American Brewery: National Preservation Award Winner

Posted on: January 19th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments


Nominations are now open for the 2012 Richard H. Driehaus National Preservation Awards. We'll be highlighting a few of our favorites from last year here on the blog to give you a sense of what's won in the past, and hope to see some of your projects here when the winners are announced at the 2012 National Preservation Conference in Spokane, Washington, on November 2!

American Brewery - Baltimore, Maryland
2011 National Trust Board of Advisors’ Award

The American Brewery project rehabilitated an abandoned 1887 brewhouse in East Baltimore whose derelict condition symbolized how far the once-proud neighborhood had fallen. Vacant for thirty years, all previous attempts to revive the striking, five-story Gothic structure had failed. In 2008, that changed thanks to a $25 million historic rehabilitation conducted by a private developer and Humanim, a social services organization with roots in the community. Federal and state historic tax credits and private donations transformed the bat-infested brewhouse while retaining key historic elements, such as the vats that now serve as the office’s "think tank."

From its new home, Humanim is now perfectly positioned to provide workforce development services and job creation opportunities directly to the neighborhood. In addition to relocating its 250 employees there, the organization made 40 local hires. Meanwhile, new development is taking place, signaling greater developer confidence in the community. The top-notch historic rehabilitation preserves a piece of the city’s industrial past while demonstrating that historic preservation is a viable strategy for sparking new investment and economic development in challenged urban neighborhoods.

Each year the National Trust for Historic Preservation celebrates the best of preservation by presenting the Richard H. Driehaus National Preservation Awards to individuals and organizations whose contributions demonstrate excellence in historic preservation. We invite you to nominate a deserving individual, organization, agency, or project for a Richard H. Driehaus National Preservation Award. The nomination deadline for all awards is March 15, 2012.

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.

Restoration Diary: Asbestos Remediation. (But Look, Old Photos!)

Posted on: January 17th, 2012 by David Garber


The building as it looks today. See below for the before shots. (Photo: National Trust for Historic Preservation)

Bee Beep Rrrrrrrrrrrr. We interrupt this program to bring you an important news bulletin: minus the addition of some plastic sheeting and removal of some floor tiles, not much has changed at ye olde Lionel Lofts since our last update. Fortunately for your friendly neighborhood National Trust blogger, when I went over to take some new pictures, the key was missing from the lock box and I was unable to enter. Turns out it's asbestos and lead paint remediation time. Probably for the best that I didn't breathe all that in.

But don't click away thinking I've left you empty handed. Voila, a fascinating window (literally?) into the old Lionel Trains shop of the 1970s.

Stay tuned for more Restoration Diary soon. Next up: interior demolition. Get excited for the crumbling walls to come tumbling down. (While carefully preserving key character-enhancing elements, of course.)

David Garber is the blog editor 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.

Our Fascination with Pretty Pictures of Needy Places

Posted on: December 23rd, 2011 by David Garber 7 Comments


I was making my way through the internet this morning and came across a couple articles highlighting old and abandoned places. Not at all unusual here, but for some reason they got me thinking - thinking about our complete fascination with the images that show those places off. You know, the photos of caved-in houses and old train depots with long-shattered windows and graffitied hallways. It's almost become an industry unto itself, yet the photographs - limited by their frames - rarely tell the full story. What does the surrounding neighborhood (or lack thereof) look like? What political decisions have made these places fail? Who is still there, struggling to create a sustainable future?

(Photo: Flickr user tibchris)

Why are we so fascinated by pretty pictures of needy places? Until this morning I've brushed them off as a largely insensitive well-framed, grungy counterpoints to the mediums in which we usually see these images: glossy magazines, bright computer screens, or crisp, white-walled galleries - and there's something to that. There's an artistic draw to the broken, and with it, the temptation to keep the images out of context. Entertainment over investment.

(Photo: Flickr user Jon Bradley Photography)

For three years I lived in Washington, DC's historic Anacostia neighborhood. The neighborhood has its charms: dollhouse Victorians (albeit many in need of repair), open spaces, and active neighborhood groups. But it's better known for the things that bring it down: the drug busts, bullet-proof glass retail, the crumbling facades, and the severed connections to the rest of the city. But the neighborhood doesn't want it to stay that way, and is actively seeking solutions to repair and restore. There's much less romance in boarded-up buildings when they exist, not printed in black and white, on your own block.

