My wife, Gale Tucker, and I purchased this building on Park Row intending to tear it down. The seller, a bank president, agreed it is slowly collapsing, and all he wanted was the value of the land alone. We owned the property for three years before learning how much it is really worth.
The evidence is obvious. This building has three front doors, but only one of them enjoys the shelter of its spacious porch. What are the other two flanking doors for?
Inside the center door, there’s a foyer, with a door that opens to the rooms on the left, but there’s no door anywhere inside to access the facilities on the right. We have to go outside, on to the porch, and into the rain before we can enter those facilities. How does that make sense?
Architecture is a language about what we dearly want, as well as a means to get it. Yet I failed to understand what the setup meant, even though I’ve spent forty-some years working with historic structures. As a society, we don’t want to recognize our 88 years of Jim Crow segregation, from 1876 soon after the Civil War until the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
This building was built in 1928, at the top of the Roaring 20s, a time of liberation, at least for us, and not so much for them. As we experience the next four years, it may be helpful to remember who we are capable of being for a full third of the history of our country.
Peter Newlin is the founder at Chesapeake Architects in Chestertown.This video is approximately five minutes in length