Author Archive

Grand Central Terminal Arrives at 100 Years in Grand Style

Posted on: February 1st, 2013 by Gwendolyn Purdom

 

Main hall at Grand Central Terminal. Credit: New York Transit Museum

Beneath the soaring Beaux Arts arches and star-speckled ceiling of the main concourse, New York’s iconic Grand Central Terminal has welcomed and bid farewell to scores of travelers, as well as its fair share of controversy, for decades. Ten decades to be exact. Today, the National Historic Landmark kicks off a year-long centennial celebration, 100 years after opening its doors and tracks. ... 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.

Gwendolyn Purdom

Gwendolyn Purdom

Gwendolyn Purdom is a former Preservation magazine editor and currently a writer, producer, and host at TouchVision TV in Chicago.

Remembering Architecture Critic Ada Louise Huxtable

Posted on: January 9th, 2013 by Gwendolyn Purdom

 

"On Architecture" by Ada Louise Huxtable.

The built environment lost one of its pillars this week when renowned architecture critic and ardent preservationist Ada Louise Huxtable passed away Monday at age 91. As the first full-time architecture critic for a daily American newspaper, Huxtable won the first Pulitzer Prize ever awarded for distinguished criticism in 1970, seven years after she joined the New York Times staff in 1963. In recent years, her writing appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

“Ada Louise Huxtable was one of the earliest and most consistent champions of preservation and the need for humanity in architecture,” says National Trust Executive Vice President and Chief Preservation Officer David J. Brown. “Her thoughtful perspective, along with her witty and sometimes sharp tongue, made her a force to be reckoned with in the field of planning, urban design, and preservation -- and a must-read for New Yorkers. She will be missed.”... 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.

Gwendolyn Purdom

Gwendolyn Purdom

Gwendolyn Purdom is a former Preservation magazine editor and currently a writer, producer, and host at TouchVision TV in Chicago.

[SLIDESHOW] How Preservation Transformed Two Small Towns in Kansas

Posted on: December 26th, 2012 by Gwendolyn Purdom 3 Comments

 

For our upcoming winter issue of Preservation magazine, I had a chance to travel to rural Plainville and Hays, Kansas, where I spent a few days with entrepreneur Chuck Comeau, the founder of Dessin Fournir and a designer who has been buying up empty historic storefronts and reviving them to house his luxury furnishings business and other ventures for nearly 20 years.

The magazine didn’t have enough pages to include all the cool pictures photographer Jason Dailey took of these now-vibrant communities, so we’ve put together a slideshow for you with some of the shots that didn’t make it to print. Enjoy!

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.

Gwendolyn Purdom

Gwendolyn Purdom

Gwendolyn Purdom is a former Preservation magazine editor and currently a writer, producer, and host at TouchVision TV in Chicago.

 

Soldiers of the 442nd regiment. Credit: National Archives and Records Administration

For actor George Takei, the experience of returning to the relocation site where he and his family, along with thousands of other Japanese Americans, were interned during World War II was a moving one -- especially when he visited the memorial to Japanese American veterans in the former camp’s cemetery.

The names etched in the tank-shaped monument, Takei told us in an interview for our upcoming issue of Preservation magazine, represent “young men who went from behind American barbed-wire fences to fight with amazing heroism. The 442nd regimental combat team is the most decorated unit to come back from the entire Second World War. The American flags that covered their coffins were delivered back to their parents or their wives still imprisoned. The irony of that was just unbearable.”

The approximately 14,000 men who served in the 442nd segregated unit earned more than 4,000 Purple Hearts, 20 Medals of Honor, and an unprecedented seven Presidential Unit Citations -- and yet, as Takei pointed out, their story often goes untold. Through preservation and education efforts, groups across the country are trying to change 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.

Gwendolyn Purdom

Gwendolyn Purdom

Gwendolyn Purdom is a former Preservation magazine editor and currently a writer, producer, and host at TouchVision TV in Chicago.

Viva La Concha: Mod Motel Recast as Las Vegas' Neon Museum

Posted on: December 14th, 2012 by Gwendolyn Purdom 1 Comment

 

Original La Concha Motel postcard. Date and photographer unknown.
Original La Concha Motel postcard. Date and photographer unknown.

They say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, but when it has come to keeping the city’s glittering architectural history in place in recent decades, that adage has often been overlooked. So the October opening of the 1961 La Concha Motel’s dramatic lobby as part of the city’s Neon Museum after years of preservation efforts is an especially remarkable triumph.... 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.

Gwendolyn Purdom

Gwendolyn Purdom

Gwendolyn Purdom is a former Preservation magazine editor and currently a writer, producer, and host at TouchVision TV in Chicago.

