Local Eyesores: the "Little Beirut" Building

What's your town's most infamous local eyesore?

More than any other place I've lived, Florida seems to be a magnet for weirdness. Yesterday, I wrote about the rediscovery of an "aborted suburb" on the outskirts of my hometown, and today I have another story of suburban development gone strange: a building down the street so ugly it's long been known by Englewood locals as "Little Beirut."

They started building it when I was a kid, in the late 80s. Fancifully dubbed "Vizcaya on the Bay," it was to be two identical, glittering (by Englewood standards, at least) glass office buildings that were going to help kickstart the local economy by attracting businesses from larger towns nearby; they were to be so beautiful, the legend went, that no company could resist leasing office space there. And indeed, when the first building was finished, it was easily the most attractive commercial building in town. People started getting excited. Lease applications poured in. And construction on the second building began in earnest.

But then something happened. The concrete shell of the second building was erected, but then construction stopped -- and never started again. There were rumors of shady finances, deals gone wrong, legal troubles. Whatever the problem, it went on for so long that eventually people gave up hope that the second building would ever be finished, and what had been the hoped-for architectural pride of Englewood quickly became the town's most notorious eyesore -- as it has been for the past 19 years.beirutsidebyside.jpg
Naturally, it became a site of great interest to my friends and I as teenagers -- we'd run around its exposed concrete innards, checking out the newest graffiti tags and finding creepy/unsavory things like piles of used mattresses. Eventually, the town (wisely) erected a 10-foot fence around the dangerous building's perimeter (there was really nothing to keep an inattentive kid from tumbling down the empty elevator shaft or impaling himself on a nest of rusting re-bar), and all but the most dedicated vandals kept their distance. The county's been trying to demolish it for years, but miles of red tape have kept the moldering hulk standing. According to local paper, though, it looks like that's about to change, and "Little Beirut" will face a stranger ending than I ever could've imagined: it'll be sunk offshore to create a sorely-needed artificial reef. Where my friends and I once played, fish and crabs will hang out. Weird.

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What's your town's most infamous local eyesore?

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College Board Wants to Erase Thousands of Years From AP World History, and Teachers Aren't Happy
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One would be forgiven for thinking that the Ides of March are upon us, because Julius Caesar is being taken out once again—this time from the Advanced Placement World History exam. The College Board in charge of the AP program is planning to remove the Roman leader, and every other historical figure who lived and died prior to 1450, from high school students’ tests, The New York Times reports.

The nonprofit board recently announced that it would revise the test, beginning in 2019, to make it more manageable for teachers and students alike. The current exam covers over 10,000 years of world history, and according to the board, “no other AP course requires such an expanse of content to be covered over a single school year.”

As an alternative, the board suggested that schools offer two separate year-long courses to cover the entirety of world history, including a Pre-AP World History and Geography class focusing on the Ancient Period (before 600 BCE) up through the Postclassical Period (ending around 1450). However, as Politico points out, a pre-course for which the College Board would charge a fee "isn’t likely to be picked up by cash-strapped public schools," and high school students wouldn't be as inclined to take the pre-AP course since there would be no exam or college credit for it.

Many teachers and historians are pushing back against the proposed changes and asking the board to leave the course untouched. Much of the controversy surrounds the 1450 start date and the fact that no pre-colonial history would be tested.

“They couldn’t have picked a more Eurocentric date,” Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, who previously helped develop AP History exams and courses, told The New York Times. “If you start in 1450, the first thing you’ll talk about in terms of Africa is the slave trade. The first thing you’ll talk about in terms of the Americas is people dying from smallpox and other things. It’s not a start date that encourages looking at the agency and creativity of people outside Europe.”

A group of teachers who attended an AP open forum in Salt Lake City also protested the changes. One Michigan educator, Tyler George, told Politico, “Students need to understand that there was a beautiful, vast, and engaging world before Europeans ‘discovered’ it.”

The board is now reportedly reconsidering its decision and may push the start date of the course back some several hundred years. Their decision will be announced in July.

[h/t The New York Times]

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North America: East or West Coast?
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