Inaugural Parade: Joseph McGill Is Suited Up and Ready to March

Posted on: January 14th, 2009 by Jason Clement

 

The Trust's Joseph McGill is ready to represent the brave men of the 54th in the inaugural parade.

The National Trust's very own Joseph McGill is ready to represent the brave men of the 54th in the inaugural parade.

Meet Joseph McGill. Most days you'll find him hard at work at the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Southern Regional Office, where he is a program officer. Other days, you'll find him suited up - musket and all - on the battlefield.

Joseph is a Civil War reenactor who marches with a Charleston-based group dedicated to keeping the amazing story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry alive today. If you've seen the movie "Glory," then you know that the 54th were African American troops who fought for the Union during the war, waging an infamous battle on Morris Island at the mouth of Charleston Harbor.

However, come next Tuesday, Joseph will be representing the 54th in a whole new location: Pennsylvania Avenue. The Boston-based reenactors of the 54th were invited by President-Elect Barack Obama to join the inaugural parade, and Joe is still overwhelmed at the news that he will be able to join them.

In anticipation of the big day, we had a chance to chat with him about the significance of the parade - both for him and for the original members of the 54th.

PreservationNation: How long have you been doing Civil War reenactments, and what made you want to get involved in the first place?

I have been a Civil War reenactor since 1991. As a park ranger at Fort Sumter National Monument, I made friends with several Confederate Civil War reenactors. That, along with the award-winning movie"Glory," helped convince me that African Americans had a say in the outcome of the Civil War. I became a Civil War reenactor because it allows me the opportunity to interpret the rest of the story - the part that is usually left out of the history books.

PreservationNation: What is one behind-the-scenes aspect of reenactments that people might not know about?

There are many behind-the-scenes aspects of reenactments that people might not know. One such aspect is the amount of research that it takes to become a reenactor. Reenactors should study both sides of the conflict. Reenactors should know what motivated the northern and southern soldiers to participate in the war. Reenactors should also know how to conduct themselves in formations on the march or on the field of battle. Safety is always important.

PreservationNation: Did you ever think that a hobby would one day land you on Pennsylvania Avenue escorting our first African-American president to the White House?

No, when I started this hobby in 1991, I never thought it would earn me the opportunity to participate in the inaugural parade of the first African-American president. Heck, I never thought that I would see an African-American president in my life. I was satisfied with disseminating the history of the approximately 200,000 African Americans who joined the Union Army and the Navy, but participating in the inaugural parade was an offer I could not refuse.

PreservationNation: Tell us more about the significance of President-Elect Obama choosing reenactors of the 54th to march in the parade.

I think that it was destiny that we were chosen to participate in the inaugural parade. President-Elect Obama is a fan of President Abraham Lincoln. It was President Lincoln who gave the 54th the opportunity to serve the Union during the Civil War.

PreservationNation: If the men of the 54th were alive today, what do you think they would have say about what will happen on January 20th?

If the men of the 54th could speak to us, they would say job well done. They would look at January 20th as a stamp of approval for why they served. They would say that, just as we encountered tremendous odds, so did President-Elect Obama. They would go on to say that the fight is not over, and that we will face the challenges as a unified nation - not a divided one.

PreservationNation: The Trust has put together an inaugural guide of historic places and neighborhoods people can visit while they are in D.C. for the inauguration. Other than the sights and sounds of the parade, what else are you looking forward to seeing in Washington?

The Lincoln Memorial is on my short list of places to visit. It will take on a special meaning this trip. I will also be travelling with my wife, Vilarin, and my 11 year-old daughter, Jocelyn. I am certain that Jocelyn will want to share her experience with anyone willing to listen.

Visit the National Trust for Historic Preservation's special inaugural guide to learn more about everything the D.C. area has to offer visitors over the coming days.

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.

My Historic Washington: Alexandria

Posted on: January 14th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Alexandria's George Washington Masonic Temple

Alexandria's George Washington Masonic National Memorial, home to my most cherished memory in the D.C. area.

I have always been one to push the boundaries, and now I'm glad.

I knew from move-in day of my freshman year in college that Washington would be my home. And while I may not be exactly where I envisioned that day, I love the twists and turns that make the story of my life - and have allowed me to make this my home. That day, my life was in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood where George Washington University is located. Today, my husband and I call Alexandria, Virginia home. And it's so much more than the shopping and foodie destination you might know it for.

