Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Highland Survey and Capitol Mitigation at Historic Landmarks Commission

On Thursday the 16th the Historic Landmarks Commission meets to consider the State Capitol building as well as preliminary materials on a survey of the Highland neighborhood.*

Older gable-and-wing in Highland (2012)

You might recall notes and some skepticism about recent surveying in the Grant neighborhood

Highland is in many ways much more interesting and more central to stories about Salem.

Friends Polytechnic School
in Highland (WHC

There is the history of the Friends Polytechnic Institute and the School for the Deaf, land speculation and development by the Oregon Land Company with links to Herbert Hoover and Dr. Minthorn, and also Minthorn's relation to Chemawa.

Marker at site of childhood home
of Herbert Hoover (2014)

Highland's neighborhood history is in fact quite rich, and no boosting hyperbole is at all necessary. 

The goal for this new project is to produce a booklet of house styles like the one produced for Grant and also to inventory the older homes.

Hopefully this effort will spend less time on the idea of a list of pretty homes, and more time on the sweep of Salem's history. 

One ambiguity of an inventory of older houses, less apparent in Grant but more so in Highland, is that an inventory is also a list of potential fixer-uppers and an indirect invitation to gentrification and displacement.

The No.1 benefit? "Increase property values"

To be clear, this is not merely one-sided. A homeowner often welcomes the appreciating asset. Neighbors as well as visitors appreciate the aesthetics of increased investment and maintenance. Increased values will also encourage new development and redevelopment. There are real benefits.

Distinctly double-edged (Feb. 2022)

But the aggregate consequence in a district or neighborhood is also to make housing more expensive. This is the exclusionary side of historic preservation. 

Jane Jacobs valued "rundown old buildings"

This is an ambiguity and set of trade-offs we should be discussing more in our historic preservation framework. It has seemed like "increase property values" was an incidental, ancillary benefit, used to induce wider interest in historic preservation, but it may be that "increase property values" is actually now a central goal and feature of historic preservation. Even if it didn't start this way intentionally, and we see Jane Jacobs appreciated "rundown old buildings" as a central ingredient in city health, by now the ends of exclusionary zoning have been smuggled into an ostensibly unrelated program.

It will be important, then, to listen to what the residents themselves, including renters and not merely homeowners, want in any survey project.

Opportunities for residents

The survey plan identifies a range of "volunteer support opportunities" and it will be interesting to learn the proportion of volunteers that come in from outside the neighborhood.

The project is full of potential, but it could go off in several different directions. This will be very interesting.

The design, circa 1936

Also on the agenda is a report and discussion of work on the State Capitol. With three tranches of funding over the last few years, the Legislature has advanced projects to improve ADA accessibility, to maintain and update older plumbing and electrical, and to retrofit seismic stability.

a majority of the work will result in no adverse effects to the character defining features of the interior and exterior of the Capitol Building, [but] there are a small number of necessary alterations that will result in an adverse effect [and] mitigation is required....

In order to develop the appropriate mitigation, the applicant is required to obtain input from relevant stakeholders. The City of Salem, a Certified Local Government, is one of the stakeholders the applicant is requesting input from.

The applicant has drafted a Memorandum of Agreement regarding the adverse effect and proposed mitigation. They have proposed to complete: 1) Conservation and Restoration of character defining features including the exterior marble cladding, stelae, exterior bronze doors, windows, floors, elevators, vestibules and canopies, skylights, interior doors, bronze stairs, historic lighting, and State Treasurer’s Vault; 2) Documentation of the resource (Oregon State Level documentation) in a book including photographs of the Capitol building and site which have been impacted by the CAMS project(s); and 3) Development of a Welcome Center Interactive Display featuring photographs, videos, plans and maps of the Capitol building.

The report is long, a little tedious for any general interest, and I did not read it closely. The one detail that stood out was the loss of the old bathrooms on the basement level under the rotunda. These were always vintage and mysterious, annoying in some ways but full of character in others, and it looks like they will go away.

As a working building, it must be updated, but there are some small, characterful details that will be lost. Check it out if you are interested in that level of detail at the Capitol.

The HLC meets at 5:30pm on Thursday the 16th.

* This is here the first City meeting with the new website, and while it was a little hard to find at first, the instance of the meeting is a distinct calendar event and can be linked to directly, having its own url with subordinate links to agenda and agenda items. That was not possible on the old site, and this is a real improvement. More to come, of course, as we explore it for different meetings and reports. The massive linkrot here on the blog is always a disappointment.

Addendum, June 16th

Here's some pleasant news! A couple days ago the Oregon Historical Society announced the annual Joel Palmer Award for history articles, and the piece "Searching for Salem's Early Chinese Community" won.

Winner of Joel Palmer Award

It's available free for download, so if you are interested in a closer discussion with footnotes, here you go.

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Though it is not at all on the agenda, a few days ago the Oregon Historical Society announced the winners of the Joel Palmer Award, and the piece on Chinatown and the shrine in the cemetery co-authored by our Historic Preservation Officer won.