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Midcentury Sites on Endangered List

Monday, October 10, 2016

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Two bastions of midcentury modern architecture and design are among the 11 most endangered historic places in the U.S. as recently declared by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Mitchell Park Domes in Milwaukee and the Sunshine Mile in Tuscon, both constructed during the mid-20th century period and considered to be important examples of midcentury design, are joined on the list by a host of other locations of historic significance.

The list, issued annually by the nonprofit, brings attention to sites of significance for architectural or other historical reasons that are at risk of being razed or otherwise subjected to detrimental changes.

Mitchell Park Domes

The Mitchell Park Domes, in Milwaukee, WI, are a trio of glass conoidal domes that house plant conservatories. Designed by architect Donald Grieb in 1958, they were built over the next several years, with the last completed in 1967. They are the only cone-shaped domes built of glass in the world used as conservatories.

Mitchell Park Domes
By Sulfur, CC-BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Mitchell Park Domes, in Milwaukee, WI, are a trio of glass conoidal domes that house plant conservatories.

The Domes have served Milwaukee for nearly 50 years, but are now in need of repair work. They were temporarily closed to the public by Milwaukee County earlier this year when a piece of concrete was found on the floor of one of the domes.

While the county applied short-term fixes and were able to reopen the Show Dome, where the problem arose, the issue indicated that structural repairs are needed, and the county estimates the job could cost up to $70 million.

The county is currently at work on a plan to restore and maintain the domes, but some officials have expressed that the buildings are due to be demolished. The National Trust says it hopes to help the Milwaukee community find a way to preserve the historic structures, using its experience with midcentury preservation projects and its resources and connections nationwide.

Sunshine Mile

The so-called Sunshine Mile is actually a two-mile-long stretch of Broadway Boulevard in Tucson, AZ. The commercial buildings on the strip were largely constructed between 1939 and 1972, mostly during the postwar period when the American Southwest began to grow rapidly in population.

The midcentury-style architecture of the strip of road was designed by midcentury notables including Sylvia and William Wilde, Anne Rysdale and Nicholas Sakellar, all known for their work in the Tucson area.

But the area has continued to grow, and now the Sunshine Mile is under threat from plans to widen the road, which could result in the loss of some of the historic buildings on the stretch. Preservationists are working with city officials to try to work out a compromise to save the street’s architectural heritage.

Other Sites Listed

Besides the two midcentury modern sites, nine other locations across the U.S. were named by the National Trust this year to highlight threats to their preservation:

  • Austin’s Lions Municipal Golf Course, Austin, TX
  • Azikiwe-Nkrumah Hall, Lincoln University, Lincoln, PA
  • Bears Ears, Utah
  • Charleston Naval Hospital District, Charleston, SC
  • Delta Queen, Houma, LA
  • Chihuahuita and El Segundo Barrio Neighborhoods, El Paso, TX
  • Historic Downtown Flemington, NJ
  • James River, James City County, VA
  • San Francisco Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA

Read details on each of the listed sites here at the National Trust’s website.


Tagged categories: Architects; Architecture; Color + Design; Color + Design; Historic Preservation; North America

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