Our View: Save original Lourdes building

March 7, 2019

Anyone who has taken a close look at the original portion of the former Lourdes High School building knows it has all the makings of a landmark.

The gothic arches, the ornate stonework — it resembles few other structures in this area.

As for the former Travelers Inn, which was also before the Historic Preservation Commission last week, well, let’s just say it’s not quite as interesting.

Both structures are up for review for potential landmark status.

There’s no doubt the original portion of Lourdes is worthy of such distinction.

Even Mayo Clinic, which now owns the building, agrees it’s of significant historic and architectural value, although there is some dispute about later additions to the school. Those structures, added in 1958 and the mid-1980s, don’t have the same style. It’s best to describe the additions as functional and leave it at that.

The Travelers Inn building, now also owned by Mayo, is apparently slated for demolition. Preservationists argue that people associated with the structures at the site make it worth preserving.

One portion is the former Reiter Apartments, built in 1920 by longtime mayor Julius Reiter, and the other is the former Beverly Hotel, built in 1931 by former circus performer Billy Friedell. Curiosities, and certainly interesting stories, but worth preserving a now-vacant building in a prime downtown location?

That’s a decision to be made by the Historic Preservation Commission, and ultimately Mayo Clinic. Rochester, compared to so many other cities in the Midwest, is still in the early stages of trying to develop a consistent pattern of preservation. The process is made all the more difficult by the pressure from Destination Medical Center-related ventures to move ahead as quickly as possible.

Perhaps most important at this point is the type of back-and-forth dialogue we saw regarding the Lourdes and Travelers Inn buildings.

It is, of course, disappointing that not everything deemed worthy of being saved will be saved. And so many noteworthy structures in Rochester have already been lost that preservationists perhaps find themselves clinging to what might be regarded as lesser structures just to be able to save something.

There are no easy answers to what should be saved and how it is to be preserved — except for this one: The original Lourdes building is a landmark that should ideally remain a vital part of our community for years to come.