Remembering Jack Boucher, Photographer and Preservationist

Posted on: September 10th, 2012 by Dennis Hockman 1 Comment


The National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) is the nation's first federal preservation program, launched in 1933 as a way of documenting the nation’s architectural heritage. For half a century Jack Boucher traveled the United States for HABS photographing what NPS calls “a complete resume of the builder's art.”

He also photographed places for the Historic American Engineering Record and the Historic American Landscape Survey. But today, his images are appreciated as more than just documents of historic places; they are appreciated as art.

Lauded by preservationists and photographers alike, Boucher’s photographs of colonial-era mansions, civic monuments, structures designed by the greatest American architects, and vernacular buildings help define our evolution as a nation as well as the diverse regions we call home.

His career took him to 49 states, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, and he produced thousands of images, all of which are public domain and available through the Library of Congress.

Jack Boucher died September 2, 2012, and was remembered by friends and family five days later at Old Saint Mary's Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. Here’s what colleagues from the preservation community had to say about his legacy (emphasis added):

"Jack Boucher was an American master of large-format photography. He is certainly a legend, having lectured to thousands and producing tens of thousands of large-format photographs of historic architecture, landscape architecture, and engineering sites across the United States over the past 50 years." -- Paul D. Dolinsky, Chief of the Historic American Landscapes Survey

"Mr. Boucher leaves an incredible legacy for his work capturing iconic buildings and national parks, and his photography helped raise public awareness of architecture in general." -- Scott Frank, American Institute of Architects

"In the passing of Jack Boucher, the National Park Service has lost one of the true giants of historic preservation. His nearly five decades of photographing historic sites for the Historic American Buildings Survey, Historic American Engineering Record, and Historic American Landscape Survey have provided incalculable contributions to the nation’s largest archive of historical architectural, engineering and landscape documentation that will be used by the preservation community for generations to come." –Jonathan B. Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service

"The long career of Jack Boucher as photographer for the Historic American Buildings Survey leaves a legacy that will last much longer. He captured a remarkable range of the built environment that will continue to play a pivotal role in how we see our heritage for decades to come. The absence of a successor at HABS is a sad situation indeed." -- Richard Longstreth, Director of Historic Preservation and Professor of American Civilization, George Washington University

"Jack Boucher was a luminary in the field of preservation. As Chief Photographer for the Historic American Buildings Survey, he documented thousands of important historic places including National Trust Historic Sites such as Cliveden, Lyndhurst, and Belle Grove as well as National Treasures such as Union Station and Haas-Lilienthal. His contribution to the field is unmatched and he was key to taking the pulse of preservation over the past half century. As he documented American architecture he followed the prevailing interests of preservationists from Colonial to Victorian to industrial and beyond. His lens uniquely captured the many of the important styles of our time.-- Stephanie Meeks, President, National Trust for Historic Preservation

"Jack was one of our last links to the early days of the national historic preservation program in post-World War II America. His monumental body of photographs set the standard for his generation and for generations to follow. He was a craftsman of the highest order, an artist, and teacher. His life's work will far outlast all of us. His passions were his wife Peggy, photography, good food in great restaurants, and his beloved Catholic Church.  We have lost a valued and irreplaceable member of the heritage preservation community. We will not see his like again." -- de Teel Patterson (Pat) Tiller, former Deputy Associate Director, Cultural Resources, National Park Service

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.

Dennis Hockman

Dennis Hockman

Dennis Hockman is editor in chief of Preservation magazine. He’s lived all over the United States but currently resides in Baltimore where he is restoring a 1918 center hall Colonial.

"Tellin We Story": Preserving the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor

Posted on: September 5th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment


Written by Laura Wainman, Editorial Intern

My first foray into historic preservation came, albeit begrudgingly, at the age of 10. We were on a family vacation out West, mainly visiting the Grand Canyon, but stopping at what felt like every historic landmark known to man along the way. My dad was a huge fan of any site that boasted the words “oldest”, “largest”, or “historic” on its highway signs, and we inevitably made detours anytime one popped up.

