affectionately known as the “Superman Building” because of its resemblance to the fictional Daily Planet headquarters in the Superman comics and TV series, the 1928 Art Deco skyscraper remains the tallest in Rhode Island at 428 feet. It was built during a period of optimism before the Great Depression and has since become an essential piece of the city’s skyline, says Rachel Robinson, director of preservation at the Providence Preservation Society.
For decades, the Superman Building served as the headquarters for the Industrial Trust Company, but activity within its walls ceased in 2013 when Bank of America, the tenant at the time, unexpectedly left. That prompted efforts from local preservationists to save the site from potential demolition, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation named it one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2019. The building has reportedly remained structurally sound and is protected from vandalism by a security team.
As of press time, the developer’s plan would use federal, state, and local funding (including historic tax credits) to install 285 apartments, 20 percent of which are reserved for those earning between 80 percent and 120 percent of the Area Median Income.
Restored: Hassmer House
After Rachael and David VanArtsdalen moved from Ohio to rural Indiana a couple of years ago, they came up with the idea of starting a farm-to-table restaurant. They looked at a property in the town of Versailles that seemed like a good fit, but while touring it, they noticed a “cool, decrepit” building across the street that was also for sale. They purchased that 1830 structure, once known as the Hassmer House.
It has played various roles over the centuries, including those of a saloon, inn, and temporary jail. The couple removed metal siding that had been covering up the original exterior brick, as well as interior drywall that was hiding historical banisters. Original interior brick is again exposed, and the VanArtsdalens also retained the circa-1900 cherry wood bar. “We just really wanted it to feel like it might’ve looked back then,” Rachael says.
Despite challenges such as having to rip out and replace mold-riddled flooring, the couple was able to complete the rehab within a year. Now known as the Hassmer House Tavern & Inn, the building contains a first-floor restaurant and bar, which opened in December of 2021, and a second-floor guest suite with a private entrance. The VanArtsdalens hope their efforts will help bring more people to Versailles, and they’re eyeing other potential rehab projects in the area.
Threatened: Historic Wintersburg
Historic Wintersburg in Huntington Beach, California, has been under threat for decades, landing on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2014. The site, a rare example of an early 20th century Japanese immigrant settlement that traces a single family’s history over several decades, took another hit this February when a fire broke out on the grounds, burning two of the six buildings. The remains of the 1910 multi-faith mission and its accompanying minister’s residence (known as the manse; both are shown at top left) were demolished by its current owner, waste disposal company Republic Services, shortly afterwards.
Mary Adams Urashima, a leading advocate for the preservation of the site, says its remaining structures—which include a circa 1908 barn, 1913 bungalow (top right), 1934 church, and 1947 ranch house (built after the property’s owners, the Furuta family, returned from a World War II–era incarceration camp)—should now be considered “critically endangered.” She has expressed concern over the years that Republic Services has failed to protect the buildings from blazes and other threats, including trespassing and vandalism.
Urashima and other supporters of Historic Wintersburg hope to eventually
purchase the property and transform it into an educational site, which could
potentially include reconstructions of the mission and manse. The city has also
indicated interest in possibly buying the site. In the meantime, Urashima says
she’s requested the right to collect ashes and any other remains of the
destroyed buildings for both ceremonial and documentary purposes.
Restored: Transfiguration Place
At Detroit’s Transfiguration Place, Ethos Development Partners teamed with nonprofit developer Cinnaire; architecture firm Fusco, Shaffer & Pappas (FSP); the Archdiocese of Detroit; and city and state agencies to create 19 units of affordable housing. The $7.2 million adaptive reuse project—part of a city initiative to create affordable housing from existing buildings—involved converting the Transfiguration Roman Catholic Church parish school into apartments with the aid of federal historic tax credits. The building had its ribbon-cutting ceremony in January of 2022, a year after construction began.
Architects Garstecki & Waier designed the 1926 school, and for decades the student body largely comprised members of the area’s Polish American community. Enrollment eventually dwindled and educational operations ceased around 2014. But FSP’s James Pappas says the building—which, as part of the parish complex, was listed on the National Register in 2019—has remained in excellent condition thanks to the care of the archdiocese and the still-active local parish.
That allowed his team to save the exterior masonry, clay tile roof, and decorative railings. They also restored the building’s entryways to their original design and added a ramp at the rear to meet accessibility standards. On the interior, the team was able to preserve corridors, stairwells, and pressed-tin ceilings, while replacing the windows with units that match those shown in early photographs. The building’s classrooms were converted into 17 one-bedroom apartments and 2 two-bedrooms. Every unit is designated for residents earning between zero percent and 50 percent of the Area Median Income, and the building is fully occupied.