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Anti-Casino Forces Rally at Gettysburg Battlefield

Posted on: June 3rd, 2010 by Walter Gallas

 

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, is a fitting place to observe Memorial Day, since the holiday can be traced to the practice of decorating the graves of soldiers who died in the Civil War. And there are few places more significant in the history of that war than Gettysburg, which witnessed tens of thousands of casualties, and was the bloodiest battle ever on American soil.

Sunday of Memorial Day weekend I traveled to Gettysburg to participate in a program organized by No Casino Gettysburg. It was a combination of musical concert, political rally and old-fashioned small-town get-together as part of the continuing campaign to oppose the development of a casino a half-mile from the boundary of the Gettysburg National Military Park.

On a shady lawn of the Lutheran Theological Seminary, some three hundred people gathered to listen to the 2nd South Carolina String Band playing Civil War-era tunes, and to hear speeches from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Civil War Preservation Trust, the National Parks Conservation Association, Preservation Pennsylvania, and No Casino Gettysburg. Included in the crowds were scores of men, women, and children in 19th century attire, who looked like they had stepped out of the 1860s.

I told the audience, “We have the opportunity—yet again—to say that we want Gettysburg and all that it represents to retain its authenticity, its sense of place, its power of place. This little town is linked forever in the popular memory with what happened here in the summer of 1863. We owe it to those who suffered and died here, and to succeeding generations, never to forget—and never to trivialize—this powerful place.”

As a closing, candles were distributed and hundreds of lights began to show through the evening as we listened to a recitation of the Gettysburg Address.

Walter W. Gallas, AICP is the director of the Northeast Field Office 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.

Hope is Getting Ready to Hit the Streets in New Orleans

Posted on: April 20th, 2010 by Walter Gallas 1 Comment

 

I returned to New Orleans recently, for only the second time since leaving my post as the director of the National Trust's New Orleans Field Office, to participate in the National Planning Conference. I was on the local host committee when the American Planning Association last held its annual conference in New Orleans in 2001. When they told us back then that the conference would return again in 2010, it seemed so far away, and everyone I worked with figured they didn't even know where they would be in ten years.

It turns out that many of my colleagues are still working hard in New Orleans and were able to help pull together an important meeting. The timing—which no one could have foreseen—couldn't have been better for the city, because New Orleans is poised to move ahead under a new mayor beginning May 3; the new administration in Washington seems eager to show that New Orleans is still on its radar screen; and the topics of climate change, sustainable development, housing and good planning practice are hot topics around the country. Just as important, it also happened to be the weekend of the premiere of Treme, the new HBO series about post-Katrina New Orleans. More about that later.

It was good to be able to participate at the conference on a panel on historic preservation, disaster preparedness, and recovery in New Orleans and helping our audience look at the situation in each of their communities. I brought up the challenges we had in convincing FEMA to allow demolition materials to be recycled. While we didn't achieve full deconstruction of FEMA-funded demolition of residential properties in New Orleans, we at least got selective salvage. At this workshop, we might have made a break-through in the area of federal policy regarding deconstruction or salvage. One of the audience participants told us he would take this matter to the federal inter-agency disaster working group on which he sits. They are looking at inter-agency and public policy changes related to disaster response.

The federal government was highly visible at the conference. HUD secretary Shaun Donovan, who delivered the opening remarks, spoke admiringly about the beauty of the Iberville housing development in New Orleans—the last remaining complete development built in the low-rise style of the late 1930s and early 1940s. He also spoke about the failures of past urban renewal models.

It looks like Iberville might actually be rehabilitated and continue to be used. What a contrast, I thought, with the position of President Bush's HUD secretary Alphonso Jackson who ordered the complete demolition of the four largest developments and new construction. No one at HUD was talking then about the beauty of the buildings' design. Nevertheless, Donovan subsequently appeared at the ribbon-cutting for Columbia Parc at the Bayou District, the new mixed-income housing development which is rising on the site of the former St. Bernard housing development. It's too late to save the former St. Bernard, Lafitte, and C.J. Peete developments. But at least 300 units of B.W. Cooper are still standing and in use, and finally we will get to see what redevelopment of existing public housing buildings can look like at Iberville.

Lisa Jackson, head of the EPA, was also at the conference, urging New Orleans to re-grow green, to include the citizens in the planning process, and to look at innovation. As someone who grew up in New Orleans' Upper Ninth Ward, Jackson has a good sense of the city, I think. During the question-answer portion of the session, I jumped to the microphone to point out that any discussion of growing green had to take into account old buildings and their continued use. She loved the phrase "Old is the new green," when I used it.

