Author Archive

Take Your Seats: Welcome to Teaching Preservation

Posted on: January 27th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Paul LaRue

Paul LaRue and his innovative Research History class.

How much do you remember about your days as a high school senior? Chances are, an image that comes quickly to mind is one of you staring out a classroom window wishing you were doing anything but taking notes while someone like me droned on in the background. Don’t worry, my feelings aren’t hurt.

My name is Paul LaRue, and I’m a senior-level social studies teacher at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. If you’re not sure where that is, try this: take out a map and find Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton. Now, place your finger in what would be the center of all three of those points. That’s us.

We are a small town with a population of about 13,500, with our high school pulling in about 600 students. Our community is not affluent, and our school district and its campuses always seem to be facing some degree of funding constraints.

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Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio

In addition to economics (applied, micro and macro if you want all the specifics), I teach a class that I developed in 1998 called Research History. Back then, our district was using blocked scheduling. As a result, my principal asked the faculty to create several new course offerings. I suggested a class where students could use primary-source material and work collaboratively on a single project. In my mind, this would give them experience with “hands-on history,” which I enjoy very much. It would also give them a chance to get out of the classroom, which I knew they would enjoy very much.

The class was approved as an elective offering and has been a success ever since. I have come to realize and embrace that what my students do each year is service learning. I see us as preservationists and as public historians. As for the students, the class is something fun that gets them out (a key word) into the community, which usually always includes getting doughnuts and snacks. (Note: I am not bound by Jared’s Law, though we are trying to be a bit healthier with our snacking.)

Good Hope Cemetery

Over the years, several of our projects have focused on partnerships with cemeteries in our local community, as they are great venues for research. The project we just started is a partnership with the Wayne Township Trustees. We will be helping to document and preserve the Good Hope Cemetery, which is in a rural, unincorporated community. The cemetery technically falls under the responsibility of the Wayne Township Trustees, but given the current economic climate, their resources are stretched extremely too thin.

Enter my class.

Four of my students and I traveled to a trustees meeting in December, where we pitched our proposed partnership. It was well received by the Trustees, and my students (fresh from winter vacation) are already at work creating a database of burials in the cemetery and researching some of the key citizens buried there. Some of the other projects we’d like to tackle are getting funding for a historic marker and helping to locate unmarked graves.

Now, if all of this has you hankering for the days of field trips and class projects (and maybe even doughnuts), you’re in luck. My students will be documenting the entire project here on the PreservationNation blog each week leading up to Memorial Day, which is when they will graduate.

Additionally, I’ll be sharing lesson plans and other tips of the trade that I’ve developed over the years. And no, the goal is not to bore you to death (I know that high school image is still fresh in your mind). I just want to prove that even with time and funding constraints, preservation is possible and has an important place in our country’s high school classrooms.

I hope you’ll stay tuned.

- Paul LaRue

Paul LaRue teaches Research History at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. The ultimate "hands-on" classroom experience, his course takes students into the field to learn about preservation and community service. 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.

 

Downtown Kalamazoo. (photo: Pamela Hall O'Connor)

Downtown Kalamazoo. (photo: Pamela Hall O'Connor)

Kalamazoo, Michigan's central business district is full of historic commercial buildings dating from the 1860s and later -- many of which are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and local designation. But, key areas have eroded in character -- mostly due to demolition. The loss and potential loss of character-defining eligible buildings over the past two years pushed our Historic Preservation Commission to create a tool for developers, civic leaders, property owners and the public.

The result, a 20-page booklet titled: Where Place Prospers" is a one-stop-shop for information that demonstrates "how to do a deal" in Kalamazoo and wind up with a rehabilitated historic building that actually contributes to Kalamazoo's "Place" identity, rather than a parking lot or a work of architecture that looks lonely and out of place amongst its neighbors.

Where Place Prospers offers case studies that detail the whole lot of incentives available for building rehabilitation -- local, state and federal, and believe me, they're not just rehab. incentives -- they include obsolete property incentives, brownfield credits, etc. The basics are all there, and other Michigan communities can use it as a template and add their own communities' incentives.

The informational booklet is currently available as a PDF file and is also available from the Michigan Historic Preservation Network website (www.mhpn.org).

The Kalamazoo Historic Preservation Commission is grateful to the Midwest Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Michigan Historic Preservation Network who provided it with a $1,000.00 seed grant from the Michigan Preservation Fund to assist in the publication of Where Place Prospers. Without their assistance, this incredibly helpful tool would not exist for the benefit of Kalamazoo and other Michiganders.

-- Pamela Hall O'Connor

Pamela Hall O'Connor is the Immediate Past President of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network and Principal, Preservation Practices.

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Learn more about the work of the regional offices of the National Trust for Historic Preservation here. The Michigan Historic Preservation Network is a member of our Statewide and Local Partners program.

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.

A "Prairie Cathedral" is Barn Again in Oklahoma

Posted on: October 1st, 2008 by Guest Writer

 

The famous rock barn of North-Central Oklahoma.

The famous rock barn of North-Central Oklahoma.

North-central Oklahoma is not particularly known for rock structures, although a few dot the downtown districts of the area. So rock barns are even less common, and when they grow to massive proportions - well, there's just one!

A few years ago, though, there were just about none.

Along highway 177, that splits the prairie in two from Stillwater to Chilocco Indian School, there are two structures that can be seen for miles. The OG&E Power plant and the 'rock barn'.

At first sight, usually from the exit of the interstate south of the barn, you can tell it is big. But, the distance makes it impossible to really make out its real size. You keep driving and glancing towards it as you travel north, and realize that you aren't quite to it yet, and it looks bigger and bigger the closer you get. When you finally approach it, you start to doubt yourself; it really doesn’t look that big after all. But that is because you are still not right in front of it, staring upwards at the peak of the gambrel roof, which seems to be as high as the clouds.

A landmark like that, standing against the wind and storms of the prairie, is something that everyone in the area knows about. In Ponca City, 20 miles away more or less, a conversation goes like this: "Well, some Colorado investors what to tear down that old rock barn, you know, on the highway to Stillwater"... "THAT one?".... "Yeah, they think that the rafters and stone might be valuable to build some of those fancy mountain 'cabins'"..... "they can't do that!"

... 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.