New England historic preservation isn’t nearly clapboard and cobblestones anymore.
Put it atop some skyscraping poles, and it appears to be like like one thing impressed by The Jetsons. Actually, although, it’s the different method round: Portland’s 1963 U-Haul Shifting and Storage constructing — or, quite, hyper-modernist buildings prefer it — influenced the artists and animators who created the Jetsons’ incredible metro in the sky.
“It was a futuristic model, a mirrored image of the place the nation was going,” says Hilary Bassett, the govt director of Greater Portland Landmarks. The group raised eyebrows this fall when it named the U-Haul constructing, distinguished by its zigzag roofline and all-glass facade, to its 2017 Locations in Peril checklist. Initially the showroom for Portland Motor Gross sales (promoting, would you consider, Ford Galaxies), the constructing stands on Marginal Approach in East Bayside, mere toes from Interstate 295. The tens of hundreds of people that drive by it each day seemingly comprehend it so nicely that it barely registers as surroundings (except, in fact, they’re seeking to lease a U-Haul).
Jetsonian structure has a humorous identify: Googie, coined by architect John Lautner after a protracted-since-closed West Hollywood café — Googie’s — that he designed in 1949. Ample in southern California, the place the model proliferated in the 1950s, Googie buildings are sometimes formed like alien craft or boomerangs and make dramatic use of geometric shapes. The model was a manifestation of America’s submit-struggle technological optimism and House Age goals.
In 1963, with automobile tradition on the rise, Portland Motor Gross sales was Maine’s largest Ford supplier (“by far!” it boasted in a metropolis listing advert), and its house owners constructed a showroom radiating confidence. The buoyant message appears poignant on reflection: Portland was in the center of a many years-lengthy decline.
No extra. Portland is scorching, which is what landed the constructing on the Locations in Peril checklist. Improvement stress on the peninsula is intense, Bassett says, and property values are skyrocketing. East Bayside, lengthy a scruffy industrial neighborhood, has gone hip. Eating places and craft breweries have opened; new condominium complexes are attracting residents. All that, together with the metropolis’s championing of dense improvement, may make the lot on which the U-Haul constructing sits extra precious to a future developer than the construction itself.
Shawn Goldrup, U-Haul of Maine’s advertising and marketing spokesman, was amongst the many stunned — and delighted — to study that Better Portland Landmarks, identified for shielding a whole lot of 19th- and early-20th-century buildings, noticed historic significance in a former auto showroom. Midcentury buildings aren’t nicely represented in Portland, Bassett says, they usually’ve now been round lengthy sufficient — 50 years or extra — to be eligible for a Nationwide Register of Historic Locations itemizing.
As for the futuristic constructing’s brief-time period future, it’s safe. “U-Haul has no plans to promote the constructing — in truth, we simply purchased the property subsequent door,” Goldrup mentioned. “We’re not going anyplace.”