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Is the Firestone Building worth saving?
In 1934 The Firestone Company opened a service station on the corner of Fulton and Stanislaus. The style of the building is Streamline Moderne. Everyone has seen examples of the style, generally these buildings look like Art Deco buildings with less frills.
The style emerged in the middle of the Great Depression. It seems obvious architects of the day had smaller budgets than they would have had just 5 years earlier. The days of stylistic star bursts and decorative towers were gone. The new designs retained some of the Art Deco style with rounded corners and clean lines, but left out the embellishments.
Art Deco image courtesy of Wikipedia
The Firestone building remains at 1502 Fulton, evidence of the more than 70 years of use is apparent. The City of Fresno recently declined to add the building to the local Historic Registry. In their defense, they hired consultants to formally examine the property to determine if the building should be added to the registry. The consultants seem to suggest that the building just isn't special and therefore it shouldn't be on the list. The report from the City Council can be read here.
Streamline Moderne image courtesy of Wikipedia
I disagree with that position, I am not an architect however I think the building is a good example of Streamline Moderne. The fact that the building is austere and relatively plain hints to what was happening around the country at the time.
The lack of extra frills reminds us of the people who lived through the Great Depression. The throngs of people who left the mid-west to come to California. I would venture to say that majority of people who have lived in Fresno for more than 20 years, are in Fresno in part because one of their parents or grandparents came to this area during the Great Depression.
The fact a new building was built at all that year in Downtown Fresno is a testament to the American Spirit and resilience. People suffered during those times. The Great Depression left an indelible impression on the lives of everyone who lived through it. Survivors of the Great Depression adopted frugal practices and saved at a much higher rate than people do today. With each passing day we are losing survivors, soon we will not have anyone that can tell us what it was like living through a time in history that shaped this country and helped make it what it is today. The consultants cited the Tower Theater as a better example of Streamline Moderne, however that building was built in 1939, which is 6 years after most economist believe recovery began and it is evident in architect Charles Lee's use of marble and the prominent decorative tower. I think the Firestone Building is part of our history and it should be restored and saved.
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