By George Robertson
The decision to demolish the Jefferson Park Golf Clubhouse to make way for a low-budget two-story driving range should consider a lot more than money. If money was the only issue of import, there would be no Pike Place Market. The Jefferson Park Golf Clubhouse is made out of very attractive 80-year-old probably locally-made fired red brick, and its wood components are traditionally-built assemblies, with actual tree wood in solid profiles we used to call lumber and mill work. Such things are still made, but only the very rich can afford them. Why would we throw something so valuable away?
Just because some fool painted it and did a bunch of sloppy remodeling is no reason to throw it away. If we fix it and turn back the remodeling clock to 1936 in the process, we will have an architectural treasure: standing in the park largely made of the original materials which we could not hope to replace at any reasonable cost, looking wonderful, and reminding us that America was once a great nation populated with carpenters and masons who were skilled and principled craftsmen of a high order.
We will walk through it and remember that it was in those rooms that Americans of every race met and socialized and shared a love of golf more than they valued the segregation that separated them everywhere else. We will be reminded of the power of our American social contract to create the WPA, to restore the American economy, and lift Americans out of the ditch that greed and unregulated capitalism had thrown us into. And we will be reminded of the care that was taken to invest beauty and quality into our public investments in the commons. If you seriously think today’s Parks department is up to matching that in new construction in 2012, please send me some of whatever you are smoking.
Anything they build new and cheaper would be made out of glued-together wood flakes and cheesy cladding products made out of vinyl-skinned foamed plastic and sawdust cement slurry. The enclosure detailing would undoubtedly be the usual leaky hollow section, nail-on flange windows and pseudo-rainscreens we see being tented and repaired all over town. I see so much of that all over everywhere; do we have to go out of our way to wipe out all remaining vestiges of well-built buildings that remain? That clubhouse has stood there for barely 75 years—it is just getting warmed up! All it needs is a little respect and responsible maintenance, and it will outlast and outperform whatever they build new.
George Robertson is a Beacon Hill resident of more than twenty years, an architect, an artist, an occasional writer of often incendiary rants that annoy the neighbors, and a daily user of Jefferson Park.