Barn Lovers Unite!

Posted on: June 2nd, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 4 Comments

 

Written by Jim Lindberg

Barn conference attendees toured historic farm structures like this 1890's corncrib on the T.B. Bright Farmstead in Boyle County, Kentucky.  Still in use, it was recently rehabilitated using state and federal tax incentives.  (Photo by Amy Potts, Preservation Kentucky).

Barn conference attendees toured historic farm structures like this 1890's corncrib on the T.B. Bright Farmstead in Boyle County, Kentucky. Still in use, it was recently rehabilitated using state and federal tax incentives. (Photo by Amy Potts, Preservation Kentucky).

Question: If you were planning a national conference about barns and wanted to hold it in the state with the most old barns, where would that be?  Iowa?  Pennsylvania?  Wisconsin?  Vermont?  Yes, those states do have a lot of older barns.  But none of them have as many old barns, per square mile, as can be found along the winding back roads of Kentucky.  So it was fitting that this year's national Heritage Barn Conference was held right smack in the middle of the Blue Grass State, in a restored tobacco barn.

The setting for this two-day gathering at the historic Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill could not have been more bucolic. I was one of about 90 attendees who traveled to the meeting from more than a dozen states.  Among us were barn preservation advocates of every stripe: barn rehabilitation architects, barn restoration contractors, barn-loving extension agents, barn owners, barn historians, barn photographers, barn painters, and barn watchers.

In educational sessions and informal conversations, we talked about why barns are important and shared stories of how older barns can be rehabilitated to serve an amazing range of functions, from agriculture to education.  There was technical talk about tax credits for barn rehabilitation and wonky talk about the need for congressional funding for barn surveys and grants.  Mostly, there was a lot of inspiring talk about older barns that have been brought back to life.  We even saw a movie about one of them.

Attendees also learned how barns can be adapted for new uses.  Inside of this tobacco barn at historic Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill is another structure which houses the Shaker museum collections.  (Photo by Amy Potts, Preservation Kentucky.)

Attendees also learned how barns can be adapted for new uses. Inside of this tobacco barn at historic Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill is another structure which houses the Shaker museum collections. (Photo by Amy Potts, Preservation Kentucky.)

And of course there were barn tours.  The tours allowed our local hosts, Preservation Kentucky and the Kentucky Heritage Council, a chance to highlight some of their work to preserve barns and other aspects rural heritage in an eight-county region called Kentucky Crossroads.  Kentucky Crossroads is one of two rural pilot areas selected by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to participate in the Rural Heritage Development Initiative.  Funded in part by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, this initiative is demonstrating how conserving heritage can be a foundation for successful rural development.

The national barn preservation conference is organized each year by the National Barn Alliance (aka "the other NBA"), with lots of help from local partners like Preservation Kentucky.  In the last couple of years, the NBA has grown from an informal group of historic preservationists and university extension agents to become a formal, non-profit organization.  The NBA provides ideas, resources and inspiration for a growing network of local and state barn preservation groups.  NBA also promotes barn survey and education activities, including a program that involves schoolchildren in the construction of a scale-model timber-frame barn.  In Kentucky, 35 fifth-graders participated in a barn raising that was held on the day before the barn conference began.

The next annual barn conference is scheduled for May, 2010 June 10-12, 2010 in Atchison, Kansas, hosted by the Kansas Barn Alliance.  If you like old barns, I hope you'll join us.

Jim Lindberg is the director of preservation initiatives in the Mountains/Plains Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Updated to correct the dates of the 2010 conference.

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.

 

This past Thursday evening, seven members of the New Orleans City Planning Commission--for the first time before this body in a public setting--heard about the plans for the state and VA hospitals in New Orleans. The commission also got an earful of opposition from the public about those plans, and heard--again, for the first time as a body--that there could be an alternative to those plans, an alternative based on the return of Charity Hospital as a state-of-the-art 21st century anchor of the medical district in New Orleans' Central Business District.

