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Many brick buildings in California vulnerable to quakes August 29, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Restaurants, Weather.
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After a multitude of earthquakes in California during the 1970s and ’80s, we’ve long assumed the state’s old buildings are much less susceptible to damage because of new codes.

That’s not the case. The Los Angeles Times reported this week that thousands of brick buildings in the region remain unstrengthened against earthquakes, especially in poor municipalities such as the Route 66 town of San Bernardino. And the report specifically cited one Route 66 business there as vulnerable.

As many as 8,000 remaining brick buildings are at risk of collapse, according to the data published by the state in 2006. The number probably has not changed significantly since, commission Executive Director Richard McCarthy said. [...]

San Bernardino’s mandatory retrofitting law lasted only a short time before it was rescinded in 1999. Only 15 of about 130 brick structures have been retrofitted there. [...]

Molly’s Cafe in downtown San Bernardino is in an unreinforced building on historic Route 66. Restaurant owner Antonio Canul, 51, said the brick exterior is one of its draws, and he wouldn’t want to tinker with the building.

“Lots of people know it by the way it is,” Canul said. “I’m not going to fix something that’s not broke. I’m going to leave everything the way it is.”

Part of the problem is retrofitting a building is expensive, and many business owners cannot or will not pay for it. Also, San Bernardino is bankrupt and subsequently is unwilling to enforce costly building codes.

Fortunately for Los Angeles, almost all of its brick buildings have been retrofitted. However, the Times last year reported that 1,000 concrete buildings in L.A. alone remain vulnerable, including in its historic downtown — where the western endpoint of Route 66 originally was.

In case you were wondering, last week’s strong earthquake in California’s Napa region damaged buildings, but none collapsed — mostly because they were strengthened.

(Image of Molly’s Cafe by John Hagstrom via Flickr)

A closer look at Tulsa’s Route 66 Village August 27, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Preservation, Railroad.
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Explore Tulsa recently uploaded this informative clip about the Route 66 Village in southwest Tulsa.

Mike Massey, train project manager, explains the vintage Frisco Meteor 4500 locomotive, rail cars and the Red Fork commemorative oil derrick on the site.

I do hope the volunteers can renovate the inside of that circa-1929 passenger car so visitors can tour it. The locomotive already is a popular photo op; having the car open again would make it a bigger destination.

While you’re at it, take a look at the future plans for the Route 66 Village.

(Image of the Frisco Meteor 4500 by Doug Wertman via Flickr)

National Trust wants Painted Desert facility restored August 24, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Attractions, Preservation.
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The National Trust for Historic Preservation is lobbying to preserve and restore the nearly 50-year-old Painted Desert Community Complex inside the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.

The complex is the only building designed by acclaimed architect Richard Neutra in the National Park Service system. The building was brought a then-unusual Mid-Century Modern style to the park.

According to the Trust:

Sitting just steps from historic Route 66 and located inside one of Northern Arizona’s  most spectacular and scientifically significant natural landscapes, the Painted Desert Community Complex is an often overlooked Modern treasure. Noted Modern architects Richard Neutra and Robert Alexander carefully designed the collection of 36 steel, glass, and masonry buildings with flat roofs, low silhouettes, primary colors, and native plantings to harmonize with the stunning vistas that surround it. Neutra and Alexander’s bold design set a precedent for a new style of park architecture, which became known as “Park Service Modern.”

Today the Complex is one of the earliest and best examples of Modern architecture within the entire National Park system, and the only remaining example of a Neutra-designed building within the Park Service. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005 and is on its way to becoming a National Historic Landmark. [...]

Virtually all of the original buildings remain, and they continue to serve many of the same functions today. But a perennial lack of funding for repairs and maintenance, combined with the harsh desert climate and earlier inappropriate alterations, have taken a serious toll on these dramatic Modern buildings and landscapes.

