This Week in the Mercury

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Is the Portland Building a Historic 29-Year-Old?

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 1:30 PM

The state is considering nominating Portland's arguably most controversial building for the National Register of Historic Places, according to an article in the Portland Tribune. It looks like a group of architects are pushing for the state to nominate the 29-year-old building to be placed on the official list of historic buildings.

Michael Graves' post-modern box was finished in 1982, which means it would need a waiver from the most basic rule of the national historic register: Under national guidelines, a building has to be at least 50 years old to qualify as "historic" (Memorial Coliseum, for example, just barely qualifies). That mere 50 years is a reflection of how short our history is here in America, but 29 years seems like quite a stretch to me.

At that rate, I'm verging on historic myself.

There's some serious benefits to being listed on the register, including tax breaks for rehabbing the buildings. It's also worth considering listing on the register so that some future generation (um, mine) doesn't tear the thing down. I can see why they'd want to rush it in this case—it's an important architectural work that's often reviled. By the time it's 50 years old, people might be calling to screw it's architectural significance and burn it down for, I don't know, a baseball stadium. But it's also a joke to call a 29-year-old building historic. We should wait.

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