Preservation News: The Good and the Bad

Main Street, Mackinac Island
Main Street, Mackinac Island

This week, preservationists were hit with several major decisions dealing with some pretty significant historic sites and preservation-related projects across the country. As the news kept piling up, it occurred to me that this week is an example of both the huge wins and unfortunate losses the preservation field is constantly faced with. I thought I’d highlight four of the pieces that were released this week. If I missed any, please let me know – but I think these four were highly discussed, publicized, and important cases to field as a whole.

The Good
Mackinac Island Council Approves New Historic Districts | For me personally, I felt most connected with this particular preservation story. Growing up in the mitten state, we spent some time almost every summer on Mackinac Island. For the island to not have the proper policies in place to preserve the infrastructure and architecture that make the place so desirable to visit, seems almost counterproductive to their tourism strategy. However, the Mackinac Island Council acted responsibly and created two new historic districts for the island. Even though some change has come to Mackinac Island in the recent years (see: the opening of Starbucks in 2007), I think Jason St. Onge said it best: “I’ve never met a piece of paper that couldn’t be changed but I never saw a building that could be rebuilt.”

Settlement announced in Bridges Project lawsuit | The lawsuit between the National Trust for Historic Preservation and River Fields, Inc versus Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) & the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet regarding the Ohio River Bridges Project was settled this week. From a first glance, it appears that the states’ two DOTs are providing additional significant funding and programming in order to allow the construction to proceed. If anyone knows of any articles/feedback that discuss the settlement, send them my way, as I’d be curious to read them.

The Bad

Eyesore or icon? Old Gettysburg Cyclorama building slated for wrecking ball | This one was a long time coming. If you’ve followed this story at all, the Richard Neutra Cyclorama Building at Gettysburg is an excellent example of Mission 66 Modernist architecture. The National Park Service has been trying to tear down the building for years. A lawsuit filed by the Recent Past Preservation Network forced NPS to revisit the NEPA process in 2010 and gave the building a temporary reprieve. However, the Park Service ultimately decided to tear down the Cyclorama. I think the new homepage of recentpast.org is an excellent tribute to this famed structure.

Judge rescinds protection for Prentice, but gives preservationists 30 days | This one isn’t quite over yet, but it certainly was not great news. However, the collective dedication and effort by preservationists to save this building has been impressive. I am sure they are currently planning the next steps in their campaign to save this treasured modern landmark.

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