The Eye of the Beholder…

What is the fascination behind humankind’s need to continually rip down old and replace it with new? Especially when the old is beautiful, majestic, and culturally important?

Joni Mitchell had it right when she talked about paving paradise and putting up a parking lot. Being from a state with much new architecture, but also a great deal of the old stuff (mostly old courthouses and town squares), it was hard moving to a place with SO MUCH hideous early 60s architecture. I’m not talking about the cool fifties mid-century stuff with the clerestory windows and Jetsons furniture. I’m talking about those godawful houses with the horizontal windows built up high you can barely even look out of, and the ugly siding.

It’s probably no wonder that I’ve gravitated to the oldest neighborhood in town, despite its seedy reputation. The houses are old, but they have more character, and this is a neighborhood in transition. It’s turning around.

But it instinctively burns me up to see beautiful places torn down for “progress.” Case in point? Pickfair. Damn you, Pia Zadora. A piece of Hollywood history is done because of you and your selfish spouse. I heard someone had said there were problems with termites. Yeah? That’s when you hire something called an exterminator. Think of the people who could have visited it as a museum.

The one that pisses me off the most has to be The Garden of Allah. What an amazing piece of architecture. Supposedly, Alla Nazimova had this place built with a swimming pool shaped like the Black Sea. It was a mecca for 20s stars. Joan Crawford and friends hung out by that pool, and other famous folks like F. Scott Fitzgerald came by to socialize or even to live for a time.

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Know what’s there now? You guessed it– a strip mall and a parking lot. Think of all that history. Just GONE.

Whose short-sighted decisions are these? I once had a talk with an ex co-worker (and I thank God every day that she’s ex) who bemoaned the traffic situation on Mockingbird Lane in Dallas. If you know anything about Dallas, you’ll know that Mockingbird goes directly through Highland Park, a neighborhood of incredibly lovely, pricey homes from the 1920s and 1930s. This person wanted to just tear down all those houses because it was inconvenient for her. I had to stop myself from punching her. The trees are old and established, the houses have features that can only be found in houses from that era, but yeah. Get her to Love Field faster, dammit. And others have the same attitude. Don’t bother to renovate if your closets are too small. Just tear it down and start from scratch.  

Think of all the history that has been sacrificed to selfishness and greed. Grrrr…