Revitalization

A Double Dose of Southern Comfort

Posted on: August 27th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 6 Comments

 

By Susannah Ware

“Darlin, have you ever been here before?” the Bristol Campground manager asked in his sweet country drawl.

“No sir, I haven’t,” I replied, smiling through the phone and instinctually reverting to the Southern politeness I had grown up with.

“Well, we’ve got 1,300 acres and y’all are welcome to sleep wherever you like when you get here.”

This was our first introduction to Bristol’s laidback charm as I planned the trip for my boyfriend Jacob and me to attend Mumford & Sons’s Gentlemen of the Road (GOTR) concert. I had been particularly concerned that the campground, usually used for NASCAR races, would kick us off our site if we hadn’t filled out the online form properly. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about.

The campground and what seemed like the whole Bristol community were expecting us, as well as the other visitors from across the map. We were outsiders, but welcome to join in and poke our heads around to see if we liked what we saw.

What we saw were streets lined with flags, storefronts welcoming fans with mustachioed signs, and restaurants serving up local burgers, bar-b-q, and brews. We took an instant liking to it, much like Mumford and Sons had the year before.

When the band originally visited Bristol, they were passing through from Nashville to New York between shows. They spoke with a few locals about the possibility of the town as a concert venue and visited their hoped-for site. Even then, they envisioned the concert on the lot in front of the illuminated historic train station, which was renovated to become an event/meeting facility after passenger service ended. Recounting the visit to the audience during the concert, they had met with what they felt were kindred spirits in a place rich with music history. (Congress’ HR 214 named Bristol the “Birthplace of Country Music,” as it was home to the first recordings of Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family.) The historic site added great ambiance to already great music.

But music was only part of the experience—most of the morning and for a few afternoon strolls, we were drawn down Bristol’s central artery. State Street, which is bisected by the Virginia/Tennessee state line, offers two doses of Southern hospitality. (Jacob and I had started our relationship long-distance, so we found this walk-able dividing line a novelty for the day.)

We had four main takeaways from Bristol’s Main Street community, which undoubtedly contributed to Jacob’s frequent announcements of, “I like this place. I’d live here.”

- Happy Hosts: Regardless of long lines at restaurants with expanded storefronts spilling into the street, servers were courteous, kind, and curious towards the concertgoers. No doubt businesses were getting quite a boost from the event, but they were taking on the strain in stride. While waiting at one local watering hole, we even got to partake in a new Bristol cocktail -- homemade lemonade with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Whiskey, which Jacob dubbed “lemonade with confidence.” (I hope the lemonade was made in Virginia for a true VA/TN Bristol combo).

- “Come On In” Community: Finding a solid community seems like a given in such a small town but we city folk, who interact with neighbors at best with a smile and a nod, were impressed by the closeness. At one restaurant, a younger woman headed to the concert stopped to speak with the manager, who was swiftly emptying overloading trash bags and refilling drinks. We overheard him ask her to work at the next event from 10 a.m. – 1 a.m. As our eyes widened at the shift length, her chipper response was instead, “Sure, sounds great! How many more will you need me to bring? My sister might want to help.” Seemed like everyone was ready to jump in to show off Bristol.

- Local Lovers: While this was a massive event with people pouring in from all over the South and Mid-Atlantic, Bristol took advantage of showcasing their local beer, local grass-fed beef, and local music. (Our favorite brew was the Honey Cream Ale from Wolf Hills Brewery.)


The historic Burger Bar (rumored to be the place of Hank Williams' last meal) slings grass-fed beef burgers in their iconic 1940s-era building.

- Music Metropolis: To close out the concert, Mumford and Sons pulled the other GOTR artists on stage for “Wagon Wheel,” a rousing cover that left the place echoing with one last love song to the South. But the show didn’t end there—after-parties thumped into nearby venues and local musicians dotted State Street serenading fans on their retreat. For those eager for more al fresco entertainment, Americana band The Black Lillies jammed with Bristol's Country Music Mural as their backdrop.

As State Street finally grew quiet, we begrudgingly headed back to our temporary camp, but we were left wanting more. More music. More local food and drink. More welcoming folks. More Bristol.

So now, the next time we're meandering along the state line, and someone asks me, “Darlin', have you ever been here before?” I can say, “Well, yes, I have. And I can't wait to get back.”

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.

