National Treasures

Report from the Field: Sandy's Impact on Ellis Island

Posted on: November 30th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

Written by Roberta Lane, Senior Field Officer & Attorney, Boston Field Office


The storm surged onto the South Side of Ellis Island, depositing debris and flooding the basements of the historic hospital and administration buildings.

One month after Hurricane Sandy barreled into the East Coast, repair and restoration continues apace at homes, religious structures, downtowns, parks, historic sites, and beyond. In particular, the damage at Ellis Island (one of our National Treasures) provides a snapshot of one kind of post-Sandy reality.

Our National Treasure and America’s 11 Most Endangered Places listings for Ellis Island focused on the 30 vacant buildings on the island to highlight their plight. These buildings have stood the test of time while they wait for a reuse. We were already concerned about their condition, though, so early reports that the stormwaters surged right over the island distressed us.

Indeed, Hurricane Sandy flooded through Ellis Island with a vengeance. Today, the National Park Service is working heroically, in awful conditions, to assess and repair the damage, and we are working with them and Save Ellis Island to try to ensure a brighter future for the south side of the island, a place that has endured so much.

The following slideshow features my photos from a staff trip to the south side of Ellis Island in spring 2012. Consider it a virtual tour, one that might deepen this site's significance for you:

Since the storm, we’ve met with the National Park Service and Save Ellis Island to learn about the current conditions and coordinate our assistance. Of note:

  • One vacant building -- the Ferry Building -- was restored a few years ago by the National Park Service and Save Ellis Island. The storm blew out windows and doors at the Ferry Building and inundated the exhibits and interiors inside.
  • At the vacant US Public Health Service buildings, boarding meant to protect windows was blown out and water got into the lower areas.
  • The grand Main Building had basement flooding, destroying the island’s mechanical systems and most other parts of its infrastructure.
  • The grand Immigration Hall and most exhibits at the Main Building were unaffected.

The National Park Service is finishing its assessments and stabilization of the many units of the National Parks of New York Harbor that were damaged in the storm. We plan to work with our partners to connect preservation professionals from the field with the Park Service’s experts, as needed. And we are building a broad coalition of agencies and organizations to help support the work ahead.

Ellis Island stands for a complex and wonderful American ideal: that we should garner the benefits of major change through immigration, while always ensuring our nation’s fundamental stability and constancy. This concept of well-managed change is also, of course, a value at the heart of historic preservation -- one we hope to demonstrate at this important site.

Post-storm photos are at the National Park Service's Sandy Response Flickr site. Also check out the National Park Service’s fascinating Facebook page, NPS Hurricane Sandy Response. Ellis Island was my first Instagram adventure. Find the National Trust Instagram at @presnation.

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.

Prentice Hospital Granted Temporary Reprieve

Posted on: November 29th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

While the effort to preserve Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago continues to garner national media attention -- including this segment that ran last weekend on National Public Radi0 -- the Trust continues to work with its partners in the Save Prentice Coalition on advocacy efforts to save Prentice from demolition.... 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.

 

Two weeks ago while in New Orleans, I found myself having a familiar moment at the corner of Tulane Avenue and South Tonti Street, the intersection where one of my favorite buildings in the world -- the old Dixie Brewery -- sits abandoned.

I've made a habit out of checking in on it every time I'm in town, and this visit played out much like my past pilgrimages.

After thumb-typing my way through some requisite Instagramming, Foursquaring, Facebooking, and tweeting, I took off my headphones and sat quietly on the curb, surveying Dixie's bruises and black eyes from my ant's eye view. Unlike the narrow streets of the French Quarter, where the Big Easy high steps by you with the garishness of a Zatarain's commercial, this section of the city can be very quiet -- eerily and somewhat mesmerizingly so.

After at least five minutes of undisturbed building gazing, I was rattled back to reality by the thunderous approach of the 39 bus. As I motioned to the driver that I wasn't actually waiting for a ride, I chuckled to myself about how weird the whole thing must have looked -- just me, the curb, a derelict building, and an empty plastic grocery bag scratching down the street.

After a bit more reflection, though, I think my New Orleans experience is no different than the feeling a lot of preservationists have and are often caught acting on: Sometimes, when you really love a place, you've just got to sit with it for a little bit. You know, take it all in.

It’s the same feeling I got -- or more accurately, that got me -- earlier this year when I walked into Miami Marine Stadium for the first time. Between the awe-inspiring roof (is it modern architecture or alien spacecraft?) and the sensation you get of literally floating on the water, this National Treasure is a wow place in every sense of the word. Just like in New Orleans, the only thing I could do was sit down and take it all in. And unlike Tulane Avenue, the stadium has seats.

