Friday, October 31, 2008

Nominate an Endangered Place

John Eberson, architect. Walter Smalling, photographer. Tampa Theatre, Hillsborough County, Florida. n.d. Historic American Buildings Survey.

Since 1988, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has accepted nominations for "America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places," utilizing the designation to raise public awareness regarding threats to the nation's cultural heritage. Do you have a place that you would like to nominate? If so, contact the Southern regional office of the National Trust for a consultation about the appropriateness of your proposed nomination:

Southern Office

(Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, South Carolina, Virgin Islands)
456 King Street, 3rd Floor
Charleston, SC 29403
Tel: 843-722-8552

For more information about nomination criteria, click here. Nominations for the 2009 list are due by Friday, December 5, 2008.

The Tampa Theatre, shown above, was once endangered. Designed by Romanian-born theatre architect John Eberson prior to the Great Crash, the theatre opened to the public in 1926. Although it enjoyed decades of great popularity, by the 1960s the structure was under threat. In 1973, Tampa citizens rallied to save the landmark and subsidized a $2 million restoration. Today the theatre hosts over 600 events a year, including performances that showcase its historic Wurlitzer Organ. Last year for Halloween, legendary organist Rosa Rio performed her original score to accompany F. W. Murnau's German expressionist film Nosferatu (1922). She was carried to the stage in a coffin, and revealed to the audience her true age, 105. In a 2006 interview, Rosa conveyed, "I can't explain it. . . when I'm on stage [at the Tampa Theatre], I'm like a kid again." Sadly, this year she is not performing after over sixty years on the keyboards.

It is worth noting that Rosa played both the Strand and Saenger Theatres in New Orleans. She met a young Ginger Rogers while playing at the newly opened Saenger (1927), and when the Mississippi flooded its banks that same year, Rosa and others lifted up the theatre's organ to save it from the rising waters. She and her companions lived for two days in the Saenger and used its curtains for bedding. To read more, click here. The Southeastern Architectural Archive retains architect Emile Weil's drawings for the Saenger Theatre, 143 N. Rampart/1111 Canal Street, 1925-1927. The structure has been closed since Hurricane Katrina. Weil also designed the Pensacola, Florida Saenger Theatre, which opened in 1925 and has been undergoing renovations since this spring.

Rosa Rio Tampa Theatre Performance, 2005. Youtube. Viewed 31 October 2008.

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