Author Archive

 

By Robert Verrier, FAIA, NCARB

Boott Mills, before and after its adaptive reuse. Credit: Lowell Historical Society; Bruce T. Martin/The Architectural Team
Boott Mills, before and after its adaptive reuse

Human energy is the force behind successful economic development -- even when that energy began centuries ago. Along with my partner Michael Binette, I saw the power of this fact unfold around Boott Mills in Lowell, Massachusetts, one of the oldest surviving cotton textile mill yards in the United States -- and an engine of the city’s rebirth.

Tax credit incentives were a key to the city’s success, helping restore one of America’s most dramatic historic sites while also injecting vitality and pride into a now-flourishing neighborhood and tourist attractions. It’s also a good case study in what a community can achieve with tax incentives, foresight, and positive energy.... 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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

High Tide for Modernism in Rehoboth Beach?

Posted on: February 26th, 2013 by Guest Writer 1 Comment

 

Written by Arnold Berke, Rehoboth homeowner and Contributing Editor at Preservation magazine

This article originally appeared in Letters from CAMP Rehoboth.

Modernism style in North Shores, Rehobeth Beach. Credit: Arnold Berke
A modern home in North Shores

On the main drag of North Shores stands a gorgeous house.

I love its simple form (two tall boxes joined by a recessed “hyphen” and topped with a flat roof), colors (a soft grey set off by mustard, red, and black), lack of embellishment, and the way its slightly irregular arrangement of windows, doors, and decks pulls the composition back from total symmetry. The house is crisp and witty, and, despite four garage doors at ground level, seems to float over the landscape. The place makes me smile.

But tell people I’m smitten, and they give me a look of lemon-sucking disdain that even Violet, Dowager Duchess of Grantham in Downton Abbey, would be hard-put to surpass: head canted back and twisted, lips tightly pursed, eyes widened into saucers of disbelief.... 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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Environmental Threats Emerge at the "Walden Pond of the West"

Posted on: February 18th, 2013 by Guest Writer

 

The full version of this story originally appeared in E&E on Feb. 14, 2013. [As N.D. drilling boom spreads, so do worries about Roosevelt's 'cradle of conservation' -- by Scott Streater, E&E reporter.] Copyright 2013, Environment and Energy Publishing LLC. Excerpted with permission.

Photo by David Nix/digitalimageryphotos.smugmug.com

The rolling hills, crested buttes and cottonwood trees surrounding the Elkhorn Ranch in the western North Dakota badlands look very much the same as when a young Theodore Roosevelt first settled there in 1884.

Roosevelt moved to the ranch to heal after his first wife and mother both died on Valentine's Day 1884 -- exactly 129 years ago today. Though he lived at the ranch only a short time, and the log house and scores of cattle that once grazed there are long gone, this ranch is where Roosevelt first developed the conservation ethic that defined his term as the nation's 26th president and earned him the title the "Conservationist President."

Indeed, the Elkhorn Ranch, which is now part of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, is often referred to as the "cradle of conservation" and the "Walden Pond of the West."

Photo by David Nix/digitalimageryphotos.smugmug.com

But today the solitude and natural splendor of the 218-acre ranch and the entire national park are under increasing threat, park officials say, by rapidly expanding shale oil development in North Dakota's booming Bakken Shale play. Proposals to build a gravel pit and bridge within view of the park, both of which are related to the oil boom, also pose major risks.... 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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

 

Written by Robert Verrier, FAIA, NCARB

For more than 30 years, historic preservation tax incentives have been helping architects, builders, and private citizens transform historic buildings for new uses, preserving architectural heritage, and benefiting communities all over the country. I should know, because using tax credit incentives has been key to my business for just as many years, allowing me and one of my partners Mike Binette to save clients money while restoring more than 150 historic commercial, industrial, and educational structures -- many of which can be found on the National Register of Historic Places.

We are proud of what we’ve achieved in and around Boston -- an American city rich in history and beautiful old buildings -- but we’re also excited about how these incentives have helped Boston and cities like it all over the country.


Bourne Mill, one of America's oldest cotton gins, in Tiverton, Rhode Island.

The recent debate over historic preservation tax incentives is long on political orthodoxy but short on common sense. The benefits of these tax credits are indisputable. By redeveloping historic buildings, tax credits save our architectural heritage and spur new private investment, create construction jobs, and set the stage for new economic activities, such as tourism.