Though it has been shuttered since 1992, Miami Marine Stadium is no stranger to folks like me who find themselves needing a moment to absorb what they see. On any given day, its basin is alive with rowers who drift by to marvel at all the interesting shapes, both of the building and the graffiti that covers it.

Photographers are another common sight. Some gain entrance illegally and snap shots when they think no one is looking. Others, like Jay Koenigsberg, ask for permission and get to spend some real quality time with the stadium. The proof is in the pictures.... 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.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

Bridging the Gap Between Preservation and Conservation in Yosemite National Park

Posted on: November 26th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Erica Stewart, Public Affairs


The Ahwahnee Bridge, Yosemite National Park (Photo courtesy Mary Rattner)

Thirty-five years ago on this day, the National Park Service added eight stone Rustic-style bridges in Yosemite National Park to the National Register of Historic Places.

This designation, unexpected because the bridges were less than fifty years old at the time, was in recognition of their “unique…architectural design” and “aesthetic considerations.” Built between 1928-1932, the bridges of Yosemite represent the second largest collection of Rustic style bridges in the entire park system -- second only to the south rim of the Grand Canyon -- and provide a stunning complement to the majestic natural beauty of the Yosemite Valley. They are also key contributors to a National Register-listed Historic District, which is based on its national significance.

Today, these bridges are at the center of a controversy that highlights the potential tension between cultural resource protection and natural resource conservation. The issue is that three of the bridges—the Stoneman, Awhahnee, and the Sugar Pine—are endangered by the Park Service’s preliminary proposals for managing the Merced River, a federally designated “Wild and Scenic River.”

The Wild and Scenic River status means that the National Park Service must identify what it is that makes a river significant (its “outstandingly remarkable values,” or ORVs) and then develop a plan to protect them. Historic and cultural values are specifically identified as eligible values.

Remarkably, the Park Service failed to identify the river’s historic bridges or any other historic structures in the valley as ORVs. In fact, four of the five preliminary proposals suggested eliminating one or more of the historic bridges. This prompted the National Trust to place the bridges of Yosemite Valley on the 2012 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list, and name them as a National Treasure.


Stoneman Bridge, Yosemite National Park (Photo courtesy Lee Rentz)

Since then, the National Trust’s San Francisco Field Office has worked diligently with the Park Service to strike an agreement that would balance the conservation of natural values with the preservation of historically and culturally significant structures. Thanks in large part to this advocacy, and that of other stakeholders, the Park Service has added a new Yosemite Valley Historic Resources ORV that represents “a collection of river-related or river dependent, rare, unique or exemplary buildings and structures.”

While this is encouraging, our work is far from over. The draft Merced River Plan is expected to be released in early December and it will likely call for the removal of at least Sugar Pine Bridge, among other actions that would harm the Yosemite Valley Historic District.

The reason that the Park Service has proposed the removal of historic Merced River bridges is that their foundations are within the river’s natural channel, impeding free flow during periods of high water. But studies have identified many factors beyond the historic bridges that impact the Merced’s hydrology, and that the Park Service has a wide range of treatment options available that don’t require bridge demolition, including “bioengineering” techniques and better visitor management to avoid human trampling of riverbank vegetation.

The good news is that there is still time to make an impact on the bridges. The public is invited to participate in the 90-day period of review and comment for the Draft Merced River Plan/Environmental Impact Statement. Together, we are confident that a Park Service management plan can be realized for the Merced River that embraces, rather than endangers, these special bridges.

Please stay tuned to www.savingplaces.org for updates on our effort and what you can do to help.

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.

[SLIDESHOW] A Fall Walk Through the Village of Zoar

Posted on: November 22nd, 2012 by Jason Clement 2 Comments

 

When I was growing up in Texas, certain things had a habit of eluding me. Like autumn.

Here's how "fall" usually went down in my small corner of the Lone Star State. You would wake up one November morning, waddle outside in flip flops, and swear you were stuck in summer -- 85 with a side of hair-raising humidly. Then, with the forcefulness and commanding presence of a strong Texas woman, an overnight cold front would barrel through town, ushering in seasonal change like a bull in a china shop. The next morning, every still-green leaf would be on the ground and the Fahrenheit would be somewhere in the 40s, where it would fluctuate flirtatiously for a week or two before completely committing to something more winter-ish.

It wasn't until I moved north ten years ago that I realized fall is a process, not an event. It's the slow build to sweater weather. The soft simmer of stews on the stove. The gradual intensification of autumnal hues -- both in the sky and on the trees.