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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.

 

Pennsylvania lawmakers are no different from their counterparts in other states, who see gambling and casinos as a solution to their economic woes. Earlier this month in Pennsylvania, casinos became an even more attractive business to be in, when Governor Rendell signed into law a bill which added table games to the mix of what an establishment could offer its customers.

Now, a developer is proposing to introduce a casino not more than a half mile from the boundary of the Gettysburg National Military Park, a place for somber remembrance of the American Civil War. More soldiers died here than in any other battle fought in North America before or since. About four years ago, a casino proposal by the same developer at another Gettysburg location was rejected by the state Gaming and Control Board.

This week, a coalition of organizations including the National Trust for Historic Preservation; the Civil War Preservation Trust; the National Parks Conservation Association; and statewide partner, Preservation Pennsylvania announced its opposition to this latest plan.

Development plans must respect the Gettysburg battlefield and all that it represents to our national memory. Heritage tourism can thrive when a destination offers authenticity of place and experience. Communities are enhanced when land uses are appropriately planned. This proposal fails on any of those dimensions.

Walter W. Gallas, AICP, is the director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Northeast 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.

Notes from the Field: Charity Hospital Benefit Concert a Hit

Posted on: September 21st, 2009 by Walter Gallas

 

Saturday's benefit concert to raise money and awareness for the movement to save Charity Hospital was pure New Orleans.

Held at the Howlin' Wolf in the Warehouse District (just steps away from the Preservation Resource Center's headquarters), the concert attracted special out-of-town guests, plus many of the city's top-flight talents, who offered rhythm and blues, funk, rock, jazz, old school, and Mardi Gras Indian chants. Hundreds packed the hall.

Dr. John, center, on guitar with "Right Place, Wrong Time."

Dr. John, center, on guitar with "Right Place, Wrong Time."

It was Dr. John with "Right Place, Wrong Time," Al "Carnival Time" Johnson, the Lowrider Band (which includes four of the five original members of WAR) with "Slippin' into Darkness" and "Cisco Kid," along with many more: Tony Hall, Raymond Weber, Ivan and Ian Neville, and Nick Daniels of Dumpstaphunk; Sunpie Barnes; DJ Captain Charles; and several sparkling, befeathered Mardi Gras Indian chiefs.

Building on the momentum from the highly successful Charity Hospital second line parade last month, the concert seemed to take things to the next level for our undaunted movement to open up the planning process for returning health care facilities to New Orleans' downtown.

Last week, in a letter to the editor of the Times-Picayune, Downtown Development Director Kurt Weigle trotted out his usual arguments against the reuse of the Charity Hospital building as a 21st century medical facility saying, "It does not work for this use, and those who claim it does need to stop."

Mardi Gras Indians

Mardi Gras Indians

In response, George Skarmeas, principal director of preservation architecture for RMJM, the authors of the Charity Hospital building assessment commissioned by the Foundation for Historical Louisiana, wrote in Sunday's paper: "The RMJM study resulted in a clear and compelling vision for the reuse of Charity, integrating the most stringent contemporary health care design principles with sound preservation techniques and sustainable technology."

We await the moment when the light will dawn on the cheerleaders of the misbegotten plans for the new LSU and VA medical facilities, allowing them to finally see the error of their ways. In the meantime, we return from our night of celebration and friendship and go back to work.

Walter W. Gallas, AICP, is the director of the New Orleans Field Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Learn more about our ongoing efforts to save Charity Hospital and Mid-City New Orleans.

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.

Notes from New Orleans: Second Line Parade for Charity Hospital TONIGHT

Posted on: August 31st, 2009 by Walter Gallas

 

2NDLINETonight (Monday, August 31) at six, folks are going to be second lining in support of Charity Hospital. For the uninitiated, a "second line" is a street parade led by one or more brass bands, in which the spectators are encouraged to join in to form the second line behind the band and follow the band through the streets in a spontaneous demonstration of celebration and solidarity. We are assured that the second line will also include a number of the city's "social aid and pleasure clubs," some of the newest members of the coalition calling on leadership to open up the process of hospital planning and give the Charity Hospital option real consideration.

The parade will kick off from Charity --  1532 Tulane Street -- and will feature the Rebirth Brass Band and the Hot 8 Brass Band. Learn more at savecharityhospital.com or via this press release.

Own Jonah Evans introduces New Orleans singer John Boutte, and shares a bit of Boutte singing about Charity Hospital, in the YouTube clip below.

Walter W. Gallas, AICP, is the director of the New Orleans Field Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Learn more about our ongoing efforts to save Charity Hospital and Mid-City New Orleans.

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.