Author Archive

The Underground Legacy of Shockoe Bottom in Richmond, Virginia

Posted on: July 14th, 2014 by Meghan Drueding 8 Comments

 

Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom district in 2013. Credit: Ron Cogswell
Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom district in 2013

Just east of downtown Richmond, Va., on the banks of the James River, you’ll find a historic neighborhood of national importance: Shockoe Bottom. From the 1830s through the Civil War, the area was the site of one of the largest slave trades in the United States, second only to New Orleans.

The infamous Goodwin’s Jail, a holding place for the real-life Solomon Northup (whose experiences were chronicled in the Oscar-winning movie "12 Years a Slave") was in Shockoe Bottom, and so was another major holding center for enslaved people, Lumpkin’s Jail. Factories, law offices, auction houses, and more jails, all centered on the slave trade, also filled the district.

In 2008, an excavation of Lumpkin’s Jail revealed an unexpectedly rich trove of artifacts -- preserved buildings, clothing, ceramics, and more -- that archaeologists believe is only the beginning. The moist soil in Shockoe Bottom had stopped the growth of harmful bacteria, resulting in remarkably intact items.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore the area and find out things we don’t know,” says Kim Allen, a cultural anthropologist and co-founder of RVArchaeology, a nonprofit advocate for Shockoe Bottom.

Located on the banks of the James River, the neighborhood was once the site of the nation’s second-largest slave trade. Credit: TV News Badge
Located on the banks of the James River, the neighborhood was once the site of the nation’s second-largest slave trade.

Now, though, Mayor Dwight Jones and a public-private group called Revitalize RVA have introduced a plan to redevelop eight blocks of Shockoe Bottom, with a minor league baseball stadium as the linchpin, as well as a Hyatt hotel and a Kroger grocery store. The mixed-use project would destroy the area’s significant archaeological resources, many of which currently lie under asphalt-paved parking lots. It also would eliminate the above-ground street grid that’s remained the same since the days of slavery.

While Revitalize RVA promises to create a slavery heritage site nearby, advocates for preservation argue that it won’t make up for the loss of these eight blocks of history. The proposal represents “the abject destruction of these resources before we get to them,” says Ana Edwards, a local artist and chair of the nonprofit Defenders' Sacred Ground Project.

Adds Elizabeth Kostelny of Preservation Virginia: “The way the mayor’s plan is sketched out would destroy the streetscape, the context of the slave trade. There is value in being able to maintain that context.”

Opponents of the stadium plan also question the appropriateness of building a sports facility on the site of such a serious part of the nation’s past.

“Is a baseball stadium the right contrast to this place?” asks Kostelny. Shockoe Bottom preservationists aren’t against development in general there, but they want it to be more considered than the current plan, and to undergo a more public discussion.

Much of Shockoe Bottom has been paved over, which archaeologists believe has helped keep its underground artifacts intact. Credit: Andrew Bain
Much of Shockoe Bottom has been paved over, which archaeologists believe has helped keep its underground artifacts intact.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation agrees. On June 24, the National Trust named Shockoe Bottom to its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2014, as well as designated it as part of the National Treasures program.

“Shockoe Bottom is where we see the convergence of history, archaeology, and the immensely important stories of endurance and resistance against injustice,” said Germonique Ulmer, vice president of public affairs, in her on-site remarks, calling the stadium redevelopment plan “incompatible.”

Today, many of Shockoe Bottom’s warehouses have been converted for residential or commercial use. Members of Richmond’s African-American, Quaker, and Jewish communities have all lived there at one time or another. This complex legacy makes its preservation and appropriate redevelopment even more crucial, especially when layered over the area’s slave-trading history.

“To a degree, it’s a history that people wanted to forget,” Kostelny says. “By being paved over, this place has become a time capsule waiting to be discovered.”

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.

Meghan Drueding

Meghan Drueding

Meghan Drueding is the managing editor of Preservation magazine. She has a weakness for mid-century modern, walkable cities, and coffee table books about architecture and design.

Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery in Portland, Oregon: A Refuge for All

Posted on: June 19th, 2014 by Meghan Drueding

 

Credit: Metro and Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery
The MacLeay family mausoleum, in the southern section of Lone Fir.

Portland, Ore., might have been known as Boston, Ore., if not for the outcome of a simple coin toss in 1845. Founding father Asa Lovejoy had been pulling for Boston as the city’s name, but co-founder Francis Pettygrove, who was partial to the Portland moniker, outflipped him.

The penny they used is enshrined at the Oregon Historical Society, and Lovejoy himself rests in peace at Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery, in the city’s Buckman neighborhood. (Pettygrove, fittingly enough, is buried in another cemetery on the opposite side of the Willamette River.)

... 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.

Meghan Drueding

Meghan Drueding

Meghan Drueding is the managing editor of Preservation magazine. She has a weakness for mid-century modern, walkable cities, and coffee table books about architecture and design.

 

Credit: Robert C. Lautman, National Building Museum

Most of the nation’s architecturally distinctive Midcentury Modern housing developments are concentrated in sunny California. But others exist in pockets around the country, one of the most notable being Hollin Hills in Alexandria, Va. Located about 14 miles outside Washington, D.C., the 326-acre community with more than 450 homes serves as a well-preserved paradise for midcentury aficionados.... 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.

Meghan Drueding

Meghan Drueding

Meghan Drueding is the managing editor of Preservation magazine. She has a weakness for mid-century modern, walkable cities, and coffee table books about architecture and design.

PHOTO TOUR: Revitalization Through Adaptive Reuse in Vallejo, Calif.

Posted on: March 18th, 2014 by Meghan Drueding

 

Credit: Leah Nash
Temple Art Lofts in Vallejo, Calif.

In the upcoming Spring issue of Preservation, we explore Vallejo, Calif., through the lens of the Temple Art Lofts, an adaptive reuse building that symbolizes the city’s decline and renewal. Through the 1990s, Vallejo’s economy boomed, thanks to the presence of the U.S. Navy’s Mare Island base. But when the Navy left in 1996, the dollars spent at local businesses dried up, and by 2008 the city had declared bankruptcy.

Now, the skyrocketing price of real estate elsewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area is causing developers and entrepreneurs to take a second look at Vallejo. Case in point: developer Meea Kang, who boldly converted a pair of derelict historic buildings into the award-winning Temple Art Lofts.

We had so many great photos of the Lofts and the surrounding city that we couldn’t use them all in our print story. So we’ve collected a few of our favorites here. Join us on behind the scenes in the waterfront city of Vallejo.... 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.

Meghan Drueding

Meghan Drueding

Meghan Drueding is the managing editor of Preservation magazine. She has a weakness for mid-century modern, walkable cities, and coffee table books about architecture and design.

 

In 1958 and 1959, influential Modernist architect Harwell Hamilton Harris designed what many consider to be one of his best buildings, the Cranfill Apartments in Austin, Texas. Before leading the University of Texas at Austin’s architecture school in the early 1950s, he apprenticed with Modernist pioneer Richard Neutra in Los Angeles and admired Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House. Harris made his reputation by using warm, natural materials to make Modernism more approachable, and creating spaces that connect with the outdoors.... 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.

Meghan Drueding

Meghan Drueding

Meghan Drueding is the managing editor of Preservation magazine. She has a weakness for mid-century modern, walkable cities, and coffee table books about architecture and design.