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Sometimes, the experiences that move us most are also the ones that go beyond words -- and that's where composer Eric Nathan finds his richest inspiration. Take, for example, his time spent in the Eternal City as a 2013 Rome Prize Fellow, where Nathan met our National Trust colleague Tom Mayes (a fellow Fellow) and became intrigued by Mayes' exploration of why old places matter.

The result of their conversations? Nathan's composition "Why Old Places Matter," a 12-minute piece for oboe, horn, and piano that was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra for the Boston Symphony Orchestra Chamber Players. In this piece, he evokes place, continuity, and memory -- all without words.

We caught up with Nathan to learn more about his creative process, his time in Rome, and his own relationship to old places.... 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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the director of digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

Heart Bombs 2015: Love Letters to Historic Places, Part 1

Posted on: February 27th, 2015 by Julia Rocchi 7 Comments

 

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Awbury Arboretum in Philadelphia signed, sealed, and delivered its heart bombs.

Posters. Ribbons. Markers. Stickers. Crayons. Balloons. Props. Digital art. No matter the medium, one message came through loud and clear this past month: America loves its historic places!

After we put out the call for heart bombs earlier this February (and shared what our historic sites did for Valentine's Day), submissions poured in from around the country, professing deep admiration and affection for every type of place imaginable, from lofty mansions to forgotten bungalows. No building was too humble, no state too crumbling, for devoted citizens to support. As photo after photo showed smiling faces and decorated spots, Heart Bombs 2015 confirmed what we at the National Trust have long known -- that love is the most powerful weapon for saving places.

Now we'd like to share some of these heartwarming heart bombs with all of you. Check out these love letters from coast to coast, and stay tuned for Part 2 next week!... 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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the director of digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

[Interview] Luftwerk Takes You Inside “INsite” at Farnsworth House

Posted on: February 23rd, 2015 by Julia Rocchi

 

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You might have heard it said that the past illuminates the present. But what if we in the present illuminated the past -- literally and wonderfully?

That's what INsite, last year's light and sound installation at National Trust Historic Site Farnsworth House, achieved in spectacular measure with a hypnotic video composition set to original music that played on and throughout the classic Mies van der Rohe-designed space. (Check out the video after the jump.) Created by artist collaborative Luftwerk, the piece played with the site's transparency and minimalism to create a new experience for visitors.

INsite ended four months ago, but its beauty has stayed with us. So we caught up with artist Petra Bachmaier -- who, with Luftwerk partner, Sean Gallero, created the multi-sensory experience -- to learn more about their work and the creative vision behind it.... 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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the director of digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

 

Showing the Colorado County Courthouse in Texas some love, February 2013.
Showing the Colorado County Courthouse in Texas some love, February 2013.

"Preservation" can sometimes come across as a complicated or academic process, but the truth is much simpler. At its heart, preservation is about love -- love for buildings, love for places, love for history, love for community, and love for the people who rally together to protect all these important things.

So this February, during a month that is all about love, we're inviting you to join our national heart bomb. What's a heart bomb, you ask? It's the act of showering an older or historic place with tangible expressions of affection and devotion -- preferably with lots of other place-lovers in tow.

The beauty of heart bombing is its simplicity. Here are the basic steps (but feel free to improvise!):

  • Read these two blog posts to learn where heart bombing comes from and see how other communities have spread the love.
  • Buy your basic, elementary school art supplies.
  • Gather a group of people who are passionate about saving a place.
  • Make big Valentines for the place you love.
  • Use glitter. Lots of it.
  • Take your Valentines and either affix them to the place, or stand in front of it holding your declarations of love.
  • Take pictures. Lots of them. Especially of your smiling faces in front of the bedazzled location.
  • Share all those pictures (and tweets and Facebook posts and pins ...) with the hashtag #iheartpreservation.
  • Send your very best pictures to editorial@savingplaces.org by Friday, February 20. (Feel free to keep heartbombing until the end of the month, though!) Please include a one-paragraph blurb about why you love this place and why more people should fall in love with it too.

Our team will compile your heart bombs into one, big, wonderful Valentine to places and the people who adore them. So snag some glitter, pick your place, and shout your love from the rooftops -- both literal and virtual!

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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the director of digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

 

Spotlight on National Treasures: Villa Lewaro

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Kathy Dixon, president of the National Organization of Minority Architects

As Walker descendant A’Lelia Bundles eloquently put it, “Villa Lewaro is one of the few remaining tangible symbols of the astonishing progress made by the first generation after Emancipation.” So we’d be remiss in a week of celebrating Madam C.J. Walker if we didn’t dig into the physical embodiment of her success -- her home, the historic Villa Lewaro.

To learn more about the estate, we turned to Kathy Dixon, president of the National Organization of Minority Architects as well as a licensed architect with more than 20 years of experience, for her thoughts on Lewaro’s significance. After all, Walker herself wanted the estate “left to some cause that will be beneficial to the race -- a sort of monument.” So we asked Ms. Dixon: Does this vision ring true today? Here’s what she had to say.... 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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the director of digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

The Truth Behind the TV Show Manhattan: Part II

Posted on: September 12th, 2014 by Julia Rocchi 1 Comment

 

The original interior of the gaseous diffusion plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
The original interior of the gaseous diffusion plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

One post couldn’t contain your questions about the WGN show Manhattan, so we’re bringing you a second dose of Q&A with Heather McClenahan, executive director of the Los Alamos Historical Society.

