Jun 6, 2010

RIP: Collingwood Manor and Georgian Manor

Left: The former Georgian Manor on Collingwood Boulevard in Toledo

(Toledo, OH) While walking with my wife through Toledo's historic Old West End today (this is the final day of the Old West End Festival) I stopped to gaze for a few minutes at a pair of old buildings that once operated as hotels: the Georgian Manor and Collingwood Manor. Unfortunately, the Old West End Historic District Commission recently voted to demolish these structures, and two more pieces of Toledo's vanishing history will likely fall victims to the wrecking ball.

Even more distressing is that these once-proud buildings are in such a state of decay that it would take millions of dollars to refurbish them even to the point where an investor might be willing to consider purchasing them. The only residents the buildings have hosted in the past few years have been squatters, though the thoughtful article by J.C. Reindl of the Toledo Blade claims that units were rented out until a few years ago.

The neighborhood is faced with essentially two choices: tear down history or watch it continue to decay. I had to scrape away a few years of accumulated leaves and debris to read the still beautiful glazed tile that once welcomed guests to the hotels:

Left: decorative ceramic tiles in front of the former Collingwood Manor

This is an era of tight municipal, county, and state budgets, so it probably would not even be worth the effort to seek government preservation funds for such dilapidated buildings. Yet it still bothers me that these buildings have been allowed to become demolition-worthy sources of urban blight.

Then there is the issue of the post-demolition empty space that will remain after these buildings are razed. The Old West End is a nationally registered historic district, and future development must meet the rigorous standards associated with erecting new structures in a historic district. My suspicion is that these tracts will simply end up turning into vacant weed-infested land that the city will cut twice a year.

That does not sound much like "progress" to me.

1 comment:

Engineer of Knowledge said...

Hello Mike,
I cannot help but project the thinking and compare the ancient ruins of the Roman Empire I wondered at when I was in Italy and Southern France as a young man, were once viewed as these two great architectural examples are perceived today.

Should the Georgian Manor and Collingwood Manor become the victims of this era of tight municipal, county, and state budgets, maybe the money won’t even be there to tear them down and dispose the rubble in a landfill. But on the other hand if I extend out this thought, we are talking about economic time much like the catastrophic implosion of the Fall of Rome followed by the Dark Ages where 2/3rds of the population died from the black plague. What was not dismantled by the local population remaining, for the recycled use of their needs at the moment, survived to be appreciated today.

As anyone with a science degree knows, there is only one constant in this universe and that constant is CHANGE. Of course CHANGE does not mean PROGRESS and two empty lots waiting for rebirth at some given point and time could be a long wait.

Back in April I did a piece on my blog on the closing of the restaurant Café des Artistes, one of New York's most theatrical, romantic and historic restaurants. Café des Artistes is in Manhattan and was made famous by the murals painted by Howard Chandler Christy. The restaurant opened in 1917 and Howard Chandler Christy lived in one of the apartments in the Hotel des Artistes. The first group of murals was completed in 1934 and the second group in 1942. There are six panels of wood nymphs and other Christy works on display include paintings such as The Parrot Girl, The Swing Girl, Ponce De Leon, Fall, Spring, and the Fountain of Youth.

But as time takes it toll on us all, nothing lasts forever. At the age of 85 years old George Lang, the owner, on August 29, 2009, and after 92 years of the restaurant’s existence, closed the Café des Artistes. All are hoping that at least the artwork will be saved but the loss of this restaurant will be missed for I have memories as a young man.