Author Archive

Is this St. Elizabeths Hospital’s Last Hour?

Posted on: January 8th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

 

Today, the National Capital Planning Commission could decide the fate of the National Historic Landmark St. Elizabeths Hospital, an irreplaceable collection of historic brick buildings and designed landscapes with spectacular views of downtown Washington, D.C.

In 2002, the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed St. Elizabeths Hospital as one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in an effort to raise awareness about the vacant and decaying site. The National Trust and others have endorsed the Urban Land Institute’s recommendation for mixed-use, public-private development at St. Elizabeths that would benefit - not detract from - the surrounding community (full report).

Now, St. Elizabeths Hospital faces a potentially devastating threat if the National Historic Landmark is re-developed as the new consolidated headquarters of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

For three years, the General Services Administration (GSA) has pushed an oversized, six-million-gross-square-foot redevelopment of St. Elizabeths over the objections of preservationists and other advocates for sustainable urban development. The National Park Service has criticized GSA's plan as "wholly incompatible" with preservation of the National Historic Landmark (full report), while the Brookings Institution has called the proposal a “lost opportunity” for Washington that would offer little or no benefit to the surrounding neighborhood (full report).

To its credit, GSA has improved the current master plan for the DHS headquarters based on comments from the coalition of preservationists dedicated to preserving the National Historic Landmark campus. However, we do not yet know what the Obama Administration's priorities are for DHS. The National Trust and others are urging President-Elect Barack Obama to reconsider this devastating proposal in favor of a solution that will preserve St. Elizabeths Hospital and bring greater benefit to the local community.

Read the online version of an op-ed by National Trust for Historic Preservation President Richard Moe that appeared in today's Washington Post.

- Nell Ziehl

Nell Ziehl is a program officer for 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.

My Historic Washington: Brookland

Posted on: January 7th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 5 Comments

 

A small town in a big city, Brookland is a place where people still wave, which is perfect for a big city guy with small town tendencies.

Brookland's charming 12th Street, where mom and pop shops still rule.

I’m a big city guy with small town tendencies. Sounds strange I know, but that’s the only way I can describe it.

I grew up in a speck on the Louisiana map called Sulphur, a two-exit town I spent many years trying to escape for bigger and brighter lights, but now appreciate because of its warmth and simplicity.

It’s the kind of place where people swing on their porches every evening when it’s warm enough (which is most evenings when you live on a swamp) and wave to friends and total strangers. Houses are referred to by family names (“Across the way are the Thibodeauxs and next to them are the Bergerons.”), and plates of food covered in tin foil pass between neighbors after dinner, sometimes as nice gestures but usually just because there are leftovers. Come Sunday, the streets are dotted with ladies in big heels (and sometimes big hats) leaving church, tripping occasionally on sidewalks that have been rendered into jagged glaciers by roots that dig deep and spread wide.

These days I call the District of Columbia home, a place that Google says is 1,278 miles away (literally and figuratively) from what I was used to growing up, but that I’ve really come to enjoy. After years of pumping ourselves up by watching the DIY Network, my partner and I finally decided to buy our first house in the area in 2007. We ultimately settled on a neighborhood called Brookland, partly because the price was right and partly because - even from the window of our realtor’s SUV - we could tell that there was something different about it.

Much like Sulphur, Brookland is the kind of place where people still wave and the center of afternoon social activity is still the front porch. Our signature bungalow houses are detached (an anomaly in Washington), the yards are generously portioned, and our small streets are lined with towering trees. We have a fledgling Main Street anchored by a hardware store that I swear might have beat George Washington here, and during the winter when all the leaves are gone, the bells of the nearby National Basilica echo peacefully through the neighborhood.

My fondest memory so far was actually hand delivered to me by my mailman on one of our first Saturday afternoons in our house. Instead of quickly depositing our mail in our mailbox that day, he knocked on our front door. I answered not knowing what to expect, and boy was I right. In addition to my T-Mobile bill and the newest issue of Rachael Ray’s magazine (a guilty pleasure), I was handed a warm plate of sweet potato pie wrapped in tin foil. He explained that it was from Mrs. Dixon, an elderly woman who lives alone across the street. Earlier that week, she had seen my partner and I hauling tools and construction materials into our house for a big bathroom remodel. She called us over to her porch and asked if we could help her with a few odd jobs around her house. We did, and the homemade pie was our thank you.

For this reason and so many more, historic Brookland is my Washington. If you make your way to D.C. for the inauguration, I invite you to come explore why it's the best of both worlds for this big city guy with small town tendencies.

-Jason Clement

Jason Clement is an online content provider for the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C. Check out his Brookland photo album for more neighborhood pictures, and stay tuned over the weeks leading up to the inauguration as more Trust staffers share their stories about the greater D.C. area. Coming to town for the historic event? Be sure to visit our new Preservationist’s Guide to Washington.

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.

New Year, New Travels

Posted on: January 2nd, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Beautiful Aiken, South Carolina is just one of 110 historic locations already included in our ongoing list of Distinctive Destinations.

Where will 2009 take you?

If you're looking for an antidote to cultural homogenization, consider visiting a city or town that is listed as one of our Dozen Distinctive Destinations.

Every year for the past decade, we've unveiled a list of places that offer authentic visitor experiences by combining dynamic downtowns, cultural diversity, attractive architecture, cultural landscapes, and strong commitments to historic preservation and revitalization. There are lots of options. In fact, you'll find 110 different locations in 42 states and Puerto Rico that are fun, family friendly and refreshingly original.