What I couldn’t see at the time was that my dad was instilling in me an appreciation for the historic sites that weave together to form the tapestry of our nation. Flash forward fourteen years, and I have been reading about preservation project undertaken by the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission involving highway signs and heritage centers; I was reminded of my dad’s love of historic sites, and was hooked to learn more.

Historian James Bullock (in period clothing) presents oral history at Fort Mose about the Gullah/Geechee people (2010).

Earlier this summer, the commission released a 294-page preservation plan aimed at increasing public recognition of the culture and history of the Gullah/Geechee people. According to the NPS Special Resource Study, today’s Gullah/Geechee people are “descendants of enslaved Africans … [who were] forced to work on the plantations of coastal South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina and Florida.”

They are the ancestors of those who helped make the Southern colonies one of the wealthier regions. The geographical isolation of this coastal community actually aided in preserving Gullah/Geechee heritage, such as the people’s own language and traditions like basket-weaving and storytelling.

The Gullah/Geechee plan highlights three pillars that form the basis for the commission’s 10-year management proposal, including education, economic development, and documentation/preservation. Efforts would include implementing a signage system to brand the corridor and point out major historic sites, and developing at least one heritage center in each of the four states.

The management plan would mainly act as a preservation tool to ensure that future generations are aware of the contributions made to the country by the Gullah/Geechee people and to protect the corridor against coastal development that could wipe out the heritage of these people.

The plan has been a long time in the making, starting in 2000 with Congressman Jim Clyburn calling for a study of Gullah resources after fearing the possibility of modernization of historical sites. The National Trust got involved in 2004 when it placed the Gullah/Geechee coast on its 11 Most Endangered list. These efforts led to Congress approving the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor in 2006, and the creation of the only National Heritage Area dedicated to preserving African-American culture.

Perhaps, thanks to today’s preservation efforts of a little-known society, one day I will be able to share the Gullah/Geechee culture with my future children. I’m sure my dad would be more than happy to visit right alongside us.

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.

Historic Real Estate: Income Properties Edition

Posted on: September 4th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 3 Comments


Main Street Storefront and Loft -- Council Grove, Kansas

This two-story mixed-use brick Italianate is situated in the heart of the Flint Hills region of Kansas. Certified in 2010 as part of a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, this commercial building boasts original pressed tin ceilings both upstairs and downstairs.

The first floor offers a large gallery main room, office, catering kitchen, and garage. The loft apartment on the second floor has maple floors and a street-level entrance. Early in its history, this 1887 building was a harness shop. In recent decades it has served as an office complex, seminar center, cafe, gift and antique shop. Price tag: $204,000

Bungalows 313 -- Sonoma, California

Originally known as the Lombardo Hotel Annex in the early 20th century, Bungalows 313 is a living piece of Sonoma history. This secluded compound includes the original 1906 stone residence and additional duplex and cottage structures set on over a third of an acre of beautiful mature gardens. The compound is composed of six distinctive bungalows centered around an inviting, lush courtyard, each with a private patio or garden, and all within steps of the historic Sonoma Plaza. Price tag: $2,950,000

307 James Brown Boulevard -- Augusta, Georgia

307 James Brown Boulevard is a Second Empire-style commercial townhouse built c. 1884. The interior is suited for commercial use and/or single or multiple residential units. The building features three and a half stories with approximately 5,000 square feet. The property is just a block away from Augusta's main street in the heart of the central business district. Price tag: $59,900

To see more historic listings across the country, visit Historic Properties for Sale.

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.

How We Threaten Our Own Legacy: Guest Post from Knute "Mossback" Berger

Posted on: August 28th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment


Knute Berger (aka "Mossback") covers heritage issues for Crosscut in Seattle. He is also is editor-at-large and columnist for Seattle magazine and a regular guest of Weekday with Steve Scher on NPR affiliate KUOW-FM (94.9). Knute will lead a wide-ranging discussion on sustainability and preservation at the Closing Plenary Luncheon of the National Preservation Conference on Saturday, November 3, 2012. Register and buy tickets at the conference website.

