Preservationists holding public panel on debated '50-year rule'by Madeleine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Architectural preservationists will meet in Minneapolis Tuesday night to raise awareness of a guideline they say threatens significant modernist buildings.
Under the guideline, nicknamed the "50-year rule," a building cannot be considered for the National Register of Historic Places until half a century after it was built.
The Register grants exceptions to buildings it considers "exceptionally important," but many preservationists say the guidelines need to change.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation's Christine French says that the rule leaves many modernist buildings unprotected. Those buildings range from the Abbey Church at St. John's University in Collegeville to the Cottage View Drive-in theater in Cottage Grove.
"All of these structures bring together a certain point of American history," French said. "And if we are not conscious of saving them, we are going to lose a big part of what it meant to be in America in the '50s and '60s and '70s."
French points to the old Guthrie Theater as an example of how federal guidelines impact historic buildings. The theater was built in 1963 and demolished in 2006, despite efforts by preservationists to save it.
Across the river, Mickey's Diner in downtown St. Paul was granted an exception and added to the National Register in 1983, when it was 46 years old.
"It might not have made it to this point if there hadn't been preservationists siding on its behalf," French said.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation will hold a panel discussion Tuesday night to educate the public about the fight to preserve modern buildings. The event starts at 6 p.m., and will be held at Christ Church Lutheran, at 3244 34th Ave. S. in Minneapolis. The church was recently placed on the National Register.
(MPR Reporter Euan Kerr contributed to this report.)