Renovation, Repurposing, Demolition

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I’ve never been a fan of throwing something away or tearing anything down just because it is old.

Our family has always been big on recycling, repurposing, and conserving resources. We’re not tree huggers by any stretch, but repurposing, to me, makes sense. We try to do what we can while living in a large metro area: For instance, we grow our own vegetables, and bike or use public transportation whenever possible.

A growtent in the sun room. It is fitted out with tomatoes, lettuce, and a lot of herbs. The plants you see are about six to eight weeks old.

A grow tent in the sun room. It has tomatoes, lettuce, other vegetables, strawberries, and a lot of herbs. The plants you see are about eight to 10 weeks old.

Why a grow tent? Well, we live right next to a state park. The deer, raccoons, and squirrels eat everything in sight. Tulips? Forget it. Sunflowers? Nah. The animals around consider my yard the neighborhood salad bar. I’ve never had a successful tomato patch, and as native Mississippian, that bothers me.

Thanks to the grow tent, we actually have tomatoes and vegetables this year!

The light is actually red right now; it varies from green to blue to red depending on what is going on with the plants (blooming, producing fruit, resting). The yellow blooms are cucumbers. The pink blooms are string beans.

The light is actually red right now; it varies from green to blue to red depending on what is going on with the plants (blooming, producing fruit, resting). The yellow blooms are cucumbers. The pink blooms are string beans.


 

Oh yeah. I was talking about renovating and repurposing. To me, it’s not just about ‘stuff’, but I feel this way about old buildings, too.

When my husband and I first moved to DC in 1987, we bought a 100-year-old rowhouse and renovated it ourselves. It took about six years because we were young, broke, and learning as we did it all by ourselves. But in saving that old house, we felt like we saved a tiny bit of architectural history. The house wasn’t much, or important, but the construction details and the quality that went into the house when it was built back in 1900 were things we wanted to save.

That’s why I was saddened to learn about the demolition of the Washington County Courthouse in Chipley (Emmett’s home town) last week.

Emmett never saw this building, as Chipley wasn’t the county seat until 1927. (Vernon was the county seat during Emmett’s lifetime.)

Last week, the Washington County Courthouse went from this:

Image source: Flicker

Image source: Flicker

To this:

Washington County Courthouse demolition. Image source: Washington County (FL) News

Washington County Courthouse demolition. Image source: Washington County (FL) News. Photo by Carol Kent Wyatt

The problem was mold. The building had to be condemned because it wasn’t cared for properly over the years. The columns couldn’t be saved for reuse, either, because they were discovered to be structurally unsound.

There was a time capsule on the property, alas, not from 1927, but from 1972.

Time capsule photos, from the Washington County News.

Time capsule photos, from the Washington County News. Read more about it here.

It was taken to the Washington County Jail for safekeeping until reinterment after the new courthouse is built in a few years, on the same site. I hope there’s not a pair or bell bottoms or an eight-track tape of something in that capsule.

The demolition of the courthouse makes me really uneasy about another building in Chipley:

Chipley Bank. This was built around 1904, and Emmett would have seen this building. His friends had offices there.

Chipley Bank. This was built around 1905, and Emmett would have seen this building. His friends had offices there.

 

The structure has lovely bones on the inside; it is worth saving. You have to see it in person to appreciate it.

The structure has lovely bones on the inside; it is worth saving. You have to see it in person to appreciate it.

First National Bank under construction, about 1905.  Source: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/1532

First National Bank under construction, about 1905. I have a photo of Emmett’s father, taken in front of this building. Source: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/1532

I got close to the building (I didn’t sneak in behind the fencing, although I wanted to). You can see what’s left of beautiful hardwood beams, the transoms still in place over the doorways, pressed metal ceilings. I’m surprised it hasn’t come down yet (knock wood). It managed to outlast the Washington County Courthouse, somehow.

The building needs a miracle to save it. Would qualify for the National Historic Register? I’ll have to check with my colleagues in Chipley about that.

It definitely seems worth the effort.

 

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