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.