Saving It: For What?

On an otherwise overgrown plot of nondescript land stands – curiously – an upright door framed inside hand-hewn beams.

That’s all. Just a door.

Virtually nothing else.

A portal to nowhere. Sounds literary. Or philosophical. Or cinematic: something out of a Woody Allen movie.

On the door hangs a wreath, and above the door hangs a light bulb dangling by its wire. To the right of the door is a light switch. Neither switch nor bulb works. I’ve checked.

Probably unknown to most of the thousands of auto passengers who drive by the Rt. 96 at I-490 spot daily is what once stood on the property: the home and the studio belonging to ceramist Frans Wildenhain.

Today, rumor has it, someone wants to buy the property, which has long been for sale. And put up, again according to current hearsay, a fast food restaurant. One with a drive-through, of course. Who wants to leave their car to eat dinner?

A hearing on the proposal is scheduled for January 2014 at the Perinton (NY) town hall.

Some object to such desecration on a number of grounds: the ugliness of the new architecture, the (further) commercialization of otherwise quaint Bushnell’s Basin, the potential environmental injury and/or the usurpation of a natural habitat as the property abuts a pond and wetland. And, of course, some treat the weedy field that once housed Wildenhain’s creative studio as (quasi-) historic.

The “house” was little more than a renovated (“converted” might be more accurate) chicken coop; that’s how several people independently described it to me. The structure was the work of quirky Mrs. Selden; for more on her see the March 16, 2012 Blog:

The studio, designed by the late Rochester architect Bart Valvano, once hosted numerous School for American Craftsmen faculty-student gatherings, not to mention Frans’s creative workspace.

In later years, the studio afforded a sales space for Lili Wildenhain’s (Frans’s third wife) “garage” sales. I once went and bought four pieces of his pottery from her and, ever since, regretted not buying the stack of Frans drawings that sat inches away from me as I paid for the pots.

Recently, in the Rochester, NY area, several structures have drawn the attention of preservationists and/or commercial builders: the Bevier Memorial Building on Spring Street, a brewery on Cataract Street, the Hojack railroad depot in Webster, the Merchants Despatch Transportation Co. building in East Rochester and the Monroe Voiture building at 933 University Avenue.

Whatever one’s precise position on this structure or that, the matter of (historical) preservation insists that proponents and opponents articulate response to the question: preservation for what?

More on Preservation’s Purposes next week.

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