Monday, March 31, 2008

Even if you can't get a burger there anymore, you can get a landmark …

  Can a boarded-up Denny's restaurant be considered a landmark?  Yes, according to the Seattle Landmarks Board, which recently designated such a building in the Ballard section of the city.  The decision was made in part because of the once-futuristic "googie" style architecture, and because it is considered by some a fixture in the neighborhood.

Googie  I welcome a landmark system that considers both architecture and history as part of its bailiwick.  But one problem with many cities' landmark processes is that they are so one-sided -- landmark commissions appear too often to see only the benefits of preservation and little of the reasons for allowing demolition (such as the interests of the property owner).  The owner of the Denny's site, who reportedly paid $12 million for it in 2006, is suing, of course, and alleges that the city failed to follow its required procedures.

   I love googie architecture, and would be saddened to see another example fall to the wrecking ball.  An alternative to strict preservation of buildings is the practice of retaining only features of architecture -- as was done in my old hometown of Silver Spring, Md., in which a new apartment building retains a once-distinctive old "Canada Dry" sign.  But today the sign seems a little incongruous, and a little lost.  Perhaps sometimes it's best simply to move on ....

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