(Photo: Flickr user sebastien.barre)

But rather than disparage the "pretty pictures of sad places" craft I'd like to offer a more hopeful explanation for our fascination with them. These images get more screen and gallery space than positive images. And while it would be wonderful if there was a greater journalistic and artistic effort to highlight the good, there are reasons we are drawn to the falling down: they get our hearts pumping faster and we are connected into needs without any expectation that we'll follow up and do anything about them.

(Photo: Flickr user Howzy)

There are at least two ways we can respond to this phenomenon. We can see the pictures and go on: Leave the gallery, turn the page, click away. Or we harness their energy, allow them to become inspirations, and become doers. These images serve as an important reminder that there is still a lot left to restore before more needs to be created. And we're the only ones that can do anything about it.

David Garber is the blog editor 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.

Infill’s in: Seeking a Balance for Oregon’s Historic Districts

Posted on: November 16th, 2011 by Guest Writer 1 Comment


Written by Brandon Spencer-Hartle

Compatible Infill Design can be downloaded for free by clicking on the link in the text or by visiting the HPLO website.

On October 13, the Historic Preservation League of Oregon (HPLO) unveiled a special report on Compatible Infill Design to a room full of the organization’s closest members and friends. After conducting nearly a year of research and stakeholder input, the HPLO’s 12-page report detailed seven principles for new construction in Oregon’s Historic Districts.

  • The District is the Resource, Not its Individual Parts
  • New Construction Will Reinforce the Historic Significance of the District
  • New Construction Will Complement and Support the District
  • Infill Will be Compatible Yet Distinct
  • The Exterior Envelope and Patterning of New Buildings Will Reflect District Characteristics
  • Contributing Buildings Will Not Be Demolished to Create Infill Opportunities
  • Archaeological Resources Will be Preserved in Place or Mitigated

Philosophically, the principles are a clear departure from the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, an oft-cited justification for harsh differentiation. Based upon the input of stakeholders from across Oregon, the report and its principles refute the notion that all infill must be stylistically modernist regardless of its historic context. Ultimately, Compatible Infill Design calls on the National Park Service to revisit the intent of the existing Standards and to pursue standards and guidelines specific to new construction within historic contexts. The HPLO’s seven principles for new construction provide a starting point towards that end.

The principles and the supporting documentation found in Compatible Infill Design are the product of the Preservation Roundtable, an annual HPLO initiative that seeks to spur healthy discussion among diverse stakeholders about a challenging and topical preservation issue. Launched in 2010, the Roundtable focuses on moving Oregon’s historic preservation community upstream of prevailing issues, helping to reduce the perception that preservationists are merely the “purveyors of no.”

The inaugural 2010 Roundtable focused on “Healthy Historic Districts in a Changing World,” and brought together over 100 people to talk about the challenges and opportunities facing Oregon’s most historic areas. One of the nine recommendations presented in that year’s culminating special report, Healthy Historic Districts, was the “need for baseline standards for new construction.” Defining this baseline for historic district infill is what the HPLO set out to achieve with the 2011 Roundtable.

Participants in the Ashland Roundtable. (Photo: Historic Preservation League of Oregon)

The 2011 Roundtable held workshops in three cities - Ashland, Portland, and The Dalles - to gather the perspectives, experiences, and visions of diverse groups of Oregonians. Through the help of a volunteer taskforce and paid consultant team, the HPLO heard from over 200 Oregonians, including mayors, city councilors, planners, architects, developers, business owners, and landmark commissioners. Interestingly, while many of the participants were stakeholders within the same historic districts, the workshop sessions made evident that strategic conversation about new construction were long overdue. The Roundtable’s ability to bring stakeholders into a collaborative forum has provided not just a benefit for the HPLO’s Roundtable research goals, but has assisted communities in taking steps towards addressing critical local preservation issues.

In the month since releasing Compatible Infill Design, there has been plenty of feedback on the principles, their underlying assumptions, and the strategies for their implementation. At least five Oregon cities are already looking to implement some form of the principles into their standards and guidelines; Main Street managers are publically discussing how the principles could relate to downtown development goals; and - most importantly - diverse Oregonians are thinking collaboratively about how to chart a consistent approach to new construction in the state’s 123 National Register Historic Districts.

