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Preservation Round-Up: The Speaking Up For Our Treasures Edition

Posted on: January 31st, 2011 by Jason Clement 1 Comment

 

Join me tomorrow for a live blog of Save America's Treasures' 2011 grant announcement. I’ll be kicking things off at 1:30 p.m. EST from the beautiful President Lincoln's Cottage – a Save America's Treasures success story.

Good afternoon, Nation, and welcome to the Monday edition of the Preservation Round-Up, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s twice-weekly digest of preservation news and notes from around the country.

To kick us off, a thoughtful reflection on the passage of time: Holy cow, where did January go? Yes, regardless of where you're at with your new year's resolutions (one word: oy), February has for all intents and purposes arrived. "Tis now the season for the Super Bowl (can you smell the seven layer dip?), pink heart-shaped things, and...budgets.

As you recall, last February started with a bit of a heart-stopper for us preservationists: Save America's Treasures (aka the country's only pot of federal funding for saving places that matter) quite surprisingly found its way onto the budgetary chopping block. Luckily, a lot of people realized this simply couldn’t happen and the program, which has saved places and artifacts that are truly irreplaceable (i.e. the Star-Spangled Banner), was eventually funded through March 2011.

While fantastic news at the time, the clock is ticking and a new budget proposal is already working its way through Washington -- a fact that is not lost on the recipients of this important grant money. In a recent letter-writing campaign to Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, some of Save America's Treasures’ biggest champions spoke up for a program they think our country can't afford to lose.

For Reverend Arthur Price, Jr., pastor of Birmingham's historic Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Save America's Treasures has made it possible to tell a story that our country should never forget.

It is because of the Save America's Treasures program that Sixteenth Street Baptist Church can continue to tell the story of the awful day of September 15, 1963, when a bomb exploded during Sunday School and killed four little girls. In Birmingham, we believe that tragedy helped galvanized the Civil Rights movement and help pass the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. I feel that our story is one of many that deserves to be told, and funding for this program provides the resources to these projects.

And for preservation consultant Steph McDougal, the program offered hope at a time when the glass definitely seemed half empty.

Save America's Treasures is not just a "nice to have" program that saves a few old buildings. At a time when Galveston, Texas had just been devastated by one of the most destructive hurricanes to ever make landfall in the U.S., the Save America's Treasures-assisted First National Bank Building project was pumping hundreds of thousands of private dollars into the local economy, supporting scores of islanders as the wages of those directly employed by the project were translated into food, clothing, and construction supplies for rebuilding battered homes and businesses. In fact, this project has benefited small businesses and skilled tradespeople almost exclusively. These are jobs and businesses that cannot be exported overseas.

Ask Susan Wissler, executive director of The Mount, and she'll point to some pretty impressive numbers (something many Save America's Treasures projects have under their belts).

The Mount’s Save America's Treasures grant jump started a restoration effort that had been languishing for over a decade. By 2002, nearly $12 million in mostly private funding had been raised and expended on the project, an effort that created significant jobs for builders, masons, carpenters, and other craftsmen from across the country. Since the Mount’s opening in 2002, nearly 300,000 visitors have enjoyed the site, and the organization’s annual operating budget has directly contributed more than $18,000,000 to the local economy.

While Eddie Wong, executive director of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, will pull at your heart strings.

The past serves as a valuable marker for our nation’s future, especially as we continue to wrestle with knotty issues such as immigration. The Angel Island Immigration Station and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum offer our nation instructive, sobering lessons as we continue to strive to meet our highest ideals. Save America’s Treasures plays a vital role.

And for Leslie Greene Bowman, president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the issue is simple: What would the "Man of the People" do?

When visiting Roman ruins in southern France, Thomas Jefferson decried the removal of an ancient amphitheater so as to re-purpose the beautifully dressed Roman stone for road building. He was shocked that such an act could occur in the “modern” era. Jefferson understood the critical relevance of history and its monuments to present and future generations. He would not have been able to build Monticello without the tutelage of ancient architecture he received in France. Never has Save America's Treasures funding been more important than now, when cultural and historic sites are bowing under the stress of sustained headwind economies. Once lost, these treasures are not retrievable for our children and theirs. Any more than the amphitheater was in Jefferson’s time.

