Exhibit Center is worth preserving It is difficult for...

LETTERS

May 27, 2001

Exhibit Center is worth preserving

It is difficult for some people to view a relatively contemporary site and say to oneself, "This site is historically important."

Preservation Howard County has done just that with its recognition of the importance of the Columbia Exhibit Center. I am grateful to this organization for its hard work and vision.

Carole Conors

Ellicott City

Keep Exhibit Center from being leveled

After reading the editorial "Howard's `Top Ten' List" (May 19, 2001) concerning the inclusion of the Columbia Exhibit Center in Preservation Howard County's Top Ten Endangered Sites list, I was struck by the following sentence: "You can't seriously mention the Exhibit Center in the same breath as the William Paca House in Annapolis or the 18th-century Georgian brick home of Owings Mills founder Samuel Owings -- a house recklessly demolished in 1996 in Baltimore County." I hope that through the efforts of Preservation Howard County and the inclusion of sites with future historic significance, that it won't be necessary to modify the end of this sentence in a few years to read "the Columbia Exhibit Center -- a building recklessly demolished in 200x in Howard County."

A few years ago, The Sun chronicled the "plight" of the Kraft family who wanted to demolish their Padonia Road home (also known as the "Thomas Fortune House" or Padonia Station) but were temporarily thwarted by the fact that their house had been listed as of historical significance by the Maryland Historical Trust/National Register of Historic Places. Alas, the Krafts were successful in their efforts, and the building has been demolished, paving the way for absolutely nothing in its place as of the last time I visited, except for some remaining rubble. Present and future generations lost a place of significance in the history of Irish immigrant workers in Maryland.

Let's not lose a place of significance in the history of multicultural diversity in Maryland to a pile of rubble in Columbia.

Cassie Kilroy Thompson

Clarksville

Center deserves immediate preservation

I am responding to the editorial ("Howard's `Top Ten' list," May 19) in which Preservation Howard County (PHC) was criticized for listing the 1967 Exhibit Center (designed by Frank Gehry) in Columbia as one of 10 endangered landmarks that should be preserved for public benefit. Hats off to PHC for understanding precisely what the National Register of Historic Places outlines in its published Bulletin on designating properties of less than 50 years in age. "The 50-year period is an arbitrary span of time, designed as a filter to ensure that enough time has passed to evaluate the property in a historic context. However, it was not designed to be mechanically applied on a year-by-year basis." Seeing Columbia as a 20th century planned community within the vista of time, rather than comparing it to an 18th century house, suggests analytical maturity on the part of PHC. Why wait until 2017 when the Exhibit Center reaches its 50th year? The center is important in history now and should be preserved starting now!

Kay Weeks

Ellicott City

Saving `recent past' is an important goal

The Sun's editorial "Howard's `Top Ten' list," (May 19) raises the interesting question of, "How could the Columbia Exhibit Center, built only 34 years ago, be historic?" Merriam Webster defines historic as "Famous or important in history. Having great and lasting importance." In other words, "historic" implies more about a site's great and lasting importance than it does about a site's age. Preservationists have recognized that saving the "recent past" is an important goal of preserving a historic context. The National Trust for Historic Preservation's current endangered list includes the San Anita Racetrack in California, which was built in the 1930s and noted for its elaborate Art Deco exterior. Recent additions to the National Park Service's list of Historic Landmarks (the highest "historic" designation available nationally) include the First Christian Church built in the 1940s in Columbus, Ohio, as well as a series of Visitor Centers built during the same time frame as the Columbia Exhibit Center.

The Columbia Exhibit Center is significant to our county from a heritage perspective. Howard County changed forever with the birth of Columbia, and the Columbia Exhibit Center, in many ways, represents that birth.

The "downtown" exhibit center was the unofficial gateway to the new community. For longtime county residents, this was their glimpse of the future. For many prospective residents, the exhibits in the center were their first introduction to Howard County's past. James Rouse was a pioneer in his concept of a new design for community living. The exhibit center could be considered as much of a gateway to this pioneer effort as was the Cumberland Gap a gateway for earlier pioneers.

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