Written by Rod Scott

The Wapsipinicon Mill, Iowa's largest historic mill, is owned and operated as a museum by the Buchanan County Historical Society.

The Wapsipinicon Mill, the largest historic mill in Iowa, is owned and operated as a museum by the Buchanan County Historical Society.

When 85 of Iowa’s 99 counties were declared disaster areas after last June’s devastating floods, preservationists jumped into action. As President of the Iowa Historic Preservation Alliance (IHPA), a statewide volunteer membership organization, I traveled throughout the flood zone providing expertise, assistance, and moral support to owners of historic properties damaged in the disaster.

Iowa’s historic mills, located by necessity along the riverbanks, were hit with the full force of the floodwaters. The IHPA partnered with the Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area and the Buchanan County Historical Society to bring experts from Trillium Dell Timberworks, a Knoxville, Illinois company specializing in heavy timber restoration of historic structures, to assess flood damage at three of Iowa’s historic mills.

The 1875 Wapsipinicon Mill in Independence, Iowa’s biggest and one of the largest historic mills in the Midwest, had been seriously damaged in the flood. The ground floor or meal floor, where goods were originally sacked, had uplifted and collapsed, and several of the original floor girts had washed downriver. Trillium Dell Timberworks determined that the severity of damage was significantly exaggerated by the loss of the original structural integrity of the floor system.

Norma Gates (Buchanan County Historical Society), Rod Scott (Iowa Historic Preservation Alliance), Lynn Beier (Buchanan County Historical Society), and Tim Narkiewicz (Trillium Dell Timberworks) assess flood damage at the Wapsipinicon Mill.

Norma Gates (Buchanan County Historical Society), Rod Scott (Iowa Historic Preservation Alliance), Lynn Beier (Buchanan County Historical Society), and Tim Narkiewicz (Trillium Dell Timberworks) assess flood damage at the Wapsipinicon Mill.

Perhaps because our ancestors better understood the inevitability of flooding when they built alongside the rivers, historic mills were specifically designed to withstand floodwaters. Motor Mill and Potter’s Mill, the two other historic mills assessed by Trillium Dell Timberworks, were relatively unscathed by the 2008 floods. In contrast, the meal floor of the Wapsipinicon Mill had been radically altered in 1906 when the original floor girts and posts were cut short and left unanchored to accommodate new concrete columns carrying building and machinery loads. This configuration effectively interrupted the originally well-engineered floor system, allowing the floodwaters to cause serious damage to the historic building.

The good news is that FEMA has now agreed to fund both remediation and mitigation at the Wapsipinicon Mill, and Trillium Dell Timberworks will oversee the work. Because the 1906 piers are now a part of the history of the mill, Trillium Dell Timberworks designed a mitigation plan that retains those piers while effectively restoring the structural matrix and flood-resistant design of the original meal floor. The plan also calls for all timbers and flooring to be rot-resistant white oak, as originally used in the meal floor, and to exhibit matching milling characteristics.

The partnership between IHPA, Silos and Smokestacks, the Buchanan County Historical Society, Trillium Dell Timberworks, and FEMA demonstrates that honoring historic means and methods not only preserves our cultural heritage, but is also cost effective: with the structural integrity of the floor system restored, future floodwaters are unlikely to do more than cosmetic damage to the historic Wapsipinicon Mill, allowing it to grace the riverbank for another 130 years- literally, come hell or high water!

Rod Scott is the President of the Iowa Historic Preservation Alliance.

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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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.

 

Written by Amy Braun

The Hancock Village School in Vermont.

The Hancock Village School in Vermont.

The nation’s oldest operating schoolhouse, established in 1801, will close its doors late June this year.

When the building was first built, Thomas Jefferson was president. Back then, a wood-stove (not oil) was used to keep children warm. Many kids cooked their lunch potatoes on top of the wood stove while learning the three R’s right alongside their siblings. Teachers were paid for their services in cords of wood and when pencils needed to be sharpened they used a jack-knife. During the depression, no one in town had a job and the town fought to keep their school and identity alive. Times have changed.

Using the democratic process, 102 voters came together in the Town Hall in Hancock, Vermont on May 7, 2009. They held about a thirty minute discussion before voting to close the doors to their village school. Only 37 of the 102 wanted to keep the school open. The moderator announced the school had been closed, and some of the people in the room cheered and applauded. I watched, feeling sad and angry.

I am not a voter in the town so I could not speak at the meeting. This venue, an on-line blog about our country's treasures, is only my vessel for my right to speak and I am grateful to have that chance.

This was the third year we have been through this emotional process. There are two sides to this issue, absolutely no middle-road. Either a person respects and appreciates the history of the building or they don’t.

Those who want the school to remain open have remained strong for three years. This year we lost.

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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.

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.

