Charlotte must not lose the historic façade of the 1925 Coddington Building, more recently known as the Polk Building. There are two reasons: First, Charlotte cannot afford to lose one of its few remaining historic buildings. In 1929, Uptown Charlotte boasted a hundred or more structures. Now, except for four churches and three government buildings, only seven significant pre-Depression buildings are still standing. Those are the Dunhill Hotel, Ivey’s Building, 112 South Tryon, Johnston Building, Realtors Building, N.C. Medical College and the Coddington-Polk Building.
Second, the state of the art in historic preservation is to preserve the fine old structure in the manner now common in other major cities – by saving the façade, even when a towering building is constructed behind the preserved historic face of the old building.
There are examples of meritorious façade preservation on modern buildings in Charlotte, including the nearby Coke building, shown at the bottom of this column.
Façade preservation allows modernizing development to occur, while not destroying the art and history of the city’s past. A setback of the tall portion of the hybrid old-new building preserves human scale and the street-level feel of an old city. Following many examples from other cities, Charlotte can no longer delay in demanding the same approach to save important buildings. The Coddington Building’s façade must be preserved forever, even if the interior of the building is not preserved in its current form.
Examples abound of facades that were preserved in other cities that could have been lost forever. Instead creative architectural design has made possible the coexistence of these important old buildings with the new buildings. We can – and must – do the same in Charlotte. It is today’s generation’s responsibility, almost 100 years after the Coddington Building opened, not to allow this landmark to disappear.
Charlotte lawyer David Erdman is a former member of Charlotte City Council and the Historic Landmarks Commission.