Author Archive

A Fractured Fairytale of Preservation Parables and Possibilities

Posted on: February 25th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Earlier this month, an email popped into the inbox of individuals subscribed onto Forum-L, the email list for members of National Trust Forum, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s professional membership program. It’s the kind of topic that may seem like a simple question on the surface, but eight days and 28 messages later it proved to be a hot button discussion.

The question: Does an old addition gain significance if it is poorly designed?

The situation: A conversation between a neighborhood association and a local preservation commission regarding an 1890s structure with an addition dating back to the 1920s.

Our email list members presented many a solution—asking about context, significance, and what the intentions were for the home if it was not restored or rehabilitated. Some inquired if the structure and the addition contributed to a historic district, or if it was listed the National Register. Most, if not all emphasized the need to document the addition regardless of the decision.

A few days later, in response to the variety of responses, Forum member Dan Becker presented all of us on the list with “A Fractured Fairytale of Preservation Parables and Possibilities” — his take on the spirited discussion. It had "blog post" written all over it, so here it is:

Once Upon A Time, there was the 100 block of North Bloodworth Street in Oakwood. Echoes of an 1880s neighborhood of commodious frame domiciles were pressed into post-WWII rooming houses, later beset with societal ills where you would not want to be caught dead stroller-rolling your precious patrimony of precociosity, because you might find yourself dead.

The late 1960s design answer to such vexing virulence was of course a bisecting four-lane submerged Boston-style expressway squeezed between the flanking feeder streets with access ramps zooming up and down, bringing the downtown-saving automobile quickly and efficiently into a cavalcade of car parks flanking what remained of downtown after you demolished one-third of it to build the decks, ensuring that there was no there there when you got there.

... 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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Help Give Away ONE MILLION Dollars!

Posted on: February 25th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Vote for your favorite historic sites in Boston from April 14 - May 17, 2009.

The Boston skyline.

The Boston skyline.

American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have just announced that Greater Boston has been selected as the next region for the community-based Partners in Preservation program. With your input, the program will give away $1 million in preservation grants in Greater Boston.

American Express, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and our Northeast Office have identified 25 historic places throughout Greater Boston that reflect the region’s rich and diverse cultural heritage. Those sites will be revealed on April 14 at www.PartnersinPreservation.com.

From April 14 - May 17, you  -- and everyone you know -- can cast votes at www.PartnersinPreservation.com for the places you would like to see receive preservation funding, and share your personal stories and photos of the 25 sites. Each person can vote once daily for any of the 25 historic places. The winner of the public vote is guaranteed to receive a grant, so your votes really do count!

The Greater Boston area is the fourth region to receive funding from American Express under the initiative. American Express has already given away $2.5 million in preservation grants to sites in the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicagoland and New Orleans.

-- Caroline Barker

Caroline Barker is a communications coordinator at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Wilderness Wal-Mart Update: “Battlefields can’t be moved. Big boxes can.”

Posted on: February 24th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

What’s at Risk?

Wilderness Battlefield is one of the nation’s most important Civil War battlefields. It is designated as a Priority 1, Class A battlefield by Congress’ blue-ribbon Civil War Sites Advisory Commission.

However, construction of Wal-Mart’s massive Superstore would irrevocably harm the battlefield and degrade the visitor’s experience of the National Park. It also would open the flood gates for large-scale commercial development of this highly significant historic landscape. And yet, Wal-Mart decision makers stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that Wilderness Battlefield matters to the American people.

To raise the alarm, the Vermont Legislature recently passed a joint resolution asking property owners and elected officials in Orange County, Virginia, to protect the historic battlefield. On February 19th, the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star published an editorial in response to the Vermont Legislature’s resolution which concludes:

“No one dismisses Orange County’s need for revenue or Wal-Mart’s right to grow. But must the store occupy historic ground? As the Vermont resolution says, ‘The story of the Battle of the Wilderness is one of valor for both armies that fought there.’ Now, will commerce recognize that and take a second seat? Battlefields can’t be moved. Big boxes can.”

