Renewal through demolition opened up the opportunity to impose a new order on Peekskill, a view that presents itself the moment one steps outside the Peekskill Museum.
The 1878 building that houses the museum—all gables and turrets and yellow- and green-shingled millwork—sits upon a hill. In its immediate background is a late- midcentury brick high-rise, rectilinear in form with small symmetrical windows and punched- out, boxy balconies. The scene recalls theorist Fredric Jameson’s Postmodernism, in which he writes about the construction of the Wells Fargo Tower in Los Angeles’ historic Bunker Hill neighborhood, observing that Modernism effectuated a “waning of historicity” and “depthlessness” of place.
The view makes manifest how far removed Peekskill is from its urban renewal–era recovery, and how far it still has to go.
In addition to an increase in property crime, vandalism, and a rash of fires—documented in detail by former city historian John Curran in Old Peekskill’s Destruction in the 1960s and 1970s, By Urban Renewal, Fires, Riots and the Parking Authority —the city’s tax coffers rang hollow as its economic base imploded and government-owned and/or -run properties increasingly replaced the private sector.
Today, though, emerging from its conflicted memories as a historic and “renewed” place, Peekskill can be seen as a city of juxtapositions now aiming to incorporate all of itself into a new identity.
Read more in ARCHITECT Magazine about how Peekskill’s “particular sense of place” is being reclaimed as it “reframes the woes that wrought its renewal.”