Local Preservationists

Young Preservationist: Daniel Linley Proves Old Windows' Worth

Posted on: November 1st, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 6 Comments


Written by Laura Wainmain, Editorial Intern

As part of back-to-school season, we’re featuring several impressive young preservationists who are saving places all around the country. This is the fourth profile in the series.

The window salesman who stopped by the 1917 Dutch Colonial home of Ann and Gary Linley probably has no idea that he was the inspiration for a sixth-grade science fair project. But after 12-year-old Daniel Linley of Elkhart, Ind. overheard his father turn down the salesman’s pitch to replace his historic sash-and-storm windows with new double-paned windows, he had an idea.

“I asked my dad why he didn’t buy the new windows, and Dad said our old windows were better,” says Daniel. “I didn’t believe him, so he challenged me to prove him wrong.” ... 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.

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.


As part of back-to-school season, we’re featuring several impressive young preservationists who are saving places all around the country. This is the third profile in the series.

For more than two decades, the city of Washington, DC, and the residents of Bloomingdale, Park View, and other neighborhoods surrounding McMillan Park in the city’s northwest quadrant haven’t been able to agree on what to do with the 25-acre site. Now, four students from nearby Catholic University of America have worked with their professor and the community to develop a plan of their own, with a little preservation mixed in.

“The feeling I’ve gotten is the city has just been focused on development, development, development, and a lot of people have felt they haven’t really listened to what the community wants and the historic value of the site,” Peter Miles, a senior architecture student and project member, says. “The project was a way for the community to develop a plan to say, ‘Look, we have answers. We’re not just saying ‘no’ to what the city wants. This is our vision.’”

Though it was designated as a permanent community green space when it was built in 1905, the site’s principle function was as a filtration plant that purified water by passing it from above-ground silos through a layer of sand and into subterranean vaults via gravity. The plant, named after Senator James McMillan of Michigan who worked to realize plans for the city in the late 1800s, helped to eradicate typhoid outbreaks in the District and included a walking path designed by the father of American landscape architecture’s son, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.

When a new purification process was developed for the District’s water supply in the late 1980s, the site was sold by the federal government to the city and has been deteriorating and closed to the public ever since.

Miles and classmates Joseph Barrick, Filipe Pereira, and Nina Tatic were asked to help with the project last spring by their professor Miriam Gusevich, who had been working with the community on the project for roughly ten years. Since then, they have collectively logged hundreds of hours in nearly every area of the project from computerized 3-D modeling to attending a hearing by the city’s Historic Preservation Review Board.

The Collage City Studio design team. From l. to r.: Filipe Pereira, Miriam Gusevich, Peter Miles, Nina Tatic, and Joseph Barrick.

The team’s plan keeps many of the same elements in place that are supported by the city, but with one key difference: They’ve designated the middle portion -- a full 50 percent of the plot -- to public use. Much of the remaining subterranean vault would be used as a community center with basketball and tennis courts and a swimming pool. The roof would serve as the park’s open green space, and several of the filtration cells would be restored and incorporated into the design as fountains and to demonstrate to the public how water filtration was practiced in the past.

“It’s really just a shame to try and tear it down and build something new because you don’t have the time and the money and effort to preserve part of it,” says Miles. “There’s a certain sense of a special place there and it’s really a phenomenal thing to be able to experience.”

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.

[Interview] Merry Powell, Interior Designer: "Preservation is Contagious"

Posted on: October 22nd, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments


Braehead's restored exterior.

How do you balance history and home? That's the question Merry Powell was asking when she signed on to help restore and redesign the Civil War-era Braehead mansion in Fredersickburg, Va. -- and the process she documented on her blog in a series called "Braehead Revisited."

In Powell's words:

Really, most of what we did to Braehead was undo bad stuff that had been done to the house over the years. We got down to the original fabric, and then figured out creative ways to put a modern family, with 4 children, into the house comfortably without sacrificing the house in the process. I think this is an important point as we all look for meaningful ways to actually use old structures. They can’t all be museum houses, but they can be saved and be useful, if enough care and thought is put into them.

We caught up with Powell to ask her more about Braehead and the team of people it took to turn this historic treasure back into a much-loved home.

Tell me about the history of Braehead. What makes this property significant?

Braehead mansion occupies a prominent place in the beautiful Fredericksburg, Va., Battlefield. The home was completed in 1859 by Scottish immigrant, John Howison, for his family of nine. During the Civil War, Braehead provided shelter to both Confederate and Union troops.

