Pop Culture

DC's Historic Howard Theatre Reopens After Major Restoration

Posted on: April 12th, 2012 by Gwendolyn Purdom 2 Comments

 

George Clinton surveyed the crowd Tuesday night and let out a soulful sigh: “Boy, do I have memories in this joint!” The legendary purveyor of funk, looking notably tidier sans his equally legendary Technicolor dreadlocks, took the Howard Theatre stage at the historic venue’s VIP grand opening concert and celebration following a $29 million renovation.

And Clinton wasn’t the only one looking spiffed up at the event: Dating back to 1910, the traditionally African American performance space that sat vacant and decaying for decades in Washington, DC’s Shaw neighborhood now shines anew, its stucco exterior façade brought back to its 1910 appearance; its cavernous interior modernized with gleaming wood surfaces, intimate booths, and jumbo screens flashing images of vintage programs for Howard performances featuring Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, and Duke Ellington.


Stripped of its detailing, this is how the Howard Theatre looked for many years before its recent restoration. (Photo: NCinDC on Flickr)

It’s an intimidating set of footsteps to follow for any performer. The Howard, billed as "the largest colored theater in the world” when it opened, hosted everyone from Booker T. Washington to Marvin Gaye until it closed its doors in the early 1980s. With an article looking at the restoration of the Howard and other historic black theaters across the country scheduled to appear in an upcoming issue of Preservation magazine, we were especially excited to attend Tuesday night’s performance. ... 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.

Chicago Welcomes Mad Men Back in Style

Posted on: March 30th, 2012 by David Garber

 

After being off the air for a year and a half - during which time our attentions, rightfully, turned to Downton Abbey - Mad Men is back. AMC's iconic and more-popular-than-ever television drama is set in 1960s New York and revolves around the fashionable but unglorified daily existence of a Madison Avenue advertising agency. Part of the greatness that is Mad Men is AMC's incredible attention to detail in the costumes, music, and sets - which of course, is kind of a preservationist time traveler's dream.


The staff of Mad Men with our local Chicago preservation partners. Top row: Evan Regester, Chris Brown, Lisa DiChiera, Kristen Johnsen, Camille Bratkowski. Bottom row: Stacey Pfingsten, Hannah Allen, Jonathan Fine. (Photo: Bum Bul Bee Photo + Films)

On Sunday, our Chicago field office hosted a swanky mid-century modern Mad Men premier party to ring in the show's fifth season. Not only were our Chicago staff and about 100 other fans there in style, but the event - the proceeds of which went to support efforts to save Prentice Women's Hospital - attracted the attention and attendance of Mad Men Art Director Chris Brown, Set Designer Camille Bratkowski, and Graphic Designer Evan Regester. Check out the great photos from the event below!

 

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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.

Google Celebrates Mies van der Rohe

Posted on: March 27th, 2012 by David Garber 1 Comment

 

 

To celebrate the 126th birthday of famous German-American modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Google has remade their signature logo as a modern steel and glass structure reminiscent of the master's work rendering of his 1956 steel and glass S.R. Crown Hall on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology.


The Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois. (Photo: National Trust for Historic Preservation)

Here at the National Trust, we're big Mies fans. If you didn't already know, one of our own historic sites, the Farnsworth House, was designed by Mies van der Rohe, and it's one of the most famous examples of modern domestic architecture.

And so we join Google in wishing a very happy 126th birthday to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Through preservation, commemoration, and the continued evolution of an iconic architectural style that he helped form, his legacy certainly lives on.

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.

Downton Abbey and the Pull of Place in Popular Television

Posted on: March 9th, 2012 by Priya Chhaya 7 Comments

 

I think by now many of the regular readers on this blog know three things about me. I love history. I love writing about history. And I pretty much think about history, and place, and the past about 367 million times a day.

So it shouldn't be a surprise that I think about the power of place and the past when doing the most mundane things -- walking, cooking, and watching television.


The cast of Downton Abbey with the real star in the background. (Photo: Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE)

Like many, many people, I've been enamored with the British period drama Downton Abbey, which just finished its second season run on PBS. For those that haven't seen it, it begins in pre-World War I England and gives viewers a glimpse into the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants through the intervening years.


Matthew and Lady Mary Crawley, the subjects of one of the great Downton love stories, inside the house. (Photo: Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE)

What I love about Downton Abbey is that the story centers around the estate, a magnificent house full of both grand (for the lords and ladies) and humble (for the staff) public and private spaces that serves as a mechanism for how a family and their employees lived in the early 20th century. The way the building is used over the two seasons reflects society and class as changes in women's roles, war, and disease take its toll. But Downton is used as more than a set piece. The home is a crucial character in itself, and plays a crucial role for how each of the characters defines themselves.... 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.

Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya is Associate Manager for Online Content, Preservation Resources at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A public historian at heart, she sees history wherever she goes and believes that it is an important part of the American identity.