In a blog post, the Trust explained why it’s championing the Painted Desert Community Complex:

In April 2014 the National Trust designated Painted Desert as one of its National Treasures to recognize its unique role in the history of our National Parks and to draw attention to the need for funding and technical assistance to restore it as a beautiful and practical Modern icon that complements the stunning natural landscape around it. National Trust staff, including members of the Preservation Green Lab, are working closely with the Park Service and Superintendent Brad Traver, and Arizona partners Modern Phoenix and the Arizona Preservation Foundation, to raise awareness of and support for this little-known Modern landmark. Drawing on the expertise of well-known restoration and sustainability consultants, the National Trust hopes to provide critical guidance for a model restoration that will return the Complex to its original appearance, integrate sustainable materials and systems (and hopefully achieve net zero energy consumption), and serve as an example for the treatment of Mission 66 resources throughout the Park Service. With this kind of strong, cooperative effort focused on preservation, the public can look forward to another 50 years of service from these irreplaceable assets, each a part of the century-long story of our national parks.

The Trust has listed ways to help the complex, including donating to its campaign, signing a petition to encourage its restoration, and following it on social media. More photos of the complex may be seen here.

(Image of the Painted Desert Community Complex by Petrified Forest via Flickr)

Kickstarter fundraiser launched to restore sign August 22, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Restaurants, Signs.
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The new owners of Cindy’s Eagle Rock Restaurant in Los Angeles have begun a Kickstarter campaign to preserve the historic diner’s vintage sign, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Monique King and Paul Rosenbluh bought the restaurant and reopened it in April. And, so far, they seem to be good stewards:

They’ve kept the original booths, wallpaper and countertops inside, from when the diner opened in 1948, but King says the sign outside is crucial to maintaining the integrity of the mid-century landmark.

“We felt like the luckiest people in the whole universe when we got it,” King said. “It’s a beautiful sign, it’s vintage, original and there is just something so important about preserving it and taking it away from being just a big pigeon roost.”

King and Rosenbluh started a Kickstarter campaign to raise the $16,250 they say is needed to restore the sign. The two are hoping to fix the rusted metal, attach a new neon “open” sign, structurally reinforce the sign and replace the sign’s letters.

King reiterated the restaurant is keeping the sign, but it simply doesn’t have the money now to do it properly. If enough people help out, the owners will hire a sign preservationist to do it up right.

Here’s the campaign, with all the goodies detailed:

(Hat tip to Scott Piotrowski; image of the Cindy’s sign by Howard F. via Flickr)

“Route 66: The Road Ahead” report released August 20, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Events, Preservation.
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The World Monuments Fund this month released its report on the “Route 66: The Road Ahead” roundtable held in November at Anaheim, California, that involved many movers and shakers of the Route 66 community.

The 67-page Acrobat document can be read in its entirety here. I commend it to your attention.

Much of the report dovetails from the Route 66 Economic Impact Study (you can read the summary here). But the roundtable produced its own highlights:

  • Stakeholders see an urgency — and an opportunity — with the National Park Service’s Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program expiring in 2019 and Route 66′s centennial in 2026. The implication is the Route 66 community needs a central organization that can dole out preservation grants much as the NPS program does now.
  • Vintage motels can tap into a niche market of so-called “heritage tourists” and those who want a vintage-Route 66 experience.
  • A missed opportunity is attracting a growing number of Hispanics — especially since the proportion of such populations on the Mother Road is twice as high as the national average. Stakeholders said Route 66 also needs to attract other minorities, such as American Indians — which have a long history with the highway in the Southwest — and African-Americans.
  • Roundtable participants discussed the possible need of Route 66 getting a permanent federal designation, such as a National Historic Trail. More about that idea can be read here.
  • President Obama has set a goal of 100 million international visitors in the United States annually by 2021. The U.S. market share of spending by international travelers dropped from 17 percent to 11 percent from 2000 to 2010 — presumably from the effects of 9/11.
  • Preservation of vintage roadways and bridges often is overlooked, but must be considered for the benefit of heritage tourists.
  • Landscape protection is the third-most important aspect for Route 66 travelers. Route 66′s open spaces are under threat from wind farms, solar farms, oil and gas exploration, cell towers and urban development.
  • Route 66 will need to attract the post-baby boom generation, which has no memories of U.S. 66 and less spending money than their forebears. However, the movie “Cars” and smartphones have provided a way to tap into that market.

And the report saw fit to print the entire text of a speech by the mayor of Pontiac, Illinois, Bob Russell. He told a lot of interesting things about how Route 66 benefits his town, and they may prove applicable to your town as well:

As the mayor of a community that is located on the route, I have been heavily involved in the promotion of Route 66. It is obvious to me that the only way that our community, and all the communities along the road, will be able to continue to support the route is to look at it as an economic development opportunity. Even though the City of Pontiac has had great success in this endeavor, there is continuing resistance from taxpayers, and understandably so in this economy. It is very difficult for our residents to understand how tourism can benefit our city when they live on streets that are in need of repair. Our passion alone will not be enough to be make this a successful endeavor. Our state and federal governments are poised to continue cutting the funds that we receive from them to provide the necessary day to day services that our residents expect. In light of this, it has forced us in Pontiac to take our fate into our own hands. The only available option for us has been the promotion of tourism that Route 66 has afforded.

In an economic era when many of the communities in Illinois are boarding up their storefronts, our city has achieved almost 100% occupancy in our downtown business district. The Route 66 Hall of Fame Museum in Pontiac has created opportunities for other museums to locate to the city, which in turn has convinced restaurant and retail store owners, along with bed and breakfast operators, to move their operations here. I have had to explain to residents for several years now that you do not attract retail stores until you have the foot traffic. Now we have the foot traffic and that indeed has attracted new retail stores, restaurants, and bed and breakfasts. All of the Route 66 development must create additional sales tax and provide for more jobs. Without these two components, we will not be successful in the continued promotion and preservation of Route 66.

The one benefit that we had not anticipated is the investment of wealthy entrepreneurs who visit our city from other countries. The majority of the Route 66 visitors from European and Asian countries are fairly well off financially, and they still view the U.S. as one of the best opportunities for investing their money. As such, we are promoting the availability of land the city owns along our interstate and state highways as good locations for them to invest their money to start new businesses. We have been promoting this idea for the last 25 years with some success, but now have a renewed interest from our Route 66 visitors. The goal of this endeavor is the same as our retail development, and that is to create jobs and tax revenue.

The only promise I made to our residents when they asked me to serve as their mayor was that while I am in office, there will be no increase in our real estate taxes. The development of Route 66 tourism will enable me to keep that promise through the end of my term. The other somewhat hidden components that the Route 66 redevelopment has provided for the City of Pontiac is quality of life and community pride. The opening of new restaurants and shops in our downtown has provided our residents with wonderful places for them to get together with old friends to have a great meal and to just sit and chat with one another and then take a leisurely stroll around from shop to shop. It is always fun for me to see our local residents showing their friends or family around our city and seeing the pride that they have in doing so. Without the development of the Route 66 tourism, I have no doubt that our city would look tired and worn, as so many other communities do.

To make tourism work is not an easy task. The first obstacle for many communities is to get the elected officials to buy into the idea. The majority of them want to be able to see tangible results in a very short period of time. This is nearly impossible to provide, first, because it takes many years to develop, and second, because it is very difficult to quantify. For the City of Pontiac to make this work, the elected officials, our volunteers, our City Administrator, our Department Head, and all of our employees have all had to go that “extra mile.” All of our museum buildings are owned or leased by the city and we are in partnership with all the museum operators. We get a percentage of their income to offset our expenses. There have been thousands of volunteer hours provided by all of the above groups to get the museums ready and to keep them staffed. Some of the elected officials volunteer one to two days a week at the museums and some of our residents volunteer at least two to three days a week in helping to curate the museums. I have personally worn out a couple pairs of shoes over the last few years by spending so much time greeting all of our visitors and giving personal tours to various groups. If a municipality wants to be successful in developing tourism, they must put together a very dedicated team that is willing to work tirelessly to get it off the ground. Is it all worth it?

The answer is yes. The results for our city have been more than I, or anyone involved, could have ever imagined. The word that I keep hearing used in describing our community is “energy.” Many of our visitors tell me that there seems to be a lot of energy here, and there is. The people who love their community will put in as much energy as it takes to make their community a better place to live. I believe that we have just seen the beginning of the development of Route 66 tourism as an economic development tool. So many people from so many countries are just learning about it, and I am continually being told by our visitors that everyone from their country wants to make the trip.

We now have the opportunity as communities to grasp it by working together to promote it. I believe the strategic roundtable that World Monuments Fund sponsored was the best opportunity we have had to make this happen. Let’s do it!