I was one of scores of citizens who testified during the nearly four-and-a-half hour meeting after extended presentations by the city's out-going director of recovery, Ed Blakely; the state; and RMJM Hillier. Dr. Blakely made a point of saying the plans were those of the state and the VA, not the city. The state's representative argued that Charity was in danger of losing its accreditation before Katrina, and therefore no longer suitable for use as a hospital. That argument is immaterial. The RMJM Hillier proposal for the rebuilding of Charity is based on gutting of the entire building to its limestone exterior and floor plates. This structural skeleton would then support entirely new systems inside. None of the existing interior walls or systems would be retained.

The citizen comment was strictly limited to three minutes. Outbursts and spontaneous applause from the audience were promptly tamped down by an ever-vigilant commissioner. A number of physicians spoke in favor of the rebuilding of Charity and the dire need for medical care of all kinds in New Orleans. In my comments, I observed that the city seemed to want it both ways--saying it has no role when its planning department is asked to take leadership; and on the other hand, confecting agreements with the state and VA that very much demonstrate its intimate involvement with these controversial plans.

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Saddam's Palaces: BLDGBLOG interviews photographer Richard Mosse regarding the imperial palaces of Iraq's former dictator. Complete with fascinating images. [BLDGBLOG]

David Gissen's: "History as a form of experimentation." [City of Sound]

New York Times

Takin' It To The Streets: Last weekend in NYC, the city closed parts of Broadway to automobile traffic, and opened up pedestrian promenades in Midtown Manhattan.[City of Sound] [New York Times]

Time Tells on K.C.: The National Trust board meeting was recently held in Kansas City, and Vince Michael was there to photograph and reflect. [Time Tells]

Mud Brick City, China to Modernize: "An old way of life is coming to a crashing end in north-western China with two-thirds of Kashgar’s Old City being bulldozed over the past few weeks under a government plan to “modernise” the area. Nine hundred families already have been moved from Kashgar’s Old City, “the best-preserved example of a traditional Islamic city to be found anywhere in central Asia..." [Earth Architecture]

Sunlight and The Agents of Deterioration: [Villa Finale]

Manhattan in Miniature: Visualizing the island of Manhattan the way that Henry Hudson, or perhaps it's original inhabitants, would have seen it. [Archidose]

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.

Being Myself in Boystown

Posted on: June 1st, 2009 by Guest Writer 2 Comments

 

This Place Matters: Boystown

By Geoff Dankert

In 1993, the man I’d been seeing for all of a month had a crazy, impulsive idea.

“I bought us plane tickets to Chicago for the day,” he said, wary of whether I would consider such a gesture too much for such a new relationship.

He should not have worried; I was thrilled. And so one Sunday in December, with barely two nickels to rub together between us, we flew to Chicago. It was a great day of window-shopping and sightseeing, and it culminated with a taxi ride to the corner of Halsted and Roscoe streets on the north side of town.

It’s the place I now know to be Boystown. But back then, for a guy who’d been out for barely a year, it was the future.

Even then, it was a place teeming with gay bars and gay-friendly shops. It’s the first place I ever saw two guys holding hands, and at the time, I couldn’t believe that no one was bothering them. What I didn’t realize at the time was that “the gays” had been in this neighborhood for years.

They have moved to what was once a rough neighborhood just so they could live near where they gathered (and drank) – places like Little Jim’s and Roscoe’s. Eventually, they moved because their friends were there, or because it was near the lake, or because they could get a house and fix it up for cheap. Now, of course, it’s one of the most desirable – and most expensive – neighborhoods in Chicago.

When I made my first visit there, I didn’t know the history. I didn’t know that someday, people in Chicago would refer to the neighborhood as “Boystown” with the same ease and lack of judgment that they describe neighborhoods like Bronzeville, Hyde Park and Printers’ Row. I didn’t know that some day, the mayor of Chicago would dedicate enormous rainbow-striped pylons up and down Halsted Street, or that the city’s Pride parade would draw almost a half-million people. All I knew was that this was a place where gay people could just … be.