Today’s entry digs deeper into the social history and context at the Los Alamos site (one of three locations that make up our National Treasure, Manhattan Project Historic Sites).  Read on to discover which characters are real, what “computers” really meant, and what historical storyline McClenahan would like to see most on the show.

[Note: No big spoilers ahead, though we do refer to some plot points. So watch first if you’d like, then come back here for more fun facts!]

What was the nature of diversity at Los Alamos?

As far as we know, only one African-American was at Los Alamos during the Project. We only know this from pictures, and he was a military man.

A significant number of Native Americans from the nearby pueblos and Hispanics from ancient northern New Mexico villages worked on the project. They served in many capacities, especially housekeeping for women and construction trades for men.

Internationally, the project was quite diverse, with, among others, Hungarians, Poles, Germans, Italian, British, and American scientists working on the project.

Robert Oppenheimer at a party in Master Cottage at Los Alamos, New Mexico.  Credit: Los Alamos Historical Society
Robert Oppenheimer at a party in Master Cottage at Los Alamos, New Mexico.

What were security protocols/screenings like for these foreign scientists? What trumped security/spying concerns?

Security screenings consisted of long interviews with the subject, as well as the subject’s family, friends, neighbors, supervisors, and colleagues. Personnel files, FBI files (if they existed), and other documents were thoroughly combed. It was a long, slow process. One scientist complained that it took as long as a dog’s gestation period, and couldn’t the Army get it down to that of a rabbit?

Scientific ability and know-how trumped security concerns. The “gadget” needed to be made before the Nazis could get one, and American boys needed to be brought home from the war.

Were letters screened and edited to the degree depicted in the show -- for example, Dr. (Mrs.) Winter’s scientific paper?

Yes. The censorship was quite strict. Residents of The Hill [as the Los Alamos townsite was called] couldn’t even write home about the weather because censors were afraid the location of the lab might be pinpointed.

Characters on WGN's Manhattan at the Oak Ridge compound in Tennessee.
Characters on WGN's Manhattan at the Oak Ridge compound in Tennessee.

Which characters in the show are real? If fictional, are they based on anyone in particular?

So far, the only real characters are Robert Oppenheimer and Niels Bohr. Unfortunately, while cast well, Oppenheimer’s character in the show is nothing like he was in Los Alamos. He was beloved and respected for his care and concern for the scientists and their families, his ability to successfully interface with the military on behalf of the civilians, and his leadership in moving the project along.

Frank Winter seems to be based upon a few folks. He has a few characteristics from Oppenheimer (driven to succeed, the family cook), Seth Neddermeyer (advocate for implosion), and perhaps George Kistiakowsky, the head of the explosives division for the project. Liza Winter also seems to have some Kitty Oppenheimer characteristics.

Charlie Isaacs seems to be a little bit Richard Feynman and a little bit James Franck, but married to the wife of Louis Hempelmann (the project’s medical director, who was married to Elinor Pulitzer, heir of the famous newspaper fortune).

Colonel Cox seems to be based on Peer de Silva, who was head of the security office in Los Alamos. He disagreed with General Groves about giving Oppenheimer a security clearance.

The Hungarian who appears to be the assistant lab director (Occam?) is, of course, based on Edward Teller. Teller was not as high in the project or as close to Oppenheimer as the character [is].

Gen. Leslie Groves (center), head of the Manhattan Project, presented the Army-Navy "E" Award flag to the Laboratory on October 16, 1945, with Lab Director J. Robert Oppenheimer (left) and University of California President Robert Sproul (right) looking on.
Gen. Leslie Groves (center), head of the Manhattan Project, presented the Army-Navy "E" Award flag to the Laboratory on October 16, 1945, with Lab Director J. Robert Oppenheimer (left) and University of California President Robert Sproul (right) looking on.

Is the real-life Dr. Frederick Reines portrayed in the show?

Not yet. We’re keeping an eye out for him, though! Dr. Reines, who discovered the neutrino, is the only person to receive a Nobel Prize for work done directly at the laboratory in Los Alamos (although more than two dozen folks associated with Los Alamos have won Nobel Prizes).

Computers were women?

Yes! At the beginning of the century, women's minds were considered better suited for detailed, repetitive tasks. Some of the computers brought brilliance and innovation to their work despite men's underestimation of their abilities.

Before the Manhattan Project, computers worked in the Harvard College Observatory in the 1890s. Henrietta Swan Leavitt made discoveries which allowed for the realization that our universe is expanding. Computers also worked for the Army during WWII at the University of Pennsylvania on ballistics research. Some went on to be among the first programmers for the ENIAC.

What's one interesting storyline/issue you hope is portrayed on the show?

Speaking personally, I’d like to see the Special Engineer Detachment. Some 1,600 young men who were studying physics, chemistry, and engineering in college were drafted and brought to Los Alamos to help in the tech area with all sorts of tech-related jobs. After the war, many of these young men went on to get their Ph.D.s, and at least six of them won Nobel Prizes.

Still have a question? Ask it in the comments, and also follow the post-episode Q&As at Los Alamos Historical Society for more information.

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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the director of digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.