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“All cannot be salvaged”—architects describe historic losses in Chicago, New York, Belmont, and Buff

Interior of Penn Station (demolished 1963), New York

A Gilded Age hotel in New York, a modernist house in Belmont, an historic parkway in Buffalo among the losses these five architects lament personally.

The demolition of New York’s Penn Station in 1963 is often viewed as one of the major forces in the modern historic preservation movement. Although efforts to establish a federal preservation program began earlier, barely three years after Penn Station’s demolition the US Congress passed the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). But that legislation only covers federal involvement—through funding, permitting, or licensing—to encourage preservation of historically significant buildings and sites in new development plans. Thus, state and local governments also adopted regulatory processes to encourage preservation of historic buildings in projects that did not involve the federal government. In fact, the city of Charleston, South Carolina, became the first US city to adopt a preservation ordinance (1931) following pressure from the Preservation Society of Charleston that had been founded in 1920.

Still, demolition of significant and recognizable architectural landmarks has continued to serve as catalysts for historic preservationists to use when facing down developers or local governments with other agendas. One such approach has been to compile books of “lost” buildings—buildings that were architecturally significant but nevertheless did not survive and have largely faded from public memory; richly illustrated books such as Lost Boston and Lost Washington, DC have served this end.

In the article below, five current-day architects were asked about their personal “lost” favorites. Their answers are varied and might surprise. (The image of Penn Station above is in the public domain).


Five Architects on the One Building They Wish Had Been Preserved

By Kevin Murphy, Carol Willis, Daniel, Bluestone, Kerry Traynor, and Sally Levin

September 12, 2017

Also see

“A direct reaction to Penn Station’s past"—a look at its future

By International Heritage News Network

September 4, 2017

Penn Station lost and refound—sort of

By International Heritage News Network

June 18, 2017

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