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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Justice Court Building, Glen Cove, New York

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The Justice Court Building at 146 Glen St in Glen Cove, New York, was also once known City Hall and Police Headquarters. Built in 1908, this building replaced a previous building that had served a similar function on the same site since at least the 1890's. The replacement building went through a number of uses, growing and evolving just as Glen Cove did.

The original "Justice Court" building on this site is shown in the June 1893 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map. This building was two stories with a porch built out to the street edge. A one-story "Jail" was located to the rear at this time. The only change by the time of the March 1902 Sanborn map is that the jail to the rear appears to have been replaced and expanded upon with a one-story addition spanning the full width of the back of the building.

1893 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map

By the December 1908, the old "Justice Court" was removed and a new "Justice Court Building is shown on the map with the notation "(Being Built)" alongside the former building which had apparently been mvoed to the east. The new building was two-stories tall, clad in brick, and with a one-story extension to the rear titled "Jail".

The old Justice Court building is entirely removed by 1915 while the replacement building from 1908 is left standing. The building to the west at 714 Glen Street was the Women's Exchange at this time. This organization would play an important role in civic and social affairs, thus its close proximity to the Justice Court Building is telling.

1908 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map

1947 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map

By the August 1925 Sanborn the once "Justice Court Building" was titled "City Hall" with an active "Jail" apparently still in use to the rear. An expansion to the jail appears to have occurred between the 1925 and 1931 Sanborn maps. Finally, by the time of the October 1947 map the building was labeled as "(Old City Hall)", with this apparently having been moved. The Police Headquarters an City Court by this time were located in this building.

Today an exciting project is underway to rehabilitate this historic building and make it home for the North Shore Historical Museum.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Big Picture Rochester, Rochester, New York

Among the more exciting urban-area photo installation projects is Big Picture Rochester, based in Rochester, New York. An original grant of $65,000 from a downtown enhancement fund allowed for printing and installing the initial images.

The originator of the project was Ken Sato, a student at Monroe Community College studying public administration. The international headquarters of the Xerox corporation in downtown Rochester opened some interesting partnership opportunities. Rochester has identified itself as the "Image Capital of the World" thanks to the presence of major imaging companies like Kodak and Xerox. This project hoped to build on that reputation by making the world's largest outdoor photo gallery.

In 2009 the exhibition, Downtown: The Way It Was, coincided with celebration of Rochester's 175th birthday, and featured photo installations at a number of high-visibility locations downtown. A map and walking tour was also developed, encouraging people to walk through the downtown district.

As a freestanding initiative this invites some interesting questions. In the case where art is installed in windows of vacant or underutilized buildings is this the highest and best use? What are the sources of the obsolescence and abandonment and is this an appropriate response? And does this limit in any way the future redevelopment potential of the city center?

When taken together with the VisitRochester campaign, an attractive downtown visitors center, and wayfinding signage initiative, these are all positive steps in the efforts for Rochester to reinvent itself. Rochester and the work of the Big Picture project provide an interesting example for other downtown areas to follow.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Art on Call, Georgetown, District of Columbia

Georgetown's Call Box restoration project is part of a city-wide effort to rescue the District's abandoned fire and police call boxes. This project has identified more than 800 boxes for restoration citywide. Neighborhood by neighborhood, they are now being put to new use as permanent displays of local art, history and culture.

Fire alarm boxes were originally painted red and installed in the District after the Civil War. In most boxes, the alarm was activated by opening a door on the front of the box and pulling a lever. An automatic telegraph system transmitted the box number to a central office that directed the closest fire station to dispatch a fire truck to the vicinity of the call box. The system began to decline in the 1960s with the advent of two-way car radios and walkie-talkies. The alarms were finally turned off in the 1970s and replaced with today's 911 emergency system.

Art on Call is a project of Cultural Tourism DC with support from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, DC Creates Public Art Program, District Department of Transportation, Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Development.

Industrial Georgetown Interpretive Sign, Georgetown, District of Columbia

The interpretive sign titled "An Industrial Georgetown" is a relatively rare example of interpretation of industrial areas placed in a publicly accessible location. The plaque is located within the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park. Established in 1751, Georgetown flourished as a tobacco port until the mid-19th century. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was begun in Georgetown as an alternative to the Potomac River with its natural obstructions. Eventually the 184.5 mile canal reached as far as Western Maryland. Today canal boats pulled by mules take people through the old warehouse district of Georgetown. The National Parks Service officers walking tours throughout the summer months on the weekends.

Text from the sign follows:
An Industrial Georgetown

If you could have walked along the towpath here in the 19th and early 20th century, your senses would have been overwhelmed by industrial pollution. The dust from coal being unloaded from canal boats fogged the air. The stench of animal fat being mixed with lye at Hoffmyer's Tannery and Soap Factory would have overpowered you. The groan of water wheels powering flour, grist, and paper mills would have been thunderous. A noisy, dusty, and sometimes dangerous place, the canal brought new goods such as coal, grain, wood, and stone to fuel Georgetown's bustling manufacturing district.

Today the evidence of Georgetown's industrial past is found in the architecture of buildings along the canal. Evidence of water outlets, bricked up chutes, smokestacks, and block and tackle still remain on many buildings. Reborn as offices, homes, and shops, the warehouses and mills of yesterday testify to Georgetown's humble beginnings and early struggle for prosperity.

Caption: View from the Aqueduct Bridge looking east in 1906. The Washington Monument is barely visible above the roofline on the far right.
Georgetown is also fortunate to have a business improvement district founded in 1999 by property owners and merchants. A description of their work from the Georgetown BID website follows:
From marketing and special events, to transportation and streetscape, the Georgetown BID contributes to the vitality and quality of life in Georgetown. Governed by a Board of Directors elected by its membership of approximately 1,000 businesses, the Georgetown BID is proud of the role it has played in the ongoing evolution as an exceptional shopping, dining and visitor destination.

Cady's Alley, Georgetown, District of Columbia

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Cady's Alley in Georgetown, District of Columbia, very easily could claim the title of being one of the prettiest alleys in America. The alley has almost always been relegated to purely utilitarian functions. Fact of the matter is that alleys too can inspire aesthetic delight.

Perhaps the reason for this high-quality design is an effort to promote Cady's Alley as Georgetown's Design District. The combination of locally-owned home furnishing and high-end antique stores have helped to set this area apart. These are now being complemented by national furnishing retailers hawking their own unique aesthetic.

This effect was accomplished through utilizing a number of strategies. Most notably this alley uses high-quality architectural surfaces from building edge to building edge. While there are buildings of varying scales from high one store buildings up to multiple story buildings these are well placed with respect to one another and create visual interest. Building surfaces in some areas pick up on paving materials used in other areas, such as the use of large stone blocks. Efforts are made to provide high quality signage and lighting throughout this area, though not of a uniform quality. Finally, using stone and concrete in the center with brick to either side, creates the sense of being on a track, and helps to pull people through the area.

Of course we would be remiss to not mention the visually gripping bicycle shop at the east entrance of Cady's Alley. Painted a bright yellow color with universally recognized symbol of bicycles painted upon it, there is not mistaking the purpose of the business. By standing out in the urban environment it helps to anchor the alley, and mark either the beginning or ending depending on the direct people are coming from.

Cady's Alley has such attractive power that there is a pedestrian walkway and entrance off of the heavily trafficked "M St NW" to the north.

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