As we walked down the street that day, we came across a clothing store called “We’re Everywhere.” Owned by gay people, it sold catchy T-shirts, wristbands and dog tags to the out and the nearly-out. I was so thrilled that such a place existed that I bought what for years was one of my favorite garments: a simple white T-shirt with red letters across the chest:

SE TU MISMO.

Be yourself.

That night, over enchiladas at a Mexican restaurant a couple of blocks away, I felt more like myself – my true self – than I ever had.

Eventually, I wound up living in Chicago, barely a mile from Boystown. That restaurant is still there, and every time I walk or drive by it, I smile and remember that night and how it helped make me feel more comfortable about my life, and what my life could be.

Sadly, the T-shirt and the shop are gone. But the neighborhood and its people are still around, and every day, a few more young people move here and find a place where they can “be themselves.”

And by the way, the man whose impulsiveness and generosity made that trip happen? He’s still around, too.

Michigan native Geoff Dankert has lived in Chicago for ten years, and yet every morning, when he sees the skyline from the “L” train on his way to work, he still can hardly believe it. He and his partner live in a renovated turn-of-the-century home on Chicago’s north side.

rainbow_crawler

Join the National Trust for Historic Preservation as we celebrate Pride + Preservation throughout the month of June. Want to help us show some pride in place? Upload a This Place Matters photo of a building, site or neighborhood that matters to you and your local LGBT community.

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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.

Old + New = Green: CASA de Maryland’s New Balancing Act

Posted on: May 29th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Written by Erica Stewart

This Place Matters! (Photo: mario Quiroz)

This Place Matters! (Photo: mario Quiroz)

A broken bone in my foot and thirty-odd sawdust covered steps didn’t diminish my appreciation for the transformation that CASA de Maryland is leading at the McCormick-Goodhart Mansion in Langley Park, Maryland. I joined a group of National Trust for Historic Preservation members and staff recently for a tour of the former grand country home that will become a multicultural center for the extremely diverse and under-served community outside its doorstep. Despite the fancy-footwork-on-crutches that my visit required, I was thrilled to witness this exciting marriage of many important ideals that underpin that buzzword on everyone’s lips: sustainability. The presentation and hard hat tour clearly illustrated how, after years of negotiation, compromise and fundraising, historic preservation, community development, and green building are neatly conjoined in this currently very messy rehabilitation project.

First, a little context. The Georgian Revival McCormick-Goodhart Mansion was built in 1924 amid a vast 565-acre estate. Decades later, the mansion was vacated and a crop of low-income, garden style apartments sprung up around the edges of the home. The surrounding community is one of the most diverse in all of Maryland, with residents hailing from all corners of the globe: French-speaking Africa, India, Central America and Poland, to name a few. Per capita income is just $11,300 and more than 150 languages are spoken at the local elementary school.

Back-view rendering by Bucher/Borges Group, LLC.

Back-view rendering by Bucher/Borges Group, LLC.

This environment makes the McCormick-Goodhart Mansion the perfect home for CASA. The nonprofit was founded in a church basement in1985 to serve the basic, immediate needs of the primarily Latino immigrant community in Maryland: food, shelter, health care. As that community has grown and evolved, so has CASA. That evolution necessitated a larger facility from which to serve its ever-growing client base. Enter Sawyer Realty LLC, owner of the badly weather-damaged mansion. At the cost of $1, ownership was transferred to CASA in 2007 and an ambitious fundraising campaign began. A key component was the complex historic tax credit deal brokered by the National Trust Community Investment Corporation that secured $12 million in state/federal historic and New Markets Tax Credit equity from Enterprise Foundation and Bank of America.

Once the rehab is completed, CASA’s new headquarters will house its expanded programs: financial literacy classes, computer literacy classes, a justice center for pursuing legal and civil rights issues, and cafeteria for service industry training. Several other social service organizations that specialize in serving other minority populations will take up residence as well, ensuring that the region’s many immigrant communities receive the best possible assistance.

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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.

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.