Save Our Saucer

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When does an old building become historic?

As a general rule, architectural experts don’t consider a structure historic until it’s 50 years old, which means buildings from 1963 are just now starting to qualify.

For fans of the Hyattsville public library, that’s not soon enough. As the county debates how to replace the local branch — built in 1964 — some are hoping to save its iconic “flying saucer” entryway:

Ginny May of University Park has frequented the library since it opened in 1964 and described the saucer as “the neighborhood mascot.”

“At first, the people in this area would laugh about it. It caused a lot of giggles,” May said. “But over the years, it became like a warm, fuzzy teddy bear and it was our local landmark. It really stands out when you drive down Adelphi Road and I would hate to see it gone.”

To be honest, the rest of the building is not worth saving. It’s unfortunately a bit too representative of the era in which it was built, brown-brick boring on the outside, as dark as a steakhouse on the inside and a nightmare of stairs for the disabled.

But the saucer fans are right.

It wouldn’t take much to keep the free-standing structure and incorporate it into a new site design. It appears to support its own weight and is attached to the building by just one small and easily removable pole, plus it’s close enough to the property’s edge that it doesn’t preclude many design options for a new building — or a massive gutting of the existing building.

Saving the saucer drew scores of public comments so far, a lot of emails on the Hope in Hyattsville listserv and even a Facebook page which already has 286 fans.

If you want to keep Hyattsville funky, take a moment to send your own comment to the county or like the Facebook page for Save Our Saucer.

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5 Responses to Save Our Saucer

  1. David says:

    I love the idea of saving the saucer, but it would be cool if it could be turned into a mobile sculpture so it could zoom around in front of the new library building. Would not be that technically difficult to design and execute.

  2. Pingback: That Awkward Canopy |

  3. Kitty says:

    The library building design is actually not a nightmare but a very clean one that still looks modern and usable. The reliance on stairs was probably driven by cost considerations, but the lower level is handicapped accessible. With the addition of an elevator, the building could be made fully accessible. It represents a handsome example of mid century modern architecture that has aged very well. The flying saucer entry shelter is a nod to LeCorbusier and very functional, providing shelter from rain and hot summer sun, a safe place to leave bicyles and a dog on a leash while renewing a book. A shame to lose a handsome example of modern architecture, when the chances of getting a new building of equal architectural character is a crapshoot. Do a massive renovation to clean it up, wire it for a lot more computers and wi-fi and add an elevator or two for better accessibility. Plus design the roof to hold a lot of solar panels on that flat sun-baked roof to make it a truly green building and power all the computers, elevators, and HVAC system. While you are at it, plant a bunch of shade trees to replace the ones callously cut down without public input, for some passive cooling in the parking lot.

  4. Ben Schumin says:

    The “Flying Saucer” entry canopy definitely seems worth preserving, though I believe that its time as an entrance canopy is close to ending, as it would look very much out of place in a similar role for a new building. I think it would do quite well as a freestanding structure on the grounds of a new facility, repurposed as public art rather than serving any functional purpose. Let’s admit it – that thing is pretty cool looking.

  5. John Essex says:

    The interior is hardly a nightmare for the disabled; other than the main staircase, there are no steps. And there is a public elevator that can be used. The brick is a beautiful pink color, not brown. I’m not a huge fan of the design, but having gone there my whole life, I am at least used to it. It could be worse.

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