Thursday, October 1, 2009

News from Outside of Georgia

Though I’ve lived in Georgia for the past 10 years, I was raised in a western suburb of Philadelphia called Havertown. Growing up in the Philadelphia area, early Colonial America, the Revolutionary War, and the Declaration of Independence tend to overshadow much of the region’s history. But sandwiched between the first 4th of July and Rocky lives the story of Philadelphia’s growth and suburban expansion. Not surprisingly, this expansion coincides with the development of rail transportation. Havertown developed after a regional rail line provided an easier way to commute into the city. And prior to that, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, access provided by the railroad to neighborhoods like Bryn Mawr, Villanova, and Wayne provided wealthy Philadelphians the opportunity to develop these areas as country retreats from their city homes. The region became known as The Main Line and remains an upscale area littered with grand estates from the turn of the century.

Over the past several months, one Main Line estate in particular has been the focus of preservation news. The house known as La Ronda is a Spanish Revival mansion designed by the Florida based architect Addison Mizner and was completed in 1929. The 17,500 square foot mansion on 233 acres attracted the attention and support of preservation minded individuals from across the country when its current owner filed for a permit to allow him to demolish the mansion and replace it with a new, slightly smaller residence. The outcry of support, protests, and petitions spoke to the importance of preserving our built environment for all to appreciate. Though La Ronda is not located within Georgia, we all can appreciate the beauty and history of the estate, and the dogged efforts of preservationists to save the building.

Unfortunately, after the former owner, who retained the rights to salvage artifacts of the building, and the current owner gutted the building, demolition of the shell of La Ronda began today. The loss of this significant building serves as a reminder of the importance of finding alternatives to demolition before it’s too late.

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