Here is an update on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s advocacy to save Wilderness Battlefield:

  • The National Trust is communicating directly with Wal-Mart corporate executives to ask Wal-Mart to relocate its planned Superstore. The National Trust and the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition also are talking to adjacent landowners who are preparing to intensively develop their property.
  • The Wilderness Battlefield Coalition and National Trust have offered to pay for a land-use planning study that would balance preservation of this irreplaceable historic site with sustainable economic development. We hope that the Orange County Board of Supervisors will accept our offer of technical assistance.
  • The National Trust and the Coalition are mobilizing concerned Americans to help preserve Wilderness Battlefield, including 800 members of the National Trust who live in Orange County, Virginia.
    But Time is Running Out.

The Orange County Planning Board is likely to hold a public hearing in March or April, 2009 to evaluate Wal-Mart’s project. Then, the Orange County Board of Supervisors may vote on the Superstore in May or June, 2009.

More than 5,000 members and friends of the National Trust for Historic Preservation have taken action to save the historic Civil War battlefield.

Please sign the National Trust’s petition to protect historic Wilderness Battlefield.

– Robert Nieweg

Robert Nieweg is the Director of the Southern Field Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Telling the Stories of Internment – Reflections from the Western Office

Posted on: February 20th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

It is remarkable to consider the sheer range of people and communities impacted by Executive Order 9066. In honor of yesterday’s Day of Remembrance, we wanted to share some of the work the Western Office has done to preserve historic sites related to Japanese-American internment in World War II. While this is by no means a complete list of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s involvement in this issue, the examples below showcase the wide variety of places affected by the internment order. This includes homes and stores abandoned during the War, as well as the internment camps, often located in extreme climates and operated as prisons for ordinary citizens.

The protection of these places allows us to tell an important, though tragic, story in American history. It was a time when the highest powers of our government disregarded the constitutional guarantees of a group based on their race and our highest court turned its head. More than two-thirds of those detained were American citizens, many of whom would later serve their country. The crime that caused a person to be interred, as Justice Jackson famously observed in his dissent in Korematsu v. United States, was “merely of being present in the state whereof he is a citizen, near the place where he was born, and where all his life he has lived.”

Here a few of the points of contact we’ve been honored to have:

Manzanar National Historic Site, Independence, California
Manzanar was one of ten internment camps operated by the War Relocation Authority. The National Historic Site, operated by the National Park Service, received a $150,000 grant in 2005 to restore its perimeter fence from Save America’s Treasures (SAT), a partnership between the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the White House Millennium Council.

Tule Lake Segregation Center, Newell, California
In 2002 the National Trust awarded the Tule Lake Committee a grant to develop a strategic action plan for preservation of the property. In 2009, the Tule Lake Segregation Center was declared part of the new "World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument." It is hoped that the Monument designation will increase national attention to the preservation needs of the remaining buildings at Tule Lake.

Poston Internment Camp Buildings, Parker, Arizona
In 2003, we gave the Ahakhav Tribal Preserve a grant to hire a consultant to facilitate a three-day workshop to develop strategies to restore and preserve the existing Poston Internment Camp buildings, including an adobe school building. Participants included members of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, former internees, and residents of Parker. In 1942, 18,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were sent to three concentration camps at Poston.

Honouliuli Gulch, Oahu, Hawai’i
The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai’i, Honolulu, in June 2007 was awarded a grant to help conduct an archaeological survey of the site of a former WWII interment camp at Honouliuli on Oahu (1943-1945). The survey recently completed includes detailed site mapping, feature and artifact recording, photography and narrative descriptions.

The Harada House, Riverside, California
In 1915 Jukichi Harada, a first generation Japanese immigrant, purchased the c.1880 Harada house and deeded it to his American-born children. Though the State tried to prevent the transfer based on the grossly restrictive Alien Land Law, Harada succeeded in convincing the California Supreme Court to permit the transfer. In 1942 the Harada family was “relocated” to internment camps from the modest house and returned to it again after the war, occupying it until 2000. Today the house is a National Historic Landmark. In 2003, the Riverside Municipal Museum received a grant from the Western Office to support a facilitated visioning workshop for the preservation, interpretation, and financial sustainability of the Harada House. Director Anthea Hartig serves on the advisory committee for the house to this day.

