How We Spent Our Summer Vacations

Posted on: September 2nd, 2010 by Julia Rocchi 1 Comment


For National Trust staffers, summer means playtime -- a chance to visit all the historic places we love studying and sharing. What follows is a sample of our colleagues' adventures. But it's not all about us -- please share your travels in the comments!

Citizenship Ceremony at Mt. Vernon

Charlotte's husband poses with George and Martha Washington at his swearing-in ceremony at Mt. Vernon.

Charlotte Bonini, Senior Education Planner

July 4th, 2010 – it was a glorious day! My husband Driss became an American citizen on July 4th at Mt. Vernon. Yes, that’s right, Mt. Vernon!

Driss has been in the US for 12 years. Becoming a citizen was always something that he talked about doing and that day was finally here. Even with temperatures soaring toward 100, I still had goose bumps.

One hundred and one new citizens were to be sworn in; Driss was #100. Families, friends, and regular visitors to Mt. Vernon were there to witness our little piece of history. George Washington spoke, and we were led in the Pledge of Allegiance by a Marine who’d served in Iraq and was also being sworn in as a new citizen. Finally they all took their oath -- 101 of our newest citizens from the four corners of the Earth.

It was official. Driss had realized his dream of becoming a citizen. I can't say it enough -- it was truly a glorious day, exciting, thrilling, and downright moving. We have always enjoyed and celebrated the 4th of July; now we will do it as a proud American family.

David Brown, Executive Vice President

On this year's vacation/college tour with my kids, I paid my first visit to the Vassar campus. I must admit I’m a sucker for great libraries and the Thompson Memorial Library there didn’t disappoint.  The outside is fine early 20th century Gothic, but the inside is terrific.  I could study here all day!  As a friend of mine said, these really are cathedrals for learning.

Erica Stewart, Outreach Coordinator, Community Revitalization

Diamond Cove

The author visited the abandoned fort in the early '80s -- a preservationist in the making!

This summer I had the opportunity to return to a place I hadn’t been in almost 30 years but, as a favorite childhood destination, I had re-visited many times in my mind and in pictures.

When I was a young girl living in Maine, my grandparents would take me sailing along the coast and islands. If the winds and seas were favorable, they would give in to my pleadings to visit Great Diamond, a largely uninhabited Casco Bay island near Portland. We would quietly slip into a deserted cove, beach our rowboat on the shore, and then wander among the ruins of Fort McKinley.

Built at the turn of the century, the fort guarded Portland Harbor during the Spanish-American War and through World War II. During that time as many as 1,000 soldiers lived among its brick barracks and Queen Anne-style officers’ quarters which framed a grassy parade ground. Before that, the island was an artist retreat and vacation colony, attracting the likes of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The fort was abandoned in 1945 and was totally deserted when we visited in the early 80s—the grounds overgrown and its artillery eerily silent.  My seven year-old imagination found the remains peaceful, mysterious, and a little bit scary.

Diamond Cove (restored)

The author returned to the island to see the graceful restoration of Diamond Cove, nearly 30 years later.

After forty years of vacancy, a private developer stepped in and restored the barracks and officers’ quarters into Diamond Cove, a community of condos and townhouses marked by original slate roofs, wooden porches, grand staircases, and fireplaces. The former Quartermaster's storehouse is now a high-end restaurant, the wagon shed is an art gallery, and the PX houses are a restored duckpin bowling alley, exercise room, and gymnasium.

Greater Portland Landmarks gave me the opportunity to visit the island on a daylong home and garden tour, where I could see firsthand the tasteful revival of this private community. The island is just as serene as I remembered, but any scariness I once felt as has been replaced by another feeling: envy.

James Schwartz, Editor-in-Chief, Preservation

We were visiting friends in New Hampshire earlier this year, and drove a few miles north of Concord to see Canterbury Shaker Village -- a remarkable historic site that can turn anyone into an instant admirer of Shaker architecture. Hundreds of Shakers (members of the religious group formally known as the United Society of Believers) lived here in the 19th century, and the buildings and gardens they left behind exemplify elegance and simplicity.

Walking around the 1792 meeting house, with its gambrel roof and 12-over-12 windows, reminded me that beautiful architecture has the capacity to inspire—even centuries after it was conceived. Next on my list? Two other U.S. Shaker villages:  Sabbathday Lake in Maine and Pleasant Hill in Kentucky.  I can’t wait.

Sarah Heffern, Content Manager

Having blown through a large portion of my travel budget for 2010 before the end of January, the theme of my summer was staycation. I vowed to myself that I’d find a way to be touristy even if I wasn’t traveling, and as part of that goal I decided to finally visit Mount Vernon.

Yes… I’m a life-long history geek who has lived in Washington, D.C. a dozen years and worked at the National Trust for more than a decade, but I had never gotten around to visiting the George Washington’s home, which is also mothership of the American historic preservation movement. It was a gaping – and embarrassing – hole in my preservationist street cred.

Ann Pamela Cunningham exhibit at Mt. Vernon

This Mt. Vernon exhibit features Ann Pamela Cunningham, the mother of the preservation movement in the U.S.

