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Andrea

When does a building become "historic"?

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I know I've mentioned this in some prior threads but I was wondering what y'all thought.

Take the Fox, for instance. When BellSouth and the city were planning on tearing it down back in 1973, it was only 44 years old. (By comparison Lenox Square is now 47 years old). It had fallen into disrepair and had not been making money for years. It was showing second run movies and not many people went there.Thank goodness it was not torn down, but even today I wonder how much hue and cry would be raised over the "historic" status of a building that age.

Another example might be the phone company building at 51 Ivy Street (Peachtree Center Avenue). It originally opened in 1930 as a lowrise 6 story structure, and was only topped out to its present 14 story height in 1949. I know when I started working downtown in the mid-1970's, we did not think of it as an old building at all.

51ivy.jpg

So when do we start thinking of a building as old or historic? I believe for me, internally, "old" has always meant at least 50+ years or so, or at least two or three generations back. And somehow I think of "historic" as even older than that. What do y'all think?

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I don't know that "historic" is a function of age. Dictionary.com defines historic as "Having importance in or influence on history". There are not many structures that would qualify under this definition. I think the real question is:

Are buildings worth saving simply by reason of their age, and if so what age qualifies a structure for "old status"?

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I agree it isn't fully dependant on 'age' but rather 'character', 'uniqueness', 'significance' or 'quality'.

Character is what most think first regarding old mill houses, not that they are historic (though they are often 100 years old), but that exhibit charm. Also - the commercial buildings that remain on Peachtree St in Midtown between 10th & 11th in my view have character. They aren't architectually significant or even that old (maybe 80 years old?) but compared to post-modern design, they have more qualities in them.

Uniqueness is that what can't be replaced. Historical buildings are unique, but historical art deco buildings are far more unique. There are plenty of structures built in the 1960's in Atlanta, but the Modern Prairie style influenced home is unique to that era & to architectual history. Unfortunately the 1950's / 1960's Modern era isn't treated with a great deal of respect, but the design is striking.

Significance can also be irrelevant of historic, in many cases it is more important than the historic or architectual aspect of a building. An important cultural or political act, or the life long home of someone revered. The structure could even be significant just for a single neighborhood - the mill in Cabbagetown is the sole purpose of the community. Even if it is no longer a mill, without it the identity is destroyed.

Quality should be respected. That should be a no brainer but it isn't. When a developer can build an apartment building on Piedmont - designed by Atlanta's first female architect - & replaced with an 'homage' to the original structure, but with substandard modern construction standards - that is not respecting quality design. Nor when an architectually valuable - in fact masterpiece - is to be torn down, Peachtree Hills apartments, for a retirement community. That is an even more shocking disrespect of quality design.

I don't think there is ever an age limit that should be used to preserve structure. History is what we want it to be - structures that were influential in the 1960's are more important to us than some victorian house in the 1890's

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I don't think there is ever an age limit that should be used to preserve structure. History is what we want it to be - structures that were influential in the 1960's are more important to us than some victorian house in the 1890's

But it does get complex. If you were about to tear down some 1890's Victorians, I bet you'd run into a lot more flak than you would for flattening a 1960's apartment complex. Some people will holler that age is the true criterion, and that anything else is too subjective.

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Are buildings worth saving simply by reason of their age, and if so what age qualifies a structure for "old status"?

Ryan, I agree. I made some observations on this in the Wincoff thread. I know some poeple may disagree with me about that particular building, but I don't think age alone means that something needs to be saved.

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I agree with you Andrea, & that is how it is so subjective. What is & what isn't historic or relevant or unique doesn't matter, it's that historic perception that is. There are a number of faux Victorians that have been built in the past 10 years, I could assure you - even if everyone knew they were new that if someone threatened to tear them down, there would be outrage.

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I agree with you Andrea, & that is how it is so subjective. What is & what isn't historic or relevant or unique doesn't matter, it's that historic perception that is. There are a number of faux Victorians that have been built in the past 10 years, I could assure you - even if everyone knew they were new that if someone threatened to tear them down, there would be outrage.

Brad, LOL, you are right!

Ryan, yes, I agree, "old" is subjective, although it may be more quantifiable than some other qualities. Probably very few people would of a house built in 1996 as old, or even one built in 1986 or 1976.

Does 1966 qualify as old? I would say no, but then again I'm personally older than dirt so it's right back into the subjectivity morass.

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Like any politically correct term, historic has been over used and abuse to the point where it's difficult to have a feeling for the word & its meanings. Does an historical event have to happen to make a place historic or does age simply make a place historic. Does architectural style factor in?

I think that for Atlanta the 51 Ivy is unique in its deco style, and therefore worth saving. The way our system is set up, architecture alone won't save it. So instead of worrying over semantics someone tries to call it historic in order to better protect it.

It would be better to designate buildings as Historic, Unique, or Old.

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