It's the week of the Fourth of July, which means that we're dreaming in red, white, and blue, and thinking about flags, fireworks, and freedom. And maybe it's the fire engine red, or their symbol of civic heroism, but there's just something about fire houses that screams America. Add in a "rising from the ashes" story line and it's kind of the American preservation/restoration/rebuilding dream. Enter Fire Station No. 6 in Houston, Texas.

Built in 1903 (see "before" pictures above), No. 6 is located on Washington Avenue in Houston's Sixth Ward neighborhood -- a story of regeneration in itself, but still dotted with auto lots, empty storefronts, and untended buildings. When Tom Hair, founder of communications and marketing firm Axiom, was looking to buy a property to house his growing company, he wanted a space that reflected Axiom's creativity and energy. He found it in the then-dilapidated Fire Station No. 6.

Although the brick exterior was still in decent shape and structurally sound, the windows were rotten and the building needed a full roof replacement, as well as restoration work on the metal shingles and cornices.

Today, Fire Station No. 6 is a beacon for historic adaptation done right. The exterior gleams, and the interior feels fresh but still retains elements of the historic building -- like a brass fire pole that's available for use by the firm's employees. The building has marks of of the past -- exposed bricks, restored columns, and old photos splashed across the walls -- while still accommodating the needs and styles of a modern work space.

Owner Tom Hair is rightfully proud of his work: "We have one of the few buildings that has been restored to its original presence on Washington Avenue." Kudos on a job well done, and let's hope that as the neighborhood develops, the number of restorations only continues to grow.

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.

First-Person Preservation: A West Side Story

Posted on: June 28th, 2012 by David Weible 5 Comments


At age 14, I took a summer job working behind the counter of a butcher stand at Cleveland’s West Side Market. If I’m honest, I dreaded going to work. At that age, I had difficulty seeing the twelve-hour Saturday shifts as anything but one less day at the beach with friends. In typical Midwest fashion, my father told me to stop complaining; I’d learn something from it.

The market got its start in the 1840s when two local landowners donated a tract just to the west of downtown Cleveland and the Cuyahoga River with the caveat that it permanently serve as a community marketplace. In 1912, a yellow-brick neo-classical and Byzantine structure designed by Benjamin Hubbel and W. Dominick Benes was built. It celebrates its centennial this summer.

A byproduct of its longevity, the market is equal parts ethnographic log and cultural guidebook of the immigrant-rich city -- a tangible place where abstractions such as Cleveland’s multifaceted identity manifest themselves. Just one shopping trip offers a world of possibilities: butcher stalls and distinct meats of Germans, Hungarians, Slovenians, and Slovaks; the artisanal bakeries and goods of French and Italians; and the fresh produce stands of Lebanese and Syrians. Anything from Polish pierogis or Cambodian pad thai to authentic Mexican empanadas can be found there -- not to mention Amish cheeses, Indian spices, and fresh local seafood (no joke, just check a map).

The nearly 100 stalls of the interior concourse are composed of glass deli cases and filled to the brim with summer sausages and fresh-caught walleye that create a sweet raw scent and mosaic of color that automatically trigger hunger. Strands of orange product stickers hang on rolls behind counters among local sports paraphernalia and obscure the timeworn but smiling faces of owners hard at work. Everything is wrapped in crisp white paper and priced with the swipe of a pen. The yells of price-haggling in Ukrainian are accented by chiming cash registers that look nearly as old as the building.

Given this cultural significance, aesthetic beauty, and of course, fresh local ingredients, it’s no wonder that the market has also become a hub for the masterminds of Cleveland’s progressive food scene: Iron Chef Michael Symon; renowned food author and charcuterie expert Michael Ruhlman; and one of Food and Wine’s Best New Chefs of 2010, Jonathon Sawyer.

[Ed. note: We took out a photo here -- different West Side Market!]

Their success has brought national attention to the market, creating an emotional conflict for locals who are eager to refute Cleveland’s reputation as a dead city, but whose upbringing there instills a dogmatic disregard for outside commentary. Willingly or not, the market is a symbol of the embracive, yet tough-as-nails and independent ideology of the city for the rest of the country to see.

So as it turns out, my father was right. More than the different cuts of steak or common phrases in Ukrainian, I learned something from my four short months at the market. I learned how a building can transcend the physical and elevate itself as a portrait of the community around it, and how preservation often isn’t as much about saving a building from destruction, as it is about enriching our own existence.

