Wednesday, February 11, 2009
One of the biggest drawbacks to historic preservation is when the building or area doesn’t fit modern economic needs. It’s all well and good to say “adaptive reuse,” but sometimes it’s difficult to find a successful adaptation. Some of the saddest stories concern old movie theaters –- nay, palaces -– from the 1920s and 30s that can’t readily serve their intended purposes anymore, either because they’re too big, too isolated from other screens (today, a diverse public demands the choice of the “cineplex”), or in the wrong location (such as in a downtown, as opposed to suburban mall).
One happy story is the old Silver Theater in my old hometown of Silver Spring., Md., which was partially demolished in anticipation of a possible historic designation, but was (many years later) eventually revived as the eastern branch of the American Film Institute, thanks in part to local county dollars – thus allowing me to see art films when I’m back in the area. (Thanks, taxpayers!)
Elsewhere, there may be no white knight to come to the rescue. I was surprised to read in the blog of one of my favorite alt-county signers, Kathleen Edwards, a lament over the fate in her home of Hamilton, Ontario, of the historic Tivoli Theater, which appears to have rotted and collapsed a few years ago. Efforts to rebuild and rescue came a cropper. Perhaps we should consider more drastic reuses (that is, removing the seats and screens) from obsolete theaters …
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