Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Historic Landmarks Commission to Ponder Bridges and Pioneer Homesteads Thursday

So considerably more interesting than blather about pedestrian medians and city transportation budgeting is this week's agenda at the Historic Landmarks Commission.

In Salem Weekly you might have seen the piece about the transformation in process at Geercrest Farm.

On Thursday at the Commission folks from Restore Oregon will be talking about places like the Geer farm - pioneer-era farms, houses, and homesteads.

Historic Preservation League:  Most Endangered Places
Phillips House in middle photo
Each year Restore Oregon identifies a list of "Oregon's Most Endangered Places," and this past year the remaining pioneer homesteads in the Willamette Valley were included as especially at risk.

These buildings from between 1840 - 1865 are often deteriorating, are generally out of the way, and ultimately are irreplaceable.  Once they're gone, they're gone. 

R.C. Geer homestead from 1878 Marion County Atlas
The Geer farm is lucky to have a non-profit and education project behind it. A few other homes have been relocated to Mission Mill or other places in town. The McCulley House is fine example of one that's been moved and restored.

You might remember the folks at Mission Mill put together a nice little map of buildings and places in Salem that date to this period - there might be more than you think, fortunately!

View Civil War Salem in a larger map

Still other nearby farm houses are not so fortunate, like the Phillips House, and some, like the Waldo House, are even dilapidated and could collapse soon.

Also on the HLC agenda is talk about the Winter Street bridge over Shelton Ditch.  You may remember the closure and repair work after the flood of January 2012.

Winter St. Bridge Closure after Flood Damage, Spring 2012
Repair during summer 2012 of Winter St. Bridge at Shelton Ditch
The bridge design of R.A. Furrow
resembles those of Conde McCullough.
It looks like Federal funds are going to replace the bridge, not just repair it, and folks from ODOT's history group will be talking about the replacement project.  The design will probably resemble the one on the new Commercial Street Bridge over Pringle Creek.

Installing the railing on the Commercial Street Bridge,
maybe the one nod to history.
(From the photo essay on the bridge replacement.)
In addition, neighborhood representatives from the Greenway Bridges Study Group, who are chiefly working to preserve the nearby Church Street Bridge, will attend to talk about the railing design for the Winter Street replacement. (See comments on Bonnie Hull's note here, also some notes on the Church Street Bridge here.)

Also on the agenda are the usual wireless towers and window replacements.

(It is interesting that the way the Commission is set up, they can adjudicate small matters like antennae and windows, but they are largely helpless on bigger matters like the Third Bridge, the State Hospital, and traffic in the Downtown Historic District. The unit of analysis is very small and atomic, and cannot get at pattern, systems, or neighborhoods. This imbalance is one reason why new projects, like the Heritage Neighborhood project to be piloted in the Grant neighborhood, could be a useful lab for developing the next generation of tools for Historic Preservation. The current toolbox isn't very full or very helpful, and as we better understand things like the ways that preserving older buildings generates more jobs and retains more embodied carbon than new construction, developing a wider range of tools and analytical methods will be important.)

The Commission meets Thursday the 20th at 5:30 p.m. in Council Chambers, Salem Civic Center (City Hall), 555 Liberty St. SE.

1 comment:

Laurie Dougherty said...

Thanks for calling attention to the old bridges. I walk or bike through the park system along Pringle Creek and Shelton Ditch quite often. I tend to take in the gestalt of a visual vignette, but since SBOB has been talking about the old bridges, have been paying attention to the details. The graceful railings and steps at the bridge on Church Street are in bad shape. I hope these features will be restored rather than replaced with something else.

Not everything that's old is interesting or worth saving.Kade Benfield, in chapters 8 & 9 of his book People Habitat talks about striking the balance between preservation of our aesthetic, historic and cultural legacies, and meeting the needs of the 21st century for more density and compact, walkable/bikeable mixed use neighborhoods.