Margaret Foster's blog

School's out, and the bulldozers are busy

Summer seems to be the season to demolish old schools. There’s nothing that makes people madder than when a neighborhood school is reduced to rubble. One Portland blogger compared the wreckage of a 1920s school to Dresden. People in Beaumont, Texas, took the local school district to court to save their 87-year-old high school, and those “Greenies” are fired up on Facebook.

A Good Wall Is Hard to Find

It's like something out of a Flannery O'Connor story. The setting is the small town of Natchez, Miss., which was built on an unstable, water-soluble bluff. An entire street, Clifton Avenue, collapsed about 20 years ago. Swallowed up. A few years back—in 1995, to be exact, Sen. Trent Lott urged Congress to shore up the bluff to save not just people—two women died in a 1980 street collapse—but "to protect these historically significant properties and to prevent potential loss of lives," as he put it.

Tender is the Strip Mall

Every summer I make a pilgrimage to Scott and Zelda's graves, in Rockville, Maryland. Sure, I could pay homage by going to Cap d'Antibes, where they whooped it up every summer, but the Euro is so high. And Rockville is so ... scenic.

F. Scott Fitzgerald and his rather nutty wife are buried under a huge live oak next to St. Mary's Church, where their daughter moved them in the 70s. She probably wouldn't have done it if she had known what would happen to Rockville: the Rockville Pike, an endless strip mall that crescendos with Bloomingdale's and eventually fizzles out with Marlo Furniture. 

Frozen Assets in Arizona

Don't know if you've heard, but Arizona voters passed a new law in November, a nameless one called Proposition 207. And here's what preservationists have to say about it:

"With Prop 207, we're dead in the water," Debbie Abele, Scottsdale historic preservation officer, told the East Valley Tribune.

It's modeled after Oregon's controversial property-rights law Measure 37. In a nutshell, it allows property owners to seek compensation from the state for infringing on their right to use, divide, sell, or possess their property via a land-use law.

Tips from Your National Park Service

In my hometown—and yours, too, I'm sure—a small, one-story house was for sale, and then it was gone. The guy who bought it promptly tore it down and then, because the new house he had designed was too big for the site, let the hole sit there for a year, a broken tooth in the 1950s neighborhood. Of course, the house he built was still too big for the lot, but there it stands, three feet from his seething neighbors: a McMansion.

What We Talk About When We Talk About 11th-Hour Preservation

My friend Wes was talking about a burger joint. Wes is from Texas, so sometimes that gives him the right.

The Beef Burger Barrel, a barrel-shaped hunk of roadside architecture in Amarillo, closed last month after 60-odd years of hamburger heaven.

"It wasn't beloved until everyone heard it was closing," Wes told me. The Barrel started out selling A&W root beer on Route 66 in the 1930s and was rolled later to a less-traveled part of town. Now locals are trying to find a way to reopen Amarillo's quirkiest building.