I chanced upon “The Passing of the Front Porch,” by Dwight Boyer, in Cleveland Plain Dealer Pictorial Magazine, dated February 27, 1955 at a recent flea market outing. Under the photo of a few large Victorian homes in a row, the description reads: “The passing scene. These were—and still are—fine houses, but they belong to an architectural era forever past. The cost of homes like these, with front porches, gingerbread trim and dormer windows would be out of reach today. This street scene happens to be in Lakewood, but similar houses are scattered all over.”
These houses are indeed scattered all over. Indianapolis’ historic downtown neighborhoods are replete with these glorious former grand dames of architecture. And while the quality of these homes would be virtually impossible to recreate, there are still many that can be saved and preserved for the future. Despite what at this point amounts to decades of preservation activity, movements and creation of organizations, quality homes like these continue to be lost. (Just check out what is going on in Cincinnati right now with the historic Gamble House.) Or even the home the Salvation Army is due to tear down at 234 E. Michigan Street, which, for the record, is one of the very few remaining pre-1900 structures that started as a single family dwelling within the original square mile. (See: blog of August 20) How is this still happening?Check out the article I’m referring to:
ART-VICT2-MCM2ART-VICT2-MCM6ART-VICT2-MCM5ART-VICT2-MCM3Boyer’s article, like any you would find today in the weekend Star, focuses on the deemed deficiencies of designs of the past, with that ‘if it isn’t new, it’s through’ sort of paradigm. Anyone familiar with historic downtown Indianapolis neighborhoods knows that about 10 years after this article was published, the renaissance of Victoriana and the revival of these old neighborhoods commenced. People realized that the old battle ax Victorians really would stand the test of time, and with a charm and flair not found in the sleek lines of a mid-century modern abode. As people, we do love variety, however, and Victorians have once again fallen out of favor in general.So, mid-century modern rides again, the crest of the popularity wave. (And if you are a fan of MCM and/or are a local, check out Atomic Indy’s blog–devoted entirely to the subject) I am left to wonder what the next wave will hold? Will there be a movement to preserve the vinyl villages–marring our collective landscape like a patch of poison mushrooms–I so deplore in another 30 years? While Victorians or MCM edifices may have to fear the wrecking ball and ‘progress,’ the vinyl villages will likely collapse before anyone cares to tear them down. As people seem to value only what is new and least expensive, perfunctory cheap junk heaps will continue to be built, leaving nothing but overflowing landfills to the future generations.
While I was unable to attend last weekend’s Thornhurst talks and walk (lead by historian Connie Zeigler, who did the national register nomination of the grouping of Carmel Mid-Century modern homes–designed by Avriel Shull–for Indiana Landmarks) last weekend, I applaud Landmarks for valuing and seeking to recognize the mid century modern movement before it, too, falls out of favor and the bulldozer comes knocking. Perhaps if the preservation movement had a stronger voice in 1955, some of our most beloved buildings of the 19th century would still be standing?
We need to stop giving in to that new= better and cheap/easy = better, because it doesn’t. Past fabrications are superior in so many ways. All we have to do is care for the older structures and they will last far longer than most all of this new stuff. Have you ever been in any way moved or touched by some shiny new vinyl subdivision? (Admittedly, I have–but only to roll down the window and have someone hold my hair back) In which parts of town do you feel most inspired, at home and comfortable? Why do you think that is? Which will be the next to follow the trend of Lockerbie Square, Old Northside and now, Thornhurst with special designations and recognition? Care to weigh in with a prediction on the next movement to gain wide acclaim? Which neighborhoods should be the next to seek preservation and protection? With a wink at the final line of Mr. Boyer’s article, I am afraid the present epoch will be looked upon by historians as the “age of disposability,” despite the antithetical and concurrent “Green” movement we hear so much about. What is “greener” than preservation?

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