Conferences

Remembering the Importance of Industrial Heritage

Posted on: June 15th, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Written by Priya Chhaya

Vulcan, Roman god of the forge, in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo: Alison Hinchman)

Two years ago, as a part of Preservation Leadership Training (PLT), I traveled to Birmingham, Alabama, where the giant statue of Vulcan - the Roman god of the Forge - towers over the landscape, reminding residents and visitors of the city’s rich industrial heritage. As part of PLT’s requisite community tour we visited Sloss Furnaces, a 20th-century foundry being preserved and interpreted as a historic industrial site. Since I grew up in Virginia - the land of plantation homes and Colonial Williamsburg - the tour was an eye-opening experience. These furnaces are a tangible reminder of the sweeping changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution in cities across the country.

But saving places that tell the story of our industrial heritage isn’t easy. Last November a group of preservationists gathered to reflect on the challenges of saving these places, which are often quite gritty, in a state of disrepair, and surrounded by brownfields. But they are also incredibly inspiring and important. The symposium, which was called “Industrial Heritage Retooled” was funded by The J.M. Kaplan Fund. The discussions from the symposium are documented, in part, in the Spring 2011 issue of Forum Journal. Contributors identify the challenges of preserving these sites, while also defining the possible opportunities that these large-scale, abandoned sites represent for their communities. Turning them into museums is only one possible solution.

I found three articles in the journal to be particularly compelling. Each focused on the industrial heritage of a particular city or state: Pittsburgh, Montana, and North Carolina. These narratives emphasized how reusing industrial sites makes a community stronger. One of the most evocative statements was by August R. Carlino (president and CEO of the Steel Industry Heritage Corp. which manages the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area), who stated that “when the mills began to come down, the deconstruction was as much psychological as it was physical. Tearing down a mill, a symbol of permanence that had stood for lifetimes, was shocking. It represented not only the death of the mill; it was the death of a way of life - a way of life that was the only life a vast majority of the people that lived in these communities knew.”

2009 PLT tour of Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo: Priya Chhaya)

Preserving these sites is a challenge, but we hope that by continuing to draw attention to their plight and reuse possibilities, more of these places will be saved. For Forum members, Preserving America’s Industrial Heritage is available in the Forum Library; for others it is available for purchase on www.preservationbooks.org. Additionally, there will be a Forum members-only live chat with some of the attendees of Industrial Heritage Retooled on May 23, 2011. Visit the Live Chat page for details.

If you are interested in industrial heritage, then there is a good reason to attend this year’s National Preservation Conference in Buffalo. This year’s program includes a track dedicated to the topic - plus you will be visiting a city that is a living laboratory for historic preservation. Super Early Bird Registration for Forum members ends on June 30, and Early Bird Registration ends on July 31.

Finally, since today is the day that the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced its list of America's 11 Most Endangered Places, I wanted to point out that one of the sites on this year’s list is the Pillsbury “A” Mill in Minneapolis, Minn. Built in 1881, it was the largest and most technologically advanced flour mill in the world at the time of completion. This National Historic Landmark is now under threat of piecemeal development. Some great pictures and drawings can be found in the Historic American Engineering Record.

Why save sites of industrial heritage? Because, as Duncan Hay (vice president of the Society for Industrial Archeology) states in his article, “Industrial structures are central to a sense of place. They are often the most prominent features on the landscape, visible to all who enter the community, and unavoidable once you’re there.”

Priya Chhaya is a program associate in the Partnerships Office of 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.

Register Now for the National Preservation Conference!

Posted on: June 1st, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Sparks are flying in Buffalo. And you'll see why when you join us at the National Preservation Conference this October and experience the energy behind one of the most creative urban revitalizations in America today.

You want the heavy hitters? Buffalo's got 'em. Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, H.H. Richardson, Richard Upjohn, Daniel, Burnham, Frederick Law Olmsted, Eliel and Eero Saarinen ... all have left their architectural mark, prompting The New York Times to call Buffalo a "textbook" for modern American cities.

But it's not just about the buildings. It's about the area's claim to fame as the birthplace for the American Arts and Crafts Movement. It's about its legacy of industrial heritage -- a town built by steel, hydropower, and industry. It's about neighborhoods, community, and pride.

We invite you to come to this living laboratory and join us in exploring this year's theme, "Alternating Currents." We're offering sessions in 14 different topic tracks, debating preservation's hottest topics (rightsizing, anyone?), and introducing you to Buffalo's preservationists, who can tell you firsthand how they're using preservation to build their economy.

Register by July 31 to take advantage of early bird savings! (Forum members can save even more if they book by June 30 -- full details here.) And if you're a professional, stay tuned for more info on continuing education credits from AIA (HSW, SD and general), APA (ethics, law and general), and USGBC.

