Author Archive

Can the Junk, Save the Town

Posted on: October 9th, 2007 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

(This post was written as part of PreservationNation's coverage of the National Preservation Conference, October 2-6, 2007.)

How do you keep your town looking, feeling, acting, and even preserving as your town and not some other burg up the pike or across the country? That question -- how to hold on to community character (and what benefits accrue when you do) -- informed a special speech by Ed McMahon. This was an early-morning Saturday event, not the primest of times to attract those on the down slope of a long and busy conference. But preservation types are nothing if not enthusiastic and indefatigable, as they proved by showing up in huge numbers for McMahon, a senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute.

He really delivered. Flawlessly mixing humor and truth -- and showing plenty of slides, that beloved mode of making a good point -- McMahon illustrated the often-ignored fact that good design really pays off, not just in dollars but also with social and environmental benefits. He set the stage with the sad observation that “special and unique character has been disappearing faster than ever” but went on to show that communities can and have made U-turns toward saving their individuality.

“The problem is not development but the pattern of development,” McMahon said, flashing us a good slide/bad slide combo of, first, a well-preserved Civil War battlefield building in Virginia (beautiful!), then a high-dreck strip shopping center right next door (phooey!). Guess what, he said. Communities can choose whether or not they want this sort of thing. They can plan against such mistakes. And in the cases where development will happen anyway, they can tell developers and fast-food folks a big-fat “no” to business-as-usual design – then get the much better model. Images of McDonald’s in exquisitely local-appropriate buildings, some of them hard to distinguish from historic structures, proved this beyond a doubt.

... 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.

Nevada Church Will Be Reborn

Posted on: October 8th, 2007 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

St. Augustine Church, NevadaLast week marked the latest milestone in the restoration of Nevada's oldest Catholic church building, St. Augustine's. That's when a new steel roof was completed for the red brick, Gothic revival and Italianate structure that has been a part of the historic silver mining town of Austin since 1866.

The new roof means no more "flown-in insulation," as the building's owner, Jan Morrison, calls the 25 cubic yards of bird droppings that accumulated in the rafters over the years by falling through gaps in the old tin and aluminum roof. Morrison isn't sure how much it weighed, but after a hazmat crew removed the guano, she says, "the ceiling raised up two inches." ... 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.

Reaching Tweens

Posted on: October 6th, 2007 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

Author Blue Balliett signs her booksAfter three or so days of tackling issues of concern, it was a tonic on Friday afternoon to walk into a session entitled “Reaching Tweens.” The folks so labeled, I’m told, are poised between childhood and teenage – and they’re the target of a writer with the wonderful name of Blue Balliett, a Chicagoan who composes children’s mysteries. Her second thriller, The Wright 3, is all about the Trust’s very own Robie House in Chicago, menaced by demolition until three sixth-graders and their teacher band together to save the Frank Lloyd Wright landmark. It’s a proper mystery with weird events, mysterious strangers, and cryptic messages. It’s also an adventure that Balliett uses to infect her young readers with an appreciation for architecture, especially of the historic sort. “Nothing’s as important to the future of preservation,” Balliett told the audience, “than engaging the interest of our kids.”

... 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.

St. Paul by Candlelight

Posted on: October 5th, 2007 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

So, blogging, huh? Well, I’ve never blug before, but here goes.

Before I get to the main issue at hand, I have some instructions for you. Whatever you’re doing, stop it. I mean it -- stop reading this, back away from the computer, book a flight to the Twin Cities (you don’t need a visa), and take a cab to the St. Paul City Hall. It’s a handsome enough building on the outside, but what you want to see is the lobby, aka Memorial Hall. The long, narrow, tall space is walled with shiny black marble and topped with a gold mirrored ceiling -- trust me, if Lenin had been a mad old drag queen, this is what his tomb would look like -- and at one end is an eye-popping 36-foot-high statue of onyx so shiny that it looks as if it’s been bathed in oil. It’s called “The Vision of Peace,” it was created by the well-known sculptor Carl Milles, and there’s not much more I can say about it except to assure you that it’s absolutely dazzling and unique, and you need to see it.

... 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.

From the Front Lines of Property Rights Battles

Posted on: October 5th, 2007 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Today in sunny Saint Paul, the National Trust Board of Advisors and a large group of fellow preservationists gathered to talk about "Property Rights Battles: Views from the Front Lines."

For those not familiar with the structure of the National Trust, the Board of Advisors is not the National Trust for Historic Preservation's governing board—that's the Board of Trustees. Instead, the Board of Advisors is a group of more than 100 volunteers who act as eyes and ears in places where the National Trust has no permanent staff presence and who complement and augment the knowledge, skills, and contacts of staff, offering always needed and frequently heeded counsel on emerging issues and trends.

Given their record of dynamism, it might seem odd that the advisors chose the theme of property rights for their sponsored session for the third year running. What's up with that? Hasn't this drum been beaten long enough? Judging from the sellout crowd, the answer is a resounding "no."

Of course, if, like me, you hail from the West, these battles are hard to ignore. A bit of background: In 2004, Oregon voters approved Measure 37, which essentially gutted Oregon's groundbreaking land-use protections that have been in place since 1973. Close on the heels of the Oregon fiasco, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Kelo v. New London in 2005.

At today's session, Dwight Merriam of Connecticut was able to add some local color to the Kelo story, including the stranger-than-fiction Christmas card that Mrs. Kelo sent out (cue scary movie music). As Mr. Merriam outlined, this case quickly became a cause celebre among private property rights advocates, who saw in Kelo the long arm of the law stretching way too close for comfort. They also saw an opportunity to push a much broader property-rights agenda.

... 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.