So said Kinky Friedman.
And since I am the beer holder this evening, let’s talk about a real beauty, 13 Cataract Street.
This wonderful old and sadly neglected building is 13 Cataract Street, here in our city. The folks who own it plan to tear it down. A bunch of us, the “historical fanatics” as we’re known to some of our neighbors, want to see it stay with us. It is, after all, older than our grandparents – over 110 years old – and it would be a true folly to lose this wonderful trace of our fast receding past. Who wants to tear down their grandparents?
Originally, in the 1880s, 13 Cataract Street was without the giant metal carbuncle which now obscures its southwestern face. In a city plat from 1918, the building’s footprint looked like this:
Our subject is underneath the W and the A in ATWATER, and was then a part of the Standard Brewing Co. campus. As you can see, in those days there was a kind of courtyard to the south, facing the river, and no carbuncle.
In a 1935 plat, we can see that 13 Cataract Street has been joined by another building, to the east. By then additions had been made to include an enclosed platform for loading and unloading from the adjacent railroad tracks. Like this:
Standard Brewing had become Cataract Brewing. The new building to the east of 13 Cataract Street, also a landmark here and also slated for demolition, is narrow and very deep, running from Cataract almost 200 feet south to the railroad.
So to begin to get at the beauty of Cataract Street, we need to get rid of all the crappy additions, and get back to the original fabric of the historic structure. All the stuff in the foreground, including the giant box at the left in this view, can go.
And voila! 13 Cataract Street would have terrific views of the High Falls and the river, and would be a shining beacon at the eastern edge of the pedestrian bridge, the Pont de Rennes, which spans the river and offers incredible views of the Falls and all of the surrounding city.
Then we could go back and create a wonderful esplanade along the eastern banks of the river, from the city’s park to the south of 13 all along the river,
terminating in a great public plaza at the foot of the bridge. Here the historic structure that is planned to remain, and 13 Cataract, could frame a new gem of a space in the city’s public realm. Here:
Perhaps you can get a better sense of the possibilities by taking a look at this aerial image from the late 40s or early 50s:
In those days, the bridge still carried vehicles. The fulcrum of space between 13 Cataract and its neighbor to the north is located at the right middle of the image, near the bottom.
Maybe it is easier to see the pivotal location of a restored 13 Cataract Street in this 1982 aerial:
And oh, the beauty we can now beer-hold! 13 Cataract Street and its neighbors can now take their place in a larger vision for High Falls that includes the work already completed on the other side of the river, the soon to be redeveloped RG&E Beebee Station, the GardenAerial on the bridge, the trails looping the falls, the city park, the reused Gorsline Building, and all the other terrific and valuable things going on in this part of our city.
In the last few weeks, we have been talking here about precious historic resources, the possibilities that a great old building represents, the very real value this building can embody for its owners and for the city, and the role that this place can play in enhancing our public realm. There are so many good reasons to save 13 Cataract.