I am writing regarding the Works Progress Administration restroom in Central Park. I was deeply disappointed to hear that this historic building might be demolished in order to build a “history plaza.” It will have nothing to do with history, but instead provide more space for Farmers Market vendors.
In the new Central Park plan, there is plenty of space for vendor stalls, and retaining the WPA building does not infringe upon the Farmers Market’s ability to expand. A history plaza that also incorporates a historic building surely would be more appropriate.
The restroom in Central Park is the only surviving WPA building in Davis, and represents an important movement in the 1930s toward strengthening the economy through community improvement. The symbolic significance of the WPA building strongly complements the addition of a new ADA-compliant playground in Central Park, because the WPA restroom originally was built to allow women and children to enjoy the outdoors with dignity. The WPA restroom is a powerful reminder of the commitment shown by Davis residents toward underrepresented groups.
The best way to save a historic building is to put it to use. The Hattie Weber Museum of Davis has proposed that the building be converted into desperately needed storage space for the museum. Most museums display only a small fraction of their collections at any one time, and rotate artifacts on and off exhibit. This helps protect delicate objects from excessive exposure to light, dust or other detrimental factors, and results in exhibits that are more effective and varied.
The Hattie Weber Museum hopes to transfer some of its more durable, bulky objects to the historic WPA building. For the health of the collections and the interpretive ability of the museum, sufficient storage space is essential.
Davis residents value reuse and sustainability. Demolishing a usable historic building is wasteful and counterproductive. Our historic heritage is a non-renewable resource — once it’s gone, it’s gone.