Author Archive

"World's Longest Art Gallery" Again Under Imminent Threat

Posted on: October 31st, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

Truck traffic threatens prehistoric rock art in Nine Mile Canyon.

Earlier today, The Washington Post and The Salt Lake Tribune published stories outlining the Bureau of Land Management's December plans to sell oil and gas leases in areas of Utah known to contain some of the nation's most significant cultural and natural resources, including the Nine Mile Canyon region. Unfortunately, this decision represents the latest in a series of moves by BLM to expedite oil and gas leasing and development near Nine Mile Canyon, an area with the highest concentration of rock art sites in the United States that is often referred to as the "world's longest art gallery." In recent years, truck traffic associated with BLM-approved natural gas projects near the Canyon has caused harmful levels of dust and chemicals to settle on the rock art sites. Thus far, BLM has refused to study in detail alternative access routes that would avoid the need for natural gas trucks to use Nine Mile Canyon, even though a September 2008 study funded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation shows that these alternative routes are feasible.

Additionally, we have also learned that BLM plans to issue the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the West Tavaputs Natural Gas Full Field Development Plan early next week (West Tavaputs Plateau is the area within Nine Mile Canyon where most natural gas extraction is now occurring). If the BLM's final EIS approves the energy companies' proposals, truck traffic in Nine Mile Canyon could increase by an additional 500 percent.

Once you have digested Tuesday's election results, check back in with PreservationNation for more information on the lease sale and Final EIS and learn about how you can let BLM know of your concerns for Nine Mile Canyon. In the meantime, here's a video shot back in April, showing the damage done to the canyon's prehistoric rock art by truck traffic.

-- Ti Hays & Virgil Mc Dill

Ti Hays is the Public Lands Counsel and Virgil McDill is the communications manager 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.

Video: Ambitious Initiatives, Visionary Leaders Protect Treasures

Posted on: October 30th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

The first in a series of videos highlighting the winners of the 2008 National Preservation Awards.

On October 23, Mark Michel and Jane Blaffer Owen received the prestigious Louise DuPont Crowninshield Award -- the national preservation movement's highest accolade -- from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Both have expertly combined vision, action and leadership to launch highly ambitious initiatives that protect some of the nation's most precious -- and fragile -- historic treasures.

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.

Another Chicago Partners in Preservation Project is Complete – Bohemian National Cemetery Water Tower

Posted on: October 28th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

Work on the restoration began by replacing the deteriorated decking surrounding the tank, providing the work crew with a stable platform for the roofing replacement and tank repairs.

Work on the restoration began by replacing the deteriorated decking surrounding the tank, providing the work crew with a stable platform for the roofing replacement and tank repairs.

The Bohemian National Cemetery on Chicago’s north side is the final resting place of over 114,000 people, many of Bohemian, Czech and Slavic descent. In addition to an amazing collection of buildings and funerary statuary, the grounds also boast a historic wooden water tank, which was constructed on the grounds in 1898 to draw water from the North Branch of the Chicago River for irrigation of the 122 acres of landscaped property in the Cemetery. Severe deterioration of the roofing and wooden staves of the tank had comprised its ability to draw and hold water, and the damaged platform surrounding the tank made it difficult and dangerous to access it for repairs.

The restoration was finished earlier this month when the historic signage on the exterior of the tank was repainted in its original colors. (Photo: Bohemian National Cemetery Association)

The restoration was finished earlier this month when the historic signage on the exterior of the tank was repainted in its original colors. (Photo: Bohemian National Cemetery Association)

Earlier this summer Carlson Tank Sales & Service Company -- one of the few surviving companies that still repairs Chicago's hundreds of historic wooden water tanks -- reconstructed the platform to provide safe and secure access. The roofing was replaced and the staves of the wooden tank were repaired.

The final step of repainting the historic signage on the exterior was completed earlier this month, restoring the Bohemian National Cemetery Water Tank to its position of prominence as a neighborhood landmark.

– Christina Morris

Christina Morris is a program officer in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Midwest Office.

Learn more about the Partners in Preservation program here.

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.

Tulsa's Closing Plenary Looks at Historical Narratives, Need for Preservation Laws

Posted on: October 27th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

The National Preservation Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has concluded, though staff members from around the National Trust for Historic Preservation are still sending in field reports. In our final post from the conference, Virgil McDill, communications manager, reports on the closing plenary session, as well as his unusual choice for his last breakfast in Tulsa.

Just before attending the closing plenary session of the 2008 National Preservation Conference, I breakfasted on a popular local Tulsa food item that I’d never had before: Frito Pie. Spurred on by Jane and Michael Stern’s popular Roadfood website, I’d been going to the restaurant Coney I-Lander (motto – “Since 1926 We haven’t Changed a Bite) for lunch most days of the conference. There are a few locations of this popular local restaurant around town -- the one I went to is underneath a cool, abandoned 1960s motel right in the middle of downtown Tulsa -- a great place to soak up local culture along with the local cuisine. And what is Frito Pie? Basically, it’s chili sauce atop a bed of Fritos, topped with cheddar cheese, onions and a special chili-powder mixture. Mmmmmmmm.

The closing plenary took place at the Tulsa Convention Center, the Edward Durrell Stone-designed modernist building where much of the conference took place, and a building that few people fell in love with this week. The windowless third floor room where I spent much of the week seemed designed to snuff out any inkling of spirit or joy that might come its way.

