A Good Old Article on Good Old Buildings

by Don Friedman on February 8, 2018

It’s not often I recommend an article that’s five and a half years old, but Disappearing Histories: A Conversation with Christopher Payne is absolutely worth the time. Payne is a gifted photographer but, more important to the context of this blog, several of his on-going projects concern endangered or slowly-dying buildings.

My only concern is that his pictures are so good that they glamorize the destruction of historic buildings. Demolition porn is both a real thing and the natural enemy of historic preservation.

Name That Material

February 7, 2018

That fuzzy thing that takes up most of the center of the photo? It’s one side of an old wet wall in this abandoned building. It’s a gypsum block partition, about halfway to reverting to being raw gypsum from its processed block state. Beautiful, in a morbid kind of way.

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Wiping The Slate Clean

January 24, 2018

There’s a great article up on Curbed about a plan from the mid-1960s to replace most of the buildings and streets in Harlem with a series of 100-story circular-plan tower linked by diagonal boulevards: A ‘futuristic vision for Harlem’. This was a blue-sky plan that never got very far. It lacked backing from the government agencies […]

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Everything In A City Is Manmade – Even The Water

November 30, 2017

Continuing with yesterday’s theme… New York is located on two medium-sized islands (Manhattan and Staten Island), a portion of a large island (Brooklyn and Queens are the west end of Long Island), a piece of mainland (the Bronx) and a whole bunch of small islands in the surrounding waterways. Those waterways include small streams (e.g., […]

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Road Trip: An Orphaned Wall

October 16, 2017

Seen on the street in Ottawa… I’ve mentioned orphans walls once before. They are what’s left when old walls are incorporated into new buildings in a manner that makes it difficult or impossible to demolish the wall when the original building is demolished. In this case, the light-red wall with white trim obviously belonged to […]

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Better Than The Alternative, If You Squint

September 21, 2017

Richard and Anne Dickey, a wealthy couple of the era, had a house constructed for them in 1809-1810 on then-fashionable Greenwich Street. This was before rowhouses were being built in New York and long before the craze among the wealthy for ridiculously large mansions. Their house was about 40 feet by 60 feet and three […]

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All Gone But Remembered

September 5, 2017

A good and needed piece at The Conversation on demolished buildings. The amount I know about the buildings mentioned varies; I’m by far the most familiar with the old Waldorf Astoria, even though it was torn down before my mother was born. My research into the structure of early tall buildings led me to that […]

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Incredibly Neat

July 9, 2017

That picture is from a site where one panel of the slab has been removed. The right-to-left brown strip is a steel beam exposed by the slab removal; the gray above the brown is the next panel of slab over, intact; and the gray below is a dirty piece of plywood that kept the demo […]

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May 15, 2017

These photographs of the demolition of the Orange County Government Center designed by Paul Rudolph are heartbreaking even if brutalism isn’t your favorite style. It was an uncompromising expression of a never-popular style and, because it required non-standard detailing and repairs, it was not well maintained and had severe problems with leaks. Ultimately, there was a […]

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Unused But Fascinating

April 18, 2017

The abandoned Worth Street Station on the Lexington Avenue subway, from 3am.nightly: There are a surprising number of web pages devoted to abandoned subway stations in New York. The stations are mostly visible if you know where to look as your train runs by them without stopping. Most are on the IRT subway lines (the […]

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