To know me is to know that I am very passionate about preserving and restoring historic buildings and interiors. It boggles my mind that in a country as great as ours that we don't put more effort into not only national treasures, but into places that have added to our cultural history. There are other countries around the world that know the value of placing the old next to the new instead of replacing the old with the new. Living in California, I feel at times we are the worst at this. There are so many historic gems to behold here, and although the latest and greatest is always fun and exciting, I believe it is imperative that we know the historic influences that created the backbone from which these new ideas emerged.
I'm sad to say that I came across another example of this just the other day. The famous Tonga Room in San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel is currently under threat of demolition. Opened in 1945, the Tonga Room survives as a rare example of Polynesian Pop decor which became popular after World War II. Inside, the "High Tiki" bar features thatched overhangs and a floating "Band Boat", and in it stages thundershowers every half hour. The bar, which was originally designed by MGM Studios set designer Mel Melvin, is entirely surrounded by a beautiful blue lagoon. It would be such a tragedy to loose such a historically significant place.
This precious gem might be demolished or dismantled as part of a condo conversion project proposed by hotel owner Maritz, Wolff, & Co. Local residents have rallied to save the room by hosting happy hours to raise awareness. This is a wonderful opportunity to make our voices heard and to let those with influence on the matter know where we stand.
In June 2008, Cedar Rapids, Iowa suffered a terrible flood. The Veterans Memorial Building was heavily damaged and after water submerged most of the town to its rooftop a Grant Wood stained-glass window was heavily damaged. This magnificent 20-by-24 foot window, valued at $3 million, cracked in more than 100 places from all of the water pressure. In a $150,000 effort, glass restoration specialists in Davenport have stepped up to the plate and and are disassembling the 1927 window's panels to clean, repair, and re-lead where necessary. The project should be completed by Memorial Day 2010.
Q: Who is Grant Wood?
A: Ever heard of the painting "American Gothic"? Well, that is one of Grant Wood's most popular paintings. Wood was an American painter, born in Anamosa, Iowa. He is best known for his paintings depicting the rural American Midwest and "American Gothic" is still one of the most iconic images of the 20th century. He was very passionate about the stained-glass window in Cedar Rapids, IA and traveled to Munich in 1928 to oversee its production in every detail.
Design has a way of building upon itself or taking influences from the past. When looking at exactly what Mid-Century Modern is there are a couple of key points that you can look for.
One of the defining characteristics of Mid-Century Modern are the clean lines that you see. Unlike before the 1950s designers of this era embraced sleek, uncluttered, clean lines. Designers such as Charles Eames, Euro Saarinen, Anne Jacobsen, and Miles van der Rone are wonderful examples of Mid-Century Modern designers.
Teak, teak, and more teak
With the new introduction of man-made materials, such as fiberglass, teak was also quite prevalent in the 1950s Mid-Century Modern movement. It was the perfect compliment to the Danish influence and the need for a warm and hospitable environment after WWII. It also complemented the wonderful colors and textures that were popping up at this time as well.
As a way of defining "out with the old and in with the new" the Mid-Century Modern movement saw with it an explosion of color. You will also see white used quite prevalently as well. White was a great color being used as a way to anchor a room and was almost always seen in clean, sleek pieces.
Cutting Edge Materials
One of the things that turned designed on its head in the 1950s was the use of man-made materials. From the use of fiberglass, plastic, Plexiglass, Bakelite, and Lucite (just to name a few) these materials were being used in new and exciting ways.
Mid-Century Modern design in still quite prevalent today and influence a lot of design that we see around us. To this day collectors are still paying top dollar for authentic Mid-Century Modern pieces because of their beauty and influence to our culture.
"Historic paints were often made with what was available, rather than adhering to strict formulas. Recipes for successful formulas can be found in historic documents, such as newspapers, illustrating the combinations of ingredients which could be used to produce a paint.
Oilbased paints: Linseed oil, a volatile thinner such as turpentine; a hiding pigment (usually white lead) and coloring pigments.
Enamels: natural resin varnish was added to oil-based paint to provide a hard, more glossy surface.
Glaze: a translucent layer applied to protect the paint and to impart a more uniform gloss surface. Usually made from linseed oil with natural resin varnish added. Some glazes have small quantities of tinting pigments such as verdigris or Prussian blue; some had no pigments added.
Waterbased paints: Water, pigment, and a binder, such as hide glue, other natural glues, or gums. Usually used on interior plaster surfaces.
Whitewash: often used on interior plaster surfaces in utilitarian spaces and, at times, used on interior beams; consisted of water, slaked lime, salt, and a variety of other materials. Occasionally a pigment (usually an ochre or other earth pigment) was added to provide tint or color.
Distemper: used for interior applications, were made from water, glues (one or more different natural glues, gelatine, and gums) with whiting as the basic white pigment to which other tinting pigments were added.
Calcimine, or kalsomine: often used on interior surfaces and is another common name for distemper.
Tempera: paint prepared with pigment, egg yolk or white and water; used almost exclusively for decorative treatments.
Gouache: a waterbased paint made of whiting, pigment, water, and gum arabic as the binder; used almost exclusively for decorative treatments.
