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Friday, August 28, 2009

Tallman House A Problem for Short Order Council

I don’t agree with the Gazette’s title Council gets behind Tallman House for the article on the recent Janesville city council discussion session on the Tallman House.

From my perspective, I see at least three of the seven council members have a long way to go before they will support the kind of capital investment this type of building requires in order to re-establish itself to the premier level it deserves. Two others are sitting on the fence thus leaving only two council members who appear to understand the dynamics that are at play. Because the future of the Tallman House remains in the hands of the city council is enough evidence to believe that we are probably going to lose it.
JG Excerpt:
Several members…advocated for an immediate plan to repair the roof, but the council also agreed a business plan for the house is a necessary tool going forward.
To give you an idea, they're talking repairs when restoration is needed.

I think asking for a business plan is a completely unreasonable demand to include at this juncture. Remember, this is the same city council that could not even write a break even rental contract when some of the wealthiest local businessmen requested primary control of one of the city’s most utilitarian buildings – the Ice Arena. And they expect the local historical society to develop a business plan now for the Tallman House before they consider repairing it? Get real.

For one thing, and this is extremely important, a structure like the Tallman House should be on a special “protected list” of the city’s most important historical, architectural, natural and culturally significant structures. But we don't have such a list. Places like the Tallman House, the Jackson St. Bridge, the Monterey Rock, the entrance gates and Devils Staircase at Riverside Park and even the “new” antique clock are just a few Janesville treasures that readily come to mind that should be protected. This of course removes any debate about whether an irreplaceable symbol such as the Tallman House should fall just because of a blip in the economy or a few council members don’t see it turning a profit. It should not be their call.

For starters, my idea or suggestion here is to first order the city administration to physically take inventory and photo images of all of Janesville’s significant sites and features. They probably have most of these documents already in stock. Then form a committee to mull through the information to develop our own “protected status” designation for our natural and historic landmarks and symbols.

National and state historic registers are great, but they don't have the proper protections in place. We could give A-B-C labels to designate the various important relationships and significance the site has to Janesville. For example, Rotary Gardens might be rated "B" now, but 40 years from now it could move up to "A." These designations would then direct what level of priority and capital liability the city must be willing to become responsible for. Once they're classified "A," the city should cut no corners to maintain the structure's existence. Of course this new system would take the financial decision on maintenance of the city's treasures away from the city council, as it should.

You might disagree, but I think the Tallman House has irreplaceable intrinsic value. It’s art, it’s iconic. It’s not practical or utilitarian. Probably never will be. But it is Janesville and Janesville only. It's a class "A" symbol. It's Janesville’s Picasso. We shouldn't let a few short-sighted individuals destroy the historic fabric of the city. Do it now before it’s lost forever.

The button for the Tallman House at the Janesville City Web Site links to the Rock County Historical Society which displays a picture of the RCHS headquarters (not the Tallman house) and carries only a small block of text referencing Tallman.

Did You Know? That twenty percent of all Wisconsin's buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places can be found in Janesville. Why isn't that marketed more? Is it because we don't care?


Anonymous said...

You crazy people come up with the wildest schemes to tax us out of our homes. When we're all gone you can eat the Tallman home for lunch.

Anonymous said...

"You crazy people come up with the wildest schemes to tax us out of our homes. When we're all gone you can eat the Tallman home for lunch."

Yeah like ya know not putting city money into a private venture like an ice rink that will lose money for the city and instead fixing a historic Janesville structure. You stupid liberals and your crazy plans!

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