Archive for the ‘Historic’ Category

Service of Keeping the Best we Have: Why the Drive to Erase the Past?

Thursday, February 20th, 2020

Eddies Sweet Shop

Driving through France one summer years ago we were starving as we entered a tiny town. Not a soul was on the street–it was lunchtime so schools and businesses were closed–but we found someone inside the otherwise empty local cafe. She said she was désolé, but she had no bread and couldn’t make us a sandwich. Our faces fell. Knowing we’d find the same situation in town after town she said to wait–she had some fresh bread at home. We sipped a drink and sat at a table outside the cafe which was on the main drag–as no cars drove by–and were entertained by Muscat, the dog. She returned with magnificent ham sandwiches which also pleased Muscat, the recipient of welcome snacks.

Schmidts Candy Shop

I haven’t been to France in years and was sad to read the headline of Noemie Bisserbe’s Wall Street Journal article, “France Says Au Revoir to the Cafe,” which I hope is an exaggeration. [The photos in the online story are wonderful–take a look.]

We’re not so good at keeping the best/most charming elements of our neighborhoods either. I’ve been to American cities that have decimated any architecture of interest. Here’s an exception. A friend took me on a tour of favorite haunts from her childhood in Queens where I saw many wonderful landmarks–architectural, restaurant and retail. Our adventure began with a visit to Rudy’s Pastry Shop where we had blueberry coffee cake and I a cafe latte–scrumptious.

The Lemon Ice King of Corona

The photos here feature:

  • Schmidts Candy where the proprietor apologized many times because the shop was recovering from Valentine’s Day. I sampled a divine homemade dark chocolate treat with orange filling.

    Eddies Sweet Shop

  • Eddie’s Sweet Shop. My choice was a scoop of banana ice cream with caramel sauce. Can’t wait to return on an empty stomach.
  • Lemon Ice King of Corona is featured in the intro to the TV program “The King of Queens,” in re-runs. We had no more room for sweets but I’m planning a reprise in summer.

Something striking about Queens: 98 percent of retail space appeared to be full unlike Manhattan which has an alarming number of empty storefronts.

What neighborhood favorites do you remember from your childhood and how many of them remain? Which do you miss?

 

Service of a Potentially Hidden Hurdle to Sell a House

Monday, October 21st, 2019

photo: homestratosphere.com

I prefer old to new homes and am distressed to learn when a historic home hits the dust.

But a twist unearthed by Wall Street Journal reporter Kris Frieswick in “When a Home Is Suddenly Called ‘Historic’” gives me pause about buying one with history. Her subhead tells it all: “Historic designations are becoming controversial as third parties seek landmark status on a home, often against the homeowner’s wishes, as a way to block demolition or development of a property.”

askbelmontcitizens.wordpress.com

She wrote about one couple who was on the cusp of selling their St. Petersburg, Fla. home and had made an offer on another when out of the blue they received a certified letter that put the brakes on their sale. They needed a last piece–a demolition permit–to close the deal to the purchaser, a developer planning to tear it down.

The next door neighbor had alerted the local Community Planning and Preservation Commission and filled out an application to give their home a historic property designation which froze the sale until the City Council approved it or rejected the demolition block put on it.

Photo: dcurbanmom.com

“Potential buyers of property in an established historic district can learn before a purchase what changes are subject to oversight by a historic commission. But with third-party application, when anyone in a community can request a historic designation on a property at any time, homeowners wishing to demolish or significantly renovate the exterior of their home could be stopped by restrictions they never bargained for.”

I’ve seen once beautiful neighborhoods destroyed by people with little taste and fat wallets who demolish charming, vintage smaller homes tucked into stunning landscaping grown over years only to fill almost the entire lot with a monstrosity [photos top, right and left]. The originals were not historic homes but replacing them with giant eyesores bereft of mature perennials, trees and bushes is nonetheless visually criminal in my opinion.

Do you support the concept of a third-party application to a preservation commission about a neighbor’s home that can delay or stop a sale? I empathize with neighbors who fight to maintain the charm of where they live. At the same time I sympathize with someone anxious to sell.

Should a homeowner refuse to sell to a developer or individual planning to tear down a place with significance to a community? Shouldn’t people avoid buying such a home in the first place if they want the flexibility to sell to any and everyone?

 

 

Photo: appuntiturisimo.it

 

Service of Leave it Alone, Already II: Why Buy a Landmark if You’re Going to Destroy It?

Thursday, June 27th, 2019

Booth Cottage Photo: chicago.curbed.com

I complained, in the 2016 iteration of this title, about the person who bought a Brooklyn brownstone I once coveted that had all of the original plasterwork that they tore out. “Couldn’t they have bought another house?” I thought after I visited the remodeled, stripped down atrocity on a house tour. That post addressed physical attacks on public buildings—The Waldorf Astoria and Grand Central Terminal.

Photo: curbed.com

I had a similar sinking feeling when reading Michael J. Lewis’s article, “Bulldozing a Modernist Landmark” with subhead “The looming demolition of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Booth cottage is the latest example in a long history of our culture’s disregard for its architectural past.” The owner’s complaint about the Glencoe, Ill. property: it’s a small house on a big lot. So pick on another property!

Lewis wrote: “People are usually surprised to learn that America’s historic buildings, no matter how significant, go unprotected unless there is a local preservation ordinance. Even those ordinances are typically toothless, since they can be overruled for reasons of ‘hardship,’ a category so elastic that the inability to maximize the profit potential of your property can count.

Photo: 6sqft.com

“As it happens,” Lewis continued, “there is a preservation ordinance in Glencoe, but the Sherman M. Booth cottage has been given only ‘honorary’ landmark status. That means that demolition can occur, but the town can mandate a 180-day stay of execution. For the moment, the cottage still stands; behind-the-scenes negotiations might save it yet.”

Lewis cited statistics kept by the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy which report that only two of Wright’s structures have been demolished with 380 existing, so losing a third may not be the big deal I think it is. Your thoughts? Why are Americans so blasé about their architectural history?

Photo: travelandleisure.com

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