While Randall Vicente, governor of the Pueblo of Acoma, lays it down in a way that's hard to argue with (and that I want on a t-shirt).

Saving America's Treasures is at the forefront of preserving American identity and, indeed, of defining American identity. There is no ready replacement for its work.

With that, some news: Tomorrow afternoon, 60 agencies and organizations will join the ranks when the 2011 Save America's Treasures grant announcements (totally $14.3 million in funding) are made from the Emancipation Room of President Lincoln's Cottage, a National Trust Historic Site. Join me here for a live blog of the event starting at 1:30 p.m. EST.

I promise to bring you all the action.

Jason Lloyd Clement is an online content provider for PreservationNation.org. He will be spending the evening resting his thumbs in anticipation of tomorrow's live blog.

Updated February 1 to correct that SAT is funded through March 2011, not the entirety of 2011, as originally stated.

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.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

Preservation Round-Up: The You Say It Best Edition

Posted on: January 28th, 2011 by Jason Clement 1 Comment

 

Wilderness Battlefield: Saved!

Good afternoon, Nation, and welcome to your better-late-than-never edition of the Preservation Round-Up, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s twice-weekly digest of preservation news and notes from around the country.

Thanks to this hilarious video, Monday's round-up was all about self-reflection: Are we good communicators? It's an important question to consider since few issues or causes are as local leaning as historic preservation. So, when the rubber hits the road (i.e. the bulldozers are coming), are we good at explaining to folks why saving places matters?

As promised, here's a quick sampling of some of the responses we received via Facebook and Twitter.

First, Patrick Thrush got real about the truth -- and Americans' prime-time guilty pleasures:

Funny, but unfortunately all too true. Far too much boilerplate jargon in things, but if the funder does not see this sort of rubbish in the application things do not get funded. Public input indeed, as the fact is that most of these dog and pony shows merely meet a requirement for an agenda that was decided long before the first meeting was convened. And besides, if it boils down to a choice between such a meeting and staying home for the evening being entertained by American I'dull or Dancing With the Dolts, which is going to win out? Just saying...

Regarding jargon, the good folks over at the Lewes Historical Society agreed:

@HistoricLewes: @PresNation love the clip. its so true its scary. there's a time for jargon and there's a time to sit down and have a real conversation!

If you ask Anne Louro, people get preservation when they realize its all about shared heritage:

Planning is not a sexy subject and the language of urban and land-use planners is not only boring but often confusing, as aptly demonstrated by the self-deprecating planners depicted in the video. That being said, I believe that is not always the case with preservation planning. People may not understand “smart growth” and “comprehensive guide plans”, but they do understand what speaks to their collective memories and their shared heritage. Preservation planners have learned to communicate in a language that everyone understands and in a way in which people value and can identify how their cultural and built surroundings affect them.

Ask Amy Davis, and she'll tell you to brush up on your marketing (we all should!):

@amyarchivist: @PresNation If they aren't, they need to be! We have to do a lot of our own marketing & PR, so we have to be willing to speak up!

And finally, Reuben McKnight takes our question a bit further: Communication skills aside, do preservationists have a good image?

I think preservation at the local level has focused too much on prevention of bad things, and law and order, which was a very rational approach 20 years ago. But now, that negative political stigma hurts preservation efforts; people still use the word "takings" when they hear about historic designation, when the case law on this has been settled for 30+ years, and despite the fact that historic designation often is very similar to (or the same as) as a zoning change. But yet, the image persists that somehow preservation is exceptionally burdensome.

Agree? Disagree? Add to the conversation by dropping us a comment below. And with that, let's rocket through this week's preservation highlights.

First and foremost, an awesomely huge success story that I'm still happy dancing about: Walmart has decided to preserve (read: no supercenter!) Virginia's historic Wilderness Battlefield. The surprise announcement dropped early Wednesday morning and instantly made headlines all over the place. Check it out here and here and here and here and here. Beyond Orange County, news of Walmart's withdrawal also got folks thinking about stores planned for their neck of the woods. Quite simply, it was a great day for preservation. Just ask National Trust President Stephanie Meeks.

