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Monday, April 28, 2008

While Cleveland waits, the Coast Guard Station crumbles

Posted By on Mon, Apr 28, 2008 at 5:22 AM

All this warmed-up weather has Clevelanders venturing out of their winter long hibernations. It’s not a pretty sight. No amount of insta-tan can hide skin so pale it makes Andy Rooney look like Celia Cruz. It also means we have to look, once again, at the U.S. Coast Guard Station on Whiskey Island. It’s a building we just can’t seem to fix, even though it’s a historic landmark designed by J. Milton Dyer, architect of City Hall… Built in 1940, it functioned as a base for 36 years before being ditched to sit alone on the outer-most western point where the Cuyahoga meets Erie. Its only revival was a brief, misguided venture as a nightclub in the mid-eighties. The failure led to the station being bought by the city, which promptly let it sit like a derelict for around twenty years, the smooth, white walls acting as a practice canvass for graffiti artists. Now the place is falling into the water. The roof caved in long ago and whoever boarded-up the windows didn’t know how to use a hammer. The station makes a good set for a b-level horror flick. But behind the trash is the embodiment of art-deco style. It’s an architectural gem and one of the final buildings Dyer designed. Getting it back to its glory days poses a challenge. While there was much hope last summer for its resurgence, passion for the restoration dipped off once it got chilly. Seems like the only thing the city does is gaze at it. Ken Silliman, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, admits there’s still no time table for repairs. “It is not an easy solution,” he says. “It’s out there. Access to the structure is difficult. But we own the building and have a responsibility to prevent further deterioration.” As a beaver crawls from the main entrance of the station, it makes one wonder how much more deterioration can occur. Costs for repairs would run close to $9 million on the high end. And the city doesn’t place much emphasis on the merits of aesthetic beauty. But Silliman seems to believe there’s hope for the station before Erie swallows it whole. He’s a fan of the art deco motif and says it could be an asset to the community. “It’s a significant structure,” he says. “We just need to find the right use.” Until then, the once proud building will remain a beaver hut. – Bradley Campbell
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