Yesterday afternoon, Portland City Council voted 4-1 in favor of demolishing the Kiernan Building, popularly known as the Dirty Duck Tavern building. In an astonishing move, the Council went against the recommendations of both Bureau of Development Services staff and the Portland Landmarks Commission. Since the implementation of new demolition review guidelines in 2004, no building listed as a contributing resource in a National Register Historic District, has met such a fate. Whether the City Council agrees or not, this was a precedent setting vote that could lead to future similar demolitions. Let’s hope that’s not the case, but now only time will tell.
Update on the Dirty Duck
Filed under Historic Preservation
2 responses to “Update on the Dirty Duck”
Yes, it was a troubling day for preservation. The saddest element to me is that one goal — preservation — is pitted against a whole bunch of other city goals: housing, economic development, density, diversity — you name it. There are enough city plans floating around to find almost anything. The single goal of preservation is easily lost in the balance.
Still, there were a few positives worth noting. Amada Fritz, for one, realized that once a historic resource is gone, it’s gone. Sam Adams and Nick Fish said mere deterioration of a building alone is inadequate grounds for demolition…a consideration that we must not forget to remind them of in future battles. (One of Blanchet’s arguments was that the Kiernan was so run down, it was economically feasible to restore it.)
This was the first test of the city’s new procedure for deciding on demolition for historic buildings. It’s better than the old era when a landmark could be razed without any City Council decision, but the city’s balancing test suggests that preservation will always be an uphill battle.
Another interesting twist: under the city’s rules, the Kiernan cannot be demolished until a plan for the new building is approved and building permits are pulled. Fritz, for one, didn’t like the appearance of the proposed new Blanchet House and asked that it conform more with historic design themes. The Landmarks Commission will have to approve the new design, and that, too, can be appealed to the City Council. Preservationists need to be heard on the new design, and consider pungling up the money to file an appeal if it is deemed necessary.
Another interesting thread: What happens to the old Blanchet House after they turn it over to the PDC in return for the new site? This could be the next immediate fight. It has much more historical significance that the Kiernan. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to hear the PDC say it is too run-down to save.
We all know Portland’s soul rests in it’s history and it’s compelling architecture. To see preservation efforts overruled is always unsettling.
Praise to Amanda Ritz for suggesting that the new design should reflect Portland’s history.
I’m hoping for a continued renovation of the old-town, Skidmore fountain area. Mercy Corps did their part in preserving the old corner building and the area is just waiting to be revitalized further … I feel it every time I walk through. It could be the next shining jewel of our city — a desired address for new business, shops and restaurants. I’m fairly new to Portland and am not sure of past efforts to address this area. I’d be interested to learn more.