Go a Deeper Shade of Green

Posted on: May 20th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

Written by Priya Chhaya

Change your light bulbs. Recycle. Reuse. Unplug your appliances. Use a clothesline. The path to energy efficiency does start at home and its true—we can all be green.

But what about the next step? For years historic preservationists have been adamant that the greenest building is almost always the one that has been already built; that preserving the past also means protecting the planet. We at the National Trust for Historic Preservation have embraced this belief in every aspect of our work... But did you know that there is a sustainability track at the National Preservation Conference in Nashville, the National Main Street Center's latest issue of Main Street News asks "How Green is Your Main Street?" and the latest Forum Journal (one of the perks of Forum membership), takes a look at "Positioning Preservation in a Green World" where one can truly go a deeper shade of green.

But of course that's not all. Preaching to the choir is one thing, but we have to somehow reach the peanut gallery—those individuals who can't see why this all matters, or even what historic preservation has to do with saving the environment. I know that some of us do that well, while others falter when it comes to strategies for communicating this information to our widespread and often not-so-engaged audiences. How do we get them to look past their own homes and lifestyle to seeing the world through a pair of green colored glasses?

I don't have the answer—but maybe you do.

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.

National Trust Supports City of Seattle in Historic Preservation Ordinance Challenge

Posted on: May 20th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

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The Satterlee House (Photo: Joe Mabel)

Earlier this month, the National Trust for Historic Preservation filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the City of Seattle’s ongoing defense of the Landmark Preservation Board and its decision to deny an application to build three large houses on the sloping front lawn of a designated, 1906 historic property known as the Satterlee House.

Although unsuccessful in their appeal of the board’s decision to a hearing examiner and at the trial court level, the property owners, William and Marilyn Conner, have continued to press forward in their effort to overturn the Board’s ruling, this time filing an appeal before the Washington Court of Appeals.

The Satterlee House, a three-story “Seattle Classic Box,” sits on the crest of a one-acre lot in West Seattle and faces towards the Puget Sound. The board rejected the Conners’ proposed design of the infill houses, concluding that their size and scale would adversely affect the unique features and characteristics of this landmark house.

With the help of a last minute motion by the Pacific Legal Foundation to participate in the case as an amicus, the Conners maintain that, under Hanna v. City of Chicago, the preservation board violated their rights by applying unconstitutionally vague standards in the review and denial of their application. Specifically, they complain that the city’s standards, as applied to them, were “subjective” rather than “objective” because they did not contain specific, measurable limits on the permissible size of their proposed houses.

In Hanna, the highly-publicized decision from last winter, the Illinois Appellate Court concluded that the criteria for designation of historic resources in Chicago’s ordinance were so vague that a person of common intelligence could not determine from the face of the ordinance whether a building or buildings may be deemed a landmark or historic district.

The National Trust’s brief discusses the widespread and important practice of using contextual -rather than prescriptive - standards in the review of proposed alterations and new construction on historic sites. It also explains why historic preservation does not lend itself to bright-line, formulaic rules, pointing to the 42 court decisions in 24 states and the District of Columbia that, in contrast to Hanna, have upheld preservation standards against vagueness challenges.

The Washington Court of Appeals has not yet ruled on the National Trust’s motion or the Pacific Legal Foundation’s request to participate in the Satterlee House lawsuit. Oral argument before the court is scheduled for June 10. Meanwhile, a petition for review of the Hanna decision, filed by the City of Chicago in March, is currently pending before the Illinois Supreme Court.

>> Read the Amicus Curiae Brief Filed by the National Trust

- Julia Miller

Julia Miller serves as special counsel for 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.

South Asians: Stewards of America's Roadside Heritage

Posted on: May 19th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

The neon sign at the El Don Motel, Albuquerque, NM, during the day.

The neon sign at the El Don Motel, Albuquerque, NM, during the day.

Written by Anne Dodge

Since April of 2008, I have been working on a project called “66 Motels”, a collection of photos and interviews that document the independently owned, historic motels of Route 66 and their owners. I was drawn into this project after studying preservation planning along Route 66 for my master’s thesis. In my research, I discovered that the towns and cities along Route 66 -- and the Route 66 property owners themselves -- view the road and its resources in very different ways, and that preservation can take unexpected turns when what’s being preserved is an idea as well as a concrete series of buildings or places.

From a preservationist’s point of view, the corridor’s most authentic places –- the buildings that spoke most eloquently of the road’s history -– are the motels. Architectural styles range from the beloved wigwam motels of the southwest to the “Giraffe stone” motor courts of the Missouri Ozarks. By their use, siting, and architecture, the motels themselves tell the story of Route 66 –- how for decades, the road served as a major transportation corridor for migrant workers, recreational travelers, families, salesmen, immigrants, and anyone who planned to motor west. Once I began interviewing motel owners, I learned more about the complexities of running and maintaining an older, smaller motel and the forces at work against the preservation of these properties. Most interestingly, I found that more than 30% of the independent motel owners along Route 66 were new Americans, people who had come to the U.S. from India, east Africa, Europe, and other parts of the U.S. to own and manage these businesses.