In Search of the Best Historic Home

Posted on: November 15th, 2012 by Gwendolyn Purdom

 


The James Madison house, Brookeville, MD. (Photo: Bill O'Leary, Washington Post - courtesy of Sandy Heiler)

When the Washington Post approached the National Trust for Historic Preservation in July about potentially offering our expertise for a local Historic Home Contest, we were excited to partner with the newspaper for the project.

Katherine Malone-France, the Trust’s director of Outreach, Education, & Support in our Historic Sites department, served as one of three judges for the popular contest designed to choose the area’s most impressive historic house based on “overall appearance and beauty; historical accuracy, how true to the original architecture the home has been restored; and contemporary creativity – how well modern changes have been incorporated in a way that preserves the character-defining features of the home.”

Sandy and Duane Heiler of Brookeville, Md., owners of the 18th century James Madison house, won the grand prize, a two-night stay at the Churchill Hotel, one of the Historic Hotels of America properties in the District (two runners-up received a year’s membership to the National Trust), in October.

We caught up with Malone-France after the contest wrapped up to get her reflections on judging, the right restoration balance, and the difference really specific fabric choices can make:

You and your two fellow judges, architect Simon Jacobsen and Post staff writer Jura Koncius, must have had the full spectrum of perspectives.

We did, it was a really good team. I think we were all on the same page about what we wanted to see and what we didn’t want to see, and what, to us, would have represented a quality restoration. We were all detail-oriented but then we could all also step back and say, “What’s the general feel?”


The James Madison house, Brookeville, MD. (Photo: Bill O'Leary, Washington Post - courtesy of Sandy Heiler)

What were you looking for?

We wanted to see preservation of historic features throughout. I think we were all looking to see that they had really guarded their historic fabric closely.

We all pretty much agreed on how we wanted to see modern intrusions. And I think the other thing we all agreed on was we didn’t want to see something that had been overrestored. In each of these places, it wasn’t like every molding was pristine. We wanted to see places that were clearly lived in; they weren’t just museum properties.

Can you tell me about the two runners up?

The whole pool had a great diversity of rural, suburban, urban, and a great diversity of Maryland, the District, and Virginia. And the final three really bore that out too. The Lord Fairfax House, which is in Alexandria, VA is a very high style, early 19th century home that was the home of Lord Fairfax, a tremendously significant, landmark property that its owners just lovingly and graciously had not only restored but really added great spaces for living and entertaining seamlessly.

And then Brad and Jim, they had a rowhouse in [the Shaw neighborhood of DC]. One of those great preservation stories where it had been abandoned, just totally beaten up and allowed to deteriorate and they came and brought it absolutely back from the dead.

The Lord Fairfax House to me was so much about great, consistent stewardship of a really significant place, and Jim and Brad’s place was about preservation’s ability to bring something back from a point where you don’t think it can even come back. Where they needed to replicate finishes, they taught themselves how, so very hands on. The owner of the Lord Fairfax House also described to us scraping away paint with a dental pick, so I loved that they had both been really involved with the process.


The James Madison house, Brookeville, MD. (Photo: Bill O'Leary, Washington Post - courtesy of Sandy Heiler)

Can you tell me about the winning house?

The Heilers, the owners, had been fortunate enough to come into a situation in which the house had had owners all along who knew well enough not to do anything to it or hadn’t really had the funds or the time, so it had been left alone pretty much. Mrs. Heiler, Sandy, had finished her career and gone back to school and gotten a degree in historic preservation and they’d lived in a historic house in Massachusetts and then come down, so they certainly are not amateurs by any stretch of the imagination.

But I was so struck by how respectful they were. Any time they had added something it was done so minimally, so tastefully, it wasn’t underdone but it wasn’t overdone. I remember Jura, the [Post’s] design reporter, at one point saying “These are the best bathrooms in a historic house I have ever seen.”

One thing they did was a ton of research on the house and its owners. The man who owned it had been a silversmith and they have framed hanging next to the door one of his [engraved] cards. When they got ready to add their little kitchen addition, they could see that there had been a little pantry addition there so they, again, just followed the clues the house had left for them.

I mean you went out on the little sun porch in the back and the couch, the upholstery on it was a toile, but it was a toile that featured figures from the War of 1812, so every single little detail was so harmonious with the house’s history.

Do you think this is something we will be involved in again in the future?

I don’t know, we certainly had a good time and everything went well. All three of the finalists were National Trust members and I think at one house Preservation magazine arrived while we were doing the judging. So it was really great to have the Trust involved. Because this is the kind of thing our members are doing and they deserve recognition for it. I would love it if every major city’s paper had a contest like this! Looking at this whole pool, historic preservation is alive and well in this area both as sort of a personal value and a movement. They were examples of people who love their historic houses so much.

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.

Gwendolyn Purdom

Gwendolyn Purdom

Gwendolyn Purdom is a former Preservation magazine editor and currently a writer, producer, and host at TouchVision TV in Chicago.