Preservation in Action: North Amherst Residents Aim for Local Historic Designation

Posted on: August 24th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Laura Wainman, Editorial Intern


North Congregational Church in North Amherst, Mass.

Here at the National Trust, we spend our days championing preservation movements and ensuring that the public is aware of historic places in need of saving. And across the country groups of dedicated citizens, like the people of North Amherst, Mass., are preserving their own heritage places proactively by establishing local historic districts.

But what exactly does it take? In North Amherst's case, it's requiring local leadership, teamwork, and a lot of patience.

Led by resident Louis Greenbaum, locals aim to protect North Amherst Village from future threats by designating it a local historic district. This would ensure that changes to the exterior features of homes and barns in the selected area must be approved by the District Commission. Currently, there is no immediate danger to the area, as the annual town meeting rejected rezoning efforts and mixed-use development plans for a second time.

“The [Historical] Commission had already been discussing whether it should pursue historic district designation for North Amherst when residents officially brought it to the commission. There is a strong possibility that the commission will move this forward,” says Nathaniel Malloy, associate planner for the town of Amherst.

Moving the proposal forward would mean appointing a study committee to determine the boundaries of the district, the significance of local homes, any unifying themes of the area, and the unique characteristics that make preservation necessary.

“Many public forums will be held and surveys conducted to gauge the opinion of the residents. There can be some confusion that designation would require residents to significantly change their homes to make them look historic, but that isn’t the case. It just means major changes need to be reviewed first,” Malloy says.

On average, this study takes a year to complete, but the only other local historic district in Amherst, the Dickinson Local Historic District, took more than two years to finish and that designation has still not gone into effect. In other words, citizens shouldn’t expect overnight results. Once approved, a District Commission is appointed to review any major future changes or removals to buildings within the district.

“We hope that these designations become a self-policing tool, in some respect, as the citizens take pride in the stabilization of their neighborhood,” Malloy says.

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.

 

The Bastrop Historic High School Apartments

For nearly a dozen years -- ever since the Bastrop, Louisiana became a Main Street community in 2000 -- the goal of finding a new use for the one-time Bastrop High School building loomed. The 1927 building had seen its last students in 1998, but its location a couple of blocks from downtown made it a key target for revitalization.

It took 10 years and 12 kinds of funding to get the project underway, but the grand opening of the  Bastrop Historic High School Apartments -- a state-of-the-art senior community -- at the end of 2011 made it all worthwhile.

With many former students now as residents, the developers went out of their way to make the building new, but also familiar:

"Tenants who walk down the corridors, which were kept at the original dimensions -- 12 feet wide by 15 feet tall -- can see the old lockers they used to keep their books in. With the original doors intact, every classroom has been converted into an apartment unit, and each contains a section of the original chalkboard so residents can scribble notes to themselves. The aforementioned gym, in its unique central position in the building, has retained the stage and one side of its bleachers."

In addition to maintaining many of the historic attributes, there was also a goal of modernizing the building's systems:

"They installed the largest residential solar system in all of Louisiana on the building’s spacious roof -- 430 solar panels that generate up to 106 kilowatts of power daily.

When asked why the team decided to put in the new technology, [developer Tom] Crumley replied, 'I loved the idea of combining modern technology with a historic property. Back in the twenties when this building was built, it was state-of-the-art, and now what’s state-of-the-art is this kind of stuff.'"

Read more about this amazing transformation in the Main Street Story of the Week, Hope Rewarded in Bastrop, Louisiana.

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.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.

 

Last week, National Trust staffers took a field trip -- or, more accurately, a tunnel trip.

We descended into the steamy underground for a little-seen glimpse of Washington’s past -- the 75,000 sq. ft. trolley station and one-time fallout station that served DC’s popular Dupont Circle neighborhood until it was closed in 1975. (More on Dupont Underground's history here.)

 
Now, the Arts Coalition for the Dupont Underground (ACDU) -- a group of dedicated architects, designers, businesspeople, and community leaders -- is working to reinvent the unused space as “a world-class center for arts, design, and innovative entrepreneurship.”

Our enthusiastic guide on this shadowy tour was Julian Hunt, ACDU’s founder and interim chairman as well as a Principal at Hunt Laudi Studio. His aim is to get the community excited about the possibilities the space affords and fire up their imaginations about how it can become a civic hub.

