[10 on Tuesday] Build Your National Register Knowledge

Posted on: November 6th, 2012 by Emily Potter



“The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation.” -- National Park Service

The National Register is an important and useful tool in preservation. Inclusion in the Register signifies to the nation that a place is worth preserving. It also often opens up doors to helping the preservation of a site become a reality, though doesn’t guarantee it.

Scroll through the online database and you’ll find thousands of America’s historic places are in the Register. (Want to know the exact number? See below.) Of course, there are many more places not in the Register that are worthy of preserving. But the National Register is one, official way of recognizing that value.

To help you learn a little more about this resource, we’ve collected -- and answered -- 10 frequently asked questions about the National Register of Historic Places. Or, quiz yourself and see how much you already know!... 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.

Emily Potter

Emily Potter is a copywriter at the National Trust. She enjoys writing about places of all kinds, the stories that make them special, and the people who love them enough to save them.


One of the 19th-century skeletons uncovered in the 3300 block of Q Street, NW, Washington, DC. Photo courtesy Dr. David Hunt, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

The dead couldn’t quite wait until Halloween to start rising in Washington, DC, this year.

On September 10, construction workers excavating to make way for a residential parking garage on the bucolic 3300 block of Q Street in the city’s northwest quadrant found the first of five adult remains. After the medical examiner determined that the bodies were not part of a crime scene, Ruth Trocolli, Washington’s city archaeologist  was called in to excavate the site.

The design of the coffins, the absence of grave goods, and the position of the bodies within the coffins were all consistent with early 19th-century burial practices, leading Trocolli to ballpark their deaths in the 1820s. Trocolli also discovered that the bodies -- all African Americans of adult age -- were oriented east to west, suggesting that they were not random burials, but the remains of a cemetery. The question was, which one?

Ruth Trocolli (left) and Charde Reid working on the excavation. Photo courtesy Dr. David Hunt, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

It turns out there used to be a cemetery belonging to a Georgetown Presbyterian church, dating to 1806, just across Q Street where Volta Park now stands. Trocolli says that before development of the area, the cemetery could have extended beyond Q, or, because of segregation, African Americans may have been buried outside the formal grounds.

But I wanted to know how so many burials could turn up so unexpectedly.

Trocolli had an interesting explanation for that, too. Up until the creation of the District of Columbia at the end of the 18th century, Georgetown was still a part of Maryland, which could explain why the District had no record of the remains. She also explained that the city of Washington did not always cover the entire diamond that is now DC, and in 1858, with property values rising, Congress decreed that all cemeteries (except Congressional) be moved north of Boundary Street -- present day Florida Avenue -- and into what was known as Washington County.

Cemeteries sold their property and moved the burials, putting ads in the church squire or local paper asking residents to claim loved ones or headstones. But as one might expect, they missed some here and there.

This isn’t the first time centuries-old burials have turned up in the District. Old newspaper accounts are full of burial findings, says Trocolli, and some of the cemeteries that were moved were huge. Payne’s Cemetery in the southeast quadrant contained as many as 39,000 bodies, and what is now Walter Pierce Park in the Adams Morgan neighborhood also had a significant number.

Looking from Volta Park, the alley where the skeletons were found. Photo courtesy David Robert Weible.

“Some people are very stressed to hear that their playground is on top of a former cemetery, and it just doesn’t faze others,” says Trocolli.

Though finding bodies has been uncommon, it is not unknown, and so Trocolli has developed a plan for predicting them. Using the recent book by local cemetery scholar Paul E. Sluby Sr., Bury Me Deep, to create a database of all the historic cemeteries in the District, she overlaid their locations onto a map of the current city via GIS software, allowing her to see where development projects might encounter bodies. And with development again reaching a fever-pitch in Washington, Trocolli expects the dead to continue rising, regardless of Halloween.

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.

Historic Real Estate: Homes with a Water View Edition

Posted on: October 26th, 2012 by Emily Potter 2 Comments


I don’t know about you, but posting these properties sure got me daydreaming at my desk this morning. Head into the weekend with some historic home eye candy today.

Front view of the 1889 Victorian house in Marine City.

1889 Victorian custom built by Great Lakes Shipping Captain KeonigMarine City, Michigan

This nearly 6,000 square foot house may be on a fairly small lot, but the view of the international shipping channel from the balcony on the third floor in the master suite makes the property feel endless. The beautiful house has been meticulously renovated and offers a retreat back to the late 19th century, while providing all the modern comforts of home. Price tag: $449,900

Front elevation of Cobb Island Station.

Cobb Island StationOyster, Virginia

The luxuriously restored Cobb Island Station was originally built for the Coast Guard in 1936. Today, the property features a commercial grade kitchen, seven bedrooms and just as many bathrooms, and a separate, additional cottage on the 32 acres, the Keeper’s Cottage. (Looks like a gorgeous setting for a bed and breakfast to me.) Price tag:  $4,850,000

Front view of The Snowden House.

The Snowden HouseHorseshoe Lake, Arkansas

30 miles from Memphis, Tennessee, surround yourself with southern charm at this 1919 Louisiana-style riverfront plantation home. Plus, you can look straight out to Horseshoe Lake from the sunroom, or go fishing from the pier on the property. Price tag: $1,200,000

Historic Property Extra: Looking to buy a bridge? The 1901 Ash Creek Bridge in Siskiyou County, California is for sale! Check out the listing here.

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.

Emily Potter

Emily Potter is a copywriter at the National Trust. She enjoys writing about places of all kinds, the stories that make them special, and the people who love them enough to save them.

