Of all of the arguments for or against closing one Holly area school or another, this one reported in The Holly Express took me most by surprise. In the article Transportation savings tip board’s decision to close Sherman Middle School, Amy Mayhew reports on school board member Michael Newcomb’s opinion this way , “In the end, Newcomb said most were in favor of closing KRC rather than Sherman Middle School, citing that Sherman Middle School is newly remodeled, in close proximity to a major road, is more conducive to sports activities, and is a better looking school for presentation and district representation purposes as their reasoning.”
Better looking? It looks like a couple of big ugly brown boxes. The only thing interesting about the exterior of Sherman Middle School is the red portico recently added at the entrance.
Karl Richter on the other hand, has real style. It looks as though it was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian period, a style of architecture which was designed specifically for the rural Midwest.
Now, architectural appeal was never presented as a factor in Holly Area Schools’ housing study, and I don’t mean to imply that it should have been one. However, Mr. Newcomb brought it up, and I can’t help but be struck by the distaste many in our community have for some of our finest examples of modern-era architecture.
When I spied the first strokes of bright yellow paint being applied to 320 N. Saginaw, I went screaming into Council Chambers, imploring the village to stop the desecration of a fine example of mid-century modern commercial architecture. The council appeared amused at my concern, and reported that they had no restrictions concerning paint color on commercial buildings, and that 320 N. Saginaw was not part of the historic district, and so was not subject to any kind of architectural protection. I asked if it was possible to create an inventory of architecturally significant buildings in the community, and to protect them from destruction, but this also was regarded as an impossiblity. No one in the community responded to my concern for our mid-century architectural treasures, yet 320 N. Saginaw is now nearly universally accepted as an eyesore. To hear my beloved brick and steel building with its lovely ribbon windows derided as “Ketchup and Mustard” breaks my heart.
Holly is rich with architectural diversity. From Greek Revival farmhouses to Victorian Grande Dames to craftsman bungalows, to the mid-century gems only I seem to care for, we have a heritage that is worth preserving. It makes us unique from other communities that sprang up all at once as urban sprawl reached their borders.
Maybe folks think buildings like Karl Richter and 320 N. Saginaw are ugly because they are too familiar. They aren’t old enough to be valued for their age, and they aren’t new enough to be exciting. To tell the truth, I don’t fancy Victorian architecture, but I can appreciate the place it had in our history, and I wouldn’t want to see existing examples of it abandoned or remodeled in historically inappropriate ways. I hope one day all of Holly will respect our mid-century architecture in the same way.
Beauty is, as they say, in the eye of the beholder. But architectural history belongs to us all.