The Nickel City -- this 'city of no illusions' as one local slogan goes -- is ready to welcome you. Come be surprised.

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.

Bike Tour Highlights Austin’s Preservation Successes and Challenges

Posted on: April 19th, 2011 by Guest Writer

 

Written by Ellen Davis

View of Austin skyline from Long Center for the Performing Arts. (Photo: Ellen Davis)

View of Austin skyline from Long Center for the Performing Arts. (Photo: Ellen Davis)

The 2010 National Preservation Conference in Austin was outstanding, but the best part for me came during the three-hour bike ride around Austin. At the beginning of the ride, we passed through an old Hispanic neighborhood downtown. This neighborhood is the site of the city’s new Mexican American Cultural Center. Unfortunately, this cute neighborhood is located right on the edge of Austin’s growing convention center district.  Most of the houses have been demolished to make way for commercial structures and the few remaining houses are in very poor condition.

We took our first rest break in an area of town called Clarksville, which was founded by freed slaves. There are not many African-Americans living in Clarksville today due to gentrification of the area. In fact, the Sunday after the conference ended, the Austin American-Statesman featured Clarksville in its real estate section. A 1,344-square foot 1920s cottage in the neighborhood was on the market for $429,900. An 836-square foot cottage was on the market for $299,900. We enjoyed drinks and snacks with members of the Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church, which was built in 1871. One of my fellow Texas Scholars is trying to raise funds to restore the church, which has been the cornerstone of the community.

Bike Tour rest stop at German Free School, headquarters of the German-Texas Heritage Society. (Photo: Ellen Davis)

Bike Tour rest stop at German Free School, headquarters of the German-Texas Heritage Society. (Photo: Ellen Davis)

Our second rest stop was at the headquarters of the German-Texas Heritage Society, which is housed in a limestone building that was constructed in 1857 as a school for the children of German immigrants. Our tour organizers even had homemade apple strudel brought up from New Braunfels. The building’s tree-lined property is a beautiful oasis in the heart of downtown. We also stopped near another historic limestone building that bears an uncanny resemblance to one of the buildings on the campus of Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, where I work. I wondered if the two were designed by the same architect.

Seeing the historic buildings that remain in Austin made me realize how beautiful a city it must have been before the state government expanded its presence in the city and many of the historic buildings were destroyed to make room for nondescript office buildings and parking garages.  The tour underscored for me a statement that appeared in the Austin American-Statesman on the day of the bike tour − the National Trust chose Austin for its 2010 national conference because of its preservation successes and challenges. We certainly saw both in the course of the tour.  The tour also was a great example of how bike tours can be used as a way to promote heritage tourism and get people excited about historic preservation. I would like to commend the people who worked hard to make the bike tour possible and encourage anyone who plans to attend future National Trust conferences to consider signing up for the bike tour!

Ellen Davis is a National Trust member who lives in Georgetown, Texas. She blogs about her neighborhood at aroundoldtown.blogspot.com. She attended the 2010 National Preservation Conference through the Statewide and Local Scholars Program.

Would you like to attend the National Preservation Conference on a scholarship? We are now accepting applications for this year’s conference, which will take place in Buffalo, New York from October 19-22. The deadline to apply is June 1, 2011.

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 editorial@savingplaces.org.

Conference Scholarship Program Offers Informative, Motivating Experience

Posted on: February 23rd, 2011 by Guest Writer

 

Written by Diana Molina

Diana Molina addresses fellow scholars during Diversity Scholars and Texas Scholars Opening Session (Photo: Pepper Watkins)

Diana Molina addresses fellow scholars during Diversity Scholars and Texas Scholars Opening Session (Photo: Pepper Watkins)

Privileged to attend the National Preservation Conference in Austin, Texas as a Diversity Scholar this past autumn, my greatest challenge was finding a way to take it all in.

Amazingly, amidst a hotel lobby bustling with preservationists from every corner of the nation, I ran into a familiar face upon arrival. David Romo, an engaging historian, author, and borderland neighbor was the guest speaker for our orientation session. Romo’s explanation of the plight of the historic Segundo Barrio—my birthplace in El Paso—struck a chord as his imagery walked me through the streets of my childhood, reminding me of their imperiled existence. Public awareness of the Hispanic impact and cultural influence on U.S. history is an important step in saving our sites of significance. His call to action was inspiring.

This was the first of many motivating and informative speakers and panelists staunchly advocating for the protection of structures, natural resources, culture and land. My session preferences leaned toward topics that included the changing U.S. demographics, the integration of sustainable design, the legacy of music and dance, and culinary agri-tourism’s role in historic preservation and its subsequent potential for jobs. I envision applying many of the lessons to our own community pursuit in Southern New Mexico’s Mesilla Valley to develop a sustainable cultural heritage corridor along Hwy. 28.

