Preservation Dilemma

Sometimes the choices made in historic preservation efforts aren’t always clear-cut.  Increasingly, there is debate over what is worthy of preservation and what is not.  Many years ago I photographed this vibrant 1960’s-vintage metal facade which spanned across two adjacent storefronts in Hays, Kansas.  At the time, I admired it for its classic aqua panels, quirky lines, and just the fact that it made me smile.  It’s fun!  And, as one of a handful of facades with a strong presence on the street, it was memorable.

Then, several years later, there was a push to “restore” and “revitalize” the immediate downtown area.   The master plan called for the removal of this particular facade.  Much history was lost in the redevelopment process; should this facade be counted among the losses?  Or do you feel that the two early 20th-century facades (both needing restoration) which were revealed are the stronger asset?  Take a look at the Before and After images below:


The 1960's metal facade in all its jaunty glory...
The 1960’s metal facade in all its jaunty glory…


...and the original structures revealed.
…and the original structures revealed.  Image courtesy of Google Street View.

2 Responses to Preservation Dilemma

  1. OUCH.

    MOST people would have not thought twice about tearing off this “awful” 1950s update.

    And it pains me that this is pretty much the default position of most towns.

    Sigh. I think SOME great stuff happened in the 1950s.

    I would have kept this update. I love the color and that FABULOUS zig-zag awning!!!!!!!! But, something distinctive was traded for something common.

    However, I would have peeled back the aqua facade ONLY enough to reveal the red brick portion. That 1913 sign is very cool, and I think the two, 1913 and 1950, could have easily coexisted if detailed correctly.

  2. I don’t think there’s any real question that if you want to revitalize a historical district, you need every period-correct facade you can find. However, that doesn’t mean that the 1960s facade couldn’t have been *carefully* removed and reinstalled in a more appropriate place, like a new bank building. (That combination of shiny aqua “glass” and zigzag canopy says “1960s branch bank” to me.) I bet, though, that the thought didn’t even occur to anyone involved in the demolition project once.

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