Page N2.2 . 20 May 2009                     
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Endangered Historic U.S. Places 2009

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The building lacks a central nave and steeple; in plan it resembles Shinto temples, showing Wright's Japanese influences.

One of the first public buildings constructed of exposed poured-in-place concrete, Unity Temple has 16 separate flat roofs. Instead of using gutters, Wright designed an internal drainage system with downspouts hidden inside the four main interior columns of the temple. The system was undersized and essentially inaccessible, however, and water continually overflows the drains and permeates the concrete roof slabs.

Both the concrete structure and the interior finishes suffer from widespread damage. The Unity Temple Restoration Foundation needs $4 million to $6 million immediately to stabilize the structure and complete critical concrete repairs. The cost estimate for the entire project, including interior restoration, is $20 million to $25 million.

Yamasaki's L.A. Hotel

The Century Plaza Hotel opened in Los Angeles, California, in 1966. Designed by Minoru Yamasaki, who would later design the World Trade Center towers in New York City, the 19-story hotel is arc-shaped in plan and incorporates Yamasaki's ornamental, textural, and sculptural trademarks. As a favorite destination of Ronald Reagan, the hotel was dubbed his "Western White House." Yamasaki also designed the adjacent twin Century Plaza Towers (1975).

Currently operating as a Hyatt Regency, the hotel was purchased in May 2008 by Next Century Associates, which then announced plans to raze the building and replace it with two 600-foot- (180-meter-) towers that would house a high-end hotel, condominiums, and mixed-use space, designed with green roofs and sustainable building materials.

The net environmental effect of the proposed development seems unlikely to be beneficial, however. The energy embodied in the 800,000-square-foot (74,000-square-meter) Century Plaza Hotel is the equivalent of 167,000 barrels of oil, according to the National Trust. Not only that, but the hotel is in excellent condition, and recently received a $36 million renovation. The Los Angeles Conservancy is leading the charge to save the hotel.

More Humane Asylum

At the Human Services Center in Yankton, South Dakota, formerly the Dakota Hospital for the Insane, Dr. Leonard Mead, the center's superintendent for many years and an amateur architect, implemented his then-groundbreaking idea of creating a physical environment that would be therapeutic for patients.

In contrast to the typical asylums of the time, these buildings, constructed largely between 1882 and 1942, feature daylit common rooms with attractive architectural features. Structures designed in neoclassical, Art Deco, Italianate, Prairie, and neo-Renaissance styles surround a landscaped central park on the 65-acre (26-hectare) campus.

Mead's hand is evident in wide porches, fan and Palladian windows, pedimented porticos, and other architectural elements. After 17 patients died in an 1899 fire, he ensured that all subsequent buildings were exceptionally solid, with stone construction, one-foot- (0.3-meter-) thick walls, clay tile roofing, and concrete for fireproofing.

The State of South Dakota built a new mental health facility on the campus in the 1990s, and in 2007 approved funds to begin demolishing some of the historic buildings — an outcome delayed only by budget constraints. Despite offers from the National Trust and its partners to help identify interested developers, the State seems committed to demolition.

Miami's Water Arena

Completed in 1963 on Virginia Key, Miami Marine Stadium is a South Florida landmark and a masterwork of civic architecture and modern construction. Designed by Hilario Candela, a Cuban-born architect, the structure is built entirely of poured concrete.

Sheltered by a dramatic cantilevered folded-plate roof, the arena seating faces a long water basin measuring 6,000 by 1,400 feet (1,800 by 430 meters), shaped like a Roman circus, with views of downtown Miami and Biscayne Bay. For years the stadium hosted a variety of events, including speedboat and swimming competitions, as well as concerts, rallies, and religious services performed from the floating barge that served as a stage.

Hurricane Andrew closed the stadium in 1992. Although one engineering study suggested repairs could be completed for only about $2 million to $3 million, they have never been carried out, and the stadium has since suffered deterioration and neglect, becoming a target for redevelopment.

The City is now developing a master plan for Virginia Key, but remains ambivalent about preserving the stadium. The Friends of Miami Marine Stadium seeks to preserve it and maximize its public use.

Gem of Industry

The Ames Shovel Shops in picturesque Easton, Massachusetts, once produced iron-bladed shovels used around the world, and notably in the California Gold Rush, the Civil War, the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. Now part of the North Easton Historic District, the Ames industrial village consists of 15 granite and wood buildings built from 1852 to 1928, including factory, civic, and worker housing structures.

Developers who purchased the property in 2007 have proposed building a 177-unit affordable-housing complex with 15,000 square feet (1,400 square meters) of office space. Now making its way through the permitting process, this plan would include the demolition of several buildings and the dramatic expansion of others. It would also adversely impact the surrounding historic area, including several buildings by H.H. Richardson and landscapes by Frederick Law Olmsted.

The Easton Historical Commission and other groups seek to preserve the site by keeping it in active use. But the developer has rejected alternative design concepts that would retain the historic character of the factory complex, and has threatened to apply for demolition permits if the current proposal is rejected.

Bridging the Piscataqua

According to the National Trust, historic U.S. bridges are being destroyed at the staggering rate of one every two or three days, despite a directive from Congress that historic bridges be preserved whenever possible.

One structure at risk is Memorial Bridge, a vertical-lift bridge that connects the historic coastal towns of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Kittery, Maine, across the Piscataqua River. Vertical-lift bridges hoist a single section straight up, allowing boats to pass underneath, unlike drawbridges, which swing open and upward like a gate.   >>>

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Years of water damage have left Unity Temple in need of multimillion-dollar repairs.
Photo: Courtesy NTHP Extra Large Image

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Intricately detailed concrete columns support the expansive roof at Unity Temple.
Photo: Artifice Images Extra Large Image

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In Los Angeles, the Century Plaza Hotel (1966) by Minoru Yamasaki is threatened with demolition to make way for new development. The National Trust named the hotel one of "America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places" for 2009.
Photo: Lizy Moromisato Extra Large Image

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The curving 19-story form of the Century Plaza Hotel is an iconic part of L.A.'s Century City district.
Photo: Lizy Moromisato Extra Large Image

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Intended by Dr. Leonard Mead to provide a therapeutic environment for mentally ill patients, the Human Services Center in Yankton, South Dakota, was built between 1882 and 1942.
Photo: Linda M. Kluthe/ Courtesy Yankton County Historical Society Extra Large Image

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The State of South Dakota plans to demolish some buildings at the Human Services Center.
Photo: Courtesy Yankton County Historical Society Extra Large Image

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Designed by Hilario Candela, the Commodore Ralph Middleton Munroe Miami Marine Stadium on Virginia Key, Florida, centers on a massive water basin.
Photo: Courtesy Spillis Candela DMJM Archives Extra Large Image

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Hurricane damage closed the 1963 Miami Marine Stadium in the early 1990s. Deterioration and development pressures now threaten its survival.
Photo: Courtesy Spillis Candela DMJM Archives Extra Large Image

 

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