16 November 2006

More recycling on a large scale

I absolutely love old buildings. We live in a Victorian house built in 1889, and I often spend my weekends removing decades of paint layers to restore things like escutcheons and broken window locks. ("Escutcheon" is a word I learned from Babble over a year ago, and now I can use it in a sentence without cracking up!)

Given my love of historic architecture, you can imagine I was thrilled to learn that the Pillar House, a famous and fancy restaurant from my youth, has been given a new lease on life as a residence once again. The Pillar House was built in 1828 as a private residence on an empty spread of farmland, and was converted to a restaurant in 1952. The restaurant was known for its formality, its high standards (smoking and cell phone bans and a dress code), and its tradition of giving long-stem roses to female diners. (I remember getting one when I was about ten!) The restaurant closed in 2001, and the property, which had been hemmed in by freeways over the years, was seized by eminent domain.

This is the fun part of the story: the Pillar House was bought by a family who are reconstructing it as a residence on their farmland in Lincoln, Massachusetts. They're doing it right, too, consulting with the Newton Historical Society and spending effort on details like finding crown glass consistent with the era. When I visited my parents in October we drove by to take a peek, and the building looks just terrific tucked away in a peaceful setting much like its first spot in 1828.

Another example of this type of recycling is the famous London Bridge, which was built in 1831. In 1967, the bridge was determined to be structurally unsound, sinking into the Thames after so many years in the swift river current. It was purchased at auction in 1968 by an American, Robert McCulloch, who was developing the new town of Lake Havasu City, Arizona. The price paid was $2,460,000. The bridge was disassembled, with each stone numbered before it was shipped, and reassembled in Arizona over the next three years. It is now the second most popular tourist attraction in the state, after the Grand Canyon, and holds the title of Largest Antique Ever Sold in the Guinness Book of World Records.

For more great stories of building reuse, check out Conde Nast's list of hotels which used to be something else (article comes to me courtesy of C24).


Jessica said...

Yes, but is "escutcheon plates" redundant, since the definition of "escutcheon" includes the word "plate"? ;-)

Jessica said...

Oh, and is it urban legend that the American buyer of London Bridge actually thought he was getting the much more beautiful and ornate Tower Bridge?

Hypercycloid said...

Jess - it has been rumored, researched, and confirmed false. The guy knew what he was getting. :)

And good point on "escutcheon" - I changed it.