By Amy Elliott Bragg

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Beulah Groehn Croxford (left), a native of Detroit, was a catalyst for the campaign to create a historic designation ordinance in Detroit. When she returned to Detroit years later, Croxford bought the house at 627 Canfield St. (right).

"There's a newness in Detroit," said Mayor Jerome Cavanagh in the introduction to a 1965 film, "Detroit: City on the Move." Made to promote the city’s bid to host the 1968 Olympics, the film shows off Detroit as gleaming, modernist, and promising. The camera takes in the city's newness in generous sweeps: the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, Cobo Hall, Ford Auditorium, Lafayette Park. “New buildings put solid roots in the ground and stretch toward the sky," the narrator intones. "New office buildings alter the landscape, each in turn becoming a bright landmark of progress."

That same year, an antiques collector and retired executive secretary named Beulah Groehn drove into the city from Franklin to shop at an estate sale. The house, at 627 Canfield, was a beautiful but decrepit Victorian in the gritty Cass Corridor. The neighborhood was built for well-heeled Detroiters of the late 19th century, but over the course of 90-some years, the mansions of Canfield Street had become boarding houses, bohemian crash-pads, and drug dens.

There was no newness on West Canfield. But Beulah Groehn had discovered something she loved. Instead of buying antiques at that estate sale, she bought the house.... 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.

Picture This: Moving the Otis Mason House

Posted on: August 18th, 2015 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

By the National Trust Historic Sites Team

A month ago we witnessed something pretty spectacular near our historic site of Woodlawn and Frank Lloyd Wright's Pope-Leighey -- the c. 1873 Otis Mason House was moved from its current site to a temporary location as a result of the widening and rerouting of Route 1. Wolfe House and Building Movers was contracted to lift and move the house some 400 feet, which will remain on the temporary site until the construction of the new foundation and basement is complete.... 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.

 

As fantastic as it is, the National Register of Historic Places can get a little confusing -- even for a seasoned pro. But fear not, because the PreservationNation blog has teamed up with Jim Gabbert, a historian with the National Park Service, to create our National Register Guide.

Melissa Jest in front of the John Coltrane House. Credit: Melissa Jest
The former house of a celebrity would likely qualify for Criterion B of the National Register, but could also qualify for other criteria. Here, National Trust staffer Melissa Jest visits the John Coltrane House.

Episode Seven of our National Register of Historic Places Guide demonstrated how to establish a property's historic significance. Episode Eight identifies the different criteria and "areas of significance" that are important for National Register listing.... 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.

David Weible

David Weible

David Weible is a content specialist for the National Trust, previously with Preservation magazine. He came to D.C. from Cleveland, Ohio, where he wrote for Sailing World and Outside magazines.

[Interview] Asma Jaber: PIVOTing the World of Preservation

Posted on: August 17th, 2015 by Jamesha Gibson 1 Comment

 

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Asma Jaber (left) and Sami Jitan (right) are the co-founders of the PIVOT app.

Preservationists know how difficult it is not only to protect, but also interpret cultural landscapes that are in highly vulnerable or frequently transitioning circumstances.

Asma Jaber and her fiancé Sami Jitan saw the extent of this dilemma as they witnessed the endangerment of many historic sites while studying in Palestine. In response, the couple created an app called PIVOT.

Using a high-quality, open-sourced platform, PIVOT (which launches in November) will give users access to streamlined digital cultural preservation in places where cultural heritage and history are at risk and in places that have suffered a decline in tourism and/or have rich tourism potential.

Recently, we got the opportunity to talk with Asma Jaber about what inspired PIVOT's creation, how the app will work, and what could be its overall impact on the preservation world.... 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.

Jamesha Gibson

Jamesha Gibson

Jamesha Gibson is an Editorial Intern at the National Trust. She is passionate about using historic preservation as an avenue for underrepresented communities to share their unique stories. Jamesha also enjoys learning about other cultures through reading, art, language, dancing, and especially cuisine.

[Interview] All in the Family: Walter Nold Mathis, Villa Finale, and the Preservation Legacy

Posted on: August 17th, 2015 by National Trust for Historic Preservation No Comments

 

By Jane Lewis, Executive Director, Villa Finale


After purchasing what is now known as Villa Finale, Walter Nold Mathis (left) lovingly restored both the exterior and interior (right) of the Italiante-style home.

In 1967, San Antonio civic leader Walter Nold Mathis was looking to purchase another home after discovering his house in the Monte Vista Historic District of San Antonio was in the path of new US Highway 281. His friend, well-known preservation architect O’Neil Ford, told him about “the finest house in Texas” located in historic King William, a once-grand neighborhood founded by German immigrants that had fallen on hard times. Mathis toured the 1876 Italianate mansion located on the San Antonio River, now known as Villa Finale, and immediately fell in love with its many fireplaces, high ceilings and overall charm.

After purchasing the home and restoring it to a single-family dwelling -- it had been subdivided into affordable apartments since the late 1920s --Mathis realized the three homes across the street from Villa Finale were in a state of serious neglect.  So, he purchased those three properties plus a dozen more over the next few years.

Mathis completed some if not all of the restoration work on the properties before selling them to mostly young couples who were not only interested in historic preservation but who also had the energy to complete the work themselves.  Many times he would fund the mortgages himself in order to get the most historic home enthusiasts into the neighborhood, who otherwise might have been turned down by their financial institutions.

Throughout the nearly forty years Mathis lived in Villa Finale -- the name given by him in honor of it being his last home -- the King William Historic District went from being a run-down urban neighborhood to one of the most desirable places to live in the entire city. Walter Mathis was indeed the catalyst that spurred the revitalization of King William, an undertaking that earned him the Louise E. duPont Crowninshield Award in 2003, the highest honor awarded to an individual by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Upon his death in December 2005, Mathis bequeathed his entire estate to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Today, Villa Finale: Museum & Gardens is the only National Trust Historic Site in Texas, delighting visitors with its vast collections of fine and decorative arts, right in the heart of a vibrant historic neighborhood.

We asked three of Mathis’ family members, Josie Bain Fauerso (niece), Elizabeth Fauerso (great-niece), and Clark Kardys (great-nephew), to share their memories of this preservation advocate and explain his contribution of Villa Finale to the legacy of preservation.... 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.

Weekend Reads from Citinerary, Curbed, Forward, and More

Posted on: August 14th, 2015 by Sarah Heffern No Comments

 

Welcome to Weekend Reads at the PreservationNation blog, wherein we share a handful of the most interesting preservation-related stories we've come across over the course of the week.

Joseph McGill at South Carolina's Magnolia Plantation, during one of his early slave cabin stays.
Joseph McGill at South Carolina's Magnolia Plantation, during one of his early slave cabin stays.

"So far, Mr. McGill, whose ancestors were enslaved in Williamsburg County in South Carolina, has slept in more than 70 slave dwellings in 14 states, alone or in groups as large as 30, with the descendants of slaves sometimes lying alongside descendants of slave owners. This weekend, he is doing his first overnight stays in New York State, bedding down on three historic properties on eastern Long Island, in some of the region’s most beautiful (and expensive) resort areas." New York Times - Confronting Slavery at Long Island’s Oldest Estates

Note: Joe began his Slave Cabin Project while working in the National Trust's Charleston Field Office, and documented the experience here on the PreservationNation blog.

"So not only are the spaces rad, the tenants they have are equally as awesome. As I spent more time photographing their spaces, and getting the know the tenants, I realized that First + First is doing more than just renovating abandoned buildings, they’re making space for people, like myself, to pursue their dreams and passions." Citinerary - Giving abandoned buildings a creative purpose - First + First... 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.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.