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.

David Weible

David Weible

David Weible is a content specialist for the National Trust, previously with Preservation magazine. He came to D.C. from Cleveland, Ohio, where he wrote for Sailing World and Outside magazines.

Denver's Emerson School Building Reopens After Green Restoration

Posted on: May 30th, 2012 by Jim Lindberg


The flag of the National Trust is flying high over the historic Emerson School in Denver, Colorado! National Trust President Stephanie Meeks and Chief Preservation Officer David Brown returned to their 5th grade “flag patrol” days to hoist the National Trust's banner as part of last week’s grand opening festivities, which also included a ribbon-cutting ceremony and an open house attended by more than 250 guests.

National Trust President Stephanie Meeks and Chief Preservation Officer David Brown preparing to raise the flags.

These events marked the completion of a $3.2 million “green rehabilitation” of the Emerson School. Donated to the National Trust in 2010, this 1885 schoolhouse is now home to the Trust’s Denver Field Office, as well as seven other nonprofit organizations, including Historic Denver, Colorado Preservation, and Downtown Colorado.

When we launched the Emerson School project last August, part of our plan was to demonstrate replicable approaches for making older buildings more energy efficient and sustainable. With the project now complete, we can point to four basic, adaptable strategies used at the Emerson School that we believe can apply to similar building retrofit projects. ... 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.

Incredible Panoramas of Abandoned Places

Posted on: April 19th, 2012 by David Garber 10 Comments


Photographer Matthew Christopher has been documenting old, abandoned, and endangered buildings for the past eight years on his website, Abandoned America, in an effort to create a living memory of places that might not survive otherwise.

But he doesn't take only conventional photos. Matthew also creates stunning 360-degree panoramas, effectively placing the viewer inside the buildings themselves. Check them out for yourself by clicking and dragging on the images below to explore the rooms.

The Richmond Generating Station - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

From Abandoned America: "Built in 1915 and opened in 1925, the Richmond Generating Station in Philadelphia is a neoclassical cathedral to the might of industry. The vaulted, crumbling roof of the main turbine hall soars 130 feet over what were once the largest turbines in the world. This coal burning power plant has festered in its own corrosive chemical stew since 1985, the year it was abandoned. Nonetheless, it is perhaps the most amazing and awe-inspiring building i have ever seen." ... 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.


Friends of the High Line and the City of New York, co-creators of the now-famous park on a reused elevated railroad through the west side of Manhattan, unveiled their plans for the third phase of the landmark preservation project at a public meeting last night. Check out the slideshow below for images of how the newly-restored and reimagined section will look:

This phase addresses the rail yards portion of the project at the northern terminus of the High Line, where more than 12 million square feet of new office, residential, retail, and cultural uses are planned for the site as part of the Hudson Yards development above the rail yards.

Construction of the High Line will be closely coordinated with the development of Hudson Yards, with the park fully built out on the majority of the eastern section of the historic railway, and an interim walkway built over the western section. ... 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.

Saving Schools in Shrinking Cities

Posted on: March 8th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments


Written by Brenna Moloney

Figuring out what to do with empty school buildings is a major preservation conundrum in shrinking cities. The issue isn't one of figuring out what to do with one or two obsolete old buildings once the school district decides to build a new high school somewhere else. The issue goes beyond that and can reach almost epidemic levels. This is true of the two cities I work in for the National Trust and the Michigan Historic Preservation Network.

In Saginaw, Michigan, there are about 11 vacant public schools and many more vacant private school buildings. In Lansing, Michigan, the school board is currently debating which of the city’s two major high schools, Eastern or Sexton, is to be closed. With crushing budget constraints, a burgeoning private charter school market, and shrinking populations, these cities can no longer afford the level of educational infrastructure that they currently have and are looking to rightsize.

Lansing's Art Moderne-style Sexton High School. (Photo: redmudball on Flickr)

In addition, many of these buildings are architectural gems. Built in the early 1940s, Sexton High School is an Art Moderne building with curved yellow brick walls and stunning craft tile details on the interior. Opened in the city center in 1928, Lansing's Collegiate Gothic-style Eastern High School sports a copper cupola and gutters, carved arch windows and a slate roof. Additionally, they are both irreplaceable neighborhood anchors and once one of them goes, there is no telling what the future of the neighborhood may hold.... 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.