L-R Ernesto Ortega, NM Advisor; Diana Molina; Dreck Spurlock, Washington, DC Advisor

L-R Ernesto Ortega, NM Advisor; Diana Molina; Dreck Spurlock, Washington, DC Advisor

Culminating with a dynamic and unifying message by the charismatic Juan Hernandez at the majestic Paramount Theatre, the conference provided a plateful of new connections and information to digest. Above all, the attention placed on ecological concerns and the discussion of topics and places linked to the diversity of our cultural heritage, left me with a sense of hope for greater inclusive representation in the preservation movement and the betterment our nation’s future.

To that end, in our region’s steps for a Green Cultural Corridor, we welcome ardent supporters, needed resources, expertise and guidance to help pave the way and extend an invitation to visit the scenic Hwy. 28—its wineries, pecan groves, chile fields and centuries of history and cultural legacy in New Mexico’s Land of Enchantment.

Diana Molina works a freelance photographer and is spearheading the development of the State Highway 28 “destination corridor” to preserve the Mesilla Valley landscape in rural Southern New Mexico. She attended the National Preservation Conference in Austin, Texas as a Diversity Scholar in October 2010.

Would you like to attend the National Preservation Conference as a member of the 2011 Diversity Scholarship Program? We are now accepting applications for this year's conference, which will take place in Buffalo, New York from October 19-22. The deadline to apply online is June 1, 2011.

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 editorial@savingplaces.org.

 

Written by Eli Pousson

Photo by Eli Pousson.

What is the role of preservation in a low-income urban neighborhood? How can we support the revitalization of urban communities devastated by disinvestment and vacancy? How can we engage residents and neighborhood leaders when they are more concerned about safe and decent housing, stable employment opportunities, and safe streets than historic buildings?

These are a few of the questions that a group of Partners in the Field Representatives tackled this past October with our session, "Preservation Strategies in Low-Income Communities," at the National Preservation Conference in Austin.

Karina Muñiz, from the Los Angeles Conservancy, presented on her work with the Wyvernwood Garden Apartments in East LA's Boyle Heights neighborhood. Stuart Johnson from the San Antonio Conservation Society discussed a community-driven initiative to save Lerma's Nite Club, a bastion of conjunto music heritage on San Antonio's Westside. Finally, I shared a case study on Baltimore Heritage's work to link historic preservation and transit-oriented development in West Baltimore highlighting Baltimore's Hebrew Orphan Asylum and our Race and Place in Baltimore Neighborhoods program series.

Recognizing the diversity of the communities, preservation organizations and approaches represented on our panel, we worked hard over the course of the summer and fall to identify a set of common themes and issues. All were ably captured in our discussion by our moderator, Melissa Jest from the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia.

The following themes are essential points of consideration for any preservation organization considering work in low-income urban neighborhoods:

  • Preservation in these neighborhoods must be driven by close partnerships with resident-led community organizations. These partnerships not only make our work more effective, they also help to diversify the voices within our own local preservation communities.
  • Racial, ethnic, and class-based segregation of housing, education, and employment continue to shape our communities. Acknowledging these factors, particularly in the context of concerns about gentrification and displacement, is important to building mutual trust.
  • Broader definitions of significance and integrity are necessary to recognize, preserve, and interpret the full range of built and cultural heritage found in these neighborhoods. Traditional approaches to survey and documentation can be complemented by oral histories and ethnography.

For more discussion on these issue, I'd strongly recommend reading "Este Lugar es Importante: Embracing Diverse Perspectives on Significance" by panelist Karina Muñiz (with Anthea M. Hartig) and "Making Historic Preservation Relevant in Urban Communities of Color" by moderator Melissa Jest, both in the Spring 2010 issue of Forum Journal.

Although this work may be challenging for many small-capacity preservation organizations, the preservation movement must not ignore the many historic neighborhoods across the country that are pushed the margins within their own communities. Complementing Stephanie Meeks' call at the National Preservation Conference to make preservation more accessible, this work is an opportunity to create a more inclusive and just approach to preservation.

Eli Pousson is a field officer for Baltimore Heritage in partnership with 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.

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 editorial@savingplaces.org.

Austin In One Word

Posted on: November 24th, 2010 by Julia Rocchi

 

Home. Comfortable. Outside. "Mom." Confused.

These are just a few of the terms Austinites picked to capture their hometown when we put them on the spot during Austin Unscripted interviews and asked, "If you could describe Austin in one word, what would it be?"

Some people had their word right away. Others pondered it for a few minutes. Still more couldn't pick just one. But they were all able to pinpoint what they loved about their city -- and the responses were as varied as the people themselves (if you don't count 'eclectic').

See for yourself!

What's your one word for Austin?

Full Austin Unscripted videos now available! Check out the incredible stories on the PreservationNation YouTube channel.

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 director of 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.