Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Paving paradise

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has listed America's 11 Most Endangered Places, reminding again that overdevelopment is one of our more underrecognized foes. America does have character, and charm, as much as some people want to destroy it. God knows we can't afford to become any more illiterate of our past. Or is there educational value to be found at Moe's?

Among our historic treasures threatened by financial interests:

*Blair Mountain Battlefield (Logan County, West Virginia)

The "Battle of Blair Mountain" in 1921 was a pivotal event in the labor movement in America. Through an armed insurrection, coal miners sought better working conditions and an end to the oppressive control of the coal industry that ruled southern West Virginia. The battle was the largest conflict on US soil since the Civil War, but it is relatively little known

And the coal companies want to keep it that way.

Past preservation efforts have failed because of fierce opposition from the coal companies that own or lease most of the ridge. Hobet Mining, Arch Coal, Massey Energy Company and Aracoma Coal Company, among others, are intent on strip-mining, which would destroy the battlefield. Permits for strip-mining are issued through the Army Corps of Engineers, which is subject to a federal preservation review process that provides for consideration of – but not necessarily protection of – historic sites.

*Kootenai Lodge (Bigfork, Mt.)

The Kootenai Lodge, developed over a period of nearly 25 years starting in 1905, was built by two copper kings who chose this scenic lakeside spot as the site for a retreat for their families. What started as a simple fishing camp developed into a spectacular compound with a grand but rustic lodge, 14 cabins, a 31-stall barn for thoroughbred horses, polo grounds and a six-car garage for the families' fleet of Pierce Arrow and Dusenberg limousines. The main lodge was designed by Kirtland Cutter, the architect of Lake McDonald Lodge in Glacier National Park, who incorporated massive larch timbers, unpeeled cedar logs, a walk-in fireplace and 30-foot ceiling in the building's dramatic interior space.

Wouldn't you rather stay in a brand new condo?

The Milhous Group, which purchased the 42-acre property in 2005, is planning to build 42 condominiums, 24 boat slips, a pool and a new road. The plan calls for the demolition of several structures and the alteration of all remaining historic buildings. The historic barn has already been dismantled and relocated, and many of the old-growth trees have been cut down.

*Doo Wop Motels (Wildwood, NJ)

On a 40-block stretch of the Jersey Shore sits an ode to 1950s optimism: Wildwood's Doo Wop motels, a string of brash and fanciful beach resorts where a generation of American families returned year after year to soak up the sun and celebrate their newfound prosperity. Named for a popular singing style of the day, Doo Wop motels sport neon-bright colors, funky signage and exotic architecture decked out with sawtooth angles, crazy overhangs, space-age "Jetson" ramps and lava rock siding. Considered the largest collection of mid-20th century commercial resort architecture in the nation, the motels celebrate a number of kitschy styles, including the Polynesian-inspired "Pu Pu Platter," the "Chinatown Revival" with its de rigueur pagoda roof, and "Phony Colonee," a tribute to American patriotism.

I smell condos.

Nearly 100 Doo Wop motels have been demolished in recent years, usually for the construction of market-rate condominiums.

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't they just modernize the Doo Wop Motels to something more...current? "The Gangsta Rap Motel" or whatever?