Buildings from the Last New Deal Not Surviving This One

Eleanor Roosevelt opened Greenhills, Ohio in 1938- "a healthier, more verdant environment, with shopping, recreation and nearly 200 small modernist apartment buildings and houses surrounded by a forest." They were in the National Register of Historic Places. It is the usual silly reason: "they made the village look down at the heels."

In Ocala, Florida, they are tearing down the City Auditorium. An official cut off preservationists at a recent public hearing, saying he was not interested "in what prom somebody went to" but only in "how to make this city grow."

Hugh Hardy, who renovated Radio City Music Hall, says:

"It's a better use of energy, in a time of fiscal restraint, to see what we can reuse, remake and renew," he added. "It's monstrous to say you have to tear them down."


Greenhills, 1938

Tracie Rozhon writes in the New York Times:

In Depression days, New Deal programs planted three billion trees, constructed 46,000 bridges, and restored 360 Civil War battlefields. Photographers like Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange recorded what suffering looked like; artists created idealistic murals and sculptures. More than 65,000 buildings — stone monuments in the South, green towns in the Midwest, white clapboard meeting houses in New England — rose from the hands of previously unemployed Americans.

"With small budgets, the architects did interesting things: they varied the pattern of the bricks, angled them, put them together to look like a fluted column — there's a lot of ingenuity in New Deal architecture," said Robert Leighninger, a sociologist and author of "Long Range Public Investment: The Forgotten Legacy of the New Deal."



Greenhills today- Tracie Rozhon

It would take relatively small budgets to fix those buildings today to last for another eighty years, instead of tearing them down.

"It's ironic to be tearing them down just when America is going through tough times again," said the biographer Robert A. Caro, who wrote about the W.P.A. in "The Power Broker," his book about the builder Robert Moses. "We should be preserving them and honoring them. They serve as monuments to the fact that it is possible to combine infrastructure with beauty."


New York Times

More in TreeHugger on Demolition
Big Steps in Building: Ban Demolition
Refab Now!
The Greenest Brick is the One That's Already in the Wall : TreeHugger
GreenBuild: Richard Moe Has a Tough Row to Hoe
Diane Keaton on How We Treat Old Buildings Like Plastic Bags

Tags: Ban Demolition | Demolition