Rest Haven Court, Springfield MO sign by night.

Rest Haven Court, Springfield MO sign by night.

In addition to documenting the diverse group of owners and properties along Route 66, this project also looks at the power of signage and the history and contemporary practice of labeling a property as "American Owned." I began this research thinking that "American Owned" was a label that was used exclusively by white motel owners to promote their properties to customers who were disinclined to rent a room at an Indian American owned motel. This is, without a doubt, the origin of the "American Owned" sign, and some motel owners today defend this language and signage as a legitimate component of their advertising strategy. But I've learned, thanks to several generous interviewees, that this type of signage is often an accident of history, something that came with a property when purchased, or something that Indian American owners themselves use to make a statement about themselves and their properties.

Nina at the Americana Motel, Tucumcari, NM

Nina at the Americana Motel, Tucumcari, NM.

This project has several goals; one is to start a dialog about the role of Asian Americans and other motel owners in the preservation and development of the emerging Route 66 heritage corridor. This debate is part of a broader conversation about racial and cultural diversity in America’s preservation movement, and ways in which the work of public historians, preservationists, and other interpreters of the past can better represent the narratives of new Americans. In the meantime, the motels tell their own stories, and their new custodians add yet another layer of history to the many layers already evident along the highway. Behind every historic Route 66 motel is a person and a history that enriches the architectural and cultural experience of the whole corridor. And that's the story that I hope the 66 Motels project will tell to others.

Anne Dodge is a writer, researcher, and media producer based in Cambridge, MA, who also works as a circuit rider for Preservation Massachusetts and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, providing technical assistance, advocacy, and preservation planning for people and the buildings they love across the Commonwealth. She blogs at www.annedodge.com.

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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.

Preservation Fund Grants Aid Endangered Sites

Posted on: May 19th, 2009 by Sarah Heffern 1 Comment

 

Vizcaya’s Central Pool and South Façade, 2005.  Image of the central pool in Vizcaya’s center garden, with the south façade of the main house in the background. (Photograph by Bill Sumner)

Vizcaya’s Central Pool and South Façade, 2005. Image of the central pool in Vizcaya’s center garden, with the south façade of the main house in the background. (Photograph by Bill Sumner)

Two sites with a connection to our 11 Most Endangered List have been selected to receive grants from the Johanna Favrot Fund for Historic Preservation. This program, one of our Preservation Funds, provides nonprofit organizations and public agencies grants for projects that contribute to the preservation or the recapture of an authentic sense of place.

The Atomic Heritage Foundation – like one of our 2009 11 Most Endangered sites, the Manhattan Project's Enola Gay Hangar – has been listed by the Department of Energy as a Manhattan Project Signature Facility. The foundation received its grant to conduct a workshop focused on preserving and interpreting the Oak Ridge K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Built in 1943, the K-25 Plant was a major supplier of highly enriched uranium used to fuel the United States' Cold War nuclear defense systems. The planned workshop will focus on how to best preserve and tell the story of the plant and its workers as well as further the discussion on how to present the ethical, historical, technical, and political aspects of the Manhattan project.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami, listed in 2008, received its grant to produce a cultural landscape report that will guide the preservation stewardship, rehabilitation and management of Vizcaya's gardens. Vizcaya was built between 1914 and 1917 by Chicagoan James Deering to serve as his winter residence. The historic gardens were oriented away from downtown Miami to afford guests a serene escape from the growing city.

These sites are but two of the 28 selected to receive either Favrot funds, or grants from the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Fund for Historic Interiors. Grants from the two funds, ranging from $2,500 to $10,000, are awarded annually and must be matched dollar for dollar by public or private funds.

Learn more about:

This year’s Favrot/Mitchell Fund recipients
Preservation Fund annual report
the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list

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.

Washington Post Sees the Larger Purpose of our 11 Most List

Posted on: May 18th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Caroline Barker

Every year we get a lot of coverage from our announcement of America's 11 Most Endangered Places. You might have read about it in an earlier blog post or on our Preservation in the News roundup. It is not often, however, that we get the kind of coverage that shows such a deep understanding of the larger purpose of the list, which, in addition to galvanizing support for specific landmarks across the nation, raises awareness about the array of issues that the preservation movement is working hard to address on an on-going basis. Philip Kennicott's article in Sunday 's Washington Post does just that, all the while relating the issues presented by this year's list to local DC sites that have been in the news recently. In case you missed it, you can check it out here.

Caroline Barker is a communications coordinator 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.