Tuesday, July 24, 2018

From Carpenter Gothic to Masonry Mixed Use: Transition on Liberty Street

Reed Opera House, 1893
Gothic house demolished for McCornack Addition
(Salem Library Historic Photos)

Future Site of Montgomery Ward Building, circa 1936
A different Gothic house to be demolished
(Salem Library Historic Photos)

The Montgomery Ward Building, 1939 -
Left to right: Gray Block (edge), Eckerlin Building,
MW, McCornack Addition, Reed Opera House (edge)
(Salem Library Historic Photos)
We don't have a lot of photos that might give us a before-and-after look at main street commercial redevelopment here in Salem.

This section of Liberty Street on the west side between State and Court was the first one to come to mind that clearly shows the progression from wood-framed homes to single-story storefronts, to masonry multi-story commercial buildings. It also shows the jumble of styles from the circa 1870 Reed to the 1930s Moderne remodel of the Eckerlin and late 1930s Colonial Revival of the Montgomery Ward building.

We're ok with this; indeed, we celebrate it in our Downtown Historic District.

When we think about corridors like State Street between 12th and 25th, we should keep in mind the historic processes behind this section of Liberty Street. This kind of development is what cities do. Its in their nature.

The demolition crater at Belluschi's First National Bank
last summer in August - no new building is yet proposed

And the crater at Jerris and Commercial SE for a parking lot
When we demolish old buildings and don't replace them with something more valuable and move up a level or two in intensity, that's the real tragedy.

But when a site does move up a level, the loss is considerably more ambiguous and often nets out in positive ways. Change on State Street affects us today, but it is also a kind of planting whose harvest will take place for future generations.

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