Author Archive

Rooted in Preservation

Posted on: October 10th, 2007 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

St. Paul, fading into darkness. (Warren Shaver)(This post was written as part of PreservationNation’s coverage of the National Preservation Conference, October 2-6, 2007.)

From "Root Shock" to root vegetables, the two keynote speeches of the 2007 National Preservation Conference's Closing Plenary differed in their respective topics, but at root (do you get the theme here?), Dr. Mindy Fullilove and Arlin Wasserman shared a key value that is also near and dear to the preservationists sitting in the audience: the critical importance of place.

As we filed in to the Orpheum Theater in downtown Minneapolis on Saturday morning (past many of our familiar colleagues clad in some very unfamiliar attire: straw hats and bandannas. Hmmm, could all of these people have lost a bet, or was it a collective overreaction to Garrison Keillor's admonition that preservationists need to lighten up? More on this mystery in a minute), we were looking forward to an interesting double-bill.

Dr. Fullilove is a social psychologist who focuses on the psychological harm done to individuals when their community is dispersed and their social networks are disrupted. Wasserman, whose work focuses on "terroir"—French for "the taste of place"—is a self-described "foodie" who travels the globe tasting some of the world's greatest food. Wasserman's work forces him to drink Champagne in France, sample arugula in Cuba, and seek out iced cider in Quebec.

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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.

Edith Wharton's Prize

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

 

The MountOne of the National Preservation Honor Awards, announced last week, went to The Mount, American author Edith Wharton's estate in Lenox, Mass. Since its reopening in 2002, it has become one of the most renowned literary landmarks in the country, drawing 30,000 visitors annually.

Wharton purchased the property in 1902 and renovated it according to her own design. "This place, every line of which is my own work, far surpasses The House of Mirth," Wharton once wrote in a letter. At The Mount, Wharton wrote The House of Mirth and Ethan Frome and entertained fellow literary stars such as Henry James. After a scandalous divorce in 1911, she left The Mount and moved to France, where she lived until her death in 1937.

The year after Wharton left The Mount, her ex-husband sold the property. After several other owners, a brief stint as a school, and a long period of neglect, the nonprofit group Edith Wharton Restoration, Inc. purchased The Mount in 1980 to restore the property.... 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.

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.

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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.

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.”

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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.