Gabe’s Tower – What Next?

In December of 2014, I wrote a proposal paper for a writing class about Gabe’s Tower. This month,  the owners have failed to meet a city deadline for refurbishment planning and the city has moved to condemn the property. Is there an opportunity, on the verge of being torn down?

Owensboro’s Gabe’s Tower: Use it or Lose it  

December 6, 2014

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Problem

Our family has moved around the Midwest several times in the last 15 years. Most recently, we moved from a small rural town in Kentucky to the city of Owensboro, KY in 2008. We bought a house in town, not far from a tall, steel and glass cylindrical building named Gabe’s tower. We didn’t know it had a name at first. We had given it a sinister name of our own when referring to it amongst ourselves. I was talking to a friend at work about it one day and she told me it had a name and that not too many years ago it was a hotel and then an apartment building, before it was closed and fell into disrepair. Most people who have lived in and around Owensboro remember when it was open for business. For those residents, it is a familiar, sentimental landmark and one that may be overlooked as the building continues to deteriorate. As newcomers to the neighborhood, we noticed it often as we drove, walked, rode the bus or pedaled a bicycle by the building.  My husband wondered why someone hadn’t torn it down already. Our oldest son wanted to buy it and turn it into a laser tag wonderland. Our other kids and I used it as a point of reference for directions, when telling friends and family how to get to our new house. Months stretched into a few years as the building continued to languish, unused and unattended. Once in a while a new board went up over a window or doorway. Weeds grew up through the concrete in the parking lot. Paint peeled and soffits fell. A few miles from this old “sentimental landmark”, the Owensboro riverfront was getting a complete makeover. Gabe’s Tower was now in the crosshairs.

Unattended property can become a problem very quickly in the middle of a city. My husband has a fear of rats because of a very large rat that showed up in the garage at his childhood home one day. The neighbors had demolished the backroom of their house that had been destroyed by a fire and the debris was left unattended for many months. So, vermin is one problem. Vandalism is another problem. Gabe’s Tower is considered an historical building and property owners naturally don’t want anyone breaking windows or tearing up interior rooms that are still in good repair. I saw an article online one day that contained photos of some of the tower’s interior rooms. There is one floor dedicated to a bar and lounge that still looks very nice, with polished natural wood walls and furnishings. The owners invested a lot of money into the purchase of the building and have had to answer to the city for their refurbishing plans. “Owners of historic property have a responsibility to conduct original research, a never-ending task, as clues continue to be found that add pieces to the puzzle of the past.” (Marian Page, 9)

The neighborhood immediately adjacent to the property will be the one most impacted by any plans for the building. The city at large could stand to benefit greatly if the plans are creative and profitable. “The fact that we still have to share places, whether we notice them or not, makes them more valuable and rare.  In an age of burgeoning electronic fantasies, places continue to be stubbornly irreducible and real…any place here, fenced or paved or public or private, cannot avoid being part of the land of the free; it has to try to live up to the name, however badly it might fail.” (Block, 158) It’s hard to tell between the city and the investors, but someone is failing here. The most recent inspection has yet to be released to the public or even the city. The owners are said to be “digesting” the findings. Without knowing those details, any proposal would be making assumptions about the building, but there have been very few details shared with the public in the last few years about why there is so much foot-dragging regarding the fate of the building. Is there a creative deficit or dollar deficit? I imagine it is a combination of both. There are a lot of factors to consider as the community watches and waits. Are there any viable ideas on the table at this time that would serve the whole community?

Proposal

There are many exciting, creative things that go on in this country as people attempt to reuse castaway material from an over-industrialized nation. Things can get even more exciting when those pursuing creative endeavors like these seek to help others and improve the communities in which they reside. In the spirit of those creators and innovators, I propose that the owners of Gabe’s Tower and the city of Owensboro consider something more than just reverting back to a hotel or apartment building. I got an idea one day after seeing a photo online of a cylindrical building in an Asian country with a giant sculpture of a serpent wrapped around the building. I thought instantly of the potential for an artistic solution to the building.

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I am suggesting that Gabe’s Tower be refurbished as a city museum with architectural salvage/eco-friendly/community project theme. When our family lived in St. Louis for a few years, we visited the then brand new St. Louis City Museum. The museum is housed in an old warehouse in a run-down area of the city. It was still pretty sparsely furnished with a floor or two still under construction. The museum was in the process of collecting architectural salvage from the city, pieces of Americana and ideas for eccentric exhibits. I loved the work-in-progress feel. This museum has grown and changed and is now a very popular tourist attraction. (“About”)

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This type of project would be excellent for the area of the city where Gabe’s Tower is located. It would be a benefit to the neighborhood similar to another example of this kind of project in a neighborhood that our family once visited in Nashville. Near a charter school with an arts emphasis, the residents of the diverse Nashville neighborhood have gone with the flow of the art theme. During a festival at the school, we had a chance to tour the streets nearby which featured brightly painted homes and yard sculpture.