Though I don’t what on earth took me so long, I have to say that visiting toward the end of August turned out to be a great choice, as it wasn’t crowded and I could wander around at a leisurely pace taking pictures without being in anyone’s way.

And though I know the site is the home of the father of our country, I kept my eyes peeled the whole time looking for signs of the mother of our movement, Ann Pamela Cunningham, who was responsible for saving the site more than a century ago.

At last I found her – and the preservation story of Mount Vernon – on the way out of the museum, just before I left. Had there been a statue of her, I would have posed with it.


If we've inspired you to travel over Labor Day for one last summer hurrah, check out Gozaic for last-minute ideas on Labor Day festivities and events:

Summer's Last Gasp: Labor Day Events at Gozaic (Part 1)

More Ideas for Labor Day Events and Activities! (Part 2)

Have stories from your own summer travels? Please share them with us!

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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the associate director for digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

Villa Finale Hardhat Tours Teaching Neighborhood Preservation

Posted on: February 18th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment


Written by Sandra Smith

Earlier this month, Villa Finale held the first in a series of hard hat tours.

For those who don’t know, Villa Finale is the newest National Trust Historic Site, located in San Antonio, Texas. Villa Finale was the home of Walter Mathis, a leading preservationist widely recognized as the catalyst for the revitalization of the King William neighborhood, now a National Register Historic District. In addition to his work in King William, Mr. Mathis was an advocate for city and statewide historic preservation, as well as a civic and cultural leader.

Mr. Mathis’s legend took root when he restored 14 houses in King William after 1967 and before his death in 2005. It’s this legacy that forms the basis of Villa Finale’s mission in neighborhood preservation.

Since 2006, the Villa Finale staff has been working hard to plan and prepare for a restoration of Villa Finale. Much of Mr. Mathis’s excellent 1967 restoration of the home must be renewed, and the ideal time for such an undertaking is before we are fully open for business.

As part of our mission to teach neighborhood preservation, the Villa Finale staff is inviting the public into the house to see the restoration work in progress. The project includes:

  • Windows and doors. All exterior windows and doors will be repaired and weatherstripped in order to be more efficient and to maintain a better interior environment for the collection.
  • Exterior woodwork. The wood of the porches will be examined and replaced as needed.
  • Interior restoration. The interior of the entire second floor will be repainted or re-wallpapered, interior moulding repaired or replaced, and a water-damaged ceiling repaired.
  • Accessibility. The addition of a lift will make the first floor of Villa Finale accessible. The Carriage House will be made accessible as well, particularly with the addition of an accessible restroom for visitor comfort. Paths throughout Villa Finale’s grounds will be leveled to eliminate tripping hazards.
  • Creation of collections storage and curatorial workshop. The garage portion of the carriage house will be adapted to be a collections storage area, including a dedicated HVAC system, and workstations will be added for the care of the collections as well as public workshops.
  • Masonry evaluation. An evaluation of the entire masonry structure to develop a plan for its long-term care.
  • Landscape. An efficient irrigation system will be installed, the formal garden restored, and volunteer trees removed.

Each hard hat tour will be different, depending on the progress of the restoration project. Accompanied by the Buildings and Grounds Manager and the Curator, visitors will have the opportunity to learn all the details of this complicated project – made all the more complicated by the fact that Mr. Mathis’s extraordinary 12,000-piece decorative arts collection will remain in the house!

We look forward to sharing our work with you – please join us! Dates and details of the tours are available on our website, including information on our Spanish-language tour next month.

Sandra Smith is the director of Villa Finale.

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.

Do You Know How to Visit Archaeological Sites With Respect?

Posted on: July 28th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments


Written by Dr. Rebecca Schwendler

Do your travel plans include exploring archaeological ruins in the West? If so, please watch this informative video.

Produced by the San Juan Mountains Association and the Bureau of Land Management Anasazi Heritage Center with a grant from the Colorado Historical Society, the video features five Native Americans of different generations and affiliations (the pueblos of Santa Clara and Acoma in New Mexico and the Hopi Tribe in Arizona) talking about their connections to prehistoric ruins and ways that we can visit them appropriately.

As a professional archaeologist and the public lands advocate for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, I want to spread the word that we all have a part in preserving our country’s amazing archaeological, historical, and cultural places – whether they were created by our ancestors or someone else’s. While I find that most visitors are thoughtful and responsible, even well-meaning people can cause damage if they don’t know how to visit with respect.

So, how does one visit with respect? Here are some tips:

1 – Notice where artifacts and rock art are located in relation to one another and the surrounding landscape. Look for spatial patterns in materials, object types, and colors, but leave the artifacts in place and the rock art untouched. Artifacts and art are like pieces of a puzzle; if you move, remove, or damage them, you create a false and incomplete picture of the past and disrespect the people who made them.

2 – Observe structures from different angles and appreciate their materials and forms, but never climb on walls or into structures or pits unless a sign invites you to do so. Even if you don’t appear to be harming the structures, the cumulative effect of many people doing the same thing will. You don’t want to be that person who helps destroy things so that others can’t enjoy them, do you?