In other news, Washingtonians remember the Gayety Theater, Cincinnati goes digital, Massachusetts reclaims its core, New Orleans' Lower Mid-City has moved, Miami has a lot of people talking about parking garages, and Marylanders are standing up for their Superblock. Meanwhile, Preservation in Pink ponders the rear of buildings (great topic!) and Time Tells muses on all things modern. And just to circle back on a previous round-up, Portland has decided to demolish a Googie gem.

With that, enjoy your weekend.

Jason Lloyd Clement is an online content provider for PreservationNation.org. He is still doing a happy dance re: Wilderness Battlefield.

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.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

Preservation Round Up: The Alphabet Soup Edition

Posted on: January 24th, 2011 by Jason Clement 1 Comment

 

Good afternoon, Nation, and welcome to the Monday edition of the Preservation Round-Up, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s twice-weekly digest of preservation news and notes from around the country.

Today, we start with a question: Do we, as preservationists, have a communications problem? Random as this may seem, I promise it's not unfounded; check out the (hilarious) clip below that got my wheels turning.

As I was sharing this on Facebook (and perhaps mimicking the "Yes!' gesture a few times), I had a thought: Do I like this video because I see myself -- and the preservationists I surround myself with -- in it? We are, after all, a jargon-loving people. Take, for example, our unique blend of alphabet soup. We have CLGs, CDEs, THPOs, HDCs, COAs, HBCUs, MOAs, NHLs, EAs, SHPOs, and RODs to name a few. Factor in words we made up (i.e. McMansion) and words people think we've made up (i.e. viewshed), and what you've got is a pretty complicated vocabulary for a very simple idea -- saving places that matter.

While the work of preservation often takes place on our desks, over our phones, and in our e-mail exchanges, there are times -- lots of them, actually -- when our issues reach fever pitch among people who don't know the difference between NEPA, 106, NHPA, 4(f), and ARPA. When that times comes, are we good at dejargonizing ourselves? And beyond that (read: when the bulldozers aren't coming), are we as effective as we should be at communicating the very basics of why preservation matters?

So, as I (someone whose job it is to be a storyteller for preservation) work my way through an existential crisis over this, please share your thoughts -- and maybe even some self-deprecating examples. I'll aggregate some of the comments shared here and on our social networks (bring it on, tweeters) in Thursday's post.

And while that, let's (quickly) dish some preservation.

First and foremost, the years-long battle to protect Virginia's bucolic Wilderness Battlefield from becoming a Walmart superstore kicks into high gear this week with a Tuesday (as in tomorrow) court date. Stay tuned here for daily debriefs from Orange County, and if you haven't already, please take action. We can't let this happen.

In other news, Drayton Hall is going public, historic Augusta gets some love, New Orleans continues to struggle with blight, and ground may soon be broken at Easton's Shovel Shop (a 2009 11 Most Endangered listing). In Michigan, one of our colleagues sets the record straight on HDCs (the soup returns!), while in blustery Buffalo, things are looking up for the shuttered Statler Building.

And speaking of our host city for the 2011 National Preservation Conference, check out these fantastic shots of Shea's Buffalo Theater taken last week by the National Trust's resident shutterbug, Mr. Pepper Watkins.

Jason Lloyd Clement is an online content provider for PreservationNation.org. He is ready to go the Buffalo right now.

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.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

Preservation Round-Up: Going Solar Edition

Posted on: January 20th, 2011 by Jason Clement 2 Comments

 

Are we ready to go solar? (Note: This is not New Orleans. Rather, it is a representative solar photo.)

Good afternoon, Nation, and welcome to the Thursday edition of our Preservation Round-Up, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s twice-weekly digest of preservation news and notes from around the country.

Today we kick things off in the Crescent City, where in addition to eating king cake and fais do-do-ing (it's basically Mardi Gras, right?), New Orleanians are debating a topic that is bubbling up in preservation circles around the country -- solar panels.