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I remember a similar spirit that revitalized an area of Chicago when I was a child. My family and I attended street art shows and garden tours there every year. This kind of neighborhood solidarity around creative living and ownership of one’s environment is the essence of culture. It could be a unifying project. “Everyone must live somewhere. However, when a family owns its home, there is a conspicuous increase in overall self-esteem of its members and general family well-being.” (Phillips) 

Justification

As a creative person with many ideas, I personally see no drawbacks or problems with this proposal. However, the owner may have problems with this proposal. Seeing the profitability may be a challenge. There would need to be energetic research and a passion for the idea. A lot of money has already been put into the purchase and I’m sure investors want a sturdy idea for the property that would show a promising return. “The restoration of damaged or neglected detail is well within the capabilities of most home crafts persons; the basic ingredients are sensitivity, time and patience.” (Poore,8) Time is running out, however. Returning the building to a working hotel has been an idea I have heard more than once. Restoring the building to apartments to provide affordable housing in this area of town has been another idea that might be pursued in opposition to a museum. Also, the building may be beyond repair, or very costly to repair. I am not aware of its problems. Neighbors also may not welcome a lot of fuss in their neighborhood from a tourist attraction. However, I believe that with the direction that Owensboro has been heading with the revitalized riverfront, now is the perfect time to propose such a solution for Gabe’s Tower. The process would involve the community similar to the planning and building of the recently completed skate park, coincidentally not far from Gabe’s Tower. The whole region could be involved and interested in a project that would welcome their creativity. College art departments and local schools could get involved. Phoenix Commotion of Huntsville, TX has perfected the art of community in collaboration to building with apprenticed labor and salvaged materials. (Bates) Gabe’s Tower could make a great tourist attraction and field trip location. Funding could be sought through art grants, environmental grants or historical landmark funds. Investors, admission fees and other creative avenues could be pursued for a project like this one. (“NEA Awards”) I am excited about this proposal now and find the thought of turning the building back into a hotel very boring.

However, any creative plans for the building are always going to be subject to the reality of the condition of the property. On October 28th of this year, an environmental consultant company inspected the building for asbestos. It was the second inspection of its kind and encouraging to those wanting some movement toward a solution. The city is getting anxious. Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer newspaper reporter Stephen Vied writes “Gabe’s Tower is currently surrounded by a chain-link fence that was installed a year ago, when interior demolition began, only to be suspended after a few days. A recent check of the property shows grass and weeds growing tall inside the fenced-in area, with the exterior of the building looking increasingly tattered. Many missing windows have been boarded over, and many windows are open, exposing the interior to the elements.

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The unkempt appearance of the building prompted the city to assess a series of property maintenance code violations against it last year for a wide range of problems.” (Vied)

So, will code violations accelerate a decision on the fate of the building just to be making a decision? If so, a whimsically creative, unconventionally economical, eco-friendly idea may have a difficult time getting a hearing with investors who are pressed for time and good PR. An idea like mine may appear to lack seriousness. Premature promotion without having even a cursory understanding of the problems with the building and the interests of the city would probably be dismissed. “Building with salvage and alternative materials puts you on the fringe of standard strategy, and one cannot expect an inspector, or a city engineer, to immediately process everything you have thought out well in advance.” (Phillips) This idea would have be brought to and through several people. An email to the mayor isn’t going to be effective.

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Conclusion

In conclusion, the fate of Gabe’s Tower has been on the drawing board for a long time. Promises have been made but progress is slow. Rather than merely attempt to restore the structure, I am proposing a creative solution that bridges the old with the new and involves the whole community in the process.

Works Cited

“About.” City Museum: Saving the City by Any Means Necessary. St. Louis, Missouri. 4 July 2011. citymuseum.org. Web. 25 November 2014.  http://citymuseum.org/site/?p=89

Bates, Don R., et al. Resurrecting Trash: Dan Phillips and the Phoenix Commotion. Texas: Texas Review Press. 2013. Print.

Block, Ira. Saving America’s Treasures. Washington D.C.: National Geographic. 2001. Print

“NEA Awards Grants to 4 Kentucky Projects.” The Associated Press, AP Regional State Report. Kentucky. 20 July 2014. Regional Business News. 25 November 2014.

