Author Archive

Being Myself in Boystown

Posted on: June 1st, 2009 by Guest Writer 2 Comments

 

This Place Matters: Boystown

By Geoff Dankert

In 1993, the man I’d been seeing for all of a month had a crazy, impulsive idea.

“I bought us plane tickets to Chicago for the day,” he said, wary of whether I would consider such a gesture too much for such a new relationship.

He should not have worried; I was thrilled. And so one Sunday in December, with barely two nickels to rub together between us, we flew to Chicago. It was a great day of window-shopping and sightseeing, and it culminated with a taxi ride to the corner of Halsted and Roscoe streets on the north side of town.

It’s the place I now know to be Boystown. But back then, for a guy who’d been out for barely a year, it was the future.

Even then, it was a place teeming with gay bars and gay-friendly shops. It’s the first place I ever saw two guys holding hands, and at the time, I couldn’t believe that no one was bothering them. What I didn’t realize at the time was that “the gays” had been in this neighborhood for years.

They have moved to what was once a rough neighborhood just so they could live near where they gathered (and drank) – places like Little Jim’s and Roscoe’s. Eventually, they moved because their friends were there, or because it was near the lake, or because they could get a house and fix it up for cheap. Now, of course, it’s one of the most desirable – and most expensive – neighborhoods in Chicago.

When I made my first visit there, I didn’t know the history. I didn’t know that someday, people in Chicago would refer to the neighborhood as “Boystown” with the same ease and lack of judgment that they describe neighborhoods like Bronzeville, Hyde Park and Printers’ Row. I didn’t know that some day, the mayor of Chicago would dedicate enormous rainbow-striped pylons up and down Halsted Street, or that the city’s Pride parade would draw almost a half-million people. All I knew was that this was a place where gay people could just … be.

As we walked down the street that day, we came across a clothing store called “We’re Everywhere.” Owned by gay people, it sold catchy T-shirts, wristbands and dog tags to the out and the nearly-out. I was so thrilled that such a place existed that I bought what for years was one of my favorite garments: a simple white T-shirt with red letters across the chest:

SE TU MISMO.

Be yourself.

That night, over enchiladas at a Mexican restaurant a couple of blocks away, I felt more like myself – my true self – than I ever had.

Eventually, I wound up living in Chicago, barely a mile from Boystown. That restaurant is still there, and every time I walk or drive by it, I smile and remember that night and how it helped make me feel more comfortable about my life, and what my life could be.

Sadly, the T-shirt and the shop are gone. But the neighborhood and its people are still around, and every day, a few more young people move here and find a place where they can “be themselves.”

And by the way, the man whose impulsiveness and generosity made that trip happen? He’s still around, too.

Michigan native Geoff Dankert has lived in Chicago for ten years, and yet every morning, when he sees the skyline from the “L” train on his way to work, he still can hardly believe it. He and his partner live in a renovated turn-of-the-century home on Chicago’s north side.

rainbow_crawler

Join the National Trust for Historic Preservation as we celebrate Pride + Preservation throughout the month of June. Want to help us show some pride in place? Upload a This Place Matters photo of a building, site or neighborhood that matters to you and your local LGBT community.

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.

Teaching Preservation Matters

Posted on: May 29th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

good_hope_matters

Good Hope Cemetery is important because it tells the stories of the many heroic soldiers from our area who bravely fought for our country. It’s also where my classmates – my friends – and I spent our senior year getting dirty and learning about history in a way that I will always remember.

Two Civil War soldiers by the names of John Alexander Harper and David Jones are buried there. Harper was wounded during his service, and Jones was a recipient of a Congressional Medal of Honor. Both showed bravery as they served our nation. Without Good Hope, their stories would be lost.

This place definitely matters.

I hope we’ve proved that this semester.

- Alyssa D.

Alyssa D. is (for a few more days, at least) a senior at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. This semester, she and her Research History classmates have worked on a variety of preservation projects, including documenting and preserving local cemeteries like Good Hope. See their full blog to relive this exciting project.

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.

Looking for Little Saigon

Posted on: May 28th, 2009 by Guest Writer 5 Comments

 

Written by Kim A. O’Connell

This circa-1929 building--with its distinctive swan's neck parapet--once housed Saigon Market, one of the first two Vietnamese stores to open in Little Saigon.

This circa-1929 building--with its distinctive swan's neck parapet--once housed Saigon Market, one of the first two Vietnamese stores to open in Little Saigon.

When I was a child, my mother, a Vietnamese immigrant, would often drive us from our home in suburban Maryland to the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington, Va., to go shopping. There, in an enclave of markets, boutiques, and restaurants known informally as “Little Saigon,” she could speak in her native language to shopkeepers and fellow customers. We would gorge ourselves on spring rolls—called cha gio—and have sweet sesame balls filled with bean paste for dessert. To an American-born girl like me, the sights, smells, and sounds were fascinating. To my mother, it was like going home.

Today, hardly any trace of Virginia’s Little Saigon remains. Arlington County, as a close-in suburb of Washington, D.C., has become increasingly urbanized in the last three decades, especially along its busy transit corridors. Washington’s Metro subway system had played a direct role in the development of Little Saigon, but it eventually hastened its demise as well. Researching this history has become both a personal and a professional quest of mine.

