Slideshows

 

It's the week of the Fourth of July, which means that we're dreaming in red, white, and blue, and thinking about flags, fireworks, and freedom. And maybe it's the fire engine red, or their symbol of civic heroism, but there's just something about fire houses that screams America. Add in a "rising from the ashes" story line and it's kind of the American preservation/restoration/rebuilding dream. Enter Fire Station No. 6 in Houston, Texas.

 
Built in 1903 (see "before" pictures above), No. 6 is located on Washington Avenue in Houston's Sixth Ward neighborhood -- a story of regeneration in itself, but still dotted with auto lots, empty storefronts, and untended buildings. When Tom Hair, founder of communications and marketing firm Axiom, was looking to buy a property to house his growing company, he wanted a space that reflected Axiom's creativity and energy. He found it in the then-dilapidated Fire Station No. 6.

Although the brick exterior was still in decent shape and structurally sound, the windows were rotten and the building needed a full roof replacement, as well as restoration work on the metal shingles and cornices.

 
Today, Fire Station No. 6 is a beacon for historic adaptation done right. The exterior gleams, and the interior feels fresh but still retains elements of the historic building -- like a brass fire pole that's available for use by the firm's employees. The building has marks of of the past -- exposed bricks, restored columns, and old photos splashed across the walls -- while still accommodating the needs and styles of a modern work space.

Owner Tom Hair is rightfully proud of his work: "We have one of the few buildings that has been restored to its original presence on Washington Avenue." Kudos on a job well done, and let's hope that as the neighborhood develops, the number of restorations only continues to grow.

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.

 

As a social network, Twitter is a celebration of real-time human experience. It's ephemeral: Messages come and go as the Twitter feed updates, and news and messages sink to the bottom of the screen -- and the reader's consciousness -- within a matter of seconds. The social media network seems to be built on the idea that what's happening is valued above what happened, and that new is more important and relevant than old.


The planted roof deck of Twitter's new headquarters inside the 1939 Merchandise Mart building.

Which is why Twitter's real-life move to the 1939 Art Deco San Francisco Merchandise Mart building in the city's up-and-coming Mid-Market neighborhood, instead of something more UFO-like in the middle of Silicon Valley (see Apple's proposed new headquarters), is a pleasant surprise. With the move, Twitter is helping to prove that being on the cutting edge doesn't have to mean "out with the old," and that where we've been -- architecturally, historically -- is as relevant as where we're going.

According to Ed Axelsen, Twitter's Director of Facilities:

"A revitalized building like SF Mart offered Twitter several key advantages: it's centrally located for public transportation; the building has lots of light, it has huge floor plates, it offered the possibility of outdoor space; and perhaps most appealing, it's an historic building that is being revitalized for modern use."

Check out their new old building in the slideshow below. As you can see, they've adapted the interior to fit their brand -- dynamic, fun, and innovative --  while acknowledging the critical importance of urban and historic context for moving modern communication, their company, and this corner of San Francisco forward.

(All photos by Troy Holden / @Twitter on Flickr)

Editor's note: This seems as good a time as ever to remind you that, yes, the National Trust is on Twitter! Follow us 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.

DC Celebrates 25 Years of the 11 Most List

Posted on: June 7th, 2012 by David Garber

 

Yesterday evening -- just a few hours after announcing our 2012 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places -- a crowd of about 150 people gathered at the Fathom Gallery on 14th Street, NW (just across from our Restoration Diary project) to celebrate the past 25 years of saving places using our 11 Most list as a platform. It was also the coming out party for our new brand, and a time to hear from people in a variety of fields about the ways they are working to "save places" across DC. There was a hashtag, National Trust swag, music, and refreshments. In short, it was a party for preservation.


Left to right: A guest fills in one of her favorite places in DC; National Trust all-stars Jason and Jessica pose for the cameras; Living Social's Aaron Rinaca chats it up after his talk.

One of the coolest elements of the party was the program. National Trust President Stephanie Meeks spoke briefly about the 11 Most program and premiered our new video that celebrates its last 25 years. Then a lineup of five speakers spoke for only a few minutes each.

There were representatives from Popularise -- the online tool for communities to crowdsource ideas for old buildings, Living Social -- which chooses to locate their offices in older buildings across the world, ARCH Development -- a non-profit using arts and events to draw people into DC's Anacostia neighborhood, Capital Pixel -- a rendering company that uses imagery to inspire restorations of old houses, the Rainbow History Project -- which produces maps and walking tours of historic LGBT sites around the city, PGN Architects -- a firm that is working on a number of adaptive reuse projects, and Dupont Underground -- a team of people collaborating to bring new life to an abandoned streetcar tunnel.

 
Nikki Peele, the speaker from ARCH Development, communicated the room's common passion well when she noted that "historic places are the bookmarks of our story." Considering the young and diverse audience at the party, it appears the book on preservation in America is still very much being written.

