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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

French Village Drive-In, 1942-2005

A reader e-mailed me today to let me know that the French Village Drive-In is being demolished. I drove out to the drive-in this evening and saw that this is indeed happening. The siding on the ticket house has been removed, and the screen wall dismantled, but the rest of the structures remain...for now. In one week, most of it will be gone.

I had no idea the demolition was imminent -- the church that is tearing it down has threatened to tear it down before with no action. The loss is sad. This is one of the few structures designed to accommodate automobiles that I advocated preserving.

2 comments:

Rick Bonasch said...

Michael-

Advocate for preserving? How would that work?

Drive-ins have been closed across the country as the property owners have converted the land to higher income generating uses.

I remember the drive-in where I grew up. It was located at the intersection of two interstate highways. It was owned by a wealthy real estate savvy family.

The drive-in operated for about 20 years, but then eventually closed.

Now its a multi-tenant, mixed use development, generating many more jobs than a drive-in, more tax revenue than a drive-in, more income to many, and more profits to the owner of the old drive-in.

That's a story that has been repeated at many old drive-ins.

So how would a drive-in be preserved in the face of so much pent-up economic opportunity?

RB

Michael Allen said...

The French Village Drive-In stands surrounded by a cornfield, and could easily be preserved without robbing the church of a new site on which to build. Of course, an effort could have been made to convince the church of the architectural interest of the drive-in and aid could have been offered for some preservation.

Had the development been mixed use, saving the drive-in in some form would have been easier. It could have become part of the development, with the screen wall perhaps being dismantled and replicated as the side wall of a new structure or left as a sculptural relic.

Saving the marquee is very easy and would work with almost any new development. I'm not sure what the Church of the Living God wants to do with it -- I'm going to talk with them about it this week.

The church obviously has no interest (and likely no surplus money) in integrating the drive-in structures in its design -- such a move might even make the church seem less than serious about its mission, too. Of course, other land could have been arranged for them. This is an unfortunate effect of sprawl without design and zoning planning that is overtaking parts of the east side.