School Houses Rock

April 13, 2018 Economics, Sustainability Comments (0) 128

Not long ago I did a blog about the myriad examples of preserved, adapted historic gas stations.  Today let’s look at schools.  I remember schools rehabbed into homes from the beginning of my career over 34 years ago.

The Lemont School – front half 1896, rear piece 1869 – converted into residences c. 1980.

The Lemont School above shows how even two generations of school design are easily adapted, since they needed large windows to allow enough light in for instruction – a feature suited well to conversion into apartments or condos.  Offices are another easy rehabilitation goal, as seen in this 1874 school in Georgetown, Colorado.  (This is from a decade ago – it is rehabbed now)

Schools are a more straightforward rehab prospect than other community-defining buildings like churches and theaters, which tend to have a massive open space inside, although of course more modern schools will themselves include assembly halls and theaters, along with gymnasia.  Still, most classrooms are easily made into offices, condos or even retail spaces.

This one is for the birds.  I mean The Birds (Bodega Bay, California).

Which brings us to this lovely 1916 school by local architect Leo Dielmann, which was “saved,” or rather “not demolished” 20 years ago when they tore off various additions and built a new school.  And then let this one rot.  Despite a sturdy concrete frame, the roof was the only wood portion and it turned into a sponge in the last decade.  But the walls are there and it is beautiful.

Still the owners – the School District – have pulled a fast one, or more accurately, a really SLOW one.  Demolition by neglect.  Over more than two decades.  Makes it look almost…natural.

Councilman Treviño has been fighting for the school, and our friends over at Ford Powell Carson architects even did some renderings to show how it could be rehabbed.

Many neighbors want to save it, but others have been convinced by the long con that the eyesore is too far gone and must be removed.  The real crime here is that no one gets dunned for demolition by neglect – the most common way to deliberately destroy a perfectly usable building.  There is also lack of vision – seeing older buildings as obstacles rather than opportunities.

See?

Treviño is fighting a Principal and Superintendent who want to see the building go away, which was perhaps the plan 20-odd years ago.  That would be a shame.  For the neighborhood, the city, and future resources subjected to the mistreatment of the long con.

Continue Reading

Buildings For The Future

October 4, 2017 Economics, Sustainability, Technology Comments (0) 567

My favorite quote from Donovan Rypkema during our Living Heritage Symposium last month was a marvelously simple recitation about why saving old buildings is economically brilliant.  He said simply:  “You can’t build new and rent cheap.”

Continue Reading

Continue Reading

Passive Aggressive

April 5, 2017 Economics, Sustainability, Vision and Style Comments (1) 1308

Passive Aggressive behavior is a terrible character failing.  It is a sign of immaturity or stunted development.  I know something of this and work to avoid it.

Continue Reading

Continue Reading

The Value of Heritage

February 4, 2017 Economics, Sustainability, Texas Comments (0) 850

When a lover of history, architecture, or neighborhoods sees an historic building or district, they value it.  They want to save it, to preserve that value. Continue Reading

Continue Reading

Moving Buildings – San Antonio

July 20, 2016 Historic Districts, House Museums, Sustainability Comments (2) 750

I am living in an historic building that was moved more than a mile from its original location, from the King William district, the first historic district in Texas.

This is the 1881 Oge carriage house, now located near the Yturri-Edmunds house, which is in its original location near Mission Road.  Our San Antonio Conservation Society moved the house here in order to save it.  On the same property we also have the Postert House, an 1850 palisado cabin which was similarly moved in order to save it from demolition.  In fact, I remember very well in 1985 when San Antonio set a record for moving the largest building that had ever been relocated on wheels, the 1906 Fairmount Hotel. Continue Reading

Continue Reading

Lathrop Homes, 3 years after

February 20, 2016 Chicago Buildings, Historic Districts, Sustainability Comments (1) 721

Full disclosure:  Four years ago, I was the Historic Preservation consultant for the Julia C. Lathrop Homes in Chicago, a very important 1937 federal housing project.  This past Thursday the Chicago Plan Commission approved the current plan for the project, which I ceased to work on when I left Chicago in July 2012. I took the opportunity to compare the plan to my April 2011 Preliminary Report and to the project at the time I left.

Continue Reading

Continue Reading

Main Street and Community Preservation

February 13, 2016 Economics, Historic Districts, Sustainability Comments (0) 415

This coming week I will be lecturing about Main Street, a National Trust for Historic Preservation initiative that began in the 1970s as a way to help preserve historic downtowns throughout America in communities of every size.  This was in the era when suburban shopping malls had become the centerpiece of American life, drawing attention and dollars away from the smaller shops and services of the old downtowns. Continue Reading

Continue Reading

Everything You Know Is Wrong, Part II

February 6, 2016 Blog, History, Sustainability, Technology, Vision and Style Comments (0) 471

Who doesn’t adore their own adolescent brain?

Eight years ago I wrote a blog with this title, to remind us that we often think our way past reality.   Despite our ongoing technological revolution the human mind still has a series of fallback postures that fail to perceive reality but instead distort it – simplify it, really – to make it fit into categories more satisfying to our adolescent brains. Continue Reading

Continue Reading

Chautauqua: Where America spoke

November 12, 2015 Economics, Sustainability, Technology Comments (1) 526

“I must protest against the dismemberment of Chautauqua.”

  • Letter to William Rainey Harper from John Heyl Vincent, 4 July 1899.

I stumbled across this nugget while researching other matters regarding George Vincent and William Rainey Harper, the first President of the University of Chicago.  Vincent’s father John Heyl Vincent was a founder of Chautauqua, which as you may know, is a place in New York state that evolved from a Sunday School into a nationwide educational movement. Continue Reading

Continue Reading

Strategic Thinking and the Heritage of Every Single Day.

September 9, 2015 Economics, Global Heritage, Sustainability Comments (1) 515

Aaugh HELP they are tearing it down!!!  NOW!!

One of the many benefits of my three years in Silicon Valley, buttressed by 30 years of serving on non-profit Boards of Directors  (I whittled it down to four recently.  Well, five.)  is that I have been steeped in strategic thinking and strategic planning.  While this may seem like a normal exercise to the MBA crowd, it is something that tends to be lacking in the historic preservation/heritage conservation field. Continue Reading

Continue Reading