Local Preservationists

 

The c. 1829 building became known as the Trojan Hotel in 1915. Credit: Terry and Donald O'Brien
The c. 1829 building became known as the Trojan Hotel in 1915.

When Donald and Terry O’Brien were looking for a new location for O’Briens Public House, their nearly 2-year-old family-run restaurant, a 184-year-old building in downtown Troy, N.Y., caught their eyes.

“My heart was set on the building, because it has so much history,” Terry O’Brien says.

Built c. 1829, the building on Third Street served variously as a stable and livery, bar, hotel, photography unit, and residence (most notably for the Reverend William Irvin, a prominent local resident). From 1897, it served as the Windsor Café and was converted to the Windsor Hotel in 1896.

But it is best known for its years operating as the Trojan Hotel, a name it took on in 1915.... 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.

Lauren Walser

Lauren Walser

Lauren Walser is the Los Angeles-based Field Editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys writing and thinking about history, art, architecture, and public space.

Baltimore's Senator Theatre Restored to Full Art Deco Glory

Posted on: October 10th, 2013 by Katherine Flynn 1 Comment

 

The Senator’s exterior post-restoration, ready for opening night. Credit: Senator Theatre
The Senator’s exterior post-restoration, ready for opening night.

The 1939 Senator Theatre holds a beloved spot in the hearts of Baltimoreans. Just ask co-owner Kathleen Cusack Lyon.

“Everyone has some sort of memory of the theater,” she says. “Everyone went to see It’s A Wonderful Life every Christmas there, went on a first date there, met their husband or wife of 50 years there. Everyone has a story.”

That’s why, when Lyon and her father, James “Buzz” Cusack, bought the Art Deco Senator from the city of Baltimore in 2012, they knew they had to fix the movie theater’s leaky roof and bring it back to its former pre-war glory.... 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.

Katherine Flynn

Katherine Flynn

Katherine Flynn is an assistant editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys coffee, record stores and uncovering the stories behind historic places. Follow her on Twitter at @kateallthetime.

A Bittersweet Future for Hawaii's Threatened Sugar Mills

Posted on: October 2nd, 2013 by Aria Danaparamita

 

Sugar cane fields stretch across the Hawaiian landscape. Credit: McCready, Flickr.
Sugar cane fields stretch across the Hawaiian landscape.

“Sugar formed the landscape in Hawaii,” Harrison Yamamoto says. “From the mountains to the beach, it was all fields.”

Hawaii’s history -- and Yamamoto’s family history -- is steeped in sugar. The islands’ sugar industry dates back to 1835 when the first successful sugar plantation was established on the island of Kaua’i. Today, only one operating sugar mill remains -- the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company-operated Alexander & Baldwin mill in Pu’unene, Maui, built in 1901.

Yamamoto, 25, is now a Silman Fellow for Preservation Engineering at the National Trust, and a fourth-generation American of Japanese descent. His great-great-grandfather came to Hawaii in 1885 to work the sugar fields. His grandparents still live in the old plantation workers camp on Kaua’i.

“I’m not sure if my great-great-great grandmother came with him or if they were married later,” Yamamoto recalls. “But my family has worked at the mills for generations.”

A group of Japanese immigrant labor in Hawaii. Credit: hawaiihistory.org
A group of Japanese immigrant laborers in Hawaii.

The sugar mills attracted labor immigration that lasted through the 1920s and 1930s. The largest immigrant group was Japanese, followed by Chinese, Korean, Filipino, and Portuguese. Yamamoto’s family worked and lived at the Gay & Robinson mill, where his grandfather was a mechanic.

The workers lived in multicultural clusters of around a dozen houses -- wooden, single-storied structures, usually painted earthy tones.

“It was a small community,” he says. “At first it was segregated by ethnic groups and sometimes there were tensions, but over time, when you’re working together and living together, everyone learned to get along.”

Portuguese immigrant families came to work at the Hawaiian sugar plantations. Credit: hawaiihistory.org
Portuguese immigrant families came to work at the Hawaiian sugar plantations.