In a word, it's beautiful -- a calm, rewarding transition from color to cold.

Recently, a deck of photos of Ohio's Village of Zoar drifted (note: intentional fall pun) into my inbox at work. They came from Andy Donaldson, an avid shutterbug I met on Flickr who has a well-documented passion for this historic village -- a National Treasure that was listed just this summer as one of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

Andy is an amazingly talented guy, and his photos always make me take a pause. These, however, elicited a different type of response. Before my jaw had even finished dropping, I was forwarding them to friends and family with this message: "These pictures make me want to roll around in leaves, carve pumpkins, and drink Chai until I’m sick!"

Now, depending on where you hang your hat, I realize this may be what your backyard looks like right now. If that's the case, bear with me because I couldn't help but share these photos and the conversation I had with the photographer himself, if only for my fellow Texans who are still in flip flops.


Andy, how long has the Village of Zoar been your muse? What about it speaks to you?

We moved into our house about seven years ago, and that was when I was getting into photography. In the olden days, you know, the 80’s, I was very much into photography, especially black and white. Purchasing my first digital SLR camera, though, really opened up a whole new avenue of creativity for me.

Being that we live so close to Zoar -- literally within walking distance -- going there to capture its beauty has become a habit. The village speaks to me because it’s a reminder of how our country was founded -- people coming together in search of freedom and a chance to live their dreams.

Your portfolio captures Zoar in every season. Tell us: what’s special about fall in the village?

Fall has always been my favorite season. Zoar is a picturesque setting regardless of the time of the year, but with the changing colors in the trees and the lighting typical of this time of the year, it’s just downright magical. I normally only have the chance to get to Zoar in the evening after my day job, which makes it difficult sometimes. However, for these photos, I was able to get out in the middle of the day and first thing in the morning. They perfectly capture the color and light that I love.

Tell us about your typical day photographic the village. Is there a spot that no trip to Zoar is complete without visiting?

To be honest, there’s no typical day when I go shooting in the village. It’s usually a spur of the moment thing, either just to take the dog for a walk or because I glance out the window and see how the light looks with the setting sun.

As someone who goes down there often, it’s the Number One House that draws me in. It stands in the middle of town like a grand castle. But for someone who is visiting for the first time, I highly recommend going to Village Hall. There is a museum dedicated to the history of Zoar and visitors can see old maps, old pictures (my favorite part, of course), and other items from the town’s incredible history.

We often hear stories about people turning to photography -- even as amateurs -- as a way to celebrate places they love. In that regard and given your long history with the village, do you think Zoar has made you a better photographer?

Yes, without a doubt. One thing that digital photography gives you that we didn’t have back in the days of using rolls of film is the chance to try different things with your shots. And also with a digital camera like mine, I can see what my shots look like right then and there without having to go to the lab, have the film developed, and then hope for the best.

I’ve found that having Zoar in my backyard allows me to try things and test new techniques, and if I don’t like it, I can go back and try again. Its buildings, homes, and gardens inspire me. They aren’t going anywhere, right? Let’s hope not.

That’s a good segue for my next question. Looking at the beautiful colors of your fall photos, many people would probably be surprised to learn that the future of Zoar is uncertain. As you know, record flooding in recent years has raised concerns about the integrity of a nearby levee that protects the village. And one alternative under consideration is removing that levee entirely, which could require the relocation or demolition of 80% of this remarkable place. How does that make you feel about your hobby as the unofficial photographer of this 200-year-old village?

Well, thank you for the kind words, but I don’t know if I can be considered the unofficial photographer of the village. However, I am a concerned resident and neighbor of the village -- someone who has fallen in love with the subtle charm of the town and would hate to see the wrong decision made about its future.

At the end of the day, do you think great photography can help save a place?

Definitely. When things started looking bad for Zoar, that’s what sparked my desire to start shooting there more frequently.

I remember Easter morning of 2008 all too well. I was out in the driveway with my dog and noticed several large trucks hauling long trailers into the village. I later found out that the trucks were hauling in stones to fix part of the levee that was failing. It was looking pretty bad and residents were warned to take valuables to the highest level of their homes or to just get out all together. Luckily, the repairs held and the town was safe.

That was when I got more serious about trying to capture how I see the village, and therefore, why I would hate to see it be lost. Like Ansel Adams, whose early work sparked interest in the American west and inspired me to go to Yosemite when I was young, what I am trying to do when I walk around town or tour one of the buildings is capture something that will inspire someone else. And hopefully, because of that inspiration, people will take action to help save this amazing place.

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.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.