Author Archive


When I first learned that Annie Gray Dixon, a 17-year-old high school junior from Edenton, North Carolina, was hosting a "Paint for Preservation" art auction garden party to raise money and memberships for the National Trust, my initial thought was "Wow, what a great idea!" followed quickly by "Wait a second, I think I know someone from Edenton -- I just might need to make a road trip out of this!"

Turns out that my friend, a Carolina expat now living in DC, grew up two doors down from the family hosting the event, that his parents were already planning to attend, and -- small town that Edenton is -- that word had spread and people were already hoping we'd come. Reasons enough for me to pack my camera and head on down.

Paint for Preservation's gracious hosts: Gray, Sambo, and Annie Gray Dixon.

Edenton is an anomaly of sorts: a prospering small town completely unconnected to any major metro region or highway. There's a 1940s airport on the outskirts of town with antique vehicles parked in the lot for visiting pilots. The Taylor, Edenton's local main street (which in their case is called Broad Street) movie theater, still sells tickets for seven bucks a pop -- five if you're a kid.

There's no CVS or Walgreen's on Broad Street, but instead you'll find Blount's Mutual Drugs, where the pharmacist, Jim Blount, knows his regulars by name. Whether going to dinner at 309 Bistro, grabbing coffee at Edenton Coffee House, or shopping for supplies at Byrum Hardware, you're likely to run into Jennifer Harriss, the local Main Street director, who checks into all the local businesses and is passionately working to help the town's business scene thrive.

And so on Saturday afternoon, after a windblown (read: AC was broken) drive, we arrived in Edenton: the charming postcard town best known to outsiders for its 18th century courthouse (the oldest continuously operating courthouse in America, mind you), plantation and seafaring history, small business culture, and dynamic social scene -- into which, I'd soon learn, the evening's preservation garden party was intricately woven. ... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Preservation Round-Up: NIMBYs Are People Too Edition

Posted on: May 10th, 2012 by David Garber


The Mossback Manifesto on Urban Density -

"I don't think NIMBYs are always wrong. It's not an epithet in my vocabulary. In fact, they often get a bum rap for caring too much at a time when too many citizens don't care enough. NIMBYs are often good folks acting locally and who often know more than the people with clipboards and white boards. That said, I don't think the Not-in-My-Backyard stance is sustainable as a guiding philosophy. I think of NIMBYs like those little crabs you find on the beach that raise their claws when you've turned over their rock."

A Move Toward More Affordable Preservation - SFGate

"San Francisco's policy governing historic preservation districts and landmarks must take into account the financial hardship concerns of property owners and low-income housing developers, pedestrian-safety improvements and development challenges, under legislation given preliminary approval by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday. [...] "San Francisco is a great historic city, but it is not a museum," said Supervisor Scott Wiener, chief sponsor of the legislation."

Historic Preservation and Its Costs - City Journal

"Historical buildings add value, interest, and beauty to cities. Beautiful architecture of the past deserves to be recognized and saved, just as we preserve other types of art. We must also recognize, however, that our cities are not museums but living and evolving centers of commerce and culture."

Can Paul Rudolph’s Architecturally Vital Orange County Government Center Be Saved? - Vanity Fair

"Rudolph, who died in 1997, was probably the finest maker of compositions in three dimensions of modern times; he could put planes and solids and lines and textures and surfaces together in a way that at its best was sublime. Rudolph buildings are like Mondrian paintings turned into space, and when you walk into them, if you can get beyond the fact that they are not warm and cuddly, they can thrill you and, at their best, ennoble you."

A Quiet War on Landmarks, or Fixing the Problems with the Preservation Commission? - The New York Observer

"Is the city’s Landmarks Law broken? To the uninitiated, that would have been the likely conclusion from a hearing held at the City Council today. Eleven different pieces of legislation addressing myriad issues at the commission were debated. [...] The city is under assault from a nanny state stuck in the past seemed to be the clear message. For the large crowd assembled in protest for what turned out to be a four hour meeting, the case was quite the opposite: It was the city’s daring Landmarks Preservation Commission, keeper of the soul of the city, that was under assault."

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.


