The idea that post World War II architecture in Ohio is inferior has contributed to a threat on the historic designs and have Ohio Historical Society officials calling for increased preservation efforts, officials said.
The OHS Historic Preservation Office this week presented findings from a year-long project, which indicate architecture from 1940 to 1970 is increasingly threatened.
“Mid-20th-century properties are more often endangered by neglect and demolition than older properties,” OHS Executive Director and CEO Burt Logan said in a release. “Buildings and homes built after World War II suffer from a perception problem about their relative historic value and architectural significance, which contributes to their endangerment.
“Many view that design of mid-20th-century architecture as inferior creating a sense of disposability. This is what needs to be changed in order to preserve Ohio’s recent past and its legacy.”
Ohio Modern: Preserving Our Recent Past documented historic themes and properties of the greater Dayton area that hark back to that era. The purpose of the project was to raise awareness of preserving recent-past architecture by serving as a model for other Ohio communities, said Barbara Powers, who directed the endeavor.
She said the Historic Preservation Office discovered that historic properties of the recent past were considerably under-represented in survey information, Ohio historic inventory and property listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
“We set out to undertake this project in order to gain more information about this time period in Ohio and also to begin to identify additional properties that reflect the broad trends and important expressions of architecture from this time period,” Ms. Powers said in an interview.
Of the total $136,500 cost of the study, $87,656 came from the Preserve America Program of the National Park Services. Dayton is a Preserve America community, which is why that area of the state was the research focus, Ms. Powers said.
The additional funding sources came from the matched the Preserve America grant, including the Department of Transportation, Department of Development, the Ohio Humanities Council, City of Dayton, University of Dayton, and Ohio Historic Preservation Office.
Among the at-risk properties discovered are all schools in Dayton and Huber Heights in addition to movie theaters, motels, drive-in restaurants and roadside signs, according to OHS.
Many prominent examples of 1940-1970 architecture have already been demolished in recent years, including all four examples of unique raised school gymnasiums, Dayton’s Polynesian-themed Kon-Tiki Theatre, and the Flint’s Hamburgers sign with revolving starburst, OHS reported.
Because they are under-appreciated and often misunderstood, these recent-past sites are often not taken into consideration in decisions about reuse or future opportunities for economic development, Ms. Powers said.
Not all is lost, however. The study also reports a “wealth of resources” remain in the metropolitan region that illustrate the area’s post-WWII prosperity, thus imbedding a legacy on each community’s streetscape.
The Ohio Modern Project recommends communities undertake historic inventory surveys of recent-past architecture then nominate the properties to the National Register of Historic places.
Additionally, organizations and property owners should seek local resources, such as from historical societies, government offices and home building and other trade associations, in their efforts to preserve the sites, according to OHS.
“Ohio communities need to take action now if they want to preserve the built environment that was influenced by this unprecedented period of growth and prosperity in America,” Ms. Powers said in a release. “Currently, less than 1% is recorded in the Ohio Historic Inventory and these historic properties are being lost at a phenomenal rate.”