U.S. Landmarks: Handle With Care

by Paul Tarricone, Assistant Editor; Civil Engineering Magazine, ASCE World Headquarters, 345 East 47th Street, New York City, NY.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1990, Vol. 60, Issue 9, Pg. 46-48

Document Type: Feature article


Landmarks are treated with kid gloves during restoration, but striking a balance between costs and aesthetics is difficult. In addition to structural integrity, original construction methods and materials must also be considered. This sort of detailed, archival research, however, is not typical of developers, engineers or architects. Therefore, historical consultants and facade chemists are hired to determine how a structure can be restored without damaging it. The reasoning is more than aesthetic: Experts stand behind a developer if the Department of the Interior questions their work; if the work is done incorrectly, a developer can lose his 20% federal tax credit. Landmark commissions work closely with architect, engineer and construction manager, but they're generally flexible about many aspects of the rehab. However, experts say they clearly draw the line between restoration and replication. Although the urge might be to roll out the wrecking ball, demolish the creaky structure and start from scratch, in many cases it simply is not allowed. Three structures on the National Register of Historic Places (Mead Hall at Drew University, Philadelphia's City Hall Tower and the Colorado St. Bridge in Pasadena, Calif.) illustrate the challenges that go into landmark restoration.

Subject Headings: Historic preservation | Aesthetics | Construction materials | Construction methods | Consulting services | Architects | Historic buildings | Bridge towers | Colorado | United States

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