The first keynote speaker for the event was Nell Irvin Painter, a professor of history, prolific author, and award-winning scholar. Painter noted the individual stories that, taken together, contribute to our understanding of a place. Focusing on the story of famed historian John Hope Franklin and his Oklahoma roots -- his father was in Tulsa during the infamous 1921 race riots -- Painter said the story of Franklin’s family is one narrative of Tulsa’s past, part of the fabric of the community that must be preserved.

She noted that the “public sphere is contested space,” in that there is a constant struggle over what we choose to remember, and how we choose to interpret past events. Painter cited Germany’s struggles with interpreting its Nazi past as an especially profound example this (as described by the German term Vergangenheitsbewältigung).

As a counterpoint, she closed with several photos of her own 1940s girlhood, spent happily, she said, in what looked to be middle-class environs of the Bay Area. Painter’s point? That the dominant narratives don’t tell everyone’s story. In an era thought of --  rightly, in so many cases -- as rife with racial oppression directed at African-Americans, the photos of a happy young Painter vacationing with her family amongst the California redwoods is a reminder that there are always other stories, other points of view.

The other keynoter was author and urbanist Anthony Tung, a former member of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, who promised, tongue firmly in cheek, that his presentation would cover “preservation efforts around the world in 20 minutes.” He was kidding, but clearly, Tung has a global perspective on preservation. To research his first book, “Preserving the World’s Great Cities: The Destruction and Renewal of the Historic Metropolis,” Tung traveled extensively to examine and compare the preservation tradition in 20 cities around the globe.

Tung’s travels reinforced a basic fact he’d learned as a member of the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission, and one that will surprise few preservationists; the most effective way to engender what he termed a “culture of conservation” is through stringent, binding preservation laws. Simply put, cities with strong preservation laws on the books tended to save more of their historic infrastructure.

After his formal remarks, Tung was asked what advice he would give to local Tulsa preservationists, and he returned to the same theme -- the need for a binding preservation law. The fact that 52 percent of downtown Tulsa is covered in surface parking lots, he said, owes in large measure to the fact that historic buildings are not designated by the city. Until they are, the glory of Tulsa’s rich architectural heritage -- including the many art deco buildings still standing -- could be further eroded.

-- Virgil McDill

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.

1950/60s Neighborhoods… What to Save and Lose?

Posted on: October 27th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 3 Comments

 

The National Preservation Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has concluded, though staff members from around the National Trust for Historic Preservation are still sending in field reports. Adrian Fine, director of the Northeast Field Office, looks at some of the conflict that surrounds architecture from the recent past.

The 1950s and 60s-era built environment evokes strong reactions… those that really love it and the rest that struggle with places that came at the expense of an earlier era of architecture, that represent something antithetical to smart growth ideals, and architecture that doesn’t always come in first place in a beauty pageant. The National Preservation Conference in Tulsa was a great lab for testing out this ongoing debate.

A home on the Mid-Century Tulsa field session.

One of the homes visited on the Mid-Century Tulsa field session.

The Mid-Century Tulsa field session immersed conference-goers in the city’s Post-War neighborhoods like Lortondale and Ranch Acres, featuring tours of humble ranches to truly one-of-a-kind modernist icons that could easily pass for the I Dream of Jeannie bachelor pad. Deciding what to save and figuring out how to do it was also the theme of the educational session, Teardowns in Suburbia: Preserving 1950/60s Neighborhoods. Postwar residential housing is unfortunately rarely considered historic, much less protected or bestowed with any type of designation; and we’re losing some of the very best examples of our postwar era ranch houses, spilt levels, icons and entire neighborhoods to teardowns and the resulting over-scaled and out-of-character infill homes.

Field session participants enter a Mid-Century home.

Field session participants enter a Mid-Century home.

In an already rabid private property rights environment, it’s a tough sell to put in place local historic or conservation district designation anywhere these days, let alone to do it for a 1950s ranch house neighborhood. A big part of the problem is us and our need to get over ourselves. The idea of saving places which are from the period of our living memory is affected by a number of prejudices, where taste all too often trumps judgment. History didn’t stop in 1945 or in 1975. We cannot pick and choose arbitrarily which era of our past to deem more important. In Tulsa and all over the country, we’re hearing about the need to identify this era’s resources and how to apply criteria to make good decisions about what to save.

Like a lot of others, my family grew up in the 1950s ranch, a 1960s raised ranch and a 1970s French Provincial catalog knock-off. While none of these houses are particularly noteworthy or significant, they represent something important to me. It’s the same for others who are drawn to this era for its design, but also for its story of innovation and experimentation. These places are symbols of a country that was all about growth, breaking down barriers and exploration. It is more than architecture alone but also Civil Rights struggles and advancements, the Sputnik race to space, and the misguided vision for Urban Renewal. Through a radical shift in our focus, we abandoned our cities or “modernized” them beyond recognition, pushed out our development, and defined suburbia as the goal for every American family.

Teardowns in Suburbia

Teardowns in Suburbia(click to enlarge)

History is not always supposed to be pretty or inspirational, but it should be honest. We cannot afford to erase our Post-War past or choose to only save the very best icons as if we’re in an architectural petting zoo. We’ve done that already and now know better. Tulsa is just now starting to have these discussions and, like a lot of places, will likely lose some landmarks before it gets a handle on this issue. A new online resource from the National Trust for Historic Preservation is on its way to help. Teardowns in Suburbia: Tools to Preserve 1950/60s Neighborhoods will soon be launched on PreservationNation. Email nefo@nthp.org to get on the list and be the first to receive this resource.

-- Adrian Scott Fine

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.