Page, Marian. Historic Houses Restored and Preserved.New York: Watson-Guptill Publications. 1976. Print

Phillips, Dan. “Information.” Huntsville, TX. 2010. Phoenixcommotion.com. Web. 6 December 2014. http://www.phoenixcommotion.com/

Poore, Patricia. The Old-House Journal. New York, NY: Dutton. 1992. Print

Vied, Steve. “Tower Tested for Asbestos.” Messenger-Inquirer. Owensboro, Kentucky. 6 November 2014. Database: Newspaper Source. 25 November 2014.

God on Our Side or We on God’s Side

The use of the bible to defend one’s views is used prolifically among those seeking to hold or retain power. It is by no means confined to modern conservatives or civil war era slave owners. As I’m sure you know, the use of the bible to fight for the ABOLITION of the slave trade was even more vocal and ultimately succeeded. The two current front-runners for president were falling all over themselves not a month ago in competition over who was the most religious. A headline just today was cheerleading the Clinton’s charitable giving over Trump’s, complete with bible verses. Not a day goes by where I don’t see a liberal scolding a conservative, quoting Leviticus this or Genesis that or loving one’s neighbor or judge not lest ye be judged. Always the same predictable passages. It is so pervasive and ridiculous, the nuances of current day discourse will probably be lost on future generations, making it difficult to tell Christians apart on either side of the political aisle. 150 years from now, when the world realizes our generation criminally obliterated millions in the womb, I can just imagine the conversations blaming ALL Christians for the words of the few that got the most media coverage:

“I refer you to the following Google searched quotes for more information on the misuse of scripture by “Christians” in the 21st century to support their backward and atrocious views:

‘Jesus Would be Pro-Choice’
‘Jesus Was a Socialist’
‘Jesus Preached Communism’
‘Jesus Was a Palestinian’
‘Jesus and His Disciples Were Gay’
‘President Prays for and Blesses Abortion Trade Giant, Planned Parenthood’
‘Presidential Candidate Says He Would Make Great Deals With God’
‘Presidential Candidate Says Unborn Have No Right to Life’
‘Legislator States God Loves Gay Marriage’
‘God Hates Fags’
‘Not God Bless America…D*amn America!’
‘God Wants Me to Live Happy and True to My Self’

I could go on, but you should get the gist by now. Just because someone claims the bible supports their views doesn’t mean the bible supports their views. And it is obvious even from a cursory view of history that there are Christians or those claiming to be Christians of every stripe and philosophy. Jesus pointed that out himself. The wheat and the tares will grow up side by side. The sheep and the goats will grow up together. God knows the difference.

It *is* human nature to have a problem with what the bible actually says and there is zero support in scripture for same-sex coupling, killing the unborn’s body in deference to the mother’s body, or believing God is a respecter of a person’s status, whether racial, gender, occupational, political etc.

What exactly are we talking about when we say “liberal” and “conservative”? What were the defining characteristics of these labels prior to the 1980’s? What are the defining characteristics today? The South during the reign of the Confederacy did away with partisan politics to unify against the North, which was a plethora of partisan politics that nonetheless unified against the South. Are you saying that the entire North was liberal and the entire south conservative, as defined by current definitions? That would definitely be incorrect and revisionist. There are no clean lines like that.

My point in my earlier post is that there are Christians, real true Christians, saved by Christ and part of the church invisible in all political camps, of all earthly philosophies. Simplified for our current day purposes and this conversation, LIberalism is a political philosophy that emphasizes individual submission to government created and imposed “values”, whereas Conservativism emphasizes individual liberty and government protection of those liberties. There are Christians on both sides of this issue. In a largely Christian culture, whether by profession or common experience, a person seeking power will appeal to the culture using biblical references, whether chapter and verse or “Golden Rule” type language, because that is the way we communicate and understand the world. Scripture verses will be used to support whatever philosophy one espouses.

From the point of view of the church, Jesus’ main goal for us is to preach the gospel to everyone. This gospel is at home everywhere, because it will always achieve its singular goal for individuals in any culture and under any ideology: That Jesus is good news to all people everywhere, that if we confess with our mouth, Jesus is Lord, and trust Him, believing He lived, died, was buried and rose again, we will be saved from sin and be adopted as heirs with Christ. I’ve had a number of same sex couples live next door or in the neighborhood and had numerous gay or lesbian friends, coworkers or fellow students at school. I’ve shared the gospel with them. I’m almost 50 yo, so this is not a foreign concept or one that has suddenly become part of my life in the last 2 years because liberals have decided to make me aware that they exist. Perhaps white liberals never noticed until 2 years ago and now suddenly feel guilty and have to shove it down everyone else’s throat. I don’t know. I’ve always gotten along just fine with my neighbors without their help. Do some people do this wrong? Of course, but getting it wrong is also human nature and non-partisan.

