Saturday, August 8, 2015

City Council, August 10th - New Park at Fairview, Preserving Le Breton Hall

Just in time for Monday's Council agenda, there was a nice note in the paper about the digital archives project at Willamette University.

Turns out an "unidentified" image is a little relevant!

"Unidentified Building" - pretty sure that's Le Breton Hall
shortly after construction at
the Oregon State Institution for the Feeble-Minded
circa 1908 - WU Archives
The only agenda item of any real interest is a proposal for the City to purchase nearly 30 acres at the Fairview Redevelopment for a new City "community park."

Just as important as the park is the prospect for the preservation of Le Breton Hall of 1908, the first building at Fairview, and one designed by Walter D. Pugh, an important early architect who did our old City Hall and the Grand Theatre.

The oldest building at Fairview, Le Breton hall,
is not slated for demolition, and it's the one we should preserve.
Unfortunately, there are few details about the building, or about the City's intent for it, other than that it will not be demolished.

From the purchase agreement in the Staff Report (City = "purchaser," Sustainable Fairview Associates LLC = "seller"):
Prior to Closing, Seller shall have the LeBreton Building secured to Purchaser's satisfaction and sealed against the weather. Work will include, but not be limited to, ensuring all window openings are sealed and water tight, the roof has no leaks or allows any water intrusion, and that all gutters and downspouts are working i n satisfactory order. Purchaser shall assign a representative to work with Seller to devise a plan and scope of work for weatherization of the LeBreton Building. It is agreed that Seller's maximum obligation toward weatherization of the LeBreton Building is $50,000.
At one time "the crescent" itself had been discussed as a park site, but the location shifted a bit to the southeast. (See here and here.)

Buildings in the Crescent have or will be demolished
(revised reuse plan, comments in red added, Le Breton = B1)
Nearly all of the buildings in the crescent, which had been proposed for reuse, have been or will be demolished, except for one lost to fire (B5 above).

Proposed park borders

The original vision for Main Street and the Village Center
will look very different with a park (upper right).
From the Staff Report, it seems the City will initiate a park master plan process, envisioned to terminate in April of 2016 (seems a bit optimistic, actually), which will then inform a revised Refinement Plan for Lindburg Green, the redevelopment of Sustainable Fairview Associates (as distinct from Pringle Creek Community, the Eric Olsen development, and the Simpson Hills project).

It'll be interesting to learn more about this, as one concern might be that as the commercial district for the entire Fairview project seems to be dwindling, the residential parts will become more auto-dependent. There may not be much left envisioned in the way of groceries, restaurants, coffee-shops, or other retail destinations that are walkable. If the whole of the project is heading to a point where residents will still have to go all the way to Commercial Street for any errands at all, the project threatens to become just another car-dependent suburb, ornamented by lots of green and pretty window dressing.

Additionally, by surrounding Le Breton Hall with parkland and zoning for "public amusement" (or whatever it ends up being), the range of possible uses for the building may be significantly narrowed. This move may make it more difficult to find a sustainable plan for adaptive reuse.

If the City has a plan for the building, they did not disclose it in the Staff Report. So that will be something to follow.

Also on the Council agenda there are also information reports on a new subdivision just south of Bryan Johnston Park and a new office building adjacent to Gilgamesh Brewery, and an additional infusion of urban renewal funds for the McGilchrist & Roth renovation.

As a footnote, another "unidentified" building could be the original Steel Hall, also designed by Pugh, but demolished in the 1950s/60s. (See the Fairview "Historic Inventory" for more details. Out on the internets, one unsourced note suggests it was razed in 1964.) The photo looks to be from the same session, or at least same vintage, as that of Le Breton Hall, and the architectural style is very similar. But I have never seen a photo of Steel Hall, so this is a guess.

"Unidentified Building" - Jones Cottage
possibly Steel Hall, circa 1908
demolished 1950s/60s - WU Archives
A 1908 note says the partnership of Walter D. Pugh and Fred A. Legg were responsible for "erecting five buildings for the state institution for the feeble-minded." A 1907 RFP solicits bids on "Frame administration building, frame dormitory, frame barn, brick laundry building, brick boiler house, steam heating plant and plumbing" to be submitted to the office of W. D. Pugh in Salem. A 1911 piece in the Oregonian identifies a different hall of the same vintage and style as Le Breton as "Benson College." According to the Historic Inventory, Steel, Benson, and Jones halls were all demolished mid-century and were all of a "two-story Colonial Revival" style.

So I'm not certain that's Steel Hall, but I think it's a very good guess. 

Update: According to a photo (and penciled note on it) in the Oregon Historical Society's collection, it's Jones Hall (see OHS ba016444).

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

(Edit: Updated caption to bottom photo in footnote: It's Jones Cottage, not Steele.)