 

Thirty Minute Tour of Bowling Green Park: "Stand in Bowling Green Park in New York City and look around at the park and the buildings on its perimeter. At one time or another over the centuries here, Native American tribes gathered in council, men and women bought tickets for ocean passage in a couple of the nearby buildings, and John D. Rockefeller oversaw his dominating oil company and his charitable work from an office in another. In the late 19th century thousands marching in support of workers ended their Labor Day parades in Bowling Green, and many grand ticker tape parades have started here. To get a compact experience of history, great architecture, and a peaceful respite, Bowling Green and the area adjacent to it in Lower Manhattan provide as good as any space in New York."  [Mindful Walker]

Reviving the Rust Belt: Smart City Radio's latest podcast episode examines how grass root and civic-level activists are working to reinvigorate "rustbelt" economies. [Smart City Radio]

San Francisco As It Used To Be: [BLDGBLOG]

Uranium Prospecting in the Grand Canyon: Two weeks ago, New Mexico's Mount Taylor was named to our annual 11 Most Endangered list due to the threat of mining within its rich uranium deposit. In related news, the Bureau of Land Management has given the OK for several new uranium exploration permits around Grand Canyon National Park. [Scientific American]

Mapping Rome's Catacombs: An ambitious 3D mapping project, led by a team of 10 Austrian and Italian archaeologists, is underway within Rome's second century AD catacombs. [BBC]

The Lost Continent: Magical Medina: "Medina, New York: a village in rural Orleans County on the Lake Ontario plains, between Rochester and Buffalo, and obscure and even unknown to even many western New Yorkers. This photogenic Erie Canal village hosted the Landmark Society's annual preservation conference on May 2." [Confessions of a Preservationist]

Crack Gardens: "Tectonic fissures, colonized" [Pruned]

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.

Santa Barbara Fires Claim First Historic Resource, Others Remain Threatened

Posted on: May 8th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Anthony Veerkamp

The Jesusita fire, as seen from the Upham Hotel in Santa Barbara.

The Jesusita fire, as seen from the Upham Hotel in Santa Barbara.

More than 20,000 residents of Santa Barbara have been evacuated and thousands of properties are in peril as the Jesusita Wildfire burns out of control in the hills immediately surrounding the historic oceanside community. Mandatory evacuation orders cover most of Santa Barbara north of Highway 101, including the historic Mission Santa Barbara, while evacuation warnings encompass much of downtown Santa Barbara.

Already, many dozens of homes have been lost, including the century-old Gane House, the first documented historic casualty to the blaze. The Craftsman-style Gane House was part of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden in Mission Canyon.

In their L.A. Now blog, the Los Angeles Times reported:

"Obviously we're very heartbroken. It's a large, large loss for us," said Nancy Johnson, the garden's vice president of marketing and government relations. "We were hoping to restore it to its grandeur."

Johnson said firefighters "made a valiant effort to save our other buildings," including the herbarium, the library and library annex and the rare book room. "They really worked hard yesterday to save those buildings so we're really appreciative of that."

She also said the garden was saved by a decision last year to spend between $300,000 and $400,000 on six hydrants. "The firefighters told us that had those hydrants not been installed, they couldn't have saved the other buildings," she said.

The Jesusita Fire comes less than six months after last November’s devastating Tea Fire, which burned 20,000 acres and destroyed over 200 homes as well as the historic Mount Calvary Retreat House.

Smoke billows behind Santa Barbara's Upham Hotel, a member of Historic Hotels of America.

Smoke billows behind the Upham Hotel in Santa Barbara.

Earlier this year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Santa Barbara one of America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations. In making the designation, the National Trust noted the legendary beauty of the city and it setting, stating that the town and country form a distinctive cultural and natural landscape that is more than the sum of its parts. National Trust for Historic Preservation President Richard Moe said it best: “once you have experienced Santa Barbara’s vitality and extraordinary character, you won’t ever want to leave.”

Today, the future of much of that heritage may be determined by the speed of Santa Barbara’s “sundowner winds.” We will provide updates as they become available.

Anthony Veerkamp is the senior program officer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation Western Office.

Updated May 11, 2009 to add photos submitted from the Upham Hotel, a member of Historic Hotels of America located in Santa Barbara.

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.

 

Written by Dione Chen

The Free China junk is the oldest Chinese wooden sailing vessel of operable condition in the world and the last of its kind.

The Free China junk is the oldest Chinese wooden sailing vessel of operable condition in the world and the last of its kind.

The Free China junk made international headlines when it crossed the Pacific with an inexperienced crew of five Chinese fishermen and one American diplomat. The oldest Chinese wooden sailing vessel of operable condition in the world and the last of its kind, the junk sits abandoned at a Sacramento delta boatyard, and will be chopped up and burned if a new home is not found by the end of this May.

I never planned to spearhead efforts to preserve this historic vessel. But standing before it in late 2007 with my children, I thought that I must try.

Since then, I’ve traveled a steep learning curve in historic preservation – and it’s been an amazing journey.

To California by Sea – A Story of Immigration

I have a personal connection to the Free China junk. My father was one of the 1955 crew. Growing up in California, I took my father’s story of how he came to America for granted. It was not until he passed away in fall 2007 that I visited the junk along with my young children, my mother, brother and a local journalist. We found the junk a mess, and on the verge of being destroyed.

I wanted to save the junk. I believed I could. I transformed that belief into a commitment by telling the journalist to state in her article that I was going to try to save the junk. It was a thrill to see the article on the front page of the San Jose Mercury News. And so my education began…

Preservation Vision

Knowing next to nothing about historic preservation and maritime restoration myself, I founded Chinese Junk Preservation together with a small group of historians, maritime experts and friends of the Free China junk. Our vision: to preserve the junk and the story of its transpacific voyage so that they may generate public awareness and appreciation of maritime, Chinese and California history and culture. We dream that the Free China--a distinctive, once-beautiful and now rare vessel--might serve as a tribute to past generations of immigrants who have traveled by sea to come to America, and a catalyst for inspiring others to explore their rich family history before the people and memories have passed.
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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.

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.