Every year for the last two decades, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation has issued its Most Endangered list of historic structures. It's a useful exercise for raising public awareness before the wrecking ball has swung. The properties are nominated and their endangered status decided on an individual basis, but sometimes the list carries a general message.

Scanning 2012's listees, it's clear that while private development can pose a threat to historic properties -- see the recent Capitol Hill outcry over the Bauhaus block and old homes being knocked down for apartments  --  the trouble is often caused by government, public entities, and public projects.

There are many reasons for this. One is that such entities often believe that their will embodies an unquestioned public good, and the bulldozers should roll because they are serving a higher purpose. It's a kind of institutional arrogance that often loses sight of other values.

Another problem is that sometimes government departments are simply overwhelmed by responsibility because they are underfunded by the public. They have a duty to protect historic properties under their care, but lack the means to do so.

That last point is made very clearly on this year's endangered list, which breaks a bit with its usual custom to generally designate the "Resources of Washington’s State Park System" as endangered, instead of a single property. But such trendspotting is useful. The parks system has more than 600 historic properties under its care, ranging from lighthouses to WPA picnic shelters.

According to the Trust, the state parks department "is the single largest owner of historic buildings in the state. Recent economic woes, however, have made it increasingly challenging for the agency to sustain the needed level of maintenance at parks statewide, let alone address mounting capital needs."

Parks funding has been cut by two-thirds since the 2007-09 biennium. The parks budget is being slashed and off-loaded by the state legislature, and parks pass sales are coming in under projection. Washington is faced with converting to a pay-for-use system for parks (most states already do this). Like toll roads, it's a shift in public expectation. But the fact is, with staff and budget cuts, hundreds of historic buildings are threatened with neglect, deferred maintenance, increased vandalism, and decay unless solutions to the state parks' collapse are found.

Another endangered site: the King County-owned Harborview Hall, the fabulous Art Deco former nursing school on First Hill. Harborview Medical Center has a master plan which calls for knocking the building down for a plaza, but preservationists are fighting that and King County Executive Dow Constantine has rightly jumped in and asked for an assessment of redevelopment scenarios that save the historic structure.

Haborview Hall is not the only structure on the hill jeopardized by hospital development: a number of wonderful old apartment houses are at risk from Virginia-Mason's master plan process. They include The Baroness, the Cassel Crag, the Chasselton, and the Rhododendron, which the Trust says "comprise a cluster of historic apartment buildings along Boren Street near Madison Avenue significant for their architectural styles and their association with multi-family residential development."

Yes, single-family dominant Seattle also has a wonderful multi-family housing tradition, of which these fine buildings are all a part and they add much to the heritage of what is one of the city's densest neighborhoods. Density advocates would be wise to get on the preservation bandwagon here, because the success of these buildings and their character could do much to sell the concept to a city that is skeptical.

The list also has an example of a historic hospital building threatened by a major public highway project: The Post Hospital at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Reserve. This wonderful old structure sits empty right along I-5, and locals hope to convert it into an arts center. While it is not slated for demolition, the Columbia River Crossing project is slated to widen I-5 and would bring the freeway from the hospital's front yard to four-to-six feet from its doorstep. Noise, fumes, and structural challenges would all worsen.

Yet another project on the list with a public threat: Washington State University's decision to sell the historic Jensen-Byrd warehouse in Spokane to a private developer that intends to destroy it. Local preservationists are fighting hard still for a last-minute reconsideration; the building is slated for demolition in 2013. A delay has offered a sliver of hope.

This year's list brings to mind the Pogo line, "We have met the enemy and he is us." On the one hand, public policy has enshrined heritage concerns into law; on the other, public purpose often chooses to ignore the spirit, and often the letter, of historic preservation. The good news is that with the help of groups like the Trust, we can also meet the saviors in these situations. He or she is us, too.

A version of this blog post first appeared on on May 29, 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.

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.