Author Archive

 

A number of inimitable members of Team Way Outside the Beltwayers can no longer recall when they participated in their first National Preservation Lobby Day, but all admit to becoming instantly hooked on the energy, camaraderie, break-neck pace, feeling of accomplishment and plain old fun that characterizes this annual event. It's the one day each year when preservation enthusiasts from across the nation storm the halls of Congress to not only speak in unison about the benefits of historic preservation, but to seek critical funding and support for national and local preservation programs and incentives.

Well, I remember the day I was officially introduced to this hallowed event as if it were yesterday. It was a dark and rainy December evening in Seattle (go figure) back in 2005 (okay, so it wasn’t all that long ago), a full month before I was slated to officially start my new job with the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. On that fateful evening, one of Washington’s most celebrated preservationists asked me to meet over a drink. I thought to myself, "how nice," but no sooner had I removed my soaking raincoat and placed my drink order that a dog-eared folder labeled “Lobby Day” was thrust upon me. And with that, the baton was ceremoniously passed to me and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. I’ll admit I had absolutely no idea what Lobby Day was when I took that first sip, but by the time I was down to my last olive, it was abundantly clear to me that Lobby Day was nothing to be trifled with. Oh, the wisdom contained in that folder.

But enough about me. Fast forward to March 2009. I’m delighted to report that the preservationist who crowned me the unofficial Lobby Day czarina (which is the glorified title for meeting scheduler, team recruiter, travel agent and general organizer, whose name would be worse than mud if she didn’t acknowledge the help of her awesome staff) continues to be the anchor of our team. And with each passing year, we build and strengthen Team Way Outside the Beltwayers by recruiting fresh, new talent to round out our cadre of stellar, seasoned veterans. Indeed, the Washington Trust raises travel scholarship funds to make it possible for the largest contingency of sharp, articulate and persuasive historic preservation enthusiasts to participate in Lobby Day. I especially want to thank Gull Industries for funding our Lobby Day scholarships this year and for supporting our advocacy efforts in D.C. every year since 2003.

For those of you interested in a slightly more detailed description of what Lobby Day is all about, I’ll start by explaining that it’s a bit of a misnomer; the annual Lobby day event organized by Preservation Action, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers and the National Trust for Historic Preservation actually spans two days, and what an absolute whirling dervish of a two day period it is.

On day one, we place ourselves in the capable hands of the experts – the real inside the beltway types – to become steeped in the issues that top our national preservation agenda. We get together as a team to strategize for our day of meetings on the Hill. We meet and mingle with wide-eyed first timers and reconnect with colleagues and friends from all across the country. On day two, we race through the halls of Congress to make meetings with all nine members of our Congressional delegation, our two Senators and our governor’s D.C. chief of staff. We articulate to each member or their staff how critically important it is to fund preservation programs (especially our state historic preservation office), improve preservation tax incentives and support local projects. Finally, we end the day by sharing stories from the trenches and raising a celebratory toast to our good work at the historic Willard Hotel, the legendary birthplace of lobbying. And yes, I’ll admit that it’s the martinis at the Willard that keep many of our team members coming back year after year.

But in all seriousness, it’s no secret that the already limited resources available for preservation are tighter than ever, making our collective efforts to foster strong relationships with our elected officials and to keep the benefits of preservation on their minds all the more critical. Team Way Outside the Beltwayers takes this work seriously, but we somehow manage to have a blast along the way.

I hope everyone checking out our adventures this year (we'll be blogging here on this blog and on our page on PreservationNation.org) will find our experiences fun and rewarding enough to consider attending Lobby Day. Come see for yourself what it’s all about and don’t be surprised if you find yourself back at the Capitol every March, racing to meetings armed with your fact sheets, one-sheeters and unbridled enthusiasm for preservation.

- Jennifer Meisner

Jennifer Meisner is the executive director of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. As noted above, she is also the unofficial Lobby Day czarina. Stay tuned to PreservationNation.org and our blog next week as we bring you all the details of her delegation's action-packed trip to D.C. for Preservation Lobby Day.

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.

Playing with the Future

Posted on: March 4th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Using Legos to plan regional growth.

I work in the Triangle region of North Carolina, one of the fastest growing metro areas in the country, where the dividing lines between Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and the surrounding communities are beginning to fade. The terms smart growth, mixed-use, and transit-oriented development are buzzing in our ears. But, how do we integrate these planning strategies with our plans for the region’s heritage resources? And what does a box of Legos have to do with it?

