“Red-Headed Stepchild” is a colorful Southern idiom. It means someone who doesn’t fit in, can’t hide, sticks out like a sore thumb, and is not the best beloved. Savannah has them. It can be a surprise to see the number of quality mid-century or modernist pieces there are to be found in a city usually visited for its earliest history. They sit quietly amidst their Savannah elders - Victorian Antebellum - and their elder’s diluted children. Diluted scions because while they have certainly been built in the last 50 years, they still carry definite marks of their local genealogy, it might be brick gables, front porches, or the sweep of hospitable curving staircases. But unlike the buildings that Savannians build to continue the legacy of ship captains and plantation owners, there are buildings that were created to shine towards the future. Some of these buildings are long and angular - instead of summer porches they have cantilevered roofs that project out from their sides like rockets; some homes, shops, and public buildings recall architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Corbusier.
Some of these modern offshoots keep shinning faces but most seem not just resented but neglected. The Candler Hospital’s Mechanical Building sits right up against the sidewalk on W. Gaston and Drayton Street. Currently it looks like a scene from an apocalyptic movie. If not for a random car parked nearby, it could be a timeless building in a timeless state of decay. A passerby for a moment seemed to be going towards the door. She was asked if she knew anything about the building, as perhaps it would be mentioned in an article on modern architecture in Savannah. Her response was “No sorry. But it is ugly isn’t it?” From where she was standing she could have seen the zigzagged pattern on the sidewalk created buy the folded treatment of the exterior. Not far away was the staircase leading to what seemed like a rooftop patio, complete with remnant trees and weeds.
Talking to someone close to the rehabilitation of the Drayton Tower, Savannah’s 3rd tallest building, about the John Marcus Stubbs Tower apartment building, it was obvious that he felt differently about the pedigrees of the two buildings. When asked who the architect of the Stubbs building was he replied, “That building had an architect?” The Drayton Tower is a legitimate International Style building and was constructed right around the mid-century mark. The Stubbs building was later. It was also never meant to be luxury apartments like the Drayton, but rather, was built for the Department of Housing. Although the Stubbs Tower is currently at this writing, in November 2007 - the 8th tallest building in Savannah - that will not be true after December 15th, the day slated for its final demolition. A narrow high-rise, it has two decidingly different faces. One side has pop out of balconies and surprising little windows, the other is a broad statement using bands of balconies and color to create a vertical “almost” rainbow.
No one is coming forth with the name of the architect but maybe he meant it to be a sign of hope to the residents of the public housing community? The Drayton will soon be filled with a roster of Savannah’s “Who’s Who.” Decades of Savannah’s obituaries list those with a connection to the Stubbs. Dora Byrd, who passed on at 89, had been a former floor captain at the Stubbs. Annie M. Giles died at 93; she had been a long time resident of the Stubbs. Jeanne Marie V. Norboge was originally from Long Island; she later lived in Savannah for 32 years during which worked for the Savannah Housing Authority and was a manager of the Stubbs Tower Apartments. They left behind collectively at least 40 grandchildren. They all serve as examples of the many people’s lives touched by this building that has now been touched by a wrecking ball.
Is there a connection to the buildings end users and the ending of these buildings? It’s debatable, because even the Drayton has had its detractors.1 It does seem that like some unlucky people, fortune finds that buildings such as the Stubbs and Candler Mechanical House structures can exist in locations where their natural charms are seen as a lack of proper character. They can cease to thrive, when, if they had existed elsewhere, (in the case of the Stubbs for example, perhaps South Florida,) they would have been cherished from conception onward, never looking back.
1 Associated Press. “Developer Rehabs Modern Building that Savannah Loves to Hate”, The Daily Gamecock, September 29th, 2005.
Print | E-mail
Powered by AkoComment Tweaked Special Edition v.1.4.6
AkoComment © Copyright 2004 by Arthur Konze - www.mamboportal.com
All right reserved