Author Archive

 

150302_blog-photo_Paul-Robeson-sign-and-house
Paul Robeson spent the last decade of his life in this West Philadelphia house after retiring from his show business career.

Scholar, athlete, singer, actor, civil rights activist. Paul Robeson, born in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1898, was a man who played many roles throughout his long life, gaining fame and recognition for his deep baritone voice and passionate acting in film and on stage. As a young man, he was only the third African-American student ever admitted to Rutgers University, earning a full academic scholarship and All-American recognition for his prowess on the football field. Later, his stage roles included Othello, both on Broadway and in a Royal Shakespeare Company production, and he starred in films like “The Emperor Jones,” “Proud Valley” and “Jericho.”

Robeson's strong support of anti-lynching legislation and stance against McCarthyism, as well as his affiliation with Communism, got him blacklisted in the 1950s. His career stalled after his passport was revoked and he could no longer travel abroad, and he spent the last decade of his life living with his sister and her husband in a modest house in West Philadelphia. He passed away in 1976, at the age of 77.

Thanks to the work of one woman, that house is now a vibrant community arts center. Frances Aulston has been working with the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, which owns and operates the house, since 1984. In recognition of her decades of service to the community and work with the Paul Robeson House, Aulston was recently honored by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. I spoke with her about her passion for Paul Robeson's house and legacy, and the neighborhood that he called home.... 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.

Katherine Flynn

Katherine Flynn

Katherine Flynn is an assistant editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys coffee, record stores and uncovering the stories behind historic places. Follow her on Twitter at @kateallthetime.

#SaveTacoBell: America’s First Taco Bell Is Threatened

Posted on: February 11th, 2015 by Katherine Flynn

 

Taco Bell was founded by fast food entrepreneur Glen Bell in Downey, California in 1962.
Taco Bell was founded by fast food entrepreneur Glen Bell in Downey, California, in 1962.

It started with some hard-shell tacos and a dream.

Glen Bell, founder of the international fast food chain Taco Bell, opened his very first restaurant of that name in a modest 20-by-20 foot Mission-style building in Downey, California, in 1962. He thought that crunchy taco shells would make the traditional Mexican fare more fast food friendly, and that the American public would eat it up.

He was right. Fifty-three years later, there are roughly 6,000 Taco Bell restaurants in the U.S. The small cinderblock building in Downey where mass-market Mexican food arguably began, though, faces an uncertain future.... 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.

Katherine Flynn

Katherine Flynn

Katherine Flynn is an assistant editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys coffee, record stores and uncovering the stories behind historic places. Follow her on Twitter at @kateallthetime.

[Q&A] What Life is Like in Louis Kahn’s Esherick House

Posted on: February 9th, 2015 by Katherine Flynn 2 Comments

 

The southeast-facing back wall of the Esherick House floods the home with natural light.
The southeast-facing back wall of the Esherick House floods the home with natural light.

In early January, we rounded up the current status of each of the nine private homes designed by renowned Modern architect Louis Kahn, all located in the greater Philadelphia metro area. After seeing our post, the new owners of the Esherick House in Chestnut Hill reached out to us, hoping to share their story.... 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.

Katherine Flynn

Katherine Flynn

Katherine Flynn is an assistant editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys coffee, record stores and uncovering the stories behind historic places. Follow her on Twitter at @kateallthetime.

[Historic Bars] The Safe House in Milwaukee

Posted on: January 23rd, 2015 by Katherine Flynn

 

What's more fun than a historic bar? A historic bar with a theme! And that's exactly what we're featuring in our next installment of historic bars -- establishments with kitschy, unusual, and unique calling cards. Next up: Milwaukee's Safe House

International spies. Secret missions. Espionage. Codes. Martinis that are shaken, not stirred.

If this all sounds like your idea of a fun Saturday night, head for Milwaukee’s Safe House -- but cover your tracks. The concealed bar and restaurant has been fulfilling patrons’ undercover dreams and serving up Wisconsin favorites like batter-dipped cheese curds since 1966, all under the guise of International Exports, Ltd. Ask a local for the password (you’ll need it after 8 p.m.) and go down an alley and through a nondescript door for a clandestine dining experience.

Once you’ve given the correct password and gained entrance through a secret passage, you'll be met in the Interpol Bar by a truly impressive collection of authentic spy memorabilia gathered by owner, David J. Baldwin over the years. A cell door from an actual KGB prison, a booth that hides diners from sight, and the Unique Martini -- a drink which is shaken (not stirred) by traveling 600 feet around the bar through a pneumatic tube -- are just a few of the distinctive features waiting to be discovered.

Visitors can explore the oak-paneled British Intelligence room and a red Hong Kong-themed section, with bamboo-hung booths modeled on fixtures that Baldwin saw at the Hong Kong Hilton Hotel. Framed James Bond posters line the walls, and signs that point toward “Agent Debriefing,” “CIA Cover Phone,” and other mysterious locations appear around every corner.... 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.

Katherine Flynn

Katherine Flynn

Katherine Flynn is an assistant editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys coffee, record stores and uncovering the stories behind historic places. Follow her on Twitter at @kateallthetime.

The Houses of Louis Kahn: Where Are They Now?

Posted on: January 6th, 2015 by Katherine Flynn 15 Comments

 

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The Esherick House in Philadelphia

In our Winter 2015 issue of Preservation magazine, Modernism-loving managing editor Meghan Drueding brings us the story of Bianca Sforni and Charles Firmin-Didot, a European couple who were so entranced by the Louis Kahn-designed Fisher House in suburban Pennsylvania that they recently decided to make it their home.

Dr. Norman Fisher and his wife Doris, who commissioned the house in 1960, weren’t the only people to seek Kahn’s renowned expertise in designing a relatively affordable, at the time, Midcentury Modern home. The Estonian-born Kahn designed an estimated two dozen houses during his lifetime, nine of which were built in the Philadelphia area for private clients.

Of these nine, all are still standing today, some still owned by the original families. We wanted to get the lowdown on each of these houses, so we did some digging. We hope our findings are as interesting to you as they were to us.

For more information (and beautiful photos,) check out The Houses of Louis Kahn by George H. Marcus and William Whitaker. ... 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.

Katherine Flynn

Katherine Flynn

Katherine Flynn is an assistant editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys coffee, record stores and uncovering the stories behind historic places. Follow her on Twitter at @kateallthetime.