All that uproar over the impending demolition of a favorite Streamline Moderne structure in Eastwood seems to have had an effect: Houston architect Sol R. Slaughter’s 1935 Sterling Laundry & Cleaning Company building at 4819 Harrisburg will be preserved!
Sort of. Metro has committed to saving the façade.
Well . . . maybe at least the center part of it.
Okay really, just the top part, above the door. The part with the clock.
Hey, at least it’s not going to go away!
. . . ?
Uh, well . . . architectural antique fan Spencer Howard, who helped sound the alarm about Metro’s demolition plans for the building a few weeks ago, writes in with the latest:
Deconstruction will begin in two weeks, at which point the façade will be placed in storage (yet to be located) until the permanent home is designed (yet to be funded).
But the face-saving fun doesn’t stop there. After a short but brilliant week of investigations, brainstorming, and Photoshop work, Metro has produced a series of proposals for the rescued stretch of stucco that’s likely to be studied and appreciated by historic preservation experts, redevelopment advocates, and postmodern philosophers for some time to come.
Monday’s presentation at the offices of the Greater East End Management District was simply titled “4819 Harrisburg,” but that’s just Metro being modest. Maybe when this thing is resurrected for academic conferences it can be called something like “Representations of Time: Practical Opportunities in Deconstruction and Preservation.”
First, the problem. Howard explains:
Unfortunately, the building is located across from a city park and current laws prevent the transit authority from taking park land for the new light rail line. This puts the new right-of-way line just behind the current facade location and in order to save any part of the building the facade must be moved.
Working on a solution, Metro workers first contemplate the temporal nature of building itself:
What parts of the past can be preserved? How about . . . just the timepiece itself!
Metro’s first photo-illustration shows the building site turned into a new but temporary pocket park — across the street from Eastwood Park. A new replica of the preserved façade portion is placed in the park, set back from the street. Metro labels this proposal the “Interim Onsite Façade Replica.”
Topics for discussion: duplication (building and park), simulation, replacement, limited preservation horizon, spectacle.
But what should happen to the actual façade?
Metro’s relocation option one: The façade gets reused as . . . a façade! It goes in front of the existing Eastwood Park Community Center building across the street.
Option two: The preserved façade becomes Eastwood Park’s very own mini Arc de Triomphe, celebrating the victory of time over the forces that wish to prevent its passage. No mention of whether the grave of one of former resident William Steen’s unknown graffiti artists will be located underneath.
Option three: A monument to time becomes a monument. Or rather, the cleaners clock is used as a new monument sign for Eastwood Park itself. Design experts will appreciate the provocatively subversive use of a popular late-1960s-era typeface on the preserved art-deco-era timepiece.
Question for discussion: Should passers-by be able to reset or adjust time?
Option four: Here the metaphors start getting even more complex. The clock face, displaced by fixed-rail transit, seeks more free-form expression with an alternate form of transportation around the corner. At . . . a bus stop! But when will the bus arrive? Passengers will be presented with an apt and thought-provoking dilemma, as they will be unable to see what time it is while they stand under the shelter.
Topic for discussion: Should the clock be set to tell the time accurately? What would be the implications?
Other thought-provoking proposals not included in Metro’s presentation: Manufacturing and selling Sterling Cleaners clock replica watches to raise funds for area civic groups. Or another no-build option: Silent, daily Eastwood commemorations of the building at the time of its final rest, which appears to be sometime around 6:30.
- 4819 Harrisburg Update [Architectural Antique Review]
- Art Deco Slaughter on Harrisburg: Is Metro Taking To the Cleaners? [Swamplot]