PRESERVATION PRELECT: Three historic homes were destroyed this month in the Speedway/Drachman National Historic District, wiping out a past I assumed the city thought worth salvaging. Just a few short years ago they spent a ton of money and endured public ridicule moving five similar homes back from the spreading girth of Speedway.
Casa de los Niños, which has been based in the historic district for 22 years, wanted a new administration building. Believing the three homes housing their offices on Speedway required too much money to restore, Casa officials made arrangements with the city to tear them down.
The houses, at 327, 337 and 347 E. Speedway, were built in 1923, 1927 and 1916, respectively, according to neighborhood historian Eleanor Forte. Well-known Tucson architect and former mayor Henry O. Jaastad built the middle home. Jaastad was the talent behind many buildings and public schools and the irreplaceable St. Augustine Cathedral.
Brendan Hennessey, president of the Feldman's Neighborhood Association, doesn't like losing the homes, and he's ticked the Casa never approached the association. This, he wrote to Casa Executive Director Jeanne Landdeck-Sisco, has "inadvertently created an air of animosity and distrust which inevitably accompanies closed-door meetings concerning public expenditures."
Landdeck-Sisko says the Casa has been a good neighbor for years, but as a non-profit agency their budget is limited. "We were in a position where we simply had no choice; we don't have unlimited funds to go buy land in other places."
She claims the Casa actually helped clean up the block by tearing down other dilapidated buildings for the large Angel Nursery--a statement echoing sentiments that helped destroy the city center in the name of "progress" 30 years back.
Landdeck-Sisko says she's offered to show renderings of the new building to the neighborhood, but neighborhood officials haven't set up a time.
Hint to Hennessey: Given that Seaver/Franks is the architect, call Landdeck-Sisko pronto. Doug Seaver's contributions include the hideous DeConcini law building at Broadway and Tucson Boulevard, La Paloma, some inane black-glass office cubes and he was in favor of tearing down Catalina High School.
Sure, as a property owner in this particular historic district, I have a conflict of interest. But I can't stand to see historic buildings come down.
Naturally I'm awed by the Casa, which aids 2,000 children a year. But I also see people flocking to historic areas to ooh and aah over the homes while discussing neighborhood history and trying to make it their own--they don't do that over at the grim Tucson Convention Center.
One more time then, loudly: More notification, more discussion, more creativity. Less bulldozing.
See you in photos at the Historical Society, warriors.
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