César E. Chávez Site Declared a National Monument

Posted on: October 9th, 2012 by Gwendolyn Purdom 1 Comment


In front of a jubilant crowd of thousands yesterday morning, President Obama declared the home of labor leader César Chávez and the national headquarters of the United Farm Workers Union a National Monument.

The Keene, Calif. site, known as Nuestra Senora Reina de La Paz (or simply La Paz), is closely associated with unprecedented gains Chávez and the union secured between 1970 and 1984. Upon his death in 1993, Chávez was buried at La Paz.

“The National Trust for Historic Preservation believes the designation of a César Chávez National Monument is an important first step toward a more comprehensive celebration of the life and legacy of César Chávez and his contributions to the farm labor movement,” National Trust President Stephanie Meeks said in a statement. “We applaud the President’s selection of the La Paz property as a National Monument. La Paz is one of several historic sites identified by the National Park Service related to César Chávez that depicts an important but underrepresented aspect of our nation’s history.”

The César E. Chávez National Monument is the fourth national monument the President has designated. The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the president authority to designate monuments as a way to protect “objects of historic or scientific interest.” During his administration, President Obama has also designated national monuments at Fort Ord in California, as well as Virginia’s Fort Monroe and Colorado’s Chimney Rock, both National Trust National Treasures.

A total of 16 presidents and Congress have used the Act to establish more than 100 national monuments, with Bill Clinton creating the most (19). George W. Bush designated six during his administration, including Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, the largest national monument at nearly 90 million acres. These sites are managed by various agencies including the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the Forest Service.

The designation of La Paz is especially timely, Meeks pointed out, as it is occurring during National Hispanic Heritage Month. In her statement, she also emphasized that the National Trust is committed to continuing collaborative work with the National Park Service and its American Latino Heritage Initiative.

“Today, La Paz joins a long line of national monuments -- stretching from the Statue of Liberty to the Grand Canyon -- monuments that tell the story of who we are as Americans,” President Obama said at yesterday’s ceremony. “It's a story of natural wonders and modern marvels; of fierce battles and quiet progress. But it's also a story of people -- of determined, fearless, hopeful people who have always been willing to devote their lives to making this country a little more just and a little more free.”

César Chávez's memorial garden and burial site.

National Trust Advisor Luis G. Hoyos attended yesterday’s ceremony in Keene and said: “I noticed a lot of us were Latinos, of course; we come in all shapes and sizes. But on a closer look I saw old Latinos, men, veterans, what appeared to be former farm workers, dressed modestly and hanging on to canes, wheelchairs, a wife, a banner of the Virgen de Guadalupe. Those faces will be with me for some time.”

Also in attendance was National Trust Advisor Donna Graves, who commented: “Hats, t-shirts and buttons among the crowd testified to long-standing commitment to labor organizing and the United Farm Workers. President Obama’s appearance swelled the heartfelt joy of many gathered in knowing that finally their herencia, their heritage, was being honored at the highest level.

And for the National Trust’s vice president of historic sites, Estevan Rael-Gálvez, attending the dedication ceremony was moving professionally and personally:

“As I breathed in the air of La Paz at the end of the day, I remembered that back home, elders always remind us that ‘wherever we go, we leave our breath behind us.’ The spirit of this place -- surrounded by rolling hills, nearly 200 acres, 26 buildings and structures that were/are home and headquarters for the United Farm Workers and their families -- can equally be felt in the breath of those who remain dedicated to the work of social justice and those whose breath has been left behind as well. Chávez was certainly there today; he was in the slope of the hills, the dust from the road, and he was in the hands and faces of every individual who has ever longed for civil rights and social justice.

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.

Update: New Hope for Historic Green Mountain Lookout

Posted on: September 24th, 2012 by Brian Turner


As abruptly as Judge John Coughenour doomed the fate of Washington State’s historic Green Mountain Lookout with a stroke of a pen last spring, he gave it new life last week.

Quick recap: Last March, the district court ordered the U.S. Forest Service to remove the lookout from the Glacier Peak Wilderness, finding that the agency had not properly justified its repair under the Wilderness Act. The decision provoked widespread public concern, and both of Washington State’s Senators urged USDA Secretary Vilsack to “use all legal means” to protect the historic lookout. Congressman Rick Larsen also introduced legislation in Congress to overturn the effect of the judge’s ruling.

Rather than file an immediate appeal, the Forest Service decided to first ask the Judge to modify his ruling in order to give the agency itself the opportunity to decide how to respond to the court’s decision. This summer, while the motion was pending, the legality of the lookout’s existence in its original location was in limbo.

On September 20, the Judge agreed to modify his decision. He remained steadfast that the Forest Service had violated the Wilderness Act by taking “aggressive” efforts to repair the structure.  But he was persuaded by the Forest Service that the remedy he had earlier imposed for the violation went beyond the court’s discretion. The decision on the historic lookout's fate has now been sent back to the Forest Service to give the agency the opportunity to decide how to comply with the court’s decision.

The court’s recent ruling provides a ray of hope, not only for the Forest Service, but for all historic preservation advocates who care about historic structures in wilderness areas.  The National Trust had filed a friend of the court brief defending the Forest Service’s stewardship of the historic Lookout.

We are now working closely with partners in the natural resources community to help establish clear guidance for wilderness management agencies on what should be maintained and, more importantly, what methods, tools, and equipment are appropriate for performing the maintenance.

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.

Brian Turner

Brian Turner

Brian Turner is an attorney in the National Trust's San Francisco Field Office. He is an enthusiastic advocate for the protection of the nation's cultural and natural heritage.