How can I claim to still live in Washington, you might ask, when Alexandria is located across the river in the Commonwealth of Virginia? By sleight of history's hand. In 1789, Alexandria and a portion of two neighboring counties were ceded to become part of the newly created 10-square-mile District of Columbia. Formally accepted by Congress in 1801, Alexandria remained under the control of the newly established federal government until it was retroceded to Virginia in 1847. You can still visit 14 boundary stones of the District of Columbia located in the Commonwealth of Virginia today.

Now, if you know me, you know that there are a few quirks to my personality. And I want to take three of those - the historic, the monumental and the military - to explain my love for this place.

The Historic: Nearly 50 years older than the city of Washington, Alexandria is one of America's most historic communities. It began its historic preservation and urban renewal projects in the 1960s, achieved through the cooperation of citizen activists and the local government. Gadsby's Tavern Museum, on North Royal Street, was a central part of the social, economic, political and educational life of the city of Alexandria. Today, it's where the 18th century comes to life, from guided tours to tavern balls. It's also where I've attended Jane Austen birthday balls to honor my favorite authoress.

The Monumental: One mile from the riverfront, the 333-foot George Washington Masonic National Memorial is the prominent point of Alexandria's skyline. Dedicated in 1932 to the memory of George Washington - patriot, president and Mason - it serves as a built expression of the Masonic fraternity's faith in the principles of civil and religious liberty and orderly government. Touring it with my grandfather, a Mason, is one of my most cherished memories. It's also the local landmark that welcomes me home each time I land at Reagan National Airport.

The Military: From their earliest days, Alexandrians have known war. As the wife, daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece and cousin of military members, the same is true for me. The Torpedo Factory was built during World War I and was used as a munitions factory in World War II. Prior to its 1970-1980 renovation, the ten heavy industrial buildings dominated Alexandria's waterfront. Today, it is an award-winning example of adaptive reuse, serving as working studios for over 160 professional artists. Perhaps best of all, it's the centerpiece of a lively waterfront that includes a marina, shops, public parks and walkways, restaurants, residences, and offices. It was where my college roommate made her wedding vows - and hosted a fabulous reception!

But it really comes down to the fact that this is my community now - my Saturday farmers' market on Market Square, one of the oldest continuously operated market places in the country; my restaurant where we celebrated our wedding rehearsal dinner; my spot on the street for our many hometown holiday parades.

It is, in short, one of the best words there is: home. I hope you'll come visit.

– Susan Neumann 

Susan Neumann is the director of member engagement for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Stay tuned leading up to the inauguration as more National Trust staffers share their stories about the greater D.C. area. Coming to town for the historic event? Be sure to visit our new Preservationist’s Guide to Washington.

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.

Preservation Leadership Training: Blogging from a Birmingham Tale

Posted on: January 13th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Industrial Revolution Birmingham

Birmingham was born after the Civil War, so it was a steel, boom town, another “magic city” about which I have come to learn is often referred to as “the Pittsburgh of the South”. This excites me because I am from Pittsburgh and I see so many commonalities between these two cities. I am very happy to be here. What a tremendous learning experience! Let the tour begin!

These are the “big gun” engines of the 19th Century Sloss Furnaces in Downtown Birmingham. Only 20 people loss their lives in 20 years working at this Furnace and we were all astounded by what our great tour guide described as a wanton disregard for energy conservation. Americans were willing to make them as big, as bold and as bad as anything needed to be in order to get us where we wanted to go. Preservation helps to teach us how to correct our lens and learn from our past mistakes.

Civil Rights District

I had to run through this Walking Tour in order to get all of the shots I needed and even then, I was the last person on the bus every time. Capturing history takes time. But I look at this horrific view of police brutality and injustice from the 50’s; and I can’t help but to think about the senseless murder of Oscar Grant in Oakland, California just days ago. Look at how the crystal blue sky shines brightly against the backdrop of such ugliness. It symbolizes the potential for us to improve our sense of humanity and reminds me of why it is so important to preserve the history of the people who encouraged us to follow “higher laws”, in order to move America past its inhuman treatment of its citizens. Preservation captures the best and the worst of who we are and encourages us to do better.... 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.

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.