General Robert E. Lee reportedly established his headquarters and “took breakfast” at Braehead on the morning of Dec. 13, 1862, the date of the first battle of Fredericksburg. Lee tied his horse, Traveler, to a black walnut tree that still thrives on the property. (It has since been dubbed the “Traveler Tree.”)

In May 1864, Braehead was occupied by Union troops. A Howison family member wrote that the troops “killed the cows, ate the chickens, smashed the china, tore up dress goods, destroyed or stole the family Bible which had in it…three generations [and] threw the dining room chairs through the window glass.” The house was used as a hospital for Union soldiers who scribed graffiti into the woodwork and plaster.

The historic marker (left); the Traveler Tree (right).

What has led to its restoration?

For nearly 150 years, Braehead remained the property of the Howisons and their descendents. In 2006, Braehead went on the market for the first time in its history. Since there had never been any easements or protections of any kind placed on the property, the old house, then in a sad state of disrepair, was in danger of being lost forever.

The Central Virginia Battlefield Trust (CVBT) quickly stepped in and purchased the house and surrounding 18 acres. Based on the historical significance of the property, the CVBT promptly registered it and put into place easements to protect the property.

The CVBT then searched diligently for a proper buyer to rescue the house and restore it to its former glory. A perfect match was found in a Fredericksburg family who fell in love with Braehead and has now made it their home.

What was your mission during the interior restoration project?

Braehead was always intended to be a family home. My mission, and that of architect Sabina Weitzman, and preservationist/builder Jay Holloway, was to preserve Braehead’s 19th century past, while also protecting its future, by making it a comfortable home for a 21st century family. We all understood that working on this project was both a privilege and a responsibility.

Examples of Braehead's previous condition.

What was the house like when you first saw it?

It was pretty bad. Over 6,000 square feet of broken windows, rotting wood, mold and standing water were just a few of the challenges. In a previous attempt to turn Braehead into a bed & breakfast, two horrible kitchens had been added and a row of bathrooms was built in what had been a hallway. (You literally had to step over toilets to access the bedrooms.) A sewer pipe was exposed and ran down one of the walls. No heat, inadequate wiring and plumbing, and adhering to the strict building codes of the Department of Historical Resources were the biggest issues.

But amidst the decay and garbage was a treasure trove of period antiques, many original to Braehead. Furniture, art, books, even a Victorian wedding dress, were still inside the main dwelling and adjacent outbuildings. I was overjoyed to have so much to work with!

We inventoried as best we could to determine what we could use and what was too precious or too far gone. The owners generously offered many pieces to the Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center, but others were repaired and restored along with the house.

The foyer, or "Grand Hall," before renovation.

What surprised you during this project?

If there is anything I have learned about working on old houses, is that there is no end to the surprises! However, one thing I noticed on this job was how contagious preservation can become. The deeper we dug into the project and the more history that was unearthed, the more committed everyone was to getting it right.

As bad as Braehead had appeared when we started, we found that most of our job was not to “do”, but to “undo.” As the layers of past renovations were peeled away, the old house revealed itself. Everyone who worked on Braehead sensed that we were rescuing the house.

Do you have a background in preservation?

I do not have formal training in preservation. My passion for old houses grew from my background in antiques. My grandparents were antiques dealers in South Carolina. I spent my childhood learning about these treasures and how to care for them.

Eventually, I also went into the antiques business, which led to me purchasing a very large, very old house. From that point on, I was hooked. I’m still living in an old house now in Richmond, Va. It has been a constant educational experience for the last 25 years.

Braehead was full of antiques, including this pianoforte which is now in the restored music parlor.

What did you learn about preservation while working at Braehead?

The owners, architect, and builder for the Braehead project have experience, knowledge and education in the field of historic preservation. The goal was always to do what was best for the house. From them, I learned that preserving the history of an important structure, like Braehead, while accommodating modern day living, can be accomplished. It just takes lots of patience, dedication and resources.

How did you balance modern amenities and tastes against the history of the house?

In my earliest discussions with the owners, we decided that certain rooms -- the “formal rooms” as we called them -- would be designed in a style correct for the period of the house.

The grand hall, dining room, and music parlor would certainly be on tours for historical events and we used them to display some of the treasures found in Braehead. Almost all of the furnishings in these rooms were found in the house. The few pieces that I purchased were 19th century antiques.

