Murder, Bestsellers, and Historic Preservation

Posted on: July 8th, 2009 by Guest Writer 1 Comment


Written by Ethiel Garlington

Alexander Inn (The Guest House)

Alexander Inn (The Guest House)

Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in East Tennessee, there is a special region where almost every small town finds itself beautifully positioned on a river, lake, or other body of water. The uniqueness of this region is marked by the most visited National Park in the country, a "Secret City" where the atomic bomb was developed, the first court ordered integrated school in the south, and the childhood home of best-selling author Cormac McCarthy.

One of the most important facets of my position as a Partner in the Field for East Tennessee is creating a network of like-minded individuals who can learn from Knox Heritage, each other, and national counterparts. Though I just began in November 2008, I've quickly learned the power of collaboration.  There are myriad individuals and organizations interested in preserving different facets of history: historical societies, genealogical societies – even cemetery associations.  But because many of these groups thrive in a region where family roots are still strong, they are interested mostly in personal history – they are driven to save the stories of their people.  For most of these groups, the preservation of the historic built environment is not their main goal.

In some cases, people may not initially see their connection to the preservation of historic structures.  By linking the personal histories with the existing tangible structures, we're able to strengthen the link to the past, and in turn, strengthen the argument for historic preservation.   While historical markers on the side of highways are useful, they can never compare to the actual historic landmark.  By linking groups that share common interests, collaborating with the historical associations and listening to the various goals of the cemetery enthusiasts and the genealogical societies, the efforts to preserve the built environment are strengthened many times over.

Here's an example: in February, the newly founded East Tennessee Preservation Alliance (ETPA) helped the Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association (ORHPA) host a fundraiser – with a twist.  By combining forces with renowned authors Jon Jefferson and Dr. William Bass, who with HarperCollins Publishing were releasing the fourth novel in their "Body Farm" series, local historic preservationists were able to tap into a new audience – the fans of the Body Farm.   Bones of Betrayal, the latest tome from Jefferson Bass, is set in Manhattan Project-era Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

... 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

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Buildings of the Second – and First – Gilded Ages

Posted on: July 8th, 2009 by Patrice Frey 1 Comment


Editor's Note: Please be advised that the photos Patrice cites in her post below have been taken off the New York Times website "after questions were raised about whether they had been digitally altered."

The New York Times ran a photo essay in their magazine this weekend entitled "Ruins of the Second Gilded Age." The photos are the work of photographer Edward Martins, who set out to capture "the physical evidence of the real estate bust in the United States." Check out these eerie images of abandoned projects throughout the country.

We already had a spectacular inventory of buildings -- even entire cities -- left for dead before the boom ever started, many of them relics of the First Gilded Age. (Think Philadelphia, Buffalo, Pittsburgh. The list of Rust Belt cities goes on and on.) Now we add to our collection of vacant and abandoned properties a whole new swath of unfinished cookie-cutter subdivision homes, McMansions, and over-sized hotels in the Sun Belt.

Most of these photos are of buildings in sprawl locations, except for those of buildings in super-sized desert cities (Phoenix, Vegas.) I have a special sort of contempt for these places -- sprawling suburbia and mega cities in deserts. Both are examples of terrifically irresponsible land use which took place in a time when, quite simply, we knew better. That makes it hard to be sad for any of the developers whose dreams went "poof."

My favorite photo is of the New Urbanist multi-million dollar town homes in Phoenix that went under. Right design idea (compact development), wrong price point (millions per home) in the wrong city (one without a sufficient water supply).

Our buildings from the first Gilded Age, on the other hand, were built to last, and designed in cities that were more environmentally sustainable because they were built before the car. (And I might add, these older cities typically have an adequate water supply.) Even after years of deterioration, many of these places can be revived. That's the benefit of good bones.

It's tough to imagine a future for any of the places in Martins' photos. Except for the city landfill, maybe. And that is an expensive lesson to learn. Economically and environmentally.

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.

Tomb of the Unknowns: “We Do Not Discard Our National Treasures”

Posted on: July 7th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments


Written by Robert Nieweg

As  I mentioned in a post a couple of weeks ago, thanks to the timely intervention of thousands of Americans, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Congress, the authentic Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery will be restored beginning in September 2009.

In response to this good news, on June 26, 2009, Senator Jim Webb and Senator Daniel K. Akaka released a brief statement applauding the decision by Arlington National Cemetery and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restore rather than replace the marble Tomb Monument.

In the statement Senator Webb observed that:

“This decision ensures that the historical integrity of this unique memorial will be preserved for future generations of Americans who visit the tomb to honor our men and women in uniform who gave their lives for our nation.”

Senator Akaka also stated:

“The commitment to restoring the authentic monument is consistent with the best of American traditions: We do not discard our national treasures. I applaud the Army and the Arlington National Cemetery for making the right decision, and thank my friend Jim Webb for his work on this issue.”

The good news about the restoration of the tomb monument is spreading slowly but surely through new media outlets like the,, and

Friends of the Tomb of the Unknowns who would like to thank our champions, Senator Akaka and Senator Webb, may use the addresses below:

Senator Jim Webb
248 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Senator Daniel K. Akaka
141 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Robert Nieweg is the Director of the Southern Field Office of 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.



Another Fourth of July has come and gone, and as I do my best to keep it together during the always-grueling Monday that follows a three-day weekend, I am left with three questions:

1. How is it that mosquitoes consistently find the one area of my ankles that somehow missed the bug spray?

2. Exactly how many treadmill miles do I need to log this afternoon to burn off two hot dogs, chips, a chicken leg, potato salad, baked beans, pasta salad, an ice cream sandwich, and "a few" cold ones?

3. What would the Fourth of July be like without Main Street?

With hometown parades and years of history draped in red, white, and blue, Main Street adds something – a feeling – to the Fourth of July that you just can't get at home with PBS. It is, as my colleague eloquently blogged just before the big day, the perfect backdrop to "reflect on our heritage and to enjoy Americana."

Last week, we put out a call for stories and pictures that capture these amazing Main Street moments. Come to find out, some of you celebrated America's birthday by getting tangled up in a town-wide Twister competition, while others cheered dogs and ducks around the racetrack. And, well, some of you are probably still trying to get "Achy Breaky Heart" out of your heads. Good luck with that.

Regardless of what you did, if it happened on Main Street, we want to hear about it! Visit our Red, White and Blue Main Streets web page, and join others who have shared stories about how they celebrated Independence Day in their neck of the woods. And if you took photos this weekend, consider adding them to our special photo collection. You'll find easy, step-by-step instructions on the same page.

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.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.



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.