The fortress that now houses the Citizens Bank of Las Cruces, N.Mex. was constructed in 1822 with three-foot-thick adobe walls to defend the settlers against Apache warriors. The factory-like former Manhattan research laboratory for Bell Telephone is now the Westbeth Artists Housing complex with 384 subsidized apartments for writers, dancers, painters and other creative types. These examples are part of a touring exhibit of photographs of U.S. architectural landmarks that have been preserved—if in guises often far removed from their original purpose. The idea and title of the show came from a 1978 book on the subject by Barbaralee Diamonstein, a New York writer and social activist. She organized it in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution, and it includes 53 of the 95 structures that appear in her book. (The before and after pictures of Chicago’s Navy Pier, above, are in the show.)
The exhibit may not be quite enough to suit the architecture student or the local community leaders who are considering participation in what Diamonstein refers to as America’s “adaptive reuse explosion.” A greater variety of recycled landmarks and more details on the structures that are included would have been useful. The show does, however, provide a provocative hour or so that should serve as a primer for beginning preservationists. Currently at the Museum of the City of Mobile through June 8, the exhibit opens in Wheeling, W.Va. on June 28, Boston on August 16, Albuquerque on October 4 and South Bend, Ind. on November 22 before continuing to seven other sites next year. A duplicate exhibit will be unveiled at Manhattan’s Fraunces Tavern Museum on June 10.