The color schemes for these rooms were based on wallpaper fragments found in the house as well as hues that were popular for the time. The beautiful decorative painting on the millwork in these rooms was original to the house and was still in remarkably good shape. Careful cleaning was all that was needed.

I reupholstered the furniture in velvets and tapestry. The window treatments are made of silk. I designed period-style light fixtures, which were handmade by craftsmen in Richmond.

The home office now occupies the original kitchen with its large cooking fireplace.

The family uses these rooms less frequently, though they are not off-limits. The children take piano lessons on the restored pianoforte that was found in the house.

The private rooms of the home -- including the kitchen, family room, and office -- were designed with comfort and functionality in mind. There is sensitivity to the age and style of the house in these rooms, but this is where the family lives so they had to be tough.

The kitchen cabinets, as an example, had to be carefully designed to not encroach on the original mantel or windows. They were custom made by Mill Cabinet Shop, Bridgewater, Va. with a finish that, while certainly not 18th century-like, does relate to the house and the desire of the owner to have cabinets that were kid-proof. We also designed the soapstone backsplash to be boxed around the lower window trim so as to protect, but not damage the old wood.

What did you think when the restoration was complete?

Complete? Who said it was complete?! I don’t know if projects like Braehead are ever complete. But when I visit the house now and see children playing in the yard and toys in the hallway, I feel that John Howison would be pleased to see his beautiful house so full of happiness and love.

The family who now owns Braehead respects and cherishes the old house and considers its preservation a part of their legacy. I am honored and proud to have played a small part in not only saving such a wonderful house, but also making it into a home for a special family.

The renovated kitchen. The cabinets' handcarved detail is by Lee Stover, Mill Cabinet Shop.

What’s next for the property?

The exterior restoration of the structure is nearly complete. The owners have installed beautiful landscaping, with the Traveler Tree being the main feature. Braehead has suffered greatly throughout history, but this chapter of the story is a happy one. We hope that future generations will appreciate the care and hard work which brought Braehead back to life, and will continue to be good stewards for this very special old house.

If you would like to see Braehead firsthand, the house will be featured on the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation’s Candlelight Tour, Dec. 8 - 9, 2012. I will be decorating the formal rooms with greens native to Virginia, as well as thistle and decorative items, which pay homage to the Howison family’s Scottish roots. The kitchen and informal rooms will be decorated with items made by the current owners’ children. The dates of the tour fall on 150 years, almost to the day, since General Robert E. Lee visited Braehead, so it promises to be a very special event.

Merry Powell Interiors is a design firm based in Richmond, Va.  Powell does residential, commercial, and historical interiors. She may be reached through her website, www.merrypowell.com.

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.

A Special Brew for Chimney Rock

Posted on: October 22nd, 2012 by Emily Potter


Chimney Rock is a sacred Native American landscape. It is thousands of years old, and still a cherished landmark today. Very recently it became a National Monument.

And now it is a beer.

Chimney Rock National Monument Ancestral Ale, to be exact. Pagosa Brewing, located in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, released this limited edition brew in honor of the site’s National Monument designation, which was announced in September. The light beer is a unique blend of wheat and barley, as well as local squash, beans, sweet corn, and a whisper of cactus fruit.

Don't sound like the usual ingredients for beer? Maybe not, but squash, beans, corn, and cactus fruit were essential foods for the Chacoan people that once lived around Chimney Rock, and are still grown on local farms today.

Tony Simmons next to the sign at the entrance of Pagosa Brewing in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

While many brewers put their heads together to create the perfect ale to honor the sacred landscape, the man behind it all is Tony Simmons, president and head brewer at Pagosa Brewing.

Simmons is an accomplished brewer -- he has worked in breweries in Colorado, New Mexico, and California, received scholarships to professional brewing schools in the U.S. and Germany, and won many awards for his hand-crafted microbrews.

He ended up in Pagosa after visiting Mesa Verde 16 years ago and discovering the great history of the Chacoan culture; then, in 2006, he started Pagosa Brewing. He’s visited Chimney Rock several times and recognized at once that this amazing cultural resource was not acknowledged nearly well enough.

“When I heard that Chimney Rock might become a National Monument, I thought that deserved a little recognition from a brewer’s perspective,” Simmons said.

Brewing the perfect Ancestral Ale took some time and was definitely a collaborative effort. He recalled, “We came up with the term Ancestral Ale after talking with an archaeologist at the U.S. Forest Service. We discussed our idea at length. And it took awhile to get the flavor profile right.”