Casein: also called milk paint, was made with hydrated (slaked) lime, pigment, and milk. Most often oil was added, making a strong emulsion paint. Various recipes call for a large variety of additives to increase durability. Casein paints were also used for exterior surfaces. "
*Excerpt from www.oldhousejournal.com
I remember volunteering at the Stansbury House in Chico, CA during my college days and being fascinated how cool the house felt during those hot summer days. Upon further investigation I learned that flat plaster walls are an integral part of both the historic and environmental value of older homes. Yet it seems that plaster is the first thing that contractors will tell you "has to go". Actually, more often than not, it will be removed because either the contractor doesn't have the proper knowledge necessary to make the proper repairs and/or the homeowner does not realize what will be lost along with its removal.
Homes built of wood and plaster are actually a superb, natural-functioning system. While humidity passes through the materials to the outdoors, heat and cold are not transferred. In fact, plaster and wood are very poor conductors. The chilly interior drafts that you feel each winter pouring through the joints, cracks, and crevices and are not coming through the walls themselves, but through other means such as crack in windows, etc. Also, well-intentioned improvements like blown-in insulation and vinyl siding actually defeat the old, efficient system of moisture exchange and add little to improve on the insulating air pocket between plaster lath and exterior walls. Worse yet, these materials greatly increase the chance for damaging moisture build-up and harmful mold growth, as well as trapping the toxic fumes from paint finishes and petroleum furnishings.
Although the environment concerns are significant, it is the rich, textural beauty of plaster that is the greatest asset and the most compelling reason to preserve and restore this valuable material. The alternative, modern drywall, has a flat cardboard-like appearance and lacks the sound-insulating quality and fire resistance of plaster. The transmission of voices, footsteps, music and plumbing sounds is particularly troubling. In addition, replacing plaster with standard drywall has the effect of reducing the historic integrity of the building and, therefore, impacts the monetary value of the home within the historic home market.
The five-story American Brewery Brewhouse building was built in 1887 in East Baltimore as part of a five-acre brewery complex. It operated as a brewhouse or beverage plant until its closing in 1973. The building and an adjacent bottling plant were donated to the City of Baltimore in 1977. After several failed redevelopment attempts by various entities, Streuver Brothers, Gotham Development and Humanim were awarded the rights to develop both properties in 2005. The long-time vacant Brewhouse has been converted into office and program space for Humanim, a 35-year old nonprofit social and human services provider.The reuse of the American Brewery Building is a huge boon for its Broadway East neighborhood—one characterized by poverty and a high degree of abandonment and blight. Roughly half the properties in the area are vacant or have been demolished. The building was in poor condition and has undergone an extensive, $30 million rehabilitation. Approximately 80% of the existing wood windows have been retained and repaired, the west tower has undergone substantial structural repair and interior reframing throughout the building s well. New electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems have also been installed. With its completion, the Brewhouse will enable Humanim to consolidate its operations and expand its existing employment and clinical service programs. These include services for individuals with developmental, emotional, neurological and physical disabilities.
Now that the project is completed, it will return a building that has been vacant for more than 30 years into a high quality, high character home for an established social services agency that provides workforce development services and job creation opportunities to a neighborhood desperate for economic revitalization. The surrounding census tract has a 51% poverty rate and an unemployment rate more than four times the national average. A rehabilitated American Brewery Building is a beacon of hope for continued economic investment and revitalization in one of the most neglected and desperate areas of Baltimore.
- Excerpts from The National Trust Community Investment Fund
"Launched by Mayor Richard M. Daley in September of 2000, the Historic Chicago Bungalow Initiative is designed to foster an appreciation of the Chicago Bungalow as a distinctive housing type, encourage sympathetic rehabilitation of Chicago bungalows, and assist bungalow owners with adapting their homes to current needs, which in turn helps to strengthen Chicago bungalow neighborhoods.
The Historic Chicago Bungalow Association is the non profit organization that administers the Initiative. The program offers a variety of financial resources, from grants to loans, and technical resources, from special permit assistance to "how-to" seminars. Certifying your bungalow with the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association is the first step in accessing these financial incentives and benefits." -Historic Chicago Bungalow Association
On their website they have a wonderful guideline on how to restore one of these beautiful buildings. Take a look! Download B-LOW DESIGN Guidelines
If you are interested in getting involved or would like to know more about the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association visit their website http://www.chicagobungalow.org
"The Main Street movement has transformed the way communities think about the revitalization and management of their commercial districts.
The Main Street Four-Point Approach® is a community-driven, comprehensive strategy used to revitalize downtown and neighborhood business districts throughout the United States. It is a common-sense way to address the variety of issues and problems that challenge traditional business districts.
As the national leader, the National Trust Main Street Center® leads a coast-to-coast network of more than 1,200 state, regional, and local programs, powerfully linked through a preservation-based strategy for rebuilding the places and enterprises that create sustainable, vibrant, and unique communities.
Throughout the nation, communities are using the Main Street approach to revitalize their traditional commercial districts." -www.preservationnation.org
If you are interested in finding out further about this program or would like to get involved click here: http://www.preservationnation.org/main-street