I and a colleague from Preservation North Carolina (PNC) participated in the Urban Land Institute’s Reality Check, regional planning exercise. As PNC's Partner in the Field focusing on urban preservation issues in Raleigh, the exercise was a unique opportunity for me to look at the Triangle area regionally and see how regional issues affect preservation on the ground in Raleigh.

The event divided the 300 participants into teams of 10, each gathered around a map of the 15-county region. We had a box of Legos representing the new residents and jobs coming our way. Our region is expected to grow to over 3.2 million residents by 2030. We had 90 minutes to put them all somewhere on the map. Our team, like all of them, was pretty diverse, with people from each of the large cities and several of the smaller communities, and we each had our own perspective on growth issues.

Everyone immediately agreed on the need for more transportation options, including mass transit. Turns out that 80% of the teams focused on mass transit. We also wanted to concentrate jobs near residential centers – the creation of mixed-use centers was the second most common theme among the teams. We wound up putting increased residential density in the existing downtowns of most of the region's cities and towns, focusing the most intensity on the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill core.

It became abundantly clear that smart growth, mixed-use, and transit-oriented development are necessary ingredients to planning the future of the Triangle region. But these strategies pose obvious challenges for the preservation community. An extra million people are going to put even more development pressure on our already threatened rural historic sites – we need to work with them now to protect them. While downtown density can be a good thing – we need to design carefully to integrate the new with the existing urban fabric and near-downtown historic neighborhoods.

I am more convinced than ever that the historic buildings in our downtowns represent wonderful opportunities for adaptive use and that the preservation community can play an active role in smart and equitable growth. This is going to be exciting work!

-- Elizabeth Sappenfield

Elizabeth Sappenfield is the director of urban issues at Preservation North Carolina.

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: Notes from an Undercover History Lover

Posted on: March 3rd, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

To be totally honest, when I first walked into Paul “Lash” LaRue’s Research History class, I didn’t know quite what to expect. With the sound of recorded transcripts floating into the hallway and a seemingly bottomless supply of snacks, it always seemed like the students from years prior were having such a good time. This is ultimately why I added the class for my schedule. Who doesn’t love food?!

Something

Historic railroad remnants in Washington Court House, Ohio.

Luckily, it didn’t take Lash long to get me jazzed about our class projects. On my first day, I remember being beyond intrigued by him explaining how Thomas A. Edison might have lived and worked as a telegrapher for the local railroad in our town, Washington Court House, Ohio.

See, I have always been fascinated by big questions like this. I can just imagine myself in a long trench coat with a dark hat pulled low over my eyes as I storm into Research History flashing my research historian badge.

In working on the project, one of the first biographies I read was A Life of Invention by Paul Israel, the director and editor of The Thomas A. Edison Papers. This man has access to millions of documents and patents of Edison, many of which Edison wrote himself. We exchanged a few e-mails, as he was also interested in the mystery of Edison being in Washington Court House at some point during his life. It was amazing to talk to a person as knowledgeable as Mr. Israel. I felt like I was a student working beside a famous doctor. It was such an honor.

As I read more – including Wizard of Menlo Park and Edison – I was disappointed to find no mention of Edison even passing through our town. I discovered, though, that even when a door was closed on my research, a window opened. The big discovery? Five articles mentioning Edison that were printed in our local paper.

Jackpot!

Although my research ultimately proved that Edison did not, in fact, live and work in Washington Court House, I did find some other fascinating (and probably related) stories along the way. For instance, there was an African-American inventor, Grandville Woods, who was nicknamed the “Black Edison” who is well documented as having lived and worked here. Most likely, he is who the author of the newspaper articles mixed Edison up with.

Overall, Research History has been an enriching experience for me because it has taught me exactly how much information is out there that it is just waiting to be discovered. Badge (and snacks) in hand, I look forward to following more clues, exploring more hidden alleys and solving more cases in the future.

-Shannon M.

Shannon M. is a senior at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. This semester, she’ll be working with his Research History classmates to document and preserve Good Hope Cemetery. Stay tuned as they share their experiences here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream.

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: There's Good Hope For Our Future

Posted on: February 26th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Last November, I had the distinct pleasure of joining Paul LaRue on a panel about youth service learning at the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Now, truth be told, I wasn’t particularly psyched about the trip all the way out west (I’m a New Yorker), nor was I excited to hear that our session had been scheduled towards the very end of the convention’s schedule of offerings. In my mind, this represented far too closely the way so many preservationists prioritize and approach outreach to young people. They are, after all, the future of our movement and our work - not afterthoughts.