The communities were also culturally vibrant homes for the diaspora. Yamamoto recalls the neighborhood hongwanji, a Buddhist temple, cultural center, and mission school. Children would go to the hongwanji to learn Japanese language, religion, and cultural values, Yamamoto says. (Today, the hongwanjis also host the Obon festivals that light the islands in celebration, as well as support the local Boy Scouts chapter.)

But times have changed in the sugar fields. Sugar remained Hawaii's leading industry until the 1960s when tourism took over as the state's number one income. Then bigger producers like Brazil began to overtake the world market.

As sugar production slowed, the mills began to fall -- first abandoned, then later demolished. Several plantation owner homes and estates have been preserved. And some worker camps, like Yamamoto’s grandparents’, still live on as communities.

Yet Yamamoto has noticed most structures crumble to dust -- and with them a tangible sense of Hawaii's past.

The now abandoned Koloa mill on Kaua'i. Credit: chuck55, Flickr.
The now-abandoned Koloa mill on Kaua'i.

“The mills are sometimes the tallest structures in the area,” Yamamoto describes. “You would drive through the island and look out and see the fields and then you’d see the mill and that’s when you know you’re entering a town.”

While preserving plantation estates is a great step, Yamamoto argues that it’s not enough.

“The house served maybe twenty people, but there were hundreds and thousands of workers who lived in the camps,” Yamamoto says. “In terms of the collective history, there is more weight on the mills and the fields.”

When the Gay & Robinson mill on Kaua’i shut down in 2009, it left Alexander & Baldwin the lone sugar producing outpost in the state. Today, that last working sugar mill employs about 800 people and cultivates some 36,000 acres of cane. In 2011, the mill produced over 182,000 tons of raw sugar.

The Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company mill in Pu'unene, Mauai. Credit: Joanna Orpia, Wikimedia.
The Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company mill in Pu'unene, Mauai.

Next door to the mill is the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum, one of the rare efforts to preserving the taste and heritage of Maui's sugar industry.

“When I went to school we would drive in the car and I’d look out the back seat and see the fields,” Yamamoto says. “But now, my children or my grandchildren would look out the back seat and I don’t know what they’ll see.”

“My father’s generation has a much closer connection to the land,” he continues. “It’s important to reflect on the land and what the land can provide you. Everyone wants to move forward, but we should ask how should we move forward.

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.

Aria Danaparamita

Aria Danaparamita

Aria Danaparamita, or Mita, is a contributor to the PreservationNation blog and recent graduate of Wesleyan University. She enjoys walks, coffee, and short stories. Follow her odd adventures on Twitter at @mitatweets.

The (Nearly) Forgotten History of Maxville, Ore.

Posted on: September 27th, 2013 by David Robert Weible 1 Comment

 

In the Fall issue of Preservation magazine we interview Gwendolyn Trice, whose search for her own history led her to quit her day job in Seattle and relocate to eastern Oregon to preserve the memory of the now-defunct logging town that originally brought her family to the Pacific Northwest.

The town -- known as Maxville -- popped up in the 1920s in Wallowa County, and drew both white and black workers from all of the American South and Midwest. Though the town was segregated, the hard work and brutal weather brought the community together.

You can find the full story in the print edition of Preservation. (Forum Journal also has a great article available for members, titled "Breathing Life into a Ghost Town: The Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center.")

In the meantime, here are some cool photo extras that show the history of Maxville and its community.

Gwendoyn Trice in Maxville. Credit: Colby Kuschatka... 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.

David Robert Weible

David Robert Weible

David Robert Weible is an assistant editor at Preservation magazine. He came to DC from Cleveland, Ohio, where he wrote for Sailing World and Outside magazines.

[10 on Tuesday] Toolkit Round-Up: The "Saving Places" Edition

Posted on: September 24th, 2013 by Julia Rocchi

 

With more than a year's worth of toolkits under our belts, we thought it was time to bring back some of the old favorites in case you missed them, lost them, or just wanted to refresh your memory.

This week's edition focuses on all the tips and techniques for getting started in preservation -- from basic definitions to recommended reading to getting your family and community excited about saving places. Let's jump in!... 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.

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.