But right they got it. After the official announcement was made in Washington, D.C., Pagosa Brewing sent the White House some of the newly created, special edition Chimney Rock National Monument Ancestral Ale. (Simmons also got a call from the Forest Service asking for samples.)

He said he was “pretty blown away by Secretary Salazar’s enthusiasm over the beer” and thought it was “great to see a little bit of Pagosa going out to a big city.”

Simmons (left) and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. (right) celebrating Chimney Rock National Monument Ancestral Ale at the Great American Beer Festival.

The Ancestral Ale was also featured at the Pagosa Brewing tasting booth at the annual Great American Beer Festival, which ran from Oct. 11-13 in Denver. At roughly 50,000 attendees, with more than 2,700 beers being sipped and judged, the festival was a great place to introduce the ale and talk about the significance of National Monument designation for Chimney Rock and the community.

Before heading out for the festival, Simmons told me, “I believe that crafting this beer is a great way of acknowledging the countless hours of the U.S. Forest Service and volunteers. Chimney Rock is really special to our community and significant across cultural lines. We are only as successful as our community, and this is a wonderful thing for our community.

Side note: I’ve been to Pagosa Brewing and it’s a great place to relax, especially in the “Beer Garden” outside, and drink in the history (literally, you could say!).

The Beer Garden at Pagosa Brewing.

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.

Saving Spooky Sites: The Ridges Building #26 in Athens, Ohio

Posted on: October 19th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 4 Comments


Written by Laura Wainman, Editorial Intern

When Ron Luce was invited in August to look at the Ridges Building #26 in Athens, Ohio, two things surprised him. The first was that he was invited by an employee of Ohio University -- the institution which already had plans in place to demolish the building -- and the second was that the demolition date was only two months away. As executive director of the Athens County Historical Society and Museum and a strong proponent of historic preservation, Luce was concerned.

“Letting Ridges #26 be torn down would set a dangerous precedent for the rest of the Ridges complex, and the buildings are too vital a part of our history to lose,” Luce says. 

The 1924 building, listed along with the rest of the hospital complex on the National Register of Historic Places, is part of the former Athens Asylum (later Athens Mental Health Center) and one of the last remaining structures designed from the Kirkbride model for mental health facilities in Ohio.  Also known as the TB Ward/Beacon School, Ridges #26 is owned by Ohio University and has sat vacant for decades.

Though the main administration building at Ridges now houses the Kennedy Art Museum, many of the other Ridges structures are empty. Luce fears that letting one Ridges structure be demolished would cause a domino effect of destruction.

Luce made a visit to the building where he found a “magnificent” but deteriorating structure with large windows, a plain uninterrupted roofline, and very few exterior adornments.

“The building has a lot of cosmetic needs that I’m told would cost around $10 million to repair, but the basic structure itself is in good shape considering its age. It was built like a fortress,” says Luce.

Sitting atop Reservoir Hill on one of the most secluded parts of the grounds, the building has become a beacon for vandalism and trespassing by students and ghost-seekers alike. In fact, the university originally intended to demolish the building before Halloween as the number of trespassers looking for haunted hijinks tends to go up around the holiday.

“A young woman died in the building and you can still see a large stain where her body lay on the first floor. So those seeking a spooky experience often break in to the building and it has become a safety hazard for the university,” says Luce.

After his visit, Luce got to work engaging the community in efforts to save the building. He made a report to the Athens County Historical Society Board of Trustees, which responded by contacting the Ohio Historical Society and state senators and representatives. Their goal was to make sure the university understood that there are people concerned by its plan who do not want to lose Ridges #26.

After agreeing to postpone the teardown, Ohio University officials met with members of the Athens County Historical Society, including Luce, on October 16 to discuss the future of the building. Luce proposed that a comprehensive plan be developed for the entire Ridges complex and mentioned possible alternative uses for the building by the university, the community, and the business sector.

“The university was very receptive to the idea of creating a long-term preservation plan for the whole Ridges complex, and they seemed open to rethinking their plan to tear down Ridges #26,” says Luce. “Now we have to wait and see what they say, but I am feeling very positive about the meeting.”

In the meantime, Luce says the community can continue to help in the effort of saving Ridges #26 by writing letters to the editors of local papers, making phone calls to local and state government representatives, and expressing their desire to keep the building.

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.