Compatible Infill Design and the conversations it has spurred are intended to bring a renewed interest in how Oregon protects and develops its Historic Districts, a group of places far more valuable than the sum of their individual parts. Both the 2010 and 2011 special reports are available free of charge on the HPLO website.

Brandon Spencer-Hartle is the Field Programs Manager at the Historic Preservation League of Oregon. He has asked that special thanks be given to project consultants Rick Michaelson, Karen Karlsson, and Jeff Joslin, 2011 Preservation Roundtable Taskforce members Paul Falsetto, Natalie Perrin, Ross Plambeck, Matthew Roman, and Patience Stuart, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation for its grant support of the program.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at

Ideas Worth Sharing: Re-Framing the Historic Preservation Conversation

Posted on: August 16th, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments


Written by Rhonda Sincavage

The TED slogan is ‘ideas worth spreading’, and at some point last week I realized this had happened. Thanks to multiple historic preservation distribution networks, a video of a presentation I gave earlier this year at TEDxCLE has been shared by preservationists far and wide.

In my talk I mention how the loss of a building in my hometown sparked my interest in historic preservation, so it seems only appropriate that I mention “Memories of Endicott, New York” as another example that demonstrates core idea of the talk - historic preservation is really about community.  Within a few short days this Facebook page, just one of many ‘you know you’re from so-and-so’ type pages that have appeared in recent weeks, has generated hundreds of comments.

An overwhelming number of posts are about the special places - buildings and local business, some still around but many long gone- that make up this community. One of the comments in particular struck a special chord with me – the contributor wrote about how they were upset when they discovered on the bus ride home that the Moose Lodge (where the Pizza Hut stands today) was demolished while they were at school, and I couldn’t help comparing that to my own experience of loss of our hometown heritage.

To some, this facebook page may not fit the traditional definition of historic preservation, but for others of us, this is what historic preservation is all about. And for a select few, something like this collection of memories may even inspire a career choice.

A final thought for those who asked: I’m wearing a 1980’s ‘vintage’ Betsey Johnson dress in the video. Some argued this isn’t old enough to be considered vintage, but I’m not yet aware of a 50 year rule that applies to fashion.

For more, see:

Rhonda Sincavage is the Associate Director for Intergovernment Affairs 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.

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.

Save the Date: Next Twitter Chat is One Week Away (August 10)

Posted on: August 3rd, 2011 by Sarah Heffern 3 Comments


Twitter logoGiven that it is the first Wednesday of the month - our usual time for such things - I'd typically be writing this post as a quick reminder that there's a Twitter chat this afternoon. However, it's not normal circumstances, it's summer vacation season, and as such, two thirds of the team that produces the Twitter chats are out of the office this week. We thought it unseemly to ask our volunteer moderator to run the whole thing, so instead we moved the chat one week later into August.

And so, I'd like to invite you to join us one week from today - Wednesday, August 10, at 4:00 EDT - to talk historic preservation on Twitter. Our theme will be reaching out to under-served communities and how to build connections outside the "usual suspects." If you've been participating on the Twitter chats for a while, you may recall that this came up when we were talking about outreach in general, but we thought there was enough to discuss that it warranted a chat of its own.

In case you don’t remember how to participate – or haven’t joined us before – here are tips for joining in prepared by our chat co-founder, Ontario-based preservationist Kayla Jonas:

How to join in:

1. Sign in to Twitter, Tweet Deck or Tweet Chat. I usually use Tweet Chat to follow twitter chats since it adds the hash tag automatically and allows you to reply and retweet easily.

2. Follow and tweet with the hashtag #builtheritage

3. Watch for the questions in the Q1 format. Provide answers using the A1 format, and interact with other tweeters using replies and retweets.

Oh, and what Kayla means by the Q1/A1 format is this: Questions (we usually have four per chat) are posed by the moderator as Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4 about every 15 minutes. We ask that chatters reply with A1, A2, etc. to help everyone stay clear on what they’re responding to. A lot of side conversations and such still break out, but it helps keep things at least a little organized.

Hope you're able to join in!

Sarah Heffern is currently the most sunburned member of the Digital and New Media team 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.

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.