What would you put on your own endangered species list?
Looking out the window of the top floor office suite that is the engine of the VC Reporter’s editorial machine one sees a sliver of the pacific ocean and a scattering of semi-iconic Downtown Ventura buildings. In the distance, the tip of a spire on an office building under construction peeks over the rounded top of the “majestic” Ventura Theater, a 1920s movie house turned concert venue in need of a face lift; just to the left, the top floors of a parking garage built in the late 1990s signals the beginning of a Downtown renaissance still in progress, although puttering along; on one side, the unimpressive back wall of a post office masks the historic Works Progress Administration mural inside; meanwhile, in our own offices, we type and interview and design away in the renovated shell of an old church.
Everywhere in our county, like our nation, the past and the present come into contact, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. We’ve named but a few of the historic and not-so-historic sights visible from our offices. There are many more in the surrounding neighborhood, and those represent only a small portion of the built environment that has come to embody Ventura County.
We don’t write this to demonize development or new construction, but it is important for the community to take a moment to decide what elements of the world around them it wants to preserve as progress marches forward. In this case, we’re not referring to the natural world around us, but, instead, the spaces and structures that have come to define who we are as an evolving county in the 21st Century.
In a May 21 e-mail Downtown Ventura Organization Executive Director Rob Edwards made his contacts aware of a 2008 list of the 11 Most-Endangered Places in America, as compiled by the National Trust for Historic Preservation (View the list at www.preservationnation.org/issues/11-most-endangered/).
Edwards noted the list “spotlights historic places across America that are threatened by neglect, insufficient funds, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy.” More importantly, he points out such places do not have to be grand public buildings or opulent works of architecture. Instead the definition is broader, encompassing places that represent key points and phases in our history, including over the years “urban districts, rural landscapes, Native American landmarks or 20th Century sports arenas, entire communities or single buildings.” This year’s list, for example, includes the entire California State Park System, New York’s Lower East Side, a hanger that once housed Navy airships, a hospital, and a Philadelphia theater similar in many ways to the Ventura Theater.
Edwards’ intention in publicizing the list was to inspire Venturans to think about architectural treasures in Ventura that “might be lost with neglect or time” and he urged people to email him at email@example.com with their own ideas, but, of course, he just wants to hear from people in Ventura. We’d like to ride on Edwards’ coattails and hear from readers throughout the county. What places and buildings do you believe are threatened or neglected?
What ideas do you have for how they can be saved, better used or preserved? We’ll publish your list at our Web site, www.vcreporter.com as we receive your ideas and publish a selection of the best ideas in our paper June 12. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “historic places” with your own ideas. Please contact us by June 5 to be included.