My Historic Washington: Mt. Pleasant

Posted on: January 13th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Mt. Pleasant: Home to cultural diversity and the best Peruvian chicken in town.

Mt. Pleasant: Home to rich cultural diversity and the best Peruvian chicken in town.

One thing you should know about me is that I was born and raised in D.C, which The New York Times recently called “the last colony." Voting rights or not, it's my hometown and I love it.

I grew up in Barnaby Woods, but I’ve lived in Mt. Pleasant since December 2001. Mt. P (as locals call it) is one of those neighborhoods area realtors describe as “transitional.” Property values have definitely gone up over the years, but we’re not quite what some folks would consider “gentrified.” Personally, I hope we never are.

We have our own little shopping district on Mt. Pleasant Street. I make it a point to check out the latest outrageous outfits displayed in the El West window on my way to picking up the best Peruvian chicken in the city at El Pollo Sabroso. But Mt. P is nothing compared to what has been going on just two blocks to the east in a neighborhood called Columbia Heights, which The Washington Post believes is thriving at the expense of Mt. P.

Since I moved here, the gang activity in Columbia Heights has been pushed to neighborhoods to the north and south, there is a brand new middle school building, and the area around the metro station has been transformed by luxury apartments and a shopping mall complete with a Target. When I walk home from the gym or the shiny new grocery store, there are people on the street everywhere, no matter the time of day. I admit that I love the new shops - even if most are national chains - and the new locally-owned restaurants, mainly because I can walk there instead of driving out to the burbs.

But all of this convenience comes at a price, and it’s a loss of diversity.

For decades, Mt. P and Columbia Heights were home to immigrants from South and Central America. Spanish was the dominant language on the streets, and the shops and take-out joints catered to Latino tastes. Now, low-rent housing and empty lots are being converted into condos that are priced out of reach for many that call these areas home. When the customers leave, the businesses will leave too, and Mt. P will lose it’s flavor. Columbia Heights already has.

It’s selfish, but I’m not sorry that the five-lanes of 16th Street have so far insulated Mt. P from what is happening in Columbia Heights. Because of this, my neighborhood is still "in transition," though it is not clear what we are transitioning from or to.

I, for one, hope we stay in transition for a long time.

– Alison Hinchman

Alison Hinchman is the technology manager for PreservationNation.org. Stay tuned leading up to the inauguration as more National Trust staffers share their stories about the greater D.C. area. Coming to town for the historic event? Be sure to visit our new Preservationist’s Guide to Washington.

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.

2009's Dozen Distinctive Destinations

Posted on: January 13th, 2009 by Matt Ringelstetter 1 Comment

 

City Hall, Buffalo, NY

It may be a bit early to start thinking about summer travel plans, but if you like to plan ahead or are just looking for a weekend getaway, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has got you covered. With the announcement of this year's Dozen Distinctive Destinations, it's easy to find an interesting and unique location that's not too far from home.

East Coaster? How about checking out the art and architecture of downtown Buffalo, New York? Or maybe the small-town Moravian flavor of Lititz, Pennsylvania would be more to your liking. There's also the quintessential New England waterfront town of Bristol, Rhode Island situated between New York and Boston.

Out West, the list includes ocean-side Santa Barbara, California, Santa Fe, New Mexico's old-world charm and the Comstock Lode-era mining town of Virginia City, Nevada. Planning a visit to Mount Rushmore? How about checking out Hot Springs, South Dakota--the "Cultural Capital of the Black Hills"--while you're there.

Lake Geneva, WI

The upper Midwest is represented this year by two lakeside destinations that are sure to keep you cool in the summer along with providing unique downtown experiences year-round. The "Art Coast of Michigan" can be found in the neighboring resort towns of Saugatuck-Douglas, an area known for its artistic heritage in addition to its waterfront location. Well-preserved architecture abounds in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin--a longtime vacation spot of nearby Chicagoland and Milwaukee. This small town boasts outdoor activities such as fishing, hiking, water-skiing, golfing and of course, lying on the beach.

For those in the Southern United States, this year's list includes a vibrant main street located close to several Tennessee Civil War sites, the classic college town of Athens, Georgia and a city in Texas known for "Cowboys and Culture."

So be sure to check out our Distinctive Destinations for 2009. We're sure you'll find something that appeals to any travel plans--both in interest, and proximity.

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.