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Notes from New Orleans: Holy Cross Projects Sustain "No Significant Damage"

Posted on: September 2nd, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Home Again! projects in Holy Cross weathered the storm well.

Home Again! projects in Holy Cross weathered the storm well.

The Holy Cross neighborhood looks very good the day after Gustav passed through Louisiana. Although heavy winds downed a few trees and one electrical pole, the neighborhood is clear of any major debris. The streets are fully passable. Luckily, there was no significant damage seen on the exterior of the homes in the neighborhood. Though there is no electrical service at the moment in the neighborhood, all of the HOME AGAIN! projects looked safe and secure -- even one that is currently undergoing major exterior framing.

Despite being only partially completed, the renovation of Mrs. Skidmore's home withstood the hurricane.

Despite being only partially completed, the renovation of Mrs. Skidmore's home withstood the hurricane.

Walter Gallas and I had been at the home, owned by Mrs. Imelda Skidmore, on Friday for the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and had assisted in removing potential flying debris from the property. Our efforts – and that of the workmen who secured the home – appears to have paid off, as the only damage was small segments of torn roofing paper, and we’re still on schedule to have Mrs. Skidmore and her daughter back home later this fall.

Another undamaged Home Again! project in Holy Cross.

Another undamaged Home Again! project in Holy Cross.

We are fortunate down here in New Orleans today. There was very little flooding during the storm, and today the streets are dry and the sky is blue. The same appears to be true for the historic districts along the river that I passed as I made my way to the Preservation Resource Center where the National Trust for Historic Preservation New Orleans Field Office is housed. While there was no electrical service in the 9th ward, street lights started working on Franklin Avenue. One or two spots after Franklin had no electricity, but the Quarter and the warehouse district are fine. I am also happy to report that our offices received no damage; the power, computers and phone system are all working fine. Lastly, there is a heavy police and National Guard presence in the streets and no evidence of any problems regarding vandalism.

-- Kevin Mercadel

Kevin is a Program Officer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation's New Orleans Field Office.

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.

Repair, Not Replacement, for the Tomb of the Unknowns

Posted on: August 20th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 4 Comments

 

Preservationists took heart this week when Federal officials released a long-awaited report to Congress on the future of the Tomb of the Unknowns. Bowing to public outcry, the Department of the Army, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Arlington National Cemetery have done an “about face” and have informed Congress that the Cemetery now will conduct much-needed repairs to the 1932 Tomb Monument.

While this is an important victory for preservationists, the report to Congress makes it very clear that replacement of the authentic monument still is seriously being explored as an option. The Cemetery’s stubborn fixation on replacement has amazed some observers, especially in light of the fact that officials now concede that replacing the 48-ton marble block would “diminish the integrity” of historic Arlington National Cemetery and cost taxpayers substantially more -- an estimated $2.2 million to construct a replica monument compared to only $65,000 to properly repair the original Tomb.

The National Trust and our allies in this fight will continue to closely monitor the Cemetery’s treatment of the Tomb Monument.

Many thanks to so many Members and friends who contacted Cemetery Superintendent John Metzler and Members of Congress about the historic Tomb Monument – your support was critical in this important victory. Visit www.preservationnation.org/tomb to read a copy of the report or to find out how you can help.

-– Robert Nieweg

Robert Nieweg is the director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Southern Field Office.

Updated 8/21/2008 to correct the size of the Tomb (48 tons).

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 Help for Teardowns

Posted on: August 18th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

As we all watch and wait to see how the slumping economy and struggling housing sector either rebounds or continues to fall, one has to question if teardowns – the demolition of houses for larger replacement homes, often referred to as McMansions -- are likely to continue or even make economic sense in the near future. While the demolition of perfectly good houses doesn’t meet our sustainability goals, the practice has developed a strong foothold in many communities around the country, and in Canada and Australia. As I’ve watched this trend grow into a profitable niche market and, most recently, have seen it slowdown in the last year, I’m not convinced teardowns are finished. If anything, teardowns are likely just on a hiatus and, in many places, continue full steam ahead despite the gloomy national economic outlook.

What this current economy does offer us though is a cooling off period to get a handle on this issue and be proactive before teardowns start up full force again. The ways in which communities are responding to teardowns are diverse in approach and overall effectiveness. So in places like Downers Grove, IL, the community is trying to balance the needs of newcomers while also addressing a reduction in affordable “starter” housing, storm water drainage impacts caused in part due to teardowns, and the overall loss of original community character. In Westport, CT, community leaders are responding to teardowns by increasing the period for a demolition delay from 90 to 180 days. Sometimes efforts are being done on a house-by-house basis, such as in Seattle, where a resident is currently making a last ditch effort to save an intact 1908 Craftsman-style home by moving it out of harms way. And in Raleigh, an organization called Community Scale has formed to advocate for approaches that guide infill construction while also preserving the integrity and diversity of the city’s older neighborhoods.

There’s no single tool out there to solve the problem but rather a combination of strategies works best. Recognizing that most people don’t know where to start or go for best practices, a new online tool has been developed called Teardown Tools on the Web. Created as part of the Teardowns Initiative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, this tool is intended as an easy-to-share, user-friendly, one-stop-shop highlighting approximately 30 tools and more than 300 examples of best practices being used around the country. Check it out at http://www.preservationnation.org/issues/teardowns/

-Adrian Fine, Director Northeast Field Office, 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.

Kansas Court Finds Religious Exercise Would Not Be Substantially Burdened in State Preservation Law Case

Posted on: July 25th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Bethany Place - Photo Credit: Kansas Preservation Alliance, Inc.

On July 21, 2008 the Shawnee County District Court set aside the Topeka City Council’s decision under the Kansas Historic Preservation Act, that there were no feasible and prudent alternatives to the construction of a new parking lot for Grace Cathedral, to be located in the environs of Bethany Place, the site of Bethany College, the first women's college in Kansas. The City had approved the project despite a finding by the Kansas Historic Preservation Officer, that the proposed project would “encroach upon, damage or destroy the Bethany Place site” because it would necessitate the removal of several historic trees and change the relationship between two historic buildings on the site and the street.

In a detailed, 57-page decision, the court sharply criticized the city for ignoring evidence that feasible and prudent alternatives to the proposed parking lot existed and for granting the permit upon the threat of litigation under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). Significantly, the court stated a decision to deny the Cathedral’s parking lot project would not rise to the level of a “direct and substantial burden” on religious exercise.

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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.

A Loss for the Trust, Preservation Movement

Posted on: July 21st, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

I am saddened to report that Jack Walter, the sixth president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation from 1984 to 1992, died unexpectedly this past weekend.

Jack Walter was a passionate preservationist who cared deeply about the special places that are our legacy from the past. Using the skills and experience he had acquired in a long and distinguished public-service career, he led the National Trust for Historic Preservation to become the strong, effective organization it was meant to be -- and helped bring new life to historic buildings, neighborhoods and landscapes from coast to coast. All of us who work to keep America's heritage intact and alive are deeply in his debt.

-- Richard Moe, President, 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.