 
And fire them up he did. We left our 90-minute tour buzzing about the impact such a vibrant, multi-use space could have on the surrounding neighborhood. The plans call for green spaces, arts, community space, and civic engagement -- all with a preservation-friendly through line of adaptive reuse.

I followed up with my colleagues after the tour to capture their reactions to and reflections on the project, and their comments are as multi-faceted as Dupont Underground itself:

Lauren B.: I would love to see the space used to showcase local artists and for underground art walks, installations, interactive plays, and a haunted house. Revitalizing the trolley tracks would set an example about recycling old spaces for new uses and hopefully inspire similar projects.

Andy G.: I hope that the space is easily accessible by the public without changing the appealing and historic aspects of the above ground Dupont Circle community. I’d like to see a space that is well-maintained, frequently used, and that enhances the connectivity of Dupont Circle.

Tanya B.: Dupont Circle is a gathering space for DC’s homeless population. Why not build on the fact that the underground space had been occupied by many homeless before Dupont Underground got access, cleaned it up, and secured it? Creating jobs with livable wages will help. Can there be some sort of job training attached to whatever employment system gets created with Dupont Underground?

Claire H.: I would love to see the space transformed into a public, cultural center through partnerships with the neighborhood’s museums and embassies.

Dennis H.: When Americans (and likely the rest of the world) think about Washington, D.C., they think of tradition, classical architecture, museums, and partisan politics. Cutting-edge preservation, not so much. But converting the abandoned tunnels into a vibrant, useful space would put D.C. in the global spotlight for innovation.

Ann T.: The tunnels are odd, but quite beautiful in a strange way. It’s hard for me to picture any sort of regular activity down there. So I think I’d hope for something bizarre and new and playful that I can’t quite imagine -- something arts-related or artist-inspired. I was actually most intrigued by the above-ground entrances to the tunnels and the accompanying revitalized public spaces and how they could knit the city together. The quality of the designs for both the tunnel and the above-ground improvements was high and had a real “big city, global city” feel.

John P.: The Tour was almost like being in a sci-fi movie of a great city’s archaeological find and we were touring the find and talking about its history -- what it was and why it was and why it ended. We knew the truth and facts of course, but it was still a fascinating footprint of local times gone by and history.

Priya C.: After walking through the Dupont Underground I can see the space becoming something vibrant, distinctive, and creative. I think that like anything that has been abandoned it has the potential to spur on conversation -- and I hope that it will become a place where residents and visitors alike can gather and mingle. The impact it could have on the city is boundless -- not only as a piece of architecture that puts the city on the map in a modern sense, but also as a way to take old memories of what the underground used to be into the next generation. I know that the project is immense, but it is brimming with possibility and wonder.

And what would I like to see? I hope the tunnels once again connect the city in a thoughtful, purposeful way -- not with trolley tracks as of yore, but with smart planning and people-friendly design. Watching this project evolve right in our backyard is a rare delight, and to one day be able to say “I saw it when …” would be a great sign of progress.

If our experience has intrigued you, we encourage you to stay in touch with Dupont Undergound on Twitter, Facebook, and through their mailing list. You can also join as a volunteer, share your ideas for the space, and donate to the cause.

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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the associate director for digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

Where Are They Now? Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center

Posted on: August 8th, 2012 by Julia Rocchi

 


An example of the kind of urban industrial buildings that still line many of Brooklyn's neighborhood streets, and that manufacturer entrepreneurs are moving back into.

We cover a lot of different buildings and stories here at the National Trust, and it gives us a warm, fuzzy feeling whenever we can report back on a successful project. Today's example comes straight from the New York Times, with a shout-out to an old Brooklyn industrial building that now houses Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center.

Preservation magazine first covered Greenpoint in the March/April 2011 issue, which shared the story behind the company's efforts to keep industry in Brooklyn. Then yesterday we opened the Times to find a report on how the niche factory trend is continuing apace.

Turns out more and more manufacturing enterprises and small businesses are launching every day that need access to Manhattan’s many museums, magazines, advertising firms, and artists to thrive, and Brooklyn is the reported popular place to do it -- in large part because of its available building stock.

It’s great to see that Greenpoint continues to thrive and that the neighborhood of East Williamsburg is able to preserve its manufacturing identity. As Greenpoint's chief executive Brian T. Coleman said to the Times, "We think this is the future of urban manufacturing." Places from the past playing a functional role in the cities of the future? That's a vision we're behind 100%.

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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the associate director for digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.