My irregular musings on city life, politics, baseball, roller derby, and whatever happens to be getting my goat today.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Demolition of the Week

Today's victim of "progress" is an old mixed use commercial/residential building along Milwaukee Avenue between Leavitt and Oakley, a few blocks from our home. The area has been undergoing a transition from mostly industrial and commercial uses as demand for housing in Bucktown has increased. As empty lots and industrial buildings have been replaced by new commercial residential buidings, Milwaukee between the tracks and Western Ave has become an interesting amalgam of 19th and 21st century styles. It's been a fairly successful mix, redevelopment of what had been a fairly forlorn stretch of road being spurred on by the establishment of a couple of fine restaurants, Cafe Matou and Irazu. I had hoped that buildings such as this one would find new uses and continue to grace the block with their presence. With new, modern glass storefronts on the first floor, the building could have fit right in to the new look of the neighborhood:

One of the reasons I am so concerned about the destruction of these buildings is that the quality of workmanship and detail that went into their constrution is missing from most modern buildings as old skills such as metal stamping and terra cotta work have been lost from the building trades. Look, for example, at the kind of detail that was put into the decorative trim of this workaday building:
Compare that to the stripped-down, geometric detail on the block's new buildings:

In this case I am fairly confident that something suitably urban and appropriate will go in on the block, because developers have such high hopes for the area. But it seems sad to me that so much that has survived so long is being destroyed so quickly in the name of redevelopment. I actually rushed to the scene with a camera because I was so concerned that the 1894 commercial/residential building next door would be torn down as well, but it looks to me like the demolition crew is being careful to leave this neighborhood marvel intact.

For that I am grateful. Although the building will lose some of its historical value deprived of its original context, the new build environment of Milwaukee Ave will still be functionally close enough to the old one that the strength and practicality of the building's design will still be evident, along with its beauty.

2 comments:

Stockton&Tweed said...

That last photo - a lawyer named Pagan. Priceless. - Stockton

Wells said...

Its the little details, like the workmanship on the trim - or even how the entrance of a building (inside) is put together. What drives me crazy is when there are building with terra cotta roofs and other easily saved parts that are not used. One building in New York was probably three stories and was knocked down for a 10-12 story building - but they supposedly are incorporating the old roof into the new building. I have seen it a few times in New York, but I hear it is very common in San Fran to use a system where steel beams are used to hold up the outside while the inside of the building is completely demolished and the new building is put up within. The exact name escapes me, but I believe one of the new buildings recently renovated by the SF Music Conservatory or whatever it is called used this method.