Really, it should come as no surprise that this has become a hot-topic issue that, for lack of a better metaphor, is only getting hotter; the call to cut Mother Nature some slack by downsizing our carbon footprint is everywhere. Factor in a host of local and federal incentives that make going off the grid actually attainable, and even more pieces fall snugly into the puzzle.

So what happens when the building in question is a 19th-century home in one of the country's oldest historic neighborhoods? Ask Glade Bilby, who was recently denied permission to install photovoltaic panels on a part of his roof that slopes away from the street. The project was supposed to be another in a string of green improvements Bilby has made to his property. Instead, it resulted in an split verdict (5-3 for you numbers people) among preservation commission members that illustrates what so many preservationists are grappling with -- increasing energy efficiency versus protecting aesthetics and historic integrity.

On the issue, the National Trust's recently-released guidelines have this to say:

The primary objective of preservation ordinances is to preserve historic properties, so a preservation board should encourage project outcomes that meet solar access requirements while maintaining the integrity of historic resources. Consideration should always be given to solutions that protect historic features, materials, and spatial relationships with the visibility of all solar energy installations -- including solar panels -- minimized to the greatest extent possible.

"The greatest extent possible:" Sounds pretty easy, right? Not if you ask preservationists in Portland, Ore., where city officials have struggled to define when and to what degree reviews should be required for residents of conservation and historic districts seeking to install solar panels. One missive exploring the issue puts a pretty fine point on things:

Property owners in conservation and historic districts enjoy a high degree of livability and increased property values by agreeing to be mutually bound by these reciprocal design limitations. Photovoltaic solar arrays are highly reflective, sit above the roof line and are so much larger than other types of utility installations that they could easily undermine district quality as a whole. Property owners should be protected rather than forced to accept solar arrays that visually compromise the district.

We're obviously not going to solve this debate right here, right now (especially since it is 5:00 pm where this post is being penned). However, as one preservation planner adds in the New Orleans piece, the technology behind solar energy is improving rapidly -- and perhaps becoming more old-building friendly. In addition to the panels we all know, solar enthusiasts are now experimenting with shingles and adhesive strips that can also get the job done. Here's his zinger:

You can put solar panels now in places where five years ago they just wouldn't work, because if there was just a little bit of shade the whole thing would turn off. And that's helped a lot. It's aided in the ability to be flexible on both sides.

We think that sounds promising, but what about you? Are you a yes, a no, or a somewhere in between when it comes to solar technology on historic homes and structures?

With that, let's motor through some other preservation headlines that nabbed our attention this week. First we start with a mixed bag of news for two past 11 Most Endangered listings. In Palo Alto, demolition of Hangar 1 is proceeding, while funding to preserve bits and pieces of the treasure and its artifacts evaporates. On the other hand, things are looking up at Miami's Marine Stadium, where Friends of Miami Marine Stadium have raised $3 million out of the estimated $8.5 million required for a stunning restoration. (Those renderings make me giddy with excitement.)

In other news, millennials say "No maam!" to McMansions; Seattle reflects on the value of its industrial buildings (I think they rule, too); New Yorkers continue to show some love for their state parks; and St. Louis laments the loss of its Western Union Building. Meanwhile, the Farnsworth House is getting a super-sustainable neighbor (good job, Hokies!), a New York town tries to answer a really huge question, Abilene tries to save a historic school, historic Milwaukee opens its doors, and Preservation in Pink professes a love of winter.

And before we go, a look at how some buildings -- including historic ones -- "tweet" (or something).

Jason Lloyd Clement is an online content provider for PreservationNation.org. He is currently trying to figure out what his historic home would tweet had it the opportunity.

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.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

Preservation Round-Up: Gaga Over Googie Edition

Posted on: January 10th, 2011 by Jason Clement 2 Comments

 

Pancakes anyone? The site of Portland's first Denny's. (Photo: Google Maps)

Good afternoon, Nation, and welcome to this week's first Preservation Round-Up, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s twice-weekly digest of preservation news and notes from around the country.