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.

 

Written by Dana Saylor-Furman

In July of 1900, architect Lansing Colton Holden submitted plans for a Beaux-Arts masterpiece structure to his client, Lackawanna Steel. It was to be the crowning jewel of the vast Lackawanna Steel grounds. Bethlehem Steel bought out Lackawanna Steel in 1922, and closed down in 1982 -- but the place still looms large in the memories of generations of Western New Yorkers.

Built of brick, terra cotta, and incredibly detailed ornamental copper, the elegant-yet-imposing Administration Building spoke to the power and influence of Lackawanna Steel owner John J. Albright and the giant corporation for which he secured the land. Today, that same building is in danger of demolition, and local preservationists are rising up to convince company and city officials that the building is still worth saving.

 
The entire site has been owned by Gateway Trade Center since 1985, but “Old North," as the Beax-Arts building was affectionately called, was allowed to deteriorate with little to no code enforcement by the City of Lackawanna.  The city recently condemned the building, claiming that its roof and floor collapses have made it a public danger. The Mayor and inspector continue to push for controlled demolition, wherein the entire building is torn down and sent to a hazardous waste dump due to possible asbestos and toxin contamination. No part of the structure would be reused or saved. ... 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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

 

You might be asking yourself, "What does a Chinese boat have to do with historic preservation in America?" It's a valid question. But at some point along the way, many of us came to America from someplace else, and this story is about the boat that brought San Francisco native Dione Chen's father here from Taiwan in 1955.

Truth be told, Dione Chen wasn't really even thinking in "preservation" terms when she started advocating to save the Free China, the Chinese "junk"-style boat that her late father sailed on in 1955 with a Chinese and American crew participating in a yacht race across the Pacific. She initially wanted to save the boat mostly because it reminded her of her dad, his interests, and his resourceful idea to participate in the race as a means to a more prosperous future in a new country -- and didn't want the story of his trip to be forgotten. Her resolve only deepened upon discovering that it was one of, if not the, last remaining junks of its kind in the world.


Toasting the Free China's future. From left: John Muir (from the National Park Service and an advisor to Chinese Junk Preservation), Paul Chow (Free China crew member), Calvin Mehlert (Free China crew member), Vera Chow, Iris Chen (widow of crew member Reno Chen), Dione Chen (daughter of crew member Reno Chen and founder of Chinese Junk Preservation), Nguyet Mehlert, and Byron Chung (son of the late crew member Marco Chung).

Dione's journey to save the junk began in September 2007 after visiting the yard where it was being stored -- and seeing its dwindling condition -- with her family after her father's death. In 2008, she launched a nonprofit, Chinese Junk Preservation, recruited advisory council members, and applied for financial support from the National Park Service, the National Trust, and the Chinese Historical Society of America.

After a couple of years trying to woo someone in San Francisco -- or even elsewhere in the United States -- to restore and display the junk, she reached out to entities in Taiwan, where the junk originated, and where a maritime museum in the city of Keelung finally offered assistance. On April 30, 2012, the junk was hoisted onto a massive cargo ship to Keelung, where it arrived yesterday.

I had the chance to talk with Dione about her story, her introduction to preservation, and her advice to people interested saving something or someplace that's important to them.

Have you always been fascinated with the history and future of the junk?

Growing up, I took the junk and its history for granted.  It was "old history." So, no, I can't honestly say I was "fascinated" by the junk. Proud of my dad's story and his pursuit of the "American dream" -- yes. But no, I never had dreams of saving it before my dad died.

I'm sure my dad was disappointed that I didn't ask him more about his life and the junk when he was alive. This is something I regret.  I've been asked what my dad would think about my efforts to save the junk.  I believe that he would have been surprised and proud.  Surprised because he was resigned that no one was interested enough in the junk to save it.  Proud that so many people want to see the Free China junk saved.

I suspect it's often the case that one doesn't fully realize what is "history" worth saving, because we're so busy living in the present.


The Free China on its original journey to the United States in 1955.

Would you consider yourself a preservationist? Why or why not?

I am not familiar with the term "preservationist" as a vocation/calling, so would not consider myself one.  If anything, I am an "accidental preservationist" -- I am well aware that I lack formal training or experience in preservation.

I realized that the junk -- something of historical importance -- should be saved, hopefully could be saved but was in fact destined for destruction. And I thought that I should and could do something to save it because no one else was going to do it.  In hindsight -- with the past 4 years of experience behind me -- I would say that I am someone who has come to realize the important role that each of us can play in preserving history.

Ideally, everyone would consider it their privilege and responsibility to preserve the places, stories, and things that are part of our individual and collective history. Each of has a role in determining what values, stories, and lessons are passed on to future generations. You don't have to be a "professional" historian or archaeologist to step up. ... 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.