Throughout history, mankind has managed to construct endless impressive and beautiful buildings, monuments and statues. Unfortunately, despite these artistic and architectural accomplishments, such places are often destroyed. These structures are often the innocent victims of war or other upheaval, while sometimes natural causes spell the end of a few of these impressive places. Not to mention sheer ignorance can cause a building’s demise: before historic preservation movements took off, most people thought nothing of demolishing impressive buildings and structures. From the ancient world to the present time, here are just a few architectural marvels that have been lost to us forever.
The Colossus of Rhodes – Rhodes, Greece
One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, this tall stone statue built between 292 and 280 BCE was of the Greek titan Helios (the sun). Once standing nearly 100 feet high (incredible considering the artists didn’t have any modern equipment with which to erect the piece), it was built to guard the entrance to the harbour at Rhodes. It couldn’t be protected from mother nature, however: it was destroyed in an earthquake in 226 BCE, collapsing into hundreds of pieces. Luckily, some of its ruins can still be visited today.
Library of Alexandria (Alexandria, Egypt)
The Library of Alexandria is an important page of cultural and world history that was lost to humankind forever as a result of war and conquest. This ancient library once held up to a million scrolls, containing the works of hundreds of years of artists, intellectuals, philosophers and more from the ancient world. Needless to say, these works are impossible to ever recover, leaving a significant gap in human history. The library was often a target for attack throughout the years: it had been rebuilt a couple of times after several attacks on it by the Roman Empire. However, it was finally destroyed for good in the Muslim conquest of 642.
William Shakespeare’s Home (New Place) – Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
William Shakespeare’s home, called “New Place”, was built in 1483 and was also the location where the celebrated poet died in 1616. The home of the influential English author and poet was purchased in 1753. However, the new homeowner grew irritated with the constant flow of spectators to his home, which was naturally a very popular tourist site. Taking a drastic measure, he finally tore down the house in 1759, but this action attracted so much anger on the part of the townspeople that he eventually had to move away. Visitors today can still visit Shakespeare’s Birthplace, at a restored 16th century half-timbered house that is also located in Stratford-upon-Avon, England.
Garrick Theater – Chicago, Illinois
Once one of the tallest buildings in Chicago, this picturesque structure housed a 1,300-seat theater. It first opened in 1892 to house the German Theater. In the 1930s, it also was home to a television studio and movie theater. However, beginning in the 1930s, the theater saw a decline in attendance and finally was demolished to create a parking lot. The destruction of this theatre generated public outcry, which may have led to more awareness about historic preservation in Chicago. Part of the theater’s façade has been incorporated into The Second City’s theater in Chicago.
Pennsylvania Station in New York, NY
This historic railroad station, named after the Pennsylvania Railroad, was in the impressive early 20th century Beaux-Arts style, inspired by the Gare d’Orsay in Paris. Considered one of the original architectural masterpieces of New York City, it covered up to 8 acres of the city and took 9 years to construct, finally opening in 1910. However, as a result of the jet age and the American inner city highway system, the amount of railroad passengers declined rapidly in the middle of the century and the impressive old station was finally demolished in 1963.
Chicago Federal Building – Chicago, Illinois
The Federal Building, constructed in the early 20th century to house various courts and government offices, was styled in a Beaux-Arts style and its exterior was grey granite. Dedicated by President McKinley, it was occupied by 1905. The interior had a rotunda and décor inspired by Imperial Rome and the building’s rotunda was bigger than the Capital Building in Washington. However, it suffered from construction issues and was demolished in 1965 after complaints by occupants about poor planning and construction including broken plaster, plumbing and flooding issues. After an increase in the city’s population, the structure was also strained beyond capacity. Now, the tall Kluczynski Federal building is situated where the old building once stood.
Babri Mosque in India – Adodhya, India
This historic mosque was built in the 1500s by the order of Babur, a Mughal emperor of India. According to Hindu mythology, this location, in the city of Adodhya, was the birthplace of the God-king Rama. For centuries, both Muslims and Hindus used this site for religious purposes. However, it was destroyed in 1992 during a rally in an attempt to reclaim the land where it stood. The rally developed into a riot, and despite a commitment by the rally organizers that the mosque would not be harmed, more than 2,000 people were killed and the building itself was destroyed in the riots.
Pickfair – Beverly Hills, California
A 56-acre estate in Beverly Hills, California called Pickfair was once one of the most celebrated homes in the world. It was a gathering place for celebrities and other famous and glamorous individuals in the roaring ‘20s. An invitation to the estate was a sign of social acceptance in the Hollywood community. The guests and parties at the house were legendary: Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Albert Einstein, F. Scott Fitzgerald and the Roosevelts, among many other celebrities, politicians and other famous individuals of the time. The house was sold later in the 20th century, and in the 1990s it was demolished by its new owner, actress Pia Zadora, in order to construct a new mansion. The public criticized this decision and in 2012 Zadora said on the LMN television show “Celebrity Ghost Stories” that she destroyed the home because it was haunted by the laughing ghost of a woman who had reportedly died there.
Buddhas of Bamiyan – Afghanistan
Two 6th century statues of Buddha were once located on the side of a cliff in a valley in central Afghanistan. The large stone figures were carved directly in the sandstone cliffs, and the finer details of the figures were made from mud, straw and stucco. These ancient statues were of great historic significance, but the 1700-year-old statues met a tragic end in 2001. The Taliban decided to tear them down because they did not want to tolerate these pieces of non-Islamic imagery. They refused to allow the statues to be removed and transported elsewhere, instead opting to blow them up.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Auto Showroom – New York, NY
This automobile showroom on Park Avenue was one of three of the famous architect’s pieces of work in New York. It was characterized by his work with a spiral form, and was completed a few years before he famously worked on the Guggenheim, considered to be a masterpiece of architecture using a similar spiral style. The showroom was also one of the few retail spaces that Wright had designed. Once a showroom for imported cars, it was located in an important area for commercial development in the middle of the century in New York. It was gutted in the spring of 2013.
PanAm terminal in JFK Airport – New York, NY
Terminal 3, an iconic circular airport terminal reflecting the architecture of the jet age first opened at JFK in 1960. Its chic “flying saucer” shaped roof was to highlight the airline’s international jet travel. The roof was also designed so that aircraft could park under the overhang. The terminal also featured the Panorama Room, a dining space with a view of the entire concourse. After the end of PanAm in 1991, Delta Airlines acquired the lease for Terminal 3. When Delta decided to redevelop the terminal, at first preservation was planned for the space but then later the airline changed their tune, instead deciding to tear down the iconic space. The historic terminal stopped operating in May of 2013 and was demolished in 2013, despite efforts to save it.
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