Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Baggage Depot vs. Howard Hall: Two Takes on Preservation?

Over at LoveSalem, Walker draws a comparison between the preservation efforts expended on the 1889 Baggage Depot and the indifference so far on Howard Hall.

Baggage Depot, looking north, 2000
Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey
HABS OR-184-16
At SCV they pick it up and take it further, asking, "Why is the City all gung-ho to save the baggage depot?"

It's an interesting contrast, and worth some thought. I happen to think the depot, one of the last remaining ones from the 19th century in Oregon, is more significant than Walker does. Rail history is pretty central to the development of the American West. The depot looks super shabby today, but as a link to our 19th century rail history it helped shape Salem far more than the Blind School shaped Salem. Among our State institutions, the Blind School was small, and its significance is more for former students than for Salem as municipal entity and the historical development of Salem.

Still, Walker's right that lots of effort has gone into preserving the depot.

But the thing is, I'm not sure much, if any, has been City effort. It's hard to see the City as much more than a bystander.

Baggage Depot Enjoys Large ODOT Subsidy and Attention

First off, the depot received a private, angel donation of about $100,000 as a seed towards its preservation. Here, though, we don't know what role, if any, the City might have played behind the scenes. But it's clear that the initial funding source was private, not public, money.

The bulk of it, though, is being funded by an ODOT Transportation Enhancement grant of a bit over half a million. Greyhound's contributing a little, and there are a few other odds-n-ends, but it's mostly State funding. There is no City money involved.

Unlike the Hospital, ODOT did make much more than a cursory four- or six-week effort on a pro forma RFP to find a new user for the baggage depot. Historic preservation takes time, and the Hospital did not care to take the time to do it right. ODOT did care.

(You can see the expanded time-frame in the notes here.)

If there are heroes here, they're Steve Kenney, the private donor, and ODOT.

Based on publicly available evidence, it's a stretch to say the City is "gung-ho" on the depot in a way they are not on Howard Hall. There's no 6-0 Landmarks Commission vote against demolition of the depot, for example. In that regard, the City showed more formal concern for Howard Hall, even though other agents of the City later overruled the decision. On the depot, the HLC has been more passive (not in a bad way!), rubber-stamping the plans, not intervening for preservation.

The Bigger Picture?

What if we zoom out a bit, what are our recent wins and losses?

  • Carnegie Library
  • Kirkbride Building and Crematorium
  • Grey Building and Amadeus remodel
  • McGilchrist and Roth block
  • Adolph Block
  • Baggage Depot 
  • Boise Cascade Redevelopment
  • Theilson Building rehab - 440 State
  • Salem Arts Building 
Losses and probable losses:
  • Belluschi Bank
  • Belluschi Clinic
  • Howard Hall (and the other buildings)
  • Fairview Dormitories
  • Belluschi Breitenbush Hall (and other buildings)
  • The cluster of three or four houses at Liberty and Mission
  • Eagles Lodge - Market and Broadway
  • Marion Car Park 
Unknown and at risk:
  • Dome Building
  • Waldo House (pre-1859, outside of city)
  • Phillips House (pre-1859, outside of city)
Maybe you know of others? (Yes! Readers' additions in italics.)

Our historic preservation codes are pretty much tilted in favor of owners and "property rights," and the additive conservation values in preservation have somehow got inverted as "takings." That's a big topic, far beyond what we can touch on here. But the larger set of examples are evidence, I think, that the City is not itself a strong, or perhaps even a meaningful, force for preservation.

That conclusion is tentative, however, and if you know more or disagree, it is an interesting and meaningful topic!

Virginia Green Award

As a footnote, in July, Kenney, who had been anonymous, came forward and at the Historic Landmarks Commission was given the Virginia Green Award for historic preservation by the City.

The Mayor and Steve Kenney
holding the Virginia Green Award
via ODOT
The City issued no press release or announcement about the award, however. It's like a secret! This is another way there might not be a very deep City commitment to the values of historic preservation - it's kinda fringey.


KandN said...

Thanks to your article, I just came across the following site: Restore Oregon

Anonymous said...

This is a good post about the difference between the baggage depot and Howard Hall. It isn't a well known fact but the baggage depot donor brought his money to the City, specifically to Kimberli Fitzgerald, and asked her to help him save the depot. Through the City's demo by neglect code they were able to spur ODOT to secure the building. ODOT wanted to demo the building and refused the donor's money, for almost a year. Kimberli negotiated with ODOT, used City code enforcement to spur ODOT action and was the go between with the donor and ODOT. Besides Kimberli and the donor the key thing that actually saved this building was that Greyhound wanted to move there. Having a new use for an old building is key. Kimberli cultivated such a good relationship with the donor that he now funds half of the Historic Toolbox Grant program through the City. The donor and Kimberli should be commended for the work they did to convince ODOT that this building was worth saving.

Anonymous said...

Here's a couple more "wins" for you.

The Boise Cascade redevelopment - they're not retaining a lot of it, but they didn't totally level it, either.

The Thielson or Gray-Belle Building on 440 State Street.

The Salem Arts building.

And a "loss"

The Eagles Lodge on Broadway and Market, where the new Salem Cinema is located

Susann Kaltwasser said...

I do my part to criticize the City from time to time, but on the old baggage building, I think you have it wrong. Like 'anonymous' above posted, it was City staff that really worked to save the building. I recall listening to the City Council on this matter a number of years ago and their supporting staff's efforts to get the parties together for the project.

It was a fine example of what the city could be doing with Howard Hall, but chooses not to.

There it is....a compliment and a kick...

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Glad you found Restore Oregon!

As RO and under their former name, Historic Preservation League of Oregon, they're a smart bunch and terrific resource. IN particular, the way they are highlighting early settlement farm homes in the valley - see the breakfast blog note here - is really important, and the deterioration of our pre-Civil War homesteads and houses is a great loss we should think about.

I'm happy to report also that Restore Oregon is at least an occasional reader of the blog. They borrowed a few clips from the blog in their swap proposal for Howard Hall.

As for the City's role in the Baggage Depot...the conclusion was tentative, so I will not be quick to disagree! Thanks for the thoughts, additional detail, and disagreement.

Thanks also for the additional wins/losses. Good adds.