Author Archive

 

Written by David Alpert

I recently visited an American city with many downtown buildings from a long-departed industry. The city's downtown is now experiencing new life, and many of the historic buildings are finding new uses after sitting vacant for many years.

 
This is a complex of old warehouses which have now become retail and offices. The developer added a really amazing water feature, a long river which cascades down waterfalls at various intervals. There are small footbridges across the river and even stepping stones to cross in one place.

The old chutes for the products remain and now serve as decorative flourishes. In the center is an old railcar, like those that once transported goods to and from the facility.

 
At another location nearby, people have turned several old garages into bars and music halls. They've also become a popular spot for food trucks, and two were sitting outside as we passed by on a Saturday.

 
Both of these [examples] demonstrate the preservation concept of "adaptive reuse." Old, historic buildings can become a valued part of a changing community by taking on different functions that residents need today. The distinct architecture of the structures and the small details that nobody would build today adds character and interest.

Can you guess the city?

[Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington]

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington. He has had a lifelong interest in great cities and great communities.

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 Karri A. Sensenig

In my reading about the history of Philadelphia's Independence State Park (located directly in front of Independence Hall), I discovered that in the early 1900s, when the park was first proposed, the architects decided that the actual setting of Independence Hall wasn't good enough and set about creating what they determined to be a "fitting setting" -- by clearing the half-block of buildings between Chestnut Street and Ludlow Street in front of the Hall.


Philadelphia's Independence Hall, in it's current context. (Photo: IceNineJon on Flickr)

Early proponents of Independence Hall's preservation recognized that the surrounding low-lying vernacular architecture stood in stark contrast to the iconic brick structure, what it represented, and what the public's expectations were regarding its preservation. So they tore them all down to "beautify" the area and set a proper stage for the feeling they wanted to create.

But what's so terribly notable about making judgement-based changes and improvements as we preserve buildings and places? Don't we do that all the time? Absolutely. ... 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.

 

This is a re-post of "You Do Not Have to be a Historic Preservationist," written by Kaitlin O'Shea on her blog, Preservation in PinkIt's interesting to hear different opinions about the words associated with our movement. Although we typically write from the angle that people who care about handmade and human-scale places and physical memory are preservationists whether they know it or not, this is a different take with a similar conclusion. What do you think?

Lately, I have been thinking about historic preservation and how it is viewed by non-preservationists. Non-preservationists can be those who may be interested in but do not define themselves as preservationists, those who are generally uninterested in the field or those who are unaware of what preservation is. To the latter two categories, the term "historic preservation" may sound unfriendly, scarred by stereotypes and preconceived notions or affiliated too much with gentrification.


The author in 2005 with Long Island's Big Duck. (Photo: Kaitlin O'Shea)

Those of us familiar with the field of historic preservation know that it is anything but elitist. The days of focusing solely on house museums and famous figures only have long passed. Now historic preservation includes all ethnicities, all races, all classes, all architectural styles, all communities and reaches beyond history to intertwine itself with economic revitalization, sustainability and quality of life. It is quite the challenge to be effectively succinct about preservation.

You do not have to be a historic preservationist in order to appreciate historic preservation.

Has anyone ever told you that? Does that sound strange? Or obvious? In other words, as I write and talk about historic preservation, I am not hoping to transform you into preservationists. My motivation is not to make every other field sound less important. Rather, the goal is to gain your respect for preservation while providing education about the field. ... 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 Kristen Griffin

A reference to historic districts in the music video for country singer Alan Jackson's "Little Man" caught my attention one night. In the video, Alan Jackson drives through small town business districts and sings "boarded up like they never existed, or renovated and called historic districts."

To be fair, it was kind of a throwaway line in an otherwise well-messaged song. Jackson drives home the point that we are losing something culturally important when we lose small towns and local businesses to chain and suburban-style development. But the implication that business and renovated historic districts are mutually exclusive made no sense to me. My experience with historic districts is just the opposite.

Historic districts make up half of Spokane, Washington’s core downtown business district. I started to make a mental list of all the times I walk across the threshold of a historic building to do business in a historic store, restaurant, hotel, office building, or theater. Not only do I work in a historic building, but I mail my packages in a historic building, go to the gym in a historic building, buy my books in a historic building, and get my hair cut in a historic building. My accountant is in a historic building, the newspapers I read are published in historic buildings, and my favorite coffee is roasted in a historic building. The list goes on.


Downtown Spokane. (Photo: Bryan Gosline on Flickr)

Last year for fun, and to demonstrate how deeply the historic buildings and districts in Spokane are integrated into the local economy, I impulsively committed for the month of April to try to find everything I needed in businesses located in historic buildings or within historic districts.... 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 Nicole Possert and Amy Inouye

Old signs are so hot right now. At least on one 10 block stretch of Figueroa Street – part of Historic Route 66 - in Los Angeles’ historic Highland Park neighborhood, where two great old signs (one neon, one bulb-lit) have been restored and re-lit in the last year.


Manning's Coffee Store and Highland Theatre signs, fully restored. (Photos: Martha Benedict)

It all started with a simple idea: start a Historic Route 66 signage district by restoring and relighting two awesome old rooftop signs badly in need of repair. Manning’s Coffee Store sign was renovated and relit last month following the relighting success of the Highland Theatre sign in the spring of last year. These two signs now add to some existing neon signs and the ever-popular “Chicken Boy” attraction to help bring Route 66 back to the heart of Los Angeles.


Chicken Boy. (Photo: Buz Carter on Flickr)

These no-longer-shiny commercial signs were overlooked “ghost” resources located in the largest historic district in the City of Los Angeles. Seeing as Figueroa Street served as U.S. Route 66 from 1931-34 and 66A from 1936-1960, this signage district project was a perfect way to re-introduce Route 66 to the City of LA, re-use and preserve these historic resources, and begin to create an authentic attraction for all of the aficionados, who have been by-passing this important part of the Mother Road.


Nicole Possert, Stu Rapeport, Amy Inouye, Tony Castillo, and North Figueroa Clean Team member celebrating the Manning's lighting last month. (Photo: Martha Benedict)

The restoration projects were a perfect storm of collaboration: a community passionate about place and willing to push the boundaries of historic preservation; a business district’s desire to create a more attractive, distinctive destination to generate retail interest; and advocates for Route 66, neon, and awesome old signs. The project symbolizes and brings together many interests and passions all in one bright shiny package called the Historic Route 66 signage district. This neighborhood effort shows a different way that historic preservation - on a large or small scale – can be a vital community revitalization strategy.

Click through to read more about the history and restorations of Manning's Coffee Store and the Highland Theatre.... 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.