Author Archive

Preservation Vacation: Capturing the American Dream in Oak Bluffs

Posted on: December 28th, 2012 by David Robert Weible

 

Overton House, Oak Bluffs. Credit: Elaine Weintraub
Historic Overton House, Oak Bluffs.

Martha’s Vineyard. For me, the name alone conjures images of quaint port towns brimming with gingerbread houses, teak runabouts, and understated wealth of all manner -- a playground for the rich and powerful. And though you won’t have any trouble finding these things in Oak Bluffs, a small town on the island’s north shore, there’s more to the town than just the money. Since the early 1900s, Oak Bluffs has served as one of America’s premier African-American resort towns.... 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.

David Robert Weible

David Robert Weible

David Robert Weible is an assistant editor at Preservation magazine. He came to DC from Cleveland, Ohio, where he wrote for Sailing World and Outside magazines.

A Look Inside Yosemite's Historic Ahwahnee Hotel

Posted on: December 27th, 2012 by David Robert Weible

 

Ahwahnee Great Lounge. Credit: DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite.
The Great Lounge at Yosemite's Ahwahnee Hotel.

Diane Cole’s “Grand Spans” in the upcoming Preservation’s "Outside the Box" department details the controversy over saving three of Yosemite National Park’s historic bridges, and highlights the struggle to balance cultural and land preservation within the National Park System. But despite an uncertain future for these bridges, our national parks are an incredible repository for historically significant structures of all kinds, and Yosemite is no exception.

Most of the historic structures under the charge of the Park Service are NPS Rustic Style -- an architectural concept that uses wood shingle roofs, log framing, stone foundations, exposed rafter rails, and dark stained siding, when applicable, to blend each structure into the surrounding natural landscape.... 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.

David Robert Weible

David Robert Weible

David Robert Weible is an assistant editor at Preservation magazine. He came to DC from Cleveland, Ohio, where he wrote for Sailing World and Outside magazines.

Preservation Vacation: What's Next for Idlewild, Michigan's "Black Eden"?

Posted on: December 20th, 2012 by David Robert Weible 3 Comments

 

Idlewild Michigan Historical Markers Dedication, Yates Township, Lake County. Credit: MI SHPO, Flickr
Idlewild Michigan Historical Markers Dedication, Yates Township, Lake County.

It was known as the Black Eden, and at its height in the 1950s and ‘60s, more than 25,000 African-Americans would travel from Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and Indianapolis each summer to visit its 2,700 acres of lakes and western Michigan wilderness for intellectual stimulation, partying, and a sense of community. This was Idlewild.

“If you were a doctor, a lawyer, an entrepreneur, an educator, and you had the income to travel either by train or auto, [Idlewild] was a place that you wanted to be,” says Dr. Ronald Stephens, a professor of 20th-century African-American history and culture at Ohio University and author of the forthcoming book, Idlewild: The Rise, Decline and Rebirth of a Unique African-American Resort Town. “The idea of having that sense of community, independence, and ownership was a really big deal in black America.”... 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.

David Robert Weible

David Robert Weible

David Robert Weible is an assistant editor at Preservation magazine. He came to DC from Cleveland, Ohio, where he wrote for Sailing World and Outside magazines.

 


825 Washington in the Emily Kimbrough District.

In many ways, the picture of Muncie, Ind., is the picture of communities throughout the Rust Belt Midwest: a former boomtown chock full turn-of-the-century architecture largely neglected after suburban flight and the loss of manufacturing. But the sheer number of architecturally significant buildings, and the local university project to raise awareness for them, is what sets this city of roughly 70,000 apart.... 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.

David Robert Weible

David Robert Weible

David Robert Weible is an assistant editor at Preservation magazine. He came to DC from Cleveland, Ohio, where he wrote for Sailing World and Outside magazines.

200-Year-Old Medical Building Still Healthy After All These Years

Posted on: November 13th, 2012 by David Robert Weible

 


Davidge Hall circa 1891.

This November marks 200 years since Davidge Hall was built to house the College of Medicine of Maryland in Baltimore, which was rechartered as the University of Maryland when it opened in 1812. And though the medical profession has come a long way from bloodletting, and physicians no longer compete with apothecaries and barbers for customers, the building itself hasn’t changed much.

Really the only significant change to the structure -- which replicated a blueprint at the University of Pennsylvania developed by Benjamin Latrobe, the second architect of the Capitol and friend of Thomas Jefferson -- has been the demolition of the 15-foot-high security wall that once ringed its perimeter, aimed at thwarting attacks from angry mobs.

"People weren’t donating their bodies to science and you didn’t have an anatomy class without a body, so we resorted to grave robbers at that time," says Larry Pitrof, executive director of what is now the Medical Alumni Association of the University of Maryland, which is housed in the structure. "[Using cadavers] was really contrary to religious beliefs back then, so there was a lot of public opposition [to the school]."

He’s not kidding either. In 1807, just four blocks from the future site of the school, a flock of hooligans riled by similar practices destroyed the anatomic theater of John Davidge. It was that event that galvanized a group of local physicians to lobby the state for a charter for a medical school -- the building named after, you guessed it,  Davidge himself -- and personally fund its construction.


Anatomical Hall, the third-floor lecture hall.

For the same reason, many areas of Davidge Hall that were used for dissections remained secret until the use of cadavers became more acceptable around the beginning of the 1900s.

Now, two centuries after classes began, Davidge Hall is the oldest surviving continually used building for medical instruction in the United States. It’s seen wars, multiple hurricanes, and yes, plenty of bodies. Though advances in medical technology, the widespread use of projection screens for educational purposes, and an explosion of student enrollment rendered the structure outdated in the 1950s, the building’s main theater still plays host to medical symposia and conferences on a daily basis.

The last major restoration of the building was completed in 2001 when the roof was replaced and period windows were installed. Going forward, Pitrof says the plan is to completely restore the interior to the way it looked in 1820, when the building was first considered complete. There are also plans to install a new HVAC system, though funding for both projects is yet to be finalized.

"It’s an enduring symbol [of medicine in this country] and it showing no signs of really wearing out yet," says Pitrof.


Davidge Hall today.

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.

David Robert Weible

David Robert Weible

David Robert Weible is an assistant editor at Preservation magazine. He came to DC from Cleveland, Ohio, where he wrote for Sailing World and Outside magazines.