Far East Building, Los Angeles, California
In 2002, Little Tokyo Service Center Community Development Corporation was awarded a grant from the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Fund for Historic Interiors to support an interior preservation plan and cultural interpretation of the 1909 Far East Building. Owned by a Chinese family, the Far East was able to stay open during the relocation of Japanese Americans during WWII and remains a symbol of Chinese- Japanese friendship.

For those interested to learn more, a definitive resource for understanding Japanese Internment is Jeff Burton’s landmark study “Confinement and Ethnicity."

– Brian Turner

Brian Turner is the law fellow at the Western Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Grading the Stimulus: What Happened to Federal Funding to Repair Our Schools?

Posted on: February 20th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Photo taken by Washington, D.C. students through the Critical Exposure program that illustrates the need for funds to rehabilitate school facilities.

The roller-coaster ride that was the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act ended on a downswing for the modernization of our nation’s schools.

Down from the high when the House of Representatives passed a $14 billion school construction bill, preservationists now face an uphill fight for a portion of the state stabilization fund for school repair and renovation.

For my policy job at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, I read newspaper article after newspaper article about school construction. During the weeks that the stimulus legislation was making its way through Washington, it was exciting (and maybe a little worrying as well) to read dozens of media clippings from around the country focusing on school boards that were delaying decisions about their facilities in anticipation of federal money. Exciting because, as a preservationist, I believe that investing in our existing schools and updating them with 21st century technology means that they’ll be around for another 100+ years. On the other hand, I was scared because there was no guarantee that the federal money would ever arrive and actually be spent on school modernization.

Sadly, provisions to modernize some of our worst-off buildings for our neediest children were removed from the Senate version of the recovery bill. However, thanks to a last minute push during the conference period, $8.79 billion was added to the state stabilization fund for K-12 and higher education school repair and renovation.

Photo taken by Washington, D.C. students through the Critical Exposure program that illustrates the need for funds to rehabilitate school facilities.

But even that isn’t as cheery as it sounds.

The final language that President Obama signed into law this week indicates that state stabilization funding “may” be spent on school repair or renovation, and that there are no guidelines on its allocation or use. The decision of whether and how funding should be spent is left completely to the states. Sadly, because preservationists are accustomed to fighting for scraps at the funding table, we shouldn’t be surprised that once again we have our work cut out for us.

In the plus column, there’s $20 billion for a new credit enhancement program in the tax code designed to both improve the ability of school districts to borrow and to reduce the overall cost of that borrowing. But most likely, this will only help the more affluent school districts with the resources to actually pay back the loans.

As many of us know first hand, rehabilitation is labor intensive. That’s why the economists were excited about school modernization; the number crunchers understood that jobs - many jobs - could be created.

But it turns out that those most concerned about the future of our children’s schools didn't finish their homework. Amid the many voices shouting at Congress, it was difficult to show that schools - just like roads and bridges - are an important part of our country’s infrastructure. We were unable to convey that existing funding for our nation’s public school facilities is inadequate, and therefore we now face a huge backlog of deferred maintenance.

Now it’s time for our “make-up test” – one that we’ll take to every statehouse and governor’s office across the nation. I believe it’s critical for preservationists to try again in making the "fix-it first” case, this time to state officials. If we continue to allow our older schools to deteriorate, a case for their abandonment and demolition will be easier and easier to make.

- Renee Kuhlman

Renee Kuhlman is the director of special projects for the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Center for State and Local Policy. Visit our neighborhood schools page to learn more about the work she and her many colleagues nationwide are doing to protect the older schools that anchor many of our historic communities. Also, check out our updated stimulus tracker and analysis page to learn more about what the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act means for preservationists.

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.