Today we start with a question: Is your town's first Denny's worth saving?

Thanks largely to their typical sprawl-tastic and/or faux-diner design, I'll go out on a limb and assume that a good handful of you just answered -- perhaps even screamed -- "Absolutely not!" However, for preservationists (and some foodies) in Portland, Oregon, the issue isn't so cut and dry.

In 1963, the local paper ran an advertisement heralding the grand opening of a "new star in Portland's constellation of progress," a place where patrons could park with ease, enjoy air conditioning, and chow down on some USDA Choice Top Sirloin for just over a buck. The ad was complete with a rendering of a hopping restaurant with a check-mark roof and sheet glass windows, all beneath a high flying, starburst of a sign. Welcome to Denny's, which aimed to "satisfy everyone everywhere -- 24 hours a day!"

Fast forward to today. The building -- a rare Googie find with no historic designation -- is boarded up and broken. The owner has an architect and some slick drawings of a new, one-story nightclub that would best the old Denny's by well over 5,000 square feet.

So, what's a preservationist to do? The reader comments on this recent story do a good job of summing up the quandary:

"Where are all the design savvy gentry? Distinct design such as this needs to be preserved. Modernism is all the rage and in a few years even the 'tear the damn thing down' brigade will regret this loss."

"As much as I love modernism (I've owned 2 modernist houses) the building was never in synch with the neighborhood. Also, it's not one of the better examples of Googie. It just looks like a sad wallflower who wore the wrong outfit to the party."

"Sorry but I don't think this is a good idea when a structure with plenty of pop is being replaced by a generic flop. Have you ever heard of the architect who designed the new building. I think not."

"Maybe keep the sign somehow? I love old buildings, but I think that would be a sufficient nod to the past."

The good folks over at Preservation Portland present a variety of arguments for why the building should stay, including what some may see as the common sense one:

Unless there are irreversible structural issues, why demolish a building only to replace it with something that will serve the same essential purpose and will do nothing to add housing density or other social benefits to the community? Such a demolition is a waste of resources and energy.

Aside from architectural legacy and the embodied energy of the bricks and mortar, is there an argument to be made about what the building means to America's food culture? SlashFood.com takes a shot, remembering back when Paris suffered a loss that definitely did a thing or two to its culinary cred:

Tearing down a Denny's isn't going to destroy America's retro culinary culture (that's mostly been done already). But let's fast-forward for a moment to the raising of a grand food market that did exactly that, destroyed the historical heart of one of the greatest city's in the world, ripping out a piece of its soul. Like an amputee with an artificial limb, Paris has never fully recovered from the damage done by tearing down the centuries-old Les Halles market, with its lattice-work pavilions where trucks used to unload produce and goods from all over the country in the middle of the night, spawning a de facto café culture of after-midnight supers with onion soup and platters of pig's feat that disappeared in a flash exactly 40 years ago. Today, Les Halles is a dreary concrete wasteland with a cheerless underground shopping mall surrounded by fast-food joints and t-shirt shops.

And of course, this isn't the first time a Denny's has been at the center of a tricky preservation question. In 2008, Portland's neighbor to the north stood up for one of the chain's locations that looked like a cross between a barn and a ski chalet -- another Googie gem.

So, what do you think? Be it for the architecture, the environment, or quite simply what it says about comfort food in this country, should Portland save its first Denny's?

And with that, let's quickly (my editor means it!) romp through some other preservation headlines that have nothing to do with bottomless pancakes: The South Bronx is going gangbusters on blight, some people have really cool houses, Los Angelenos remember Angels Flight, someone created a new -ism, jazz bites the dust in NOLA, Taliesin turns 100, and residents of downtown Dallas grapple with losing an 85-year-old neighbor.

Oh, and it snowed in New York City -- and historic stuff looks pretty in the snow. Behold: A wintery High Line (via Twitter).

Jason Lloyd Clement is an online content provider for PreservationNation.org. He is currently craving breakfast for lunch in a big, big way.

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.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.