Endangered Species–History Edition

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Today, the National Trust for Historic Preservation released their annual list of the 11 most endangered places in the U.S. While none of them are in Montgomery County, the list includes two mid-century modern buildings–the Worldport Terminal at JFK Airport and the Houston Astrodome–a recogonition that recent history is also historic.

In fact, The National Register of Historic Places, which sets out criteria for historic designation, generally recognizes that 50 years is a reasonable remove from which to conisder history. The register is alos looking for buildings associate with events or a noted person, those that can share information or reflect the work of a master, and those that exhibit unique construction or artistry.

That age deadline and those criteria … Continue reading

Putting a value on historic preservation

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The value of historic preservation is often expressed in terms that are difficult to quantify. We are preserving cultural patrimony, maintaining a sense of place, safeguarding our architectural heritage.

But what if we could hang a number on the value of historic preservation?  Actually, we can.

Look at tax credits issued for rehabbing historic properties. Montgomery County provides a 10-percent tax credit for qualified work on properties listed in the County’s Master Plan for Historic Preservation or located in County-designated historic districts. The State of Maryland and federal government also offer rehabilitation tax credits that some property owners may be able to receive on top of the county’s program.

In 2012, the historic preservation commission reviewed applications for the … Continue reading

MontgomeryModern: discover Mid-Century Modern buildings during Preservation Month

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If you read my previous post for Historic Preservation Month, you know that in picking a theme for this year’s Preservation Month, the National Trust for Historic Preservation issued a challenge to people in communities across the country to discover hidden gems and celebrate local historic resources.  Montgomery County historic preservation planners responded by preparing a list of historic resources we hope you will discover.

While Preservation Month has become a fun annual event to raise awareness and celebrate historic preservation nation-wide, our exploration of the county’s historic resources will continue long after we turn the page on May. Our efforts have led us to look beyond what many people recognize as historic, and to start thinking about buildings … Continue reading

Discover Montgomery County’s Historic Gems

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Guest post: Scott Whipple

May is National Preservation Month and this year’s theme, “Discover America’s Hidden Gems”, got me thinking about Montgomery County’s rich collection of historic places.

Montgomery County has 430 sites and 22 districts designated in the County’s Master Plan for Historic Preservation. More are identified in the Locational Atlas and Index of Historic Sites in Montgomery County. And more still are waiting to be identified and investigated.

Historic and architectural gems we have. But hidden? In a county just outside the nation’s capital, with a population rapidly approaching a million people, it is hard to think of much as being hidden. Whether or not we live or work in a historic building, most of us encounter historic buildings or landscapes … Continue reading

American National Bank Building (1963), 8701 Georgia Avenue

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This article has been corrected with two facts: the exterior panels are glass, not porcelain, and in the summer of 2012, the horizontal band over the parking lot entrance was taken down for construction of 8711 Georgia Avenue. Thanks to readers for your comments. Clare Lise Kelly 9-12-12

Designed by architect Edwin Weihe in 1960, the American National Bank Building, at 8701 Georgia Avenue, is a fine example of an International style office building. When it opened in 1961, it was the tallest building in Silver Spring and featured several design innovations.

 

Architect Edwin Weihe placed the building’s heating, cooling, and elevator equipment in a low roof penthouse, designed so that it is not immediately apparent from the streetview. … Continue reading

Branding or Building a Neighborhood?

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Developers in D.C. are proposing a “pop-up” restaurant on a vacant U Street lot that would be constructed out of shipping containers and there are a lot of good questions about whether this is a good or bad thing. Online commenters wonder whether this is cool urbanism or just a descent into third world, make-do architecture.

Looking at other examples, in London and New York, it seems these are a retail opportunity for branding,  and by-the-way, an urban pheonmenon. London’s very cool Shoreditch box park describes itself as “low-cost, low-risk, unique, and flexible,” meant to draw tenants like local artists and artisanal manufacturers.

At New York’s Dekalb Market, tenants are a roster of hipster cliches from an excessive number of … Continue reading

Urban Economics and Where We Live

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American Century types like to complain that this country doesn’t make anything anymore or if we do it’s artisanal cheese and not steel. But as this article points out, that cheese or other basement production is often where the big stuff starts. How can we forget Apple’s garage beginnings.

So if economies are shifting, at least in some small way, to local production and services, are our communities able to accomodate new jobs?

According to Mike Pyatok, interviewed in Better Cities and Towns, “Most planning regulations are based on the Euclidean model that separates cities into zones accommodating a single use, which true live-work is decidedly not.”

While Pyatok is pointing out that the rules of subsidized housing preclude small scale economic ventures, … Continue reading

Round School

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The Bushey Drive Elementary School, in Wheaton, is a three-story, round school designed by Deigert and Yerkes in 1961.  

 

As noted in my colleague’s recent post on round houses, round schools were also promoted for lower operating costs, greater efficiency, and lower building costs.  In this era, round and hexagonal schools were built across the country. 

In plan, the school had a middle story with common rooms (kitchen, library, general purpose room) and offices, sandwiched between top and bottom floors of classrooms.

David Norton Yerkes and Robert C. Deigert were partners in a Washington DC firm from about 1946 to 1966.   In Montgomery County, projects designed by the firm include numerous custom houses … Continue reading

Round House Weirdness

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Like a triple play or a blue moon, round houses are rare and wonderful things. But even though we always stop to look, we rarely buy. Round houses just don’t fit our image of home–a front door tucked under a gable roof. Instead, they look like something that’s just landed from another universe.

Building materials may be one reason we live in boxes rather than bowls. Teepees and yurts made of cloth and skins are self-supporting without a foundation. Even more contemporary materials like steel and concrete can be molded into round structures. But most home-building is stick-built construction. It takes effort and skill to shape two-by-fours into a round structure. (A more subtle influence might be lot shape–you … Continue reading

D.C. Environmental Film Fest

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This year’s festival features films about the built environment, from the Mohawk ironworkers in Skydancer to Dutch architect Rem Koolhas coming to terms with rapid urbanization in Lagos, Nigeria.

Venues are all over the city, and screening times throughout the day. Find one that works for you, but tickets sell quick, so don’t delay.