Blogtober and Halfway Through Another Semester of School

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I have been so happy and thankful to get back to school this fall, fresh off of August’s Global Leadership Summit and the excellent church services recently. I’m always excited to learn new Greek or Hebrew words and their meanings. Some Sundays, our pastor teaches both Greek AND Hebrew! 😀

Before this blog posts gets going, I would like to pray and thank God for his blessings.

“Dear Lord, Thank you for the many blessings you have given to us. Thank you for the days that we can be together, up early and ready to start a new school year. Father, we pray that you will teach us fresh, new ideas to make learning each day challenging and enjoyable. We love you.”

It’s a new school semester for me at college, and  another year into high school as a home school family, with our youngest son. He has added college classes this year, so technically he is a high school junior. Our older son was married last year and although he finished his 2-year degree and works in construction, he started back to college for Christian ministry this fall. Our oldest, and only daughter is a senior in college and will be getting married and graduating in the spring. Interestingly, my brother has also gone back to college. WooHoo for the internet.

Blogtober is here now and although I originally planned it as inspiration to encourage me to blog frequently once October ended, it has actually turned into an annual time to give my blog special attention. I’ve been haphazardly writing blog posts for over 10 years. It makes zero dollars and hasn’t made me famous. But it is here and I like to look at it myself. I have practiced a lot of writing here and tried to organize my thoughts on issues both in the news and in my life. I’ve also put a lot of bible study time in here. So, this is the official starting point for Blogtober, 2016.

My Eulogy

20150115_082243 (2)This semester, I am taking a death, dying and bereavement class. I had to write my own eulogy for my first assignment. I wrote it very quickly, but it is exactly right:

“How do we sum up a life in only a few short moments? How do we do justice to the memory of the person that was known intimately by many here who have come to say goodbye to their mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend? There are many things we could mention that would describe the most familiar and cherished experiences we shared with our dear Laura, but she wanted this last opportunity we all have gathered around her to be spent not reminiscing but rather looking straight into the face of our glorious Savior and rejoicing in a quickly approaching future:

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18″

Born-That-Way: Excerpt From a Conversation

1280px-Creation_of_Adam_Sistine_ChapelGod created all men in his own image. His design was to have men live forever in Godly perfection, however after sin entered the world all men (and women) are born fallen. In other words all people are “born that way”, but the point of all of Jesus’ teachings is that although we were born that way, Jesus came to heal us. His acts of physical healing in the gospels are physical representations of the spiritual reality that we all MUST be born again. We must be, or we will not fulfill God’s original design of living forever in Godly perfection. If one insists on living in their first born state, it is like a leper insisting to Jesus that he does not want to be healed, but would rather live in his decomposing state.

Parsing one born-that-way status with another trying to prove that it’s fine with God that we live within the sexual sin of our choosing is deadly. It really doesn’t matter which sexual sin you choose. There is only one manner of holy sex: That between a man and woman married to each other. So, my point to you is that it is a waste of time to try and compare what this Christian says, or that “Christian” says. Jesus was also very vocal about false teaching. Follow Christ alone. Read his words and understand that you must be reborn, and the way that you do that is 2 steps: Repent of your unbelief in Christ as Lord and trust Christ as Lord. Repent & Trust.

Expectations: Trust in Jesus, Grace to People

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If I become dissatisfied with my role, it is because I have developed expectations of myself and other people. This is why I like to start new things or reinvent the old all the time. A fresh look at things with no expectations except success is invigorating.  The opportunity for a failure of expectations is high though; not just our own, but those of the critics.

Lower your expectations. Lower them for yourself, for your leaders and for those under your care. Set the bar low enough for people to make it over, comfortably. I always run across the scripture “…perfect love covers a multitude of sins” at the exact moment when I have expected too much of everyone including myself. When you do raise goals for yourself or others, be ready for the challenges. Bathe it in prayer. Minister with joy in ALL that you do.  En-JOY. Think ‘joy’.  After making it through this holiday season, take it from the queen of overcommitment: Don’t overcommit! A mile wide and an inch deep is not profitable season after season.

Here’s an interesting video about expectations by the late Andreas Moritz: