Endangered Modern: Explore America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places

By Forum Online posted 06-24-2014 14:43

  
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 Frank Lloyd Wright's Spring House, Tallahassee, Fla.| Credit: Photo by Alan C. Spector
By the 1950s World War II was behind everyone and Americans were listening to Nat King Cole’s “Mona Lisa,” gas cost less than $.20 a gallon, and new buildings were popping up all over the country. These new homes and office buildings reflected an era of optimism, progress, and energy.

In Chattanooga, Tennessee, for example, the Interstate Accident and Life Insurance Headquarters hired a Nashville architecture firm, Hart, Freeland, and Roberts, to design an Art Moderne office building with a pink granite and limestone facade and featuring a penthouse lounge for employees and a bowling alley in the basement for recreation.

In Tallahassee, Florida, George and Clifton Lewis asked Frank Lloyd Wright to design a home for their growing family. The two-story house, which was called Spring House, was constructed in 1954. It was designed in the hemicycle style and was an outgrowth of Wright’s earlier and better known Usonian houses.

Further south at Bay Harbor Islands near Miami, a developer created two communities—one with single-family homes, the other a mixed-use, pedestrian-scaled community. The buildings, many of which were designed by prominent architects working in Miami Beach, were designed in Miami Modern (MiMo) style, a resort style of architecture popular in South Florida.

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 Bay Harbor's East Islands, Fla. | Credit: Miami-Dade County Office of Historic Preservation
Today, however, these three mid-century sites are threatened by lack of funds, lack of recognition, and increased development pressures.

Now known as the State Office Building, the Interstate Life Insurance Headquarters is set to be sold from the state of Tennessee to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Once the university acquires the building (labeled “old and obsolete” by a consulting firm) it plans to demolish it to create a new dormitory.

Although the Clifton family lived in Spring House until 2010, it now sits vacant, and is in need of significant and costly repairs stemming from hurricane and wind storm damage.

And a wave of new development threatens the mid-century treasures on the Bay Harbor Islands. These new high-rises would strip the neighborhood of its character and charm and the sense of place that defines Bay Harbor Islands.

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  Chattanooga's State Office Building, Chattanooga, Tenn.
These three sites are included on the National Trust’s 2014 list of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Since 1988, the National Trust has used this list to raise awareness about the threats facing some of the country’s greatest treasures. Also included this year on the list are Shockoe Bottom, Richmond, Virginia; The Palisades, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey; Battle Mountain Sanitarium, Hot Springs, South Dakota; Historic Wintersburg, Huntington Beach, California; The Palladium, St. Louis, Missouri; Union Terminal, Cincinnati, Ohio; and Cincinnati Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Learn more about the sites on this year's list at www.savingplaces.org/11most



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