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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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.

South Asian History in America: When Does Our Story Begin?

Posted on: May 7th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Priya Chhaya

An 1899 article on the fate of four Sikhs who made it to San Francisco. (From the UC Berkely exhibit

An 1899 article on the fate of four Sikhs who made it to San Francisco. (From the UC Berkely exhibit "Echoes of Freedom: South Asian Pioneers in California, 1899-1965.")

So I have a confession. Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is not something I usually associate with South Asians. I've performed Indian folk dances at heritage month celebrations all my life but have always seen the month as primarily a celebration of those cultures with much longer roots in American history. Our story, or so I thought, began just over fifty years ago when the laws preventing immigration from South Asia were lifted. More specifically my Indian-American story is wholly in the present with the recent suffusion of Indian food, Bollywood movies, and strains of the sitar and classical Hindi songs within popular hip-hop.

But I was wrong. South Asians have been pioneers in the United States since the early 20th century, coming to California via Hong Kong and Japan. In 1907, due to fear that Hindu immigrants would take their jobs, a mob of 400 attacked a group in Bellingham, Washington—an act just the opposite of individuals in Astoria, Oregon, who found the Hindus "vastly interesting and peaceable.” The oldest Sikh temple in the US, founded in 1912, still stands in Stockton, California, and a man named Bhagat Singh Thind fought for citizenship in 1917, only to have it taken away when the Supreme Court determined that while South Asians may be considered Caucasian, but "the average man knows perfectly well that there are unmistakable and profound differences.” Then after I found a PBS documentary “Roots in the Sand” by Jayasri Majumdar Hart detailing the remarkable lives of three Punjabi-Mexican families, I realized that the South Asian American story is not the story I expected.

Whether the narrative begins in 1899 with a Punjabi farmer in California or with an aspiring engineering student in 1974 New York City, I would like to hear more. As preservationists, volunteers, or history buffs are there any significant South Asian sites in your town, or do you have your own story you would like to share?

Priya Chhaya is the program assistant in the office of Training and Online Information Services at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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.