"How can you take all these resources and best organize them for an authentic and logical visitor experience?" That was the question that Richard Southwick, Director of Historic Preservation for Beyer Blinder Belle, and his team asked themselves when they were tasked with restoring Thomas Edison's Invention Factory in West Orange, New Jersey.

The factory -- also known as Thomas Edison West Orange Laboratories and Thomas Edison National Historical Park -- landed on the National Trust's "America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places" list in 1993 because of deterioration and neglect (six of its 12 buildings were closed to the public), as well as for poor planning for the cataloging of millions of original documents related to Edison's work.

Listing the factory buildings on our 11 Most Endangered list turned the spotlight onto this historic complex, eventually paving the way for a six-year, $13 million meticulous restoration of the place where Edison produced over 500 patents and developed his ideas for alkaline batteries, recorded music, and motion pictures. ... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

[Slideshow] Inside the New LivingSocial HQ

Posted on: May 2nd, 2012 by David Garber


LivingSocial, the popular online deals company headquartered in DC, has a particular office style. And fortunately for us preservationists, that style is typically this: a restored old building with a fashionably raw + modern interior.

Their newest DC office -- located at the corner of 7th Street and New York Avenue, NW --  fits that mold, and brings new life to a prominent corner that has sat empty for over thirty years.

As you'll see below, this new office is a combination of three different buildings. Built at the same time in 1872 for Mr. William H. Dunkhurst for a commercial cigar business with residences above, the corner has also served as the locations for a peanut and candy company, a wine and liquor store, and a stove company -- a fittingly diverse past for a building whose new tenant pretty much does it all.

For more great LivingSocial preservation and reuse, check out our post from earlier this year on the company's new Live Events Center located in downtown DC.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Preservation Round-Up: The Windmills of Golden Gate Park Edition

Posted on: April 30th, 2012 by David Garber


The now-restored Murphey Windmill in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, as it appeared in 2009. (Photo: itspaulkelly on Flickr)

Golden Gate Park's Historic Windmill Spins Again - San Francisco Chronicle

"The windmill, which stands in the southwestern corner of the park and has been in the process of being refurbished since 2002, is in its final phases of restoration. It will spin with its older compatriot to the north, the Dutch windmill, which has already been restored to its original appearance."

Montpelier: A Lesson in Historic Sleuthing - Old House Web

"Some finds were sheer luck. Bits of wallpaper were found in rats' nests. A photograph that happened to capture a mirror led to an understanding of the way a particular door opened into the house. The look of the original roof became clear with a single wood shingle found in the attic."

Land Swap Planned for Historic Black School -

"Central High School was an 'equalization' school that had only black students from 1956 through 1970. Some alumni have been meeting every week for the last year, discussing ways to preserve the school and bring more programs to area residents. [...] Georgia spent $30 million building 500 equalization schools all across the state in the 1950s. It was a massive resistance to integration, trying to prove that schools for blacks could be separate but equal."

Old Tennessee Jail to Become Military Museum - Chattanooga Times Free Press

"The 160-year-old Bledsoe County Jail building likely will never hold another prisoner, but it will offer a home to a military museum and the county's Veterans Service Office. [...] Two years ago, the county was awarded a $17,000 Historic Preservation Fund grant to put toward restoration."

Everyday Hero: Sam Collins III - The Galveston Daily News

"After purchasing our historic property, I was bitten by the preservation and history bug. I began researching my family history and local history. I enjoy learning about American history. I also enjoy helping others to recognize the value of the contributions of African-Americans to our shared American history. I want people to realize that African-American history is American history. African-American history is not more important than any other American history, but it is equally not less important."

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.


When Washington, DC, and much of the East Coast was rattled by a 5.8 magnitude earthquake last August, one of the biggest local stories was about the spires of the Washington National Cathedral toppling to the ground. Questions immediately arose about the structural soundness of the landmark church building -- formally called the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul -- and whether more stone would fall.

Last week I had the incredible opportunity to go behind the scenes at the cathedral and see the earthquake damage first hand. Leading the tour was head stone mason Joe Alonso, who noted that with "2-3 more seconds of earthquake, we would have lost 50% more stone." Keeping in mind damage to other important structures like the Washington Monument, we're glad the quake stopped when it did.


The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.