Thursday, December 15, 2011

How to re-use an old school . . (IMHO)

I went out of town this week to photograph an old high school building that had been "re-purposed" into apartments. This kind of project is a LOT of work and can easily be done badly. Historic Tax Credits keep these projects going AND help to insure good results.

This one came out really nice! So here, in my humble opinion, is WHY this was done right.

From the outside, it still looks like a great old school building.

Inside, you'll find the original hallways and stairways. Why change them?

If existing doors were no longer needed, they were left in place and made inoperable. Where new doors were needed, they were made to match the existing ones. Which doors are new and which are original?

There isn't much use for a school auditorium in an apartment building, but it's such an important part of the building that the stage and some representation of the seating was saved. Image a neighborhood association meeting here!

In the apartment units, care was taken to step the walls and dropped ceilings back away from the windows (where necessary) so they wouldn't be seen from outside.

And what about the units themselves? After all, what good is all this if, in the end, nobody wants to live there?

The units are spacious and bright with lots of windows. Yeah, I'd live there.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dangerous Buildings?

I've been doing a lot more pre-rehab than post-rehab documentation these days. Personally, the pre-rehab documentation is more thrilling. What are you going to find? Nobody knows!

Earlier in the week we were going through a small, two story warehouse when, while going down the stairs to the basement I noticed an odd smell. Not a bad or foul smell, more metallic and acrid. Not a typical damp basement smell. Flashlights and my camera's flash revealed the source . . mold.

It shouldn't have been a surprise. Wet spring, hot summer, tightly closed building, dirt-floor basement. I got a few shots from the bottoms of the stairs and we left.

That same day we were headed for the roof of another building taking note of the damaged roof supports on the floor below so as to avoid those sections. I have to say that this is the worst I've ever seen. It's shored up by a temporary beam so it was not as dangerous as it looks, but that beam wasn't there the last time I was in this building!

It's always an adventure!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

In the meantime . .

Sometimes I can't share the things I photograph. Sometimes it's only a matter of time before I can. While I wait for the green light on a previous project, here's a couple from today's shoot.

While documenting a rooftop downtown I noticed the amazing patina on this door (who wouldn't?).

And this view of the new Performing Arts Center is one you will see nowhere else!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Inside Kansas City's Cosby Hotel

Over the last year or so a lot of ink has been spilled concerning the possible fate of the Cosby Hotel at 9th & Baltimore. I've been hoping to get inside to photograph it for FAR longer than that, though! Well, that day came a few weeks ago. I was hired by Rosin Preservation to document it for a possible historic tax credit application. Yesterday the project was officially announced and I can now share what we found inside this incredible structure.

Built in 1881, the building was purchased by Joseph Cosby in 1899 and converted into a hotel. The first floor is all commercial storefronts, and although the spaces are in need of restoration there's nothing special or unexpected in there. One small doorway outside, however, leads upstairs to the most intact, unmolested, un-remodeled, 110-year-old hotel space I've ever seen!

The check-in booth, the staircase, the atrium . . all still there (albeit missing some pieces). The room sizes are original, as are the doors, moldings, trim, windows, etc.

As was typical in hotels of this era, there is one bathroom (multiple stalls) and one tub (located elsewhere) per floor. Your room had a sink and a closet (maybe).

Here's a typical room.

I can't stress enough how unusual it is to find an interior from 1881 THIS intact! Notice the old, exposed, nob-&-tube wiring on the ceiling of this bathroom. All the rooms still had this! The bathroom fixtures, although likely not original, are probably 100+ years old and are complete with old wooden toilet seats.

Transoms, hardware, floors . . all there! This place looks like it hasn't been remolded in 100 years! It's a huge time-capsule in the heart of Downtown. Sure, it's in really bad shape, but it's THERE!

And there's more! Hidden above a newer ceiling on the first floor, in a small crawl-space, is the original mezzanine ceiling complete with tin and painted canvas, with moldings of cattle skulls and bullseyes!

I wonder who she is?

What a place!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Demolition? Seriously???

While I was in Iowa this week photographing a project for Kerry Davis of Preservation Solutions, Kerry was told of a beautiful Catholic church located about 10 miles outside of Le Mars that the Diocese wants to demolish. Naturally, we had to go have a look.

The St. Joseph Church, built in 1924, sits literally in the middle of thousands of acres of farmland. And, to put a fine point on it, this is really the only thing wrong with the building.

In the early half of the 20th century it took far more people to manage farmland than it does today. Many farms were only 100 acres, and many hands were needed to work them. Filling a rural church of this size was not a problem then. Today the congregation is nearly non-existant.

So the Diocese solution is to demolish the building, which seems to me to make a sad situation even worse, but what do I know? Can there be adaptive re-use if there is no use needed? Would it be better to sell it and roll the dice on a new owner caring for it? Or is demolition now preferable to the slow demolition of neglect? Or maybe it could be moved? It's a real challenge but alternatives to demolition need to be explored, IMHO. Hopefully there's still time.

Artistic influences of the largely German-immigrant population are front and center in the highly detailed woodwork of the Dais. Wood from cigar boxes and other sources make up the hundreds of individual pieces which comprise the whole.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Too many schools . .

Who could have guessed that this would become a problem? With many school districts consolidating and "right-sizing," older school buildings are up for grabs while districts scramble to come up with "repurposing" plans. Over the years I've seen school buildings converting into apartments, senior living, technical training facilities, and even better schools! The buildings are often in great shape, considered landmarks in their respective communities, and highly worthy of the effort it takes to preserve and re-use them.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

8th St. Tunnel - 9th St. Incline

I had the chance today to see something not many people even know exists. A hundred-plus years ago when Kansas City's west bottoms was a more happenin' place than it is even today, getting in and out of it wasn't easy. That is, until the 9th Street Incline was opened in 1888. The idea was to build a tunnel beginning just west of Broadway and angle it down through the bluffs into the west bottoms, creating a direct rail link to downtown and Quality Hill. It worked quite well, albeit a bit scary for those first passengers, some of whom bailed off as the train began to descend.

(Below photos courtesy of the Kansas City Public Library's photo collection.)

You can see streetcars coming in and out of the tunnel in the lower center of this photo (above), and the track as it emerges from the bluffs. (below)

Fast forward to today . . About 100 yards of this tunnel still exists and is occasionally opened for private tours. For an architectural photographer and history buff like me, it was a REAL thrill!