The U.S. Custom House has sat magnificently vacant since its last tenant, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, vacated it nearly five years ago.
This grand old building, which graces the block surrounded by NW Broadway, Park, Davis and Everett streets, was declared unfit for service. Ironically, the very thing that makes the building magnificent, its timeless masonry, makes it especially vulnerable to an earthquake.
The U.S. Custom House is a beautiful example of Italian Renaissance Revival style of architecture. It was built in 1897 by the architect Edgar M. Lazarus and was beautifully restored in 1992. Since May of 2010, the Federal Government has been searching for a buyer for this gem in the pearl. While the building initially allures would be buyers with its stately exterior, up until now none has been able to stomach the roughly $10 million estimated cost of retrofitting it to withstand an earthquake.
And so it sits, a beautiful, lonely museum piece.
The musuem was brought to life one year later. During the month of May 2011, the normally stoic U.S. Custom House became the center of a flurry of activity.
First came the cables, which began to across the sidewalks,up the walls, and into the windows of the Custom House from all sides. Next, the lights, generators, and scaffolding were installed. Was the long awaited retrofit about to begin?
Then appeared the costume trucks and the catering vans. Lights, camera, action! The set of “Gone“, a thriller written by Allison Burnett, directed by Heitor Dhalia, and starring Amanda Seyfried, Jennifer Carpenter and Wes Bentley, had taken shape right under the nose of the inhabitants of Old Town China Town.
When the last of the cast a crew support vehicles took their familiar places at NW Sixth and Davis, the suspicions were confirmed. The U.S. Custom House was to be a star on the silver screen. The month of May saw countless extras roaming the streets of Old Town and generally breathing much needed life into the neighborhood.
Then, as quickly as they had appeared, the support vehicles pulled away, the power cables slithered out of the building and the booms were put away. “Gone” was…gone.
Do not despair! “Gone” is set to give chills to audiences across the nation in February of 2012. Will one of those viewers, upon seeing this Gem in the Pearl, have the vision to transform the U.S. Custom House from dormancy into a functional, modern, and vibrant space?