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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Burning Question from the New York Times…

Posted by on March 28 at 10:19 AM

Whatever is Seattle going to do with our neon Wonder Bread sign?

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Gee, I had no idea we are "already a national leader in historic preservation". I 've lived in Seattle for a long time, seen tons of historic buildings and landmarks swept away to development... and now watching Pioneer Sq. threatened with Occidental park becoming mallified.
I just have to wonder where this reputation as leader is coming from. I've always thought Seattle has a limited regard for its history and development is God.

it's a sign for chrissakes

yeah but it's WONDERBREAD!!!!

/i really couldn't give a damn.

-the add it to your oil sign in ballard is much better

\they should tranform into robots and fight it out in lake union

It's a landmark, and should be saved.

Seattle is considered a leader in historical preservation BECAUSE of Pioneer Square, and the Pike Place Market, neither of which would be there today if developers had had their way in the 60s and 70s.

The catalyst was the "sinking ship" parking garage, for which an historic hotel, the Seattle Hotel, was demolished in 1961. It's hard to imagine now, but then the notion of "urban renewal" wiping out vast swathes of cities for empty lots, garages, and plazas was considered progress. But when people got a good look at the garage that replaced the beautiful old hotel, and realized that similar plans were in the offing for the rest of Pioneer Square, they started working together to prevent it from happening.

I know, Seattleites "working together" sounds like a fantasy today, doesn't it? But what they accomplished here became a model for other cities, though very often too late to save what would be today some of their liveliest (and post-gentrification, most valuable) real estate.
See, for instance, the horror of Boston's City Hall Plaza, which replaced an entire neighborhood -- thirty blocks of it -- with a windswept plaza. Or the West End, also in Boston. Or the hundred thousand people Robert Moses kicked out of their homes in New York.

Agreed, that there have been victories in some of the more important areas as mentioned,,, however there have been many disturbing developments and a mayor that's so pro development as to be infuriating. The edging into Pioneer Sq. has begun and it's a scary precedent.

The Victorian imposing houses at 18th & Pine and 15th and Union -- torn down to make way for condos. The Victorian cottage at 14th and Pine: boarded up and ready for demolition. The old Victorian at the end of Bellevue Ave. -- razed for development. The row of Edwardian houses at Cornish -- torn down. The list goes ON and ON.

This city cares NOTHING for historic preservation and is exremely ugly to boot. Portland has a much better history of preserving what they do have, though this city too is more and more threatened by development.

Why can't the city just decide that houses of a certain size with certain architectural standards of quality and of a certain age (say pre 1910) should be preserved before the developer can get his greedy fingers on the property.

Seattle's "Historic Preservation" is a joke, an abyssal failure, a complete whitewash for what has acutally occured in the past and continues to occur now.

One of the biggest factors in this whole argument is how young Seattle is compared to most American cities. Seattle being a "national leader" in historic preservation is definitely debatable. However, we have been pretty good at preserving what is essentially a young history. Pioneer Square was, I believe, the first urban historic district established in the nation and the preservation of the Market has been a huge part of our identity as a city. In addition, there have been some decent strides made in preserving the historical aesthetic of our neighborhoods (Queen Anne, Wallingford, Ballard, etc) and the development community has been fairly active in the use of historic tax credits for the adaptive reuse of older buildings.
There have certainly been some shitty moves, though, such as the aforementioned demolishing of the Victorian homes, etc. But overall, I don't think Seattle is that bad.
One need only to take a look at Chicago to see the damage rampant overdevelopment can cause. Chicago demolished White City, numerous skyscrapers and Goddamn Frank Lloyd Wright's work!
What remains in the larger cities of America may look old to us, comparatively, but that's mostly because it has had more time to grow old.
I agree that Seattle's pro-development stance is infuriating, but looking around this city I see plenty of history balanced with plenty of youthful vibrancy. Seattle is not an ugly city by any means. It is an arrestingly gorgeous city that is still learning how to grow.
What Seattle needs more of a focus on is preserving its open space (what's left of it, rather), such as the waterfront property above Mytle Edwards that was thrown away on a ridiculous biotech firm.

You're right, Brian. It's easy to point at mistakes, but Pioneer Square STARTED the historical preservation movement in this country. Seriously, in 1961 if you suggested "saving" some old building people thought you were crazy, like saving old gum wrappers or something. Now, it's an issue that we can all address.

I do agree with Victoria, though, that we have made and continue to make some horrible errors, particularly with undramatic vernacular buildings -- the kinds that aren't put up by star architects but do more to define the character of a city. I'm annoyed to see the land use sign on the old commercial building across from the Moore -- can't remember its name, it's the block that used to have 2nd Avenue Pizza on it. It's coming down.

And of course I'm still irate about the Twin Teepees.

Send it to the Tri-Cities. It would fit right in here.

i'm still pissed that they tore down the beautiful Music Hall, formerly located at 7th & olive. there's some good history about it here.

i saw grandmaster flash fucking kill it there back in the day ('84?) and fell in love with the place.

There were pieces of the Music Hall around town for years. People were using them as garden ornaments.

We have a lamp from the old Opera House. Oh, you people are going to be sorry in thirty years that you knocked down all your midcentury buildings.

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