When my graduate preservation program encouraged projects that promoted cultural diversity, I saw an opportunity to study Little Saigon and learn more about my own heritage at the same time. In addition to doing archival research, I interviewed several former refugees—people like Nguyen Ngoc Bich, who often served as a community representative in the 1970s, and Anhthu Lu, who arrived in Arlington as a teenager and helped her aunt run a gift shop in Clarendon. They and others revealed a common struggle to retain their traditions while assimilating into American life, a phenomenon that a Vietnamese priest once described as “catching two fish with two hands.” In their voices, I heard my mother’s voice too, and felt new empathy for her experience.

... 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.

Endangered Rural Virginia School Seeking New Life

Posted on: May 27th, 2009 by Guest Writer 3 Comments

 

Written by Sonja Ingram

The Konnarock School in Hillsville, VA.

The Konnarock School in Hillsville, VA.

Being the field representative for Preservation Virginia and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, I receive many phone calls and emails asking for assistance on a variety of preservation topics. When I received an email about the Konnarock School in Smyth County, my initial thoughts were that it would be a typical request for grant information -- but I was wrong.

My first trip to Konnarock School in March of 2009 was an adventure itself. As I left Danville, I traveled across the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the Crooked Road, Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail. Further up the Crooked Road travelers will find Bristol, Virginia, the birthplace of country music and Carter’s Fold, the home of the famous Carter family where bluegrass is still played every Saturday night.

But my trip did not take me that far west; instead I successfully navigated my way across Lover’s Leap near the town of Stuart, named after Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart, then through the scenic Meadows of Dan and onto the aptly named town of Hillsville.

Penny Herring points something out on a tour of the school.

Penny Herring describing the building on a tour.

When I arrived at Konnarock School, located at the foot of Whitetop Mountain and near Mount Rogers, the two highest peaks in Virginia, I was met by two fantastic folks, Penny “the Penster” and Monroe Herring; and one very friendly dog, Buddee. Once we started discussing the school, I began to fully realize the importance of the Konnarock School and what it has meant -- and still means -- to this community in western Virginia.

The Konnarock Training School was built in 1924 by the Lutheran Church as a boarding school for girls. For the next twenty-five years, the school educated many girls in this rural part of Virginia who would not have received the opportunity otherwise. The school also engaged in extensive health, educational, and religious outreach throughout the mountains of Southwest Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. A companion school for boys, the Iron Mountain Lutheran School for Boys and Young Men, was built in the 1930s.

The Konnarock School was built of native hardwoods and is sided with the bark of the American Chestnut tree, a species that is nearly extinct after its decimation during the Chestnut blight in the 1930s-1940s.

... 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.

Teaching Preservation: School’s (Almost) Out for Summer

Posted on: May 27th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

My days here are numbered. Not like I'm counting...

My days here are numbered. Not like I'm counting...

Cue up “Pomp and Circumstance,” because the senior class of Washington High School will officially graduate on May 31, 2009.

Getting this close to the big day, I can’t help but wonder if I’m supposed to feel sad. I'm so excited to have reached this milestone, and I can tell that the feeling is mutual among my classmates.

But what’s next? Where is everyone headed? Believe me, the next chapter is on everyone’s mind these days, and with that being said, here are some updates:

As for me, I will be spending my summer doing volunteer work and prepping for college. I plan to attend the University of Charleston in West Virginia and study neuroscience psychiatry.

As for my classmates and fellow bloggers, they all have big plans for the future. Marci B. plans to attend Ohio University-Chillicothe and study nursing. Brittney T. will attend Southern State Community College and major in human and social sciences, while Bryan R. will venture to the University of Cincinnati to study aeronautical engineering (he has his sights set on working for NASA one day).

In a small town like ours, you end up having the same classmates your entire life. Not to get all mushy (cue that music!), but we’ve literally watched each other grow up. At a time like this, it’s funny to look at our personalities and quirks today, and then think back over the years. For example, in our recent senior favorites contest, Brittney T. walked away with best hair, Bryan R. swept biggest flirt, and I was crowned “Most Likely to Leave and Never Come Back.” Who knew?

Anyway, I think I speak for everyone when I say that Research History has been an especially amazing senior-year experience. We did so much more than highlight and memorize, and hey, we made a difference in the process. I know I learned more about history, and I hope we’ve inspired others with our words and photos. It’s something I feel really good about.

And, looking forward, I’m more prepared for the future since many colleges and universities are now placing greater emphasis on service learning (check!).

So, this is the point in my post when I flip my tassel to the other side, throw my hat in the air, and my make my exit for the last time. From prom to transcripts, I hoped you’ve liked what I've had to say. And, if you’re not ready for goodbye yet, stay tuned for a final post from our class this Friday.

Over and out.

- Sara S.

Sara S. is (for a few more days, at least) a senior at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. This semester, She and her Research History classmates have worked on a variety of preservation projects, including documenting and preserving local cemeteries like Good Hope.

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.