Does anyone care?

Posted: Thursday, February 06, 2003

This is a final plea to save the old Customs Office turned International Order of Odd Fellows Lodge and now known as the JAMHI Building.

The building is said to be lined with asbestos, thus making the cost of demolition very expensive - the Assembly brought up the figure of $423,000 to destroy it. The plan is to replace this with a parking lot.

Another old building to be torn down in the name of modernization, and who cares about old commercial buildings? Parking for legislative staff is more important, although at least two people have said people often rent stalls at the State Office Building parking garage but don't use them.

That aside, it is also true that a new roof, a new boiler, renovated windows, and a commercial fan for the kitchen have been installed. Currently the city plans to move the windows, boiler, and fan to the new JAMHI facility in the Valley. In actuality, as we all know, such things rarely are done without additional expense, usually resulting in costs as high or higher than just buying new ones.

It is said the building was on the market for 18 months, with no interest expressed in it. How heavily was it marketed? Was the city asking too much?

The new roof, boiler, and other improvements mean the building is basically in good shape, not the derelict ruin portrayed by those willing to spend an enormous amount of money to dispose of it.

There were two nostalgic letters to the editor in Sunday's paper. Two people at least felt the need to save a piece of the history of Juneau. Remember - when a historic building is destroyed, there is no bringing it back. Many cities have razed buildings to "improve" and "modernize" their town. Later they regret it, but it is too late. How much of Old Juneau is left? Is there pride in the appearance of the city other than counting new parking lots? Time is short, but it's not too late. The building could be nominated for the National Register, as some downtown buildings already are. Does anyone care?

Dee Longenbaugh


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