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Last Dance at Parker's
Winner: Parker's Ballroom Demolition, Shoreline, WA
Ask heritage advocates for a Turkey nomination and the one that set off a collective groan was the demolition of Parker's Ballroom on Aurora Way in Shoreline. Music historian Peter Blecha says it was the area's last standing 1930s roadhouse. Opened in 1930, Parker's was a venue that served local needs from the Jazz Age through Punk Rock and beyond. Located in the 'burbs away from stricter city Blue Laws, Parker's was a major nightlife attraction from Prohibition era to the classic days of Northwest rock. Who played there? According to Historylink, the roster includes Guy Lombardo, Tommy Dorsey, Stevie Wonder, Jerry Lee Lewis, Paul Revere and the Raiders, B.B. King, Heart, Joan Jett, Warren Zevon, Ray Charles, Tina Turner, The Byrds, The Ventures, The Sonics, The Wailers, The Dynamics ... the list goes on. Concert venue, dance hall, roller rink, casino, supper club, Parker's survived decades in many incarnations and was a coming-of-age place for many of Puget Sound's youth as well as an incubator of Northwest music. After more than 80 years of service, it was flattened in November to make room for —what else? — a car lot. Citing other demolitions like the Music Hall, the Spanish Castle, and the Jolly Roger, Blecha says, "A young city like Seattle really ought to know better by now than to let yet another historic entertainment edifice fall to wrecking balls and bulldozers — but apparently not."
Sorrow in Sourdough Country
Winner: Disappearing frontier roadhouses, Alaska
Parker's isn't the only roadhouse to bite the dust. Historic roadhouses of another sort in Alaska are rapidly vanishing. These aren't dance halls, but old supply depots, trading posts, saloons, and shelters that could be reached in a day by dog sled in winter or by wagon in summer in Alaska's pre-statehood era. In Alaska's early days roadhouses formed a lifeline for trappers, prospectors and travelers along remote trails, roads and, later, highways. Many of these have gone to ruin with time, some have been saved and turned into lodges or restaurants. This year saw the destruction of two important historic roadhouses, both by fire. In April, the Forks Roadhouse near Peterville burned. Established during the Gold Rush and rebuilt, this 1930s roadhouse was said to be the oldest in Alaska still used for its original purpose as a supply depot. And in May, fire destroyed the Copper Center Lodge outside of Anchorage. The National Historic Register structure was originally built for goldminers in the Copper River Valley in 1896, and was rebuilt in the late 1920s. In more recent times, it has housed pipeline workers, tourists, National Park Service employees and served as a community gathering place. One victim of the fire: the lodge's famous 150-year-old sourdough pancake starter. Concern over the vulnerability of the frontier roadhouses is enough that the Alaska Association for Historic Preservation put them on its most-endangered list for 2012.
Winner: Jantzen Beach Carousel closure, Portland, OR
Since the late 1920s, the historic Jantzen Beach carousel had been turning, delighting generations of Portlanders first in an amusement park, later in the center of a mall that replaced the park. The restored 72-horse merry-go-round was, until 2008, on the National Register of Historic Places, but was de-listed in anticipation of a move. This year, facing a $50 million mall makeover in an area that will also be greatly impacted by the Columbia River Crossing project, the carousel has been dismantled, put in storage, and is now listed only on the Historic Preservation League of Oregon's "most endangered list" for the year. The concern: its future is unclear. The building that housed it has been demolished and plans to re-incorporate the carousel into the new mall are vague. Local heritage advocates are worried that it will be lost in the re-development shuffle and want assurances that it will be kept in Jantzen Beach.
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