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Notre Dame Fire Prompts Look At Tampa Bay Area Preservation

The devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Parismay have people taking a closer look at iconic structures in the Tampa Bay area.

There are many local beautiful and historic buildings, like the Don Cesar and The Vinoy hotels in St. Pete Beach and St. Petersburg, the Sarasota Opera House, the Tampa Theatre, the Plant Museum on the University of Tampa campus and the Palace of Florence apartments on Tampa's Davis Islands.

Ed Lewis, construction project manager for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, said these buildings are most at risk from fire and flooding.

He said he'd like to think that the custodians of buildings such as The Vinoy or Don Cesar or Plant Museum have fully operational fire detection systems and sprinkler systems. He'd also like to know that building stewards monitor for things like carbon dioxide. 

Lewis said older buildings in the U.S. are different from many in Europe in that they "are a little bit more robust because they're a little bit more modern."

But what's the same is the sense of loss that people might feel if, say, The Vinoy or the Tampa Theatre were to be destroyed.

"I think that's what's sad about Notre Dame," said Lewis, "is there's going to be people now who will never be able to visit that church and see it as it was in their lifetime, because it may well take years before it's restored, or remodernized. So there's a sense of loss there. And I think it's the same with our buildings."

Lewis cited structures such as the Snell Arcade in St. Pete and said familiarity fosters appreciation.

"I think there's the emotional attachment of something that you've got used to seeing, something you appreciate, something that you have in a connection with because you walk past it every day," he said.

After more than 40 years learning and helping others understand more about so many aspects of our world and living in it, I still love making connections between national news stories and our community. It's exciting when I can find a thread between a national program or greater premise and what is happening at the local or personal level. This has been true whether I’ve spun the novelty tunes of Raymond Scott or Wilmoth Houdini from a tiny outpost in a Vermont field, or shared the voices of incarcerated women about what it’s like to be behind bars on Mother’s Day with the entire state of New Hampshire.