Despite my misgivings, the panel attracted a small but engaged audience of teachers and community organizers eager to discuss youth programs. And of course, with his signature enthusiasm and inspiring stories, Paul stole the show.

Before our session in Tulsa, my team at A&E Television Networks and History awarded Paul's Research History class from Washington Court House, Ohio with a national Save Our History Award for their inspiring work on the Staunton Cemetery. That was such a worthwhile and touching project. Not only did Paul’s students learn an enormous amount about the Civil War and race relations in the United States in the late 19th century, they figured out how to work with the VA to acquire headstones for forgotten soldiers.

My father was a World War II veteran, and when he turned 80, he reminded my mother and me to get the VA to provide his headstone when he died. "It's my right, and my due,” he would say. Between this touching personal experience and a general love of history that stems from an unusually empathetic response to events long past, I was enormously touched by Paul’s kids working so hard to get headstones for those African American soldiers' burial sites. Take a second to imagine being buried anonymously after going through what those men went through in their lives. Nothing makes me more proud than knowing that it was young people who ultimately got headstones for them.

To quote my dad, it was their right and their due.

These days, I hear a new Research History class from Washington Court House, Ohio is rolling up its sleeves and digging into history and archeology, this time at Good Hope Cemetery. What an apt name for their project - Good Hope. See, I know America is not - and never will be - a perfect place, but there is more justice and equality out there than ever before, and these kids are the future of that. Under Paul’s wing, they will learn so much…about process, about history, about memory. They are lucky to have him as their teacher and mentor, and I know Paul well enough to recognize that he feels lucky to have them as his students.

To Research History 2009: You are the future of historic preservation! Good luck and good hope!

- Libby O'Connell

Libby O'Connell is the chief historian and senior vice president for corporate outreach at A&E Television Networks. Stay tuned this semester as Paul and his students document their project at Good Hope Cemetery here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream.

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: Making a Mark in History

Posted on: February 24th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

My classmate, Seth B., and I are on a mission to make sure that Good Hope Cemetery has a historical marker like this one day.

History is everywhere.

Whether we realize it or not, the neighborhoods we live in, the roads we drive down, and the many houses and buildings we pass are all part of a larger story.

This is why historical markers are so much more than just metal signs; they tell stories that no one should forget and serve as much-needed reminders to all of us to recognize the history in our daily lives. They're a friendly “Hey you! Pay attention! This is important!”

For this reason, I am honored to be working with fellow Research History classmate Seth B. on applying for an Ohio historical marker for Good Hope Cemetery.

You may remember from some of our previous posts, but if not, here’s a refresher. Good Hope Cemetery is located not far from our school in Washington Court House. Its rural country setting makes it a pleasant place to visit and a serene place for the dead to rest in peace. A historical marker would not only add to the significance of the cemetery, it would encourage more people to stop in and explore.

To start the process of obtaining a marker, we met with the trustees who manage the site and proposed our idea. Luckily, they were all in. They knew the marker would be a great addition to the cemetery and agreed to our help. Following the meeting, Seth and I began looking up prices for makers on the Internet, which ranged from $1,900 to $2,150.

With this knowledge in mind (and with the assistance of our teacher, Mr. Paul “Lash” LaRue), we applied for a grant through our local travel, tourism and convention bureau. Seth and I (neatly) filled out the application for a grant for $2,400 for an Ohio historical marker for Good Hope Cemetery. We even hand delivered it to the main man in charge at the bureau, Mr. Roger Blackburn.

Here are just some of the things we have learned in the process:

- In our county, funding for historical markers comes from a motel tax, and all decisions are made through a board process in which six members represent the different areas where the tax is collected.

- Funding can be considered for anything related to travel or recreation in our county.

- Most counties and communities throughout the country have programs like ours in which everyday people can get involved.

With the paperwork submitted, we must now wait for the board review, which we hear could take up to one month. Sure, I’m anxious to know if we are successful, but in the end, I know that trying was better than not doing anything at all.

- Jeremy M.

Jeremy M. is a senior at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. This semester, he’ll be working with his Research History classmates to document and preserve Good Hope Cemetery. Stay tuned as they share their experiences here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream.

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.