There’s nothing like a broken window to scare off businesses. Any savvy investor will agree that commercial activity gets a bump when abandoned buildings are brought back to life, or derelict properties are restored to their former grandeur.

But there’s much more. Many historic buildings serve as the visual gateway to entire towns and neighborhoods. They anchor their communities, and often had a central role in making them happen. Examples are everywhere -- churches, town halls, first settler homesteads, factories, schools, mills, lighthouses, and office and institutional buildings. Our architecture firm has spent four decades restoring and adapting old mills and other historic structures throughout New England and along the East Coast -- each of which has precipitated in some way the rebirth and growth of the community.


St. Aidan's Catholic Church in Brookline, Massachusetts, where John F. Kennedy was baptized.

Why does this matter? First, these landmarks are part of the fabric and collective memory of their communities. Generations of families made their living inside those factories, connecting the old stone walls with their family history. They root us to the place.

More so, these old buildings have great bones and can reinvigorate their neighborhoods once again. Many adapted mills have taken on new lives, such as commercial, hospitality, community centers and a wide array of residential type uses. In this way, these historic structures have brought their towns and neighborhoods back to life.

Preservation is also the greenest thing we can do. For example, in Dorchester, Mass., the 1765 Baker Chocolate Factory grew to employ hundreds. After shuttering in 1969, it sat mute and untended until its conversion to a community of apartments, assisted living, and more. The work took decades to complete and recycled tons of brick, granite block and many hundreds of massive wood beams and deck.

Today, Dorchester Lower Mills not only has hundreds of new residents, it has become a vibrant downtown with cafés, boutiques, and a bustling grocery store. People visit for fun, ambiance -- and history. In this way, historic tax credits create a valuable commodity: hope.


Baker Chocolate Factory (side view) in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

Proof of old and historic buildings' attraction and economic value is everywhere. And many of our friends and clients -- mayors, real estate developers, bankers, and residents -- will vouch that the same results never would have been accomplished without historic federal and state tax credits.

Our country’s history deserves better than a wrecking ball. If you believe in America’s past -- and our chances for a better collective future -- historic tax credits are something you can and must believe in, too.

Robert Verrier, FAIA, NCARB and Michael Binette, AIA, NCARB, are partners at The Architectural Team, Inc., a Boston-based architecture firm specializing in master planning, hospitality, mixed-use, multi-family housing, and historic preservation and adaptive reuse.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is committed to raising awareness of the importance of the historic tax credit and advocating for a few strategic improvements that would expand its already impressive track record of saving places, creating jobs and revitalizing communities. You can help! Visit SaveHistoricCredit.org.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

 

Written by M. Rosalind Sagara

After nearly three and a half years of legal proceedings, the 4th District Court of Appeals of the State of California recently issued a final judgment invalidating the City of Riverside’s approval of an office development that would have destroyed a National Register site -- my community’s historic Chinatown.


Left: Author Rosalind Sagara in front of the archaeological site. Right: Built to honor the Chinese settlers who came to Riverside in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this Chinese Pavilion is located in front of Riverside's Downtown Library.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990, Riverside’s historic Chinatown dates back to 1885 and is considered to be one of our nation’s best-preserved early Chinese settlements. The lawsuit to protect the historic archaeological site centered on the validity of the purchase sale agreement and whether or not the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) complied with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the state’s regulations protecting historic sites threatened with demolition.

A panel of judges ruled that the city failed to consider reasonable alternatives to the proposed building plans and location. The Court also found that the EIR contained insufficient analysis for the City to consider the environmental and cultural impacts of the proposed development. The final judgment sets aside the City’s certification of the EIR, its statement of overriding considerations, and approval of the project.

The legal ruling is a victory for the Save Our Chinatown Committee and our network of allies -- educators, preservationists, community groups, students, archaeologists, and countless individuals who’ve rallied to give voice to our preservation campaign. We also share this victory with those who believe citizens must have a say in how their communities grow and develop. We look forward to providing city officials with guidance in using preservation principles as an equal component in future planning processes related to the historic site.

This preservation campaign has taught me that engaged citizens -- who are willing to speak up, write letters and emails, organize and attend meetings, contribute money and ideas, learn and listen to others -- are as important as legal tools and good luck. Preservationists must be willing to pull out all stops because we believe a place is worth it. But it’s about more than just saving places, it’s about people, building community and creating a sense of place.

M. Rosalind Sagara is a community organizer and filmmaker. She is a co-founder and board chair of the Save Our Chinatown Committee

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.