Saturday, October 13, 2012

Dealth of Possiblity

When I came across a glossy flyer for the proposed demolition and expansion of "urban" garden space at the Dunham Tavern, I was taken a back. My favorite potential re-use project was Photoshopped, however poorly, out of the image. Yes, the recently demolished reinforced concrete modernist industrial building on Euclid was my favorite reuse prospect in the city of Cleveland.

As I shared my discontent with colleagues in City Planning and Landmarks, I received some perplexed expressions and some shaking heads of agreement. Why was this architecturally uninteresting building of interest to a historic preservationist?

In preservation we argue to save context, but somehow, if the context isn't pretty enough or backed by financial gurus, we easily dismiss the resources and issue its death warrant.

Today, I found a local blogger, Daniel DeAngelo, who shared my frustration.

In his blog entry, DeAngelo shows examples of what the Dunham Tavern project is attempting to accomplish. But in his examples, he shows why the project is ultimately faulty.

The example of Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square made me giggle. Cleveland's Midtown is NOT Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square. Now, we are not haters, we are realistic. In DeAngelo's article he states, the Rittenhouse Square location has been desirable since the 1800s. This is simply not true of MidTown.

Trying to use urban gardening and demolition of buildings as a solution to disinvestment has short-lived benefits and long-term devastating effects. Simply look at MidTown and the Hough neighborhood to find examples of why demolition spurs further demolition. Some of the late Councilwoman Fannie Lewis' mcmansion solutions sit abandoned and boarded next to vacant lot after vacant lot with random old buildings isolated in a sea of vacant lots.

So, the building has since been cleared, the vacant lot remains. The Dunham Tavern now stands alone in an artificially created historic environment.

Cleveland, what are you? Where you not an industrial giant? Do you not want to rebuild with new industry?
If so, then stop demolishing the buildings that will be home to this revolution.

The embodied energy of the 6611 Euclid Avenue building was equivalent of 607304 gallons of gas.
While the demolition alone cost 864000000 worth of gallons of gas.

For a firsthand look at the demolition and celebration, see:


  1. Thanks for the shout out Jessica. Indeed, it is nice to know that one is not alone in questioning the wisdom of this action.

    As i point out in my post, the 6611 building stood as a testament to how close the Tavern came to being overwhelmed by the industrial development of the city. With 6611 gone, the context for the story of the miraculous survival of Dunham Tavern is lost. Christopher Busta-Peck gives an insightful take on this idea at his excellent Cleveland Area History blog:

    The video is rather bizarre and sickening to watch: people celebrating the loss of history and the waste of a whole lot of embodied energy.

  2. Indeed, I plan on re-contextualizing the video at a later date... too good of a horror show to not use for a pro-preservation statement.