National Treasures

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 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.

This Veterans Day, Help Save Places That Serve Our Soldiers

Posted on: November 12th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment


Written by Erica Stewart, Public Affairs

In recognition of Veterans Day, we’re taking a look at two of our National Treasures that have a special connection to our armed forces.

Old Main Building at Milwaukee Soldiers Home.

The first is the Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home. Located on the grounds of the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center, the Milwaukee Soldiers Home first started serving area veterans shortly after the Civil War. It’s one of three original National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers and was named a National Historic Landmark District in 2011 because it retains the oldest buildings in the system and is a largely intact “village” and designed landscape.

Unfortunately, some of these structures, such as the Ward Theatre and the 1869 Gothic Revival style Old Main building, are in serious disrepair and in need of help. In winter 2010, for example, Old Main’s roof collapsed, leaving it exposed to the elements for nearly two years. The Ward Theatre faces a similarly grave threat.

The VA has taken strides recently to stabilize Old Main, a significant step in the right direction. But, as Stephanie Meeks stated in a recent op-ed, much more work is needed -- and fast -- to ensure these vacant buildings can once again serve veterans.

Ward Theatre, Milwaukee Soldiers Home.

The National Trust is working closely with several local organizations and elected officials to push for preserving the Soldiers Home and re-using its vacant buildings. The coalition includes a Community Advisory Council made up of veterans, neighbors, preservationists and civic, community and business leaders.

To help engage the public in this effort, the coalition just launched the #MySoldiersHome campaign, which invites individuals to share stories, photos and other remembrances -- reminding us how the Soldiers Home has positively impacted so many people.

Also exciting is that starting in 2013, for the first time in many years, the public will be able to see the grandeur of this place for themselves through self-guided walking tours organized by the National Trust and the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance. More information on all of these opportunities to get involved can be found at

Battle Mountain Sanitarium.

A similar fight is taking place at the Battle Mountain Sanitarium in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Like the Milwaukee Soldiers Home, Battle Mountain Sanitarium is one of the original branches of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (a precursor to the Department of Veterans Affairs).

The campus was established by Congress in 1902 as the sole medical facility of the National Home network and opened to patients in 1907. Its locally-quarried sandstone buildings helped earn the campus National Historic Landmark status.

Today, the complex provides essential medical services for veterans in the area, yet the VA wants to shutter it and construct a new facility 60 miles away. Not only would this place the future of this remarkable campus at risk, it would also severely impact the town of Hot Springs, where the medical center is the single largest employer. The ramifications would be felt widely, as veterans from Nebraska and Wyoming also currently seek treatment in Hot Springs.

Corridor at Battle Mountain Sanitarium.

Working closely with the Save the VA Campaign, the National Trust is fighting to make the VA recognize its responsibility to safely steward this historic resource, including involving public input and considering the harmful effects of shuttering the complex, as required by federal law.

There are signs that we’re gaining ground. Most recently, our campaign received a shot in the arm from South Dakota’s congressional delegation. First, the tri-state congressional delegation (South Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming) requested that VA Secretary Eric Shinseki visit Hot Springs and meet with stakeholders.

But after they received no response, the South Dakota congressional delegation decided it had had enough. South Dakota’s members publicly communicated to the Secretary their flat-out opposition to the VA’s current proposal to reconfigure services in the VA Black Hills Health Care System.

This is a bold move by the South Dakota congressional members and one that we were hoping they would exercise. The support of Congress on this matter is of the utmost importance to help ensure that veterans, locals, preservationists, and other stakeholders are heard.

This Veterans Day, while we reflect upon the service and sacrifice of the men and women of the armed forces, we should do what we can to support the places they rely on in times of need. It is the least we can do.

Stay tuned to for campaign updates and consider making a donation to support this work.

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 Denied Landmark Designation; The Fight Continues

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


Written by Virgil McDill, Public Affairs

After repeated delays, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks finally placed Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women's Hospital on its November 1st meeting agenda to officially consider whether the building qualified for preliminary landmark status.

As many of you know, this preservation battle has been brewing for a long time -- the Trust first named Prentice to its 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list in June of 2011 -- and in the ensuing months, thousands of you have spoken out, signed petitions and taken other actions to encourage Northwestern University to find a creative new use for this iconic building.  ... 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.

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.