The Fredonia: A Good Idea

The Fredonia: A Good Idea June 1, 2018

There is a little miracle in the city of Nacogdoches, Texas: the Fredonia Hotel. Built in 1955, the hotel had gone the way of downtown hotels in America: decay and closure. Evidently a family bought the place and sold shares to the community (shades of the Green Bay Packers) and reopened the place.

It is fabulous. 

Why?

The restoration embraced the vision of the original builders with modern touches. The lobby is lovely, the food, the pool, all spot on. This is 1955 better, integrated, with Internet. The hallways look like new versions of hallways I am just too young to have seen in good shape. All my life any fragment of this architecture was run down and about to be replaced.

Things are better today when it comes to HVAC and comfort and The Fredonia goes along, but things are worse (generally) when it comes to service. I am pleased to report that the staff was unfailingly 1955 polite with 2018 diversity: outstanding.

Since you may never get to Nacogdoches (sadly for you), why care?

The Fredonia reminded me of two simple truths.

Preserving older things has value. 

1950’s architecture is not, generally, the heights of human design. This is not the Parthenon. Yet the Fredonia was what it was and keeping that fresh is good. Why? Beauty is and it breaks through in many ways including the Star Trek chairs (the show was really a late 1960’s call back to 1955) and artistic use of beige. That is hard to do and the Fredonia shows it can be done.

When people rush to destroy and build anew, we love the architectural voices that dare to say that putting mirrors everywhere could be interesting. You can people watch at every angel in the Fredonia, windows, mirrors, and reflective surfaces make it so.

If we tear down all of 1955, then it is gone forever and the people of 1955 still have something to say. We could, after all, do worse than a bit of Dwight David Eisenhower just now.

Embrace what you are, don’t try to be something else. 

I once worked at a place with original buildings from the 1960’s. When not trying to destroy them, the general plan seemed to be to make them look like they were built in the 1890’s. This was an error.

Perhaps nobody dislikes the 1960’s space age aesthetic more than I do if I were building a new building today, but to try to put a different skin on a 1960’s building is an error. Embrace the design. Let it be what it was, with a few gentle tweaks.

As I thought about both these simple truths here in the Fredonia, I realized that this was decent life advice. I was young, now I am old: 1963 product. I must embrace who I am: almost 55. This is good. Nobody needs a 1963 human trying to be a 2018.

Yet we need not be stuck: I can learn. Lord have mercy for the sins of my youth. Lord help me to embrace the best of 2018 in this 1963 model human.

 


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