While 2016 has the sad distinction of saying goodbye to numerous celebrities, the year has not been as difficult for the preservation community as years past. Of course, development pressures, aging structures, and tragic circumstances have contributed to the loss of many famous structures, but overall, according to preservationists contacted for this article, there seems to have been more wins than losses (and many important structures whose fate still hangs in the balance). Here are some of the important buildings lost during 2016.
Four Seasons Restaurant (Philip Johnson: New York City, New York)
The year’s biggest loss may have been this paean to modernist interior design, a power lunch landmark that helped define midcentury style, New American cuisine, and modern dining. While the unparalleled collection of furniture and tableware inside this Seagram’s building hotspot were auctioned off this summer, the grace and beauty of the space can never be recreated (though Eater’s loving look at the restaurant’s last days offers a fitting tribute).
Hood Museum (Charles Moore: Hanover, New Hampshire)
A beloved design by a postmodern master is in the midst of a controversial renovation, which will replace the original design’s ceremonial entrance with additional gallery space. Critics argue that the redesign by Billie Tsien and Tod WIlliams will ruin a signature part of Moore’s design that serves as connective tissue.
Admiral’s Row Mansions (Various architects: Brooklyn, New York)
These stately, Second Empire-style homes, built between 1864 and 1901 for naval officers, represented a disappearing part of the Brooklyn waterfront and a look at the borough’s rapidly disappearing history. Along with other structures on or near the Navy Yards, these homes are making way for big developments reshaping the waterfront, a “slow-motion tragedy” for a part of the city’s cultural history.
American Press Institute Building (Marcel Breuer: Reston, Virginia)
This Brutalist beaut by the famed architect, a home for a journalism non-profit made from precast concrete panels, was demolished to make way for a series of townhouses and condos. Thankfully, another Breuer building being eyed for demolition earlier this year, his Central Atlanta Library, has been spared the wrecking ball for now.
McKeldin Fountain (Thomas Todd: Baltimore, Maryland)
This Brutalist public fountain and park, part of a ‘60s redevelopment scheme to revitalize the city’s Inner Harbor, was torn down starting this fall to make way for a new waterfront development. Critics have complained about the loss of this unique piece of public art, and its as-yet-unannounced replacement, which will be controlled by a private partnership of local businesses.
Penson House (O'Neil Ford: Dallas, Texas)
Designed for a pair of philanthropists by a master of Texas modernism, this home was perhaps the city’s most vital midcentury residence. It was a total work of art, but sadly fell victim to demolition after being sold in auction earlier this year.
More Hall Annex, the Nuclear Reactor Building (The Architect Artist Group: Seattle, Washington)
As a Seattle newspaper story succinctly explained, the nuclear age has made way for the computer age. This Brutalist concrete building at the University of Washington, which once housed a nuclear reactor and was key to developing the technology, was demolished earlier this year to make room for a new computer science facility. Despite being listed on the National Register, the 1961 structure failed to survive the administration’s redevelopment plans.
Electric Steel Elevator Complex (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
While it wasn’t the work of a famed architect, this complex of steel grain elevators was the last of its kind in the region and an important marker of the Upper Midwest’s economic history. While the Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously last year to give the structure a 12-month grace period to study its historic value and alternative uses for the site, the complex was ultimately torn down to make may for a sports facility for the University of Minnesota.
Club Moderne (Anaconda, Montana)
Named the country’s favorite historic bar in 2016 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation after a lengthy online vote, this incredible Streamline Moderne-style watering hole tragically burned down this fall. Designed by local architect Fred F. Wilson, who created numerous structures on the National Register of Historic Places, this well-maintained bar was a local icon.
Chautauqua Amphitheater (Chautauqua, New York)
A beloved National Historic Landmark that has occupied a special place in American culture for well over 100 years, the “Amp” was demolished by the Chautauqua Institution as part of a renovation plan that was fiercely contested by preservationists.