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.

Celebrate America's Birthday on a Main Street that Matters

Posted on: July 2nd, 2009 by Guest Writer 1 Comment


By Andrea Dono


Families in Clinton, Missouri line Main Street to watch the annual Olde Glory Days parade.

No plans for the Fourth yet? Consider heading to Main Street!

America’s historic downtowns are the perfect backdrop for celebrating Independence Day, and visiting these special places gives us an opportunity to reflect on our heritage and to enjoy Americana in an authentic setting. As a result, Main Streets throughout the nation are welcoming neighbors and new visitors this weekend with a wide variety of events that run the gamut from traditional community gatherings to blow-out patriotic events.

Earlier this week, we created a special web page for Main Street leaders and enthusiasts to post descriptions of how their towns are celebrating our nation’s birthday, as well as to upload photos of their holiday events. So, what’s happening on Main Street? Lots!

Williamsburg, Kentucky isn’t waiting for Saturday to get started. Come Friday, the streets will be closed off for their Old Fashioned Block Party, which features live music and dancing. Hopefully, Williamsburg residents won’t party too hard because Saturday starts with a benefit 5K run/walk. A parade through downtown and a fireworks display will cap off the evening, while other events like the annual corn toss tournament and the town's duck races keep the celebrations rolling throughout the weekend.

Clinton, Missouri starts early, ends late, and seems to out-do itself every year with its four-day Olde Glory Days, which features free entertainment for everyone. There’s going to be music, weiner dog races and a pet parade, a carnival, a quilt show, a fine arts show, and the debut of a Wii tournament, among so many more activities. Visitors can enjoy the state’s largest courthouse square, many historic building ad murals, Breanna’s soda fountain shop, and a 1921 bandstand. Olde Glory Days is sponsored by the local business community, which uses the July 4th weekend to show Clinton residents how much they are appreciated. Similarly, the celebration in Charles City, Iowa spans five days every year and attracts enough people to double the city’s population! A variety of entertainment and activities are planned for all ages, including its most unique element – a water ski show.

Located 30 minutes north of Baton Rouge, St. Francisville, Louisiana offers unspoiled outdoor recreation, a plethora of historic plantations, and culinary adventures ranging from fried chicken served up at a converted gas station to alligator bites and crawfish boils. Visitors shopping in the historic district on the 4th get to participate in a “flag pull.” Secretly marked flags are at every checkout counter, and shoppers pick one to receive discounts of varying amounts or perhaps even a special gift. After putting away all of their purchases, people gather to enjoy food, music and fireworks.

I don’t know about you, but these events sound like a blast. We invite you to catch the excitement and enjoy this holiday in your nearby historic community. Attending Main Street events, shopping at local businesses, and supporting your local revitalization program shows that you believe that Main Street matters. Want to find a Main Street near you? Search for one with our Main Street program locator.

And of course, it’s not too late to share your community’s celebrations and photos. Visit our Red, White and Blue Main Streets web page to submit yours today.

Andrea L. Dono is an associate editor for the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Main Street Center. She would like to wish everyone a very happy Fourth of July.

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