Page N2.2 . 27 July 2011                     
ArchitectureWeek - News Department
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Endangered American Places

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The annual list of America's Most Endangered Historic Places highlights historic places across the United States that are threatened by neglect, insufficient funds, inappropriate development, or insensitive public policy.

This year, two of the listed sites are Midwestern medical care facilities. Nine more endangered places range from an eighth-generation Pennsylvania farm to ancient roads in New Mexico.

Chicago Modern at Risk

The Prentice Women's Hospital organizational entity, which is part of Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NMH), moved out of the 1974 Goldberg-designed building and into a new facility in 2007, and the building's remaining tenant, NMH's Stone Institute of Psychiatry, is currently in the process of moving out, as of July 2011.

Northwestern University, which will own the building once it is vacant, has announced plans to demolish the structure to make way for the possible future development of a larger facility, for medical research.
In April 2011, a study exploring possibilities for reuse of the building was released by the nonprofit Landmarks Illinois, which is a member of the "Save Prentice" coalition, along with Preservation Chicago, DoCoMoMo Midwest, and the Midwest office of the National Trust.

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks is expected to consider the building for landmark status at an upcoming meeting, and Northwestern University has agreed to defer seeking a demolition permit for the time being.

Milwaukee Soldiers Home

Just a hundred miles to the north stands a collection of Victorian-style buildings dedicated to caring for disabled war veterans: the National Soldiers Home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Formally known as the Northwestern Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (NHDVS), the Milwaukee facility was established in 1867 as one of the three original such care homes for Civil War volunteers disabled during the war. The campus includes a couple of dozen buildings dating to the post-Civil War years and turn of the 20th century, along with a national cemetery and parklike grounds designed by landscape architect Thomas Budd Van Horne in the "picturesque" style. This designated historic district was also just named a National Historic Landmark on June 30, 2011.

The prominent Main Building (1869), nicknamed "Old Main," originally housed all the home's functions, and was used as a dormitory for over 100 years. Designed by Milwaukee architect Edward Townsend Mix in the Victorian gothic style, the building is T-shaped in plan, with three- and four-story sections and a six-story-tall entrance tower. The structure features a tri-color mansard roof and load-bearing exterior masonry walls made with locally produced, buff-colored "Cream City" brick, and decorative brick and stone belt courses.

Another significant building on the campus is Ward Memorial Hall (1881). Designed by architect Henry C. Koch as a two-level multipurpose building, Ward was renovated in the late 1890s to create the present two-story, sloped-floor theater with a balcony. A popular stop for vaudeville and minstrel shows for many decades, the building is listed individually on the National Register of Historic Places. The buff brick walls are decorated with red-brick details.

The NHDVS was merged into the Veterans Administration when the latter was created in 1930. Now the Department of Veterans Affairs, it operates the modern Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center at the south end of the Milwaukee home's grounds.

Though still actively using all but five of the historic buildings, the VA has deferred maintenance on many of them, and some now require urgent intervention. In February 2011, a portion of Old Main's roof collapsed completely when a roof truss gave way under the weight of snow. The interior remains open to the elements through the resulting gaping hole. And Ward Memorial Hall is in imminent danger of collapse, also suffering from extensive roof damage, water infiltration, and neglect.

Greater Chaco Landscape

Centuries ago, in what is now the desert Southwest of the United States, the ancient Puebloan peoples farmed and traded — and built remarkable multistory buildings. The massive stone structures in and around New Mexico's Chaco Canyon, a cultural hub from about 850 to 1250 CE, suggest the highly developed architectural and engineering prowess of the ancient Chacoans (Anasazi), believed to be one of the ancestral groups of present-day Puebloan peoples.

Although some of the Chacoan sites are now in ruins, many others remain remarkably intact. The legacy of the Chacoan people includes thousands of ancient pueblos and shrines, along with an extensive road network.

Sites within Chaco Canyon itself and some sites on nearby mesas are protected as part of the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, part of the National Park Service. In recognition of the international significance of this region, UNESCO designated the park, along with seven nearby sites, a World Heritage site in 1987.

However, most of the Chacoan sites and roads located on federal lands outside the park and World Heritage boundaries are vulnerable to development and other land-disturbing activities. And many of these sites and roads — such as the recently mapped, culturally significant Great North Road, which runs dozens of miles — rival those located within the park.

Today, the greater Chaco landscape of northwestern New Mexico is experiencing a boom in energy-resource exploration and extraction. The oil and gas industry continues to push for development on federal lands outside the park, and recently nominated several Bureau of Land Management parcels within this area for oil and gas lease sales. In addition, many subtle and fragile Chacoan roads are greatly endangered as modern roads are being built and planned to serve the heavy truck traffic associated with energy extraction.

Minneapolis Mill

On the banks of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the flour mill that Charles A. Pillsbury built in 1881 still stands, but is at risk of being compromised by piecemeal development.

The state of the art at the time of its construction, the Pillsbury "A" Mill dramatically expanded Pillsbury's milling capacity and helped make Minneapolis the flour-milling capital of the world from 1880 to 1930.

One of many mills powered by nearby St. Anthony Falls, the "A" Mill differed from its neighbors in its large size, production capacity, and design — which, unusually, was carried out by an architect, LeRoy S. Buffington.   >>>

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Northwestern University has expressed its intent to demolish the old Prentice Women's Hospital, which is part of Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NMH). (The site of a former Veterans Administration hospital building demolished by NMH is visible in the foreground.)
Photo: Brian Ashby Extra Large Image

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Patient rooms in the former Prentice Women's Hospital are contained within a four-lobed concrete tower, quatrefoil in plan. The expressive tower, with seven floors of beds, cantilevers 45 feet (14 meters) above a rectangular five-story base. Built to house maternity and psychiatric facilities, the building will stand vacant once the psychiatric institute completes its move out, already underway.
Photo: C. William Brubaker, courtesy University of Illinois at Chicago Library and College of Architecture and the Arts Extra Large Image

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Deferred maintenance and weather damage threaten some of the historic buildings at the Northwestern Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, also known as the National Soldiers Home. The five-story Victorian gothic "Old Main" building (1869) shown in this photograph, along with several other original buildings, were designed by Edward Townsend Mix.
Photo: Justin Miller/ Courtesy Milwaukee Preservation Alliance Extra Large Image

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The brick-and-wood Victorian Ward Memorial Hall (1881) is a theater building on the Milwaukee Soldiers Home campus in Milwaukee.
Photo: Justin Miller/ Courtesy Milwaukee Preservation Alliance Extra Large Image

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Plan and section drawings of Ward Memorial Hall, designed by Henry C. Koch.
Image: Historic American Building Survey (HABS) Extra Large Image

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Ward Memorial Hall has suffered roof damage and water infiltration, and a section of Old Main's roof collapsed in February 2011.
Photo: Genell Scheurell/ Courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation Extra Large Image

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In New Mexico, energy development and other human activities are jeopardizing many of the structures and roadways of the ancient Puebloan peoples in the vicinity of Chaco Canyon. While structures located within Chaco Culture National Historic Park — such as Pueblo Bonito, shown here circa 1940 (left) and 2009 (right) — are protected, hundreds of other significant sites are not.
Image: Chris M./ HABS Extra Large Image

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Maps of Chacoan sites in the Four Corners region of the southwestern United States.
Image: HABS Extra Large Image

 

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