Milk Bottle Building will be restored August 19, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Businesses, Preservation, Signs.
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The historic Milk Bottle Building in Oklahoma City will be restored to close to its original appearance, reported The Oklahoman newspaper.

Catherine Montgomery, a preservation architect at Preservation & Design Studio who is helping with the project, told the newspaper the interior will be renovated for a new tenant.

After removing a sheet of plywood covering one of the building’s windows, owner Elise Kilpatrick discovered it had covered an original transom window dating to the 1930s with one pane of glass still intact.

“I said ‘we need to uncover this,’” Kilpatrick said. “We are trying to take the building back as close as we can to when it was first built.”

New windows, lights, awnings and a mahogany door are part of the makeover. Historic preservation tax credits will help pay for renovations.

Kilpatrick didn’t reveal the tenant, but said it would be “something really special and unique to Oklahoma City.”

The 11-foot-tall milk bottle on top of the building, made of sheet metal, was erected in 1948. The bottle advertised Townley’s Dairy from the 1950s until the 1980s, then Braum’s ice cream.

The National Park Service had this information about the Milk Bottle Building:

Constructed in 1930, the tiny, 350-square foot triangular commercial building of red brick is located on a speck of real estate smack in the right-of-way of a busy urban thoroughfare. It sits at an old streetcar stop along a line that ran diagonally across Classen Boulevard, which served as a segment of Route 66’s original Oklahoma City alignment. Subsequent realignments of the highway, first along Western Avenue and then on 23rd Street, remained only a stone’s throw from the site.

The NPS also said the building also became a cleaning service, a real-estate office, the Classen Fruit Market, a barbecue restaurant, a Vietnamese sandwich shop and the Triangle Grocery. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.

(Image from 2012 of the Milk Bottle Building by Travel Aficionado via Flickr)

Albuquerque asks for proposals for De Anza Motel August 19, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Motels, Preservation.
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The City of Albuquerque recently requested proposals to redevelop the historic De Anza Motor Lodge after two plans fell flat in recent years. However, one prominent business group is recommending a partial teardown of the motel.

A group of Albuquerque business owners put together a list of recommendations of what it would like to see on the site, reported Albuquerque Business First. The newspaper quoted O’Niell’s Irish Pub owner Robert Munro, president of Nob Hill Main Street.

“We’ve spent time studying the site and looking at the figures for what would be the best and highest use,” Munro told Business First. “What happens at this site is a bellwether for the future of East Nob Hill.”

Main Street’s recommendations are for a mixed-use development that includes restaurants, 48 hotel rooms, 41 apartments and a Route 66 museum.

Munro said the city’s RFP aligns well with his group’s recommendations. “We’re sensitive to its historic significance as was the city. We both felt like retaining the Central [Avenue] frontage was important and both felt it was important to save the murals,” Munro said. The RFP provides a potential $400,000 financial incentive for keeping historic murals accessible.

The Albuquerque Journal also elaborated on the $9.9 million proposal:

[T]he property’s three buildings fronting on Central and a basement with murals by a Zuni artist would be preserved and renovated.

While the city’s RFP doesn’t get into details on what happens to the rest of the property, the hypothetical plan calls for tearing the rest down and replacing it with a 45-room hotel and 41 apartments, both in three-story buildings. The hotel and apartment would share a clubhouse, fitness center and swimming pool.

The hotel and apartments would be built atop “subterranean” or partially underground parking structures.

And, according to KOAT in Albuquerque, the city is offering $400,000 in incentives to anyone who redevelops the property.

The motel is on the National Register of Historic Places and the State Register of Cultural Properties, so demolishing even a part of it would carry significant hurdles. However, at least one report says even a full redevelopment of De Anza would carry only a “marginal” profit margin. So a partial demolition may be a best-case scenario for the property. De Anza has seen two developers in recent years walk away from renovating the historic property.

The deadline for proposal submissions is January.

De Anza is at 4301 Central Ave. S.D. Hambaugh, a tourist court operator from Tucson, Arizona; and C.G. Wallace, a trader for the Zuni Indian tribe, built De Anza Motor Lodge in 1939. It closed during the 1990s. De Anza received some recent notoriety when it was included in a scene in the acclaimed “Breaking Bad” television drama.

(Image of De Anza sign by Boortz47 via Flickr)

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