The list runs from Aiken, South Carolina to Woodstock, Illinois (sorry, we don't have a "Y" or "Z" named towns, yet). These places are home to great stories about interesting people and events, remarkable historic sites, and memorable places to eat, shop, and stay. What National Trust for Historic Preservation President Richard Moe said earlier this year about the 2008 list really applies to all of the sites listed over the past decade: “These communities represent the richness and diversity of America’s cultural heritage, and in preserving their historic fabric and spirit of place are models for other towns and cities.”

So, in thinking about the places you want to go in the new year, be sure to check our list first. And stay tuned because on January 13, your travel options will increase by twelve when we announce our Dozen Distinctive Destinations of 2009.

–Nord Wennerstrom

Nord Wennerstrom is the Director of Communications 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.

Here’s to Our Treasures

Posted on: January 1st, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Something

North Carolina's Cupola House is just one of 40 preservation projects to receive a Save America's Treasure challenge grant (Photo: Cupola House).

Just in time for the holidays, 40 preservation projects across the country will be raising a glass to more than just the New Year – they are among a select group of historic sites and collections that were recently awarded a Save America’s Treasures (SAT) challenge grant. This prestigious national program is providing $10.52 million in preservation and conservation dollars to an impressive and diverse list of nationally significant projects.

While the historic collections of Jamestowne and Valley Forge help tell the beginning chapters of the birth of our nation, two Frank Lloyd Wright buildings – Unity Temple in Oak Park, IL, and the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel in Lakeland, FL – stand testament to one of the preeminent figures in the story of America’s built environment. South Dakota’s Clowser Collection holds rare artifactual remnants of the Northern Plains and other American Indian tribes. In the nation’s capital, the 1910 Howard Theatre remains a cultural landmark of the African-American community and is being restored as the anchor for a larger effort to revitalize a neighborhood once known as “Black Broadway.” Edenton, NC, was an early booming port under British rule and its colonial-era Cupola House is the finest example of Jacobean design south of New England. Meanwhile, out West, the history of Tulsa’s oil boom is reflected in the opulence of its magnificent art deco buildings, and the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture is conserving important architectural drawings, photographs and other artifacts associated with the Art Deco school.

The list of winners goes on and on, but as you can see, these awardees are as varied as the American experience.

... 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.

I Say "In With The Old!"

Posted on: December 30th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

Delores and I in Tulsa.

Dolores and I visiting a historic site in Tulsa this past October. Both of us resolve to see more of them in 2009.

2009 is right around the corner. As we all make exciting plans to celebrate the new year, I would like everyone to take a moment to really think about the new year. What will it bring to preservation?

I'll admit that I'm not usually one for making resolutions, but one of my hopes for 2009 is that - through my work at the National Trust for Historic Preservation - I can help people better appreciate what's old, inspire them to hang on to what they have, and perhaps even fix it up a little so that it sticks around longer. That's the right thing to do for the environment, for our pocketbooks and for our community. In the go-go economy of the last five years, it seems like anything that was new was all the rage. Well, it's a new era, so I say in with the old!

And, if I can indulge myself, along with polishing the wood floors in my dining room and replacing the aging linoleum in my kitchen, I want to try to see more historic places in 2009. Every time I visit one of our sites or a historic place within our network, I find myself newly inspired to work harder and to save more places.

For instance, this last year I spent several days touring New Orleans and looking at art within the context of historic buildings. What I saw and the stories I heard were powerful reminders of the creativity and the tenacity of the city's residents, both then and now. Another example is my trip to Chicago when we launched our Partners in Preservation program. Our Midwest Office took us on a tour of the prospective grant winners, and I fell in love with the Fountain of Time, the Viking Ship, the Robie House and Unity Temple. The Pui Tak Center taught me about the history of Chinese immigration in Chicago, and our opening event was held in the Stock Exchange Room at the Art Institute, an exquisite space that was saved from demolition.

These places tell a diverse and fascinating story of our irreplaceable heritage, and actually seeing and experiencing them brings them to life in a way that photos can't possibly replicate. When I asked some of my colleagues at the National Trust what resolutions they wanted to share, our Vice President for Membership Dolores McDonagh sent along a similar sentiment:

"My resolution is to take my boys on more 'mystery rides,'" she said. "As a child, my father would announce on random Saturday mornings: 'Who wants to go on a mystery ride?' It was always a crapshoot. You might end up tagging along on a trip to the hardware store to pick up a part for a broken lawnmower, or you might find yourself enjoying a frosty root beer float delivered by a roller skating carhop at A&W. You just never knew. Some of my favorite mystery rides were to historic sites, and in 2009, I resolve to take my own two boys on more of them. Over Thanksgiving this year, I took Ian and Noah to President Lincoln's Cottage in Washington, D.C. I was, of course, proclaimed the 'Wicked Mom of the West' over the injustice of depriving them of another hour of video games. And at one point, I feared they would refuse to get out of the car when they realized that we were at an historic site. But all was forgotten after a great tour. Noah was even overheard saying, 'That was pretty good, Mom. I'd even go again.'"

This past October, Dolores and I were traveling together in Tulsa for the National Trust's annual conference. In between sessions and meetings, we had some time to drive out to nearby Bartlesville to see Frank Lloyd Wright's only skyscraper. It was shorter than I imagined, but incredibly consistent with his legacy. It was not only a highlight of my trip, but something I want to be sure to do more of in the new year.

But enough about me. I want to hear about you. What is your preservation resolution for 2009? Post a comment below and share it with our other PreservationNation readers. Who knows? You might just inspire someone.

–Jan Rothschild

Jan Rothschild is the Vice President for Communications & Marketing 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.