Historic and Design Review Commission, June 24, 2019

We had hoped the hotel project planned between St. Mary’s Catholic Church and the River Walk would be more sensitive to the existing historic resources.  Several new building projects along the River Walk have already altered or replaced original stone features designed by Robert H.H. Hugman.  This project, as approved by HDRC, looks to continue that destructive trend.

In addition, the project will demolish the 1967 church rectory.  The Society and the Office of Historic Preservation staff had recommended incorporating the existing building – even just the part with the roof terrace – into the new hotel.   Without this compromise, downtown loses a distinctive mid-century modern building.  St. Mary’s church gains a tenant, but loses a neighbor that defers to it in scale.

The rectory also playfully references the church’s Romanesque Revival ornamentation.  For example, a series of quatrefoil-shaped openings pierce the covering above the rectory terrace to allow more light to penetrate.   This four-lobed design often symbolizes the four evangelists in Christian art and can be found above the church’s main door.  The arched cut-outs  at the end of the rectory’s vertical panels echo the many arches on the 1920s church.  Aspects of the hotel design may capture some of the rhythm inherent in these panels, which mimic the spacing of the windows on the adjacent church tower, but the overall design lacks much soul.  Read our full statement.

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