3 – Stick to designated trails to get the best views without damaging natural and cultural resources. Pretend you’re visiting your grandmother’s house - steer clear of those flower beds and don’t throw rocks in her pool!

At the end of the day, visiting archaeological sites (and any historic place for that matter) with respect means imagining the people who created the place, going slow, being observant, appreciating the location, and leaving things exactly as you find them. Always treat these special places as you would want others to treat your belongings and favorite hang outs.

We all need to run wild sometimes, just not in our precious and often fragile archaeological sites.

Rebecca Schwendler, Ph.D., is the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s public lands advocate. She is stationed in the Mountains/Plains Regional Office.

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.



From ghost towns and lighthouses to expanses of fragile desert and those infamous redwoods, California’s 1.4-million-acre parks system boasts more than 280 miles of coastline, 625 miles of lake and river frontage, 15,000 campsites, and 3,000 miles of hike and bike trails...for now.

If you've watched the news lately, you know that times are tough in sunny CA. In the face of a budget deficit of $24 billion and counting, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently announced a no-holds-barred budget that would scrap some $70 million in parks funding through June 30, 2010, and even more down the road. As a result, the future of 200+ unique and irreplaceable sites, stories and experiences – nearly 80% of the entire system – is unclear.

Inside the Cooper Molera Adobe

Inside the Cooper Molera Adobe

Included on the extensive list is the Cooper Molera Adobe, a National Trust Historic Site in Monterey.

Fully restored in the 1980's, the Cooper Molera Adobe preserves life from the era when Monterey was part of Mexico to the beginnings of California statehood. This three-acre site includes a house built by several generations of the Cooper and Molera families, historic barns, vegetable and flower gardens, and an extensive museum store. The site is owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and operated by California State Parks.

A deadline to adopt Governor Schwarzenegger's budget came and went last week without an inkling of resolution. If passed as is, the Cooper Molera Adobe – and 219 of its counterparts in the system – could be padlocked starting as soon as Labor Day, leaving only 59 units open to visitors. Some revenue-generating solutions (such as an additional fee on vehicle registrations) have been brought to the table as a means of supporting parks/sites that are not economically self sufficient without state dollars, but negotiations are ongoing and remain fierce.

I will be traveling to California later this month, and Cooper Molera is definitely at the top of my itinerary. Please stay tuned for a follow-up post on my visit there, and bookmark and the California State Parks Foundation for important news and advocacy updates as this story unfolds.

Max van Balgooy is the director of interpretation and education for the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Historic Sites Department. Learn more about the National Trust's 29 historic sites across the country, and visit the National Trust Historic Sites Blog.

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.


By George McDaniel

Watson Hill

Strong preservation campaigns are needed to protect the historic Ashley River Region from development threats. (Photo: Brad Nettles)

I am thrilled to report a positive outcome in our long campaign to stop the mega-development, Watson Hill, and to preserve the historic Ashley River Region.

The wonderful news is that the timber company, MeadWestvaco, which initially sold the tract in July 2004, is re-purchasing Watson Hill and folding it into their larger conservation-minded land development project named East Edisto. Ken Seeger, project manager of East Edisto, informed me last week that they had signed a contract and explained that they envision following the county ordinance we finally got passed for the district in 2007, which calls for low densities and clustering.

Had the developers of Watson Hill won and developed their 4,500 proposed units – along with hotels, commercial center and golf courses – the impact on the Ashley River Region would have been tremendous.

Since the 1990's and early 2000's, Drayton Hall and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have been engaged in protecting and preserving the Ashley River Region. Through our work, we have secured a management plan for the river; bought the land across the river from Drayton Hall; passed an ordinance in the city of North Charleston requiring 100-foot vegetative buffers for the Drayton Hall, Middleton and Magnolia historic sites; and won designation of the river as a state scenic river, and of the road as both a state and national scenic byway.

But threats still abounded, and in 1996, we designated the region to our 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list. Unfortunately, many of our efforts, even for simple things (much less zoning changes to protect the region), were met with vehement public hostility in regards to property rights and were defeated decisively by the Dorchester County Council.

We knew there was danger, but even as of 2004, I had never heard of Watson Hill. In late July of that year, I got a telephone call while on vacation from a developer asking me if I'd heard of the recent sale of Watson Hill and the plans for development there. I asked, "Where's Watson Hill?" Little did I know that for almost the next five years, it would be very much a part of my life and that of hundreds, if not thousands, of our supporters.

Both in word and deed, this support was decisive to this remarkable victory. Please join me in celebrating!

Learn More About the Ashley River Region:

> Drayton Hall

> The Ashley River Historic District

> Map: The Ashley River Region, Courtesy of Drayton Hall

> Map: Ashley River Region Threats and Opportunities, City of Charleston, Planning & Neighborhoods Department

> In the News: The Watson Hill Victory (Charleston Post & Courier)

> In the News: There are Good Reasons to be Optimistic About Watson Hill (Charleston Post & Courier)

George McDaniel is the director of Drayton Hall, a National Trust Historic Site in Charleston, SC.

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.

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