Saturday, January 10, 2009

Teardown Watch

Garland Jones building is coming down
Eye-catcher or eyesore? Modernist building will be missed by just a few
By Richard Stradling - Staff Writer
Published: Sat, Jan. 10, 2009

RALEIGH -- The National Trust for Historic Preservation's magazine calls the Garland H. Jones Building an "eye-catching landmark." Local architects say it's one of the best examples of Modernist architecture left in downtown Raleigh.

But come February, when the five-story office building begins coming down, it's not clear that many people will miss it.

The building's owner, Wake County, expected some opposition when it proposed demolishing the 47-year-old building to make way for a $215 million justice center. But county officials say they heard from only a handful of people.

It's more than a teardown, really. Call it progress or call it tragic, it is another piece of Raleigh's history added to the landfill.

Jon Zellweger, a Raleigh architect who posted a eulogy for the Garland Jones building on the Internet last year, thinks that people will look back at pictures of the building and wonder why it was torn down.

"Fifty years ago, we were tearing down Victorians and buildings from the late 19th century that we now hold up as precious," Zellweger said in an interview. "We love what our grandparents built and hate what our parents built."

In that article, published on, Zellweger goes into the significance of the building architecturally. Accompanied by photographs and floor plans, the article makes clear what we are about to do to our urban landscape.

The American Institute of Architects has identified it as one of the 88 most important 20th Century structures in Raleigh. The building has also been identified as a contributing structure in a study to designate the Fayetteville Street District as a Federal Historic District. Most remarkable is the fact that it is the last remaining example of High Modern Architecture in the downtown core. A myriad of other structures still populate the area—so much so that Raleigh resident George Smart has found no end in cataloging just the residential structures worthy of note. But after Wake County demolished its Social Services Building in 1998 it left the First Federal Building as the only well-dressed representative of that time.

The writing on the wall began with the building of the county jail tower. Gotta love the way we do that around here ... putting the Art Museum next to the Polk Youth Center, for example. Eventually the whole of the area will change to the new function, just as we have always done. So it goes with the Wake County complex downtown. Seems to me we get a little shortsighted on the vision thing around here.

Thank goodness Dorton Arena was saved. Yall remember the blue/green glass era over there? And now we are proud.

Is good to have visionaries among us.

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