Federal Officials Commit to Restore the Authentic Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery

Posted on: June 25th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 6 Comments


The Tomb of the Unknowns (Photo: ©Granitespeaker, Dreamstime.com)

The Tomb of the Unknowns (Photo: ©Granitespeaker, Dreamstime.com)

At long last, Arlington National Cemetery and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have committed to restore – rather than replace -- the historic Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. According to the Army Corps, the restoration work will begin in September 2009.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has been leading the public campaign to save the Tomb of the Unknowns with the vocal support of many thousands of National Trust members and friends across the country who vigorously support restoration.

The Tomb of the Unknowns was established shortly after World War I to honor our nation’s war dead, particularly those who have lost both their lives and their identities in combat. The Congressionally-authorized tomb monument was created and installed in 1932 according to the designs of architect Lorimer Rich and sculptor Thomas Hudson Jones. The monument’s inscription reads: “Here Rests in Honored Glory An American Soldier Known But To God.” Three bas relief sculptures on the marble monument represent Victory, Valor, and Peace.

Generations of veterans and their families have honored our war dead at the Tomb of the Unknowns. In fact, millions of people visit the Tomb every year, making it one of the best-known historic places in the United States.

Two years ago, in September 2007, officials at Arlington National Cemetery and the Army Corps of Engineers had finalized an ill-considered plan to discard and replace the authentic tomb monument with a “replica.” The tomb was marked for destruction solely because of two repairable cracks in the 48-ton block of marble.

In response, we raised the alarm nationally, and more than 4,000 members and friends of the National Trust urgently wrote to the superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery and to their members of Congress to support preservation of the tomb monument. Senator Jim Webb and Senator Daniel Akaka were instrumental in saving the tomb monument. In January 2008 President Bush signed into law legislation crafted by Senators Webb and Akaka to require the Army to fully explore various treatments for the historic tomb monument, including restoration. This temporary reprieve saved the monument. The Army’s report stated that:

  • Marble conservation experts agree that the monument’s cracks are nonstructural and can be repaired to be virtually invisible to the millions of annual visitors to the Tomb of the Unknowns.
  • Replacement of the tomb monument with a replica would cost $2.2 million, while preservation-based repair would cost $65,000.

To its credit, the Army Corps informed the National Trust on June 8, 2009, that the Cemetery and Army have reversed course and now have committed to properly repair the tomb monument beginning in September 2009.
We are very pleased that the Arlington Heritage Alliance, Preservation Virginia, American Institute for Conservation, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, Arlington County government, and Virginia Department of Historic Resources each has strongly supported repairing the authentic monument.

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.

Student Proposals, Structural Analysis Study for Miami Marine Stadium

Posted on: June 25th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments


Written by Karen Nickless

Grafitti at Miami Marine Stadium (Photo: Spillis Candela DMJM Archives)

Grafitti at Miami Marine Stadium (Photo: Spillis Candela DMJM Archives)

The City of Miami closed Miami Marine Stadium in 1992. Since then it has been neglected, sitting in a sea of empty asphalt. Almost every square inch is covered with graffiti. The city plans to redevelop the site and the rest of Virginia Key, but they are lukewarm about preserving the Stadium.

Fortunately, there are a large number of people and organizations dedicated to saving Miami Marine Stadium. The Friends of Miami Marine Stadium, working with Trust local partner, Dade Heritage Trust, have led the effort. The National Trust for Historic Preservation recognized Miami Marine Stadium as a stunning but endangered work of modern architecture when we named it to this year’s list of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

Jorge Hernandez, National Trust trustee, architect and University of Mimi professor of architecture, involved his architecture students in a semester-long Preservation Planning Studio, studying the site and designing plans for its revitalization. The Stadium’s architect, Hilario Candela, participated, giving the students great insight into his thought process while designing the structure.

Miami Marine Stadium (Photo: Spillis Candela DMJM Archives )

Miami Marine Stadium (Photo: Spillis Candela DMJM Archives )

On May 8 the students presented three plans to the public. Their challenge was to find a reuse for the site that met the specifications of the City of Miami, including a certain number of boat slips, parking spaces, etc. The city did not insist on the preservation of the Stadium. The students did.

The students looked at every detail of the site. Just a few of their innovative ideas:

  • Replace the current parking green space with tree-shaded remote parking laid out like old Florida attractions, with short roads feeding larger arteries. Use a pervious surface where possible, reducing the impact on the environment.
  • Expand and reorient the marina to create more boat slips than required by the City. Use an innovative new storage system to fit more dry slips into less space.
  • Place the ticket booth on the lawn to create room in the Stadium for other needs. This will encourage visitors to linger on the lawn and appreciate the architecture of the Stadium. The newly designed ticket booth resembles a Fresnel lens.
  • Move concessions, originally inside the Stadium, to the ground floor. Orient them to the exterior, allowing them to be open even when the stadium is closed. Spaces will be available for temporary vendors and permanent businesses.
  • Preserve some of the graffiti as part of the history of the Stadium, either as panels or as mosaics that will give visual interest and take visitors by surprise at various locations as they take their seats.

The students were so enthusiastic about their project that they requested meeting every day instead of three times a week and added extra tasks to their project, such as writing a National Register nomination. Working with Hilario and Jorge in a unique multi-generational collaboration resulted in innovative and yet practical solutions for the reuse of Miami Marine Stadium. The students’ plans have been presented to the City of Miami.

In addition to the design plans, the Friends of Miami Marine Stadium will be able to give the city a current a structural analysis and cost estimate for reuse of the structure. The $50,000 study is funded by a coalition of local, national and international preservation organizations: the National Trust, World Monuments Fund, The Villagers and Miami Dade County Commissioner Carlos Jimenez’s office.

With these tools in hand and continued public support, Miami Marine Stadium has a good chance of again hosting boat racing, concerts and other events and becoming a vital part of Miami. See you at the next Jimmy Buffett concert!

Karen Nickless, PhD is a field representative for the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Southern Office.

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.


DJ & Mike

By David “DJ” Johnson

First off, I should confess something considering my audience here.

Up until this point, neither I nor Mike, my partner of over four years, considered ourselves preservation enthusiasts. Living in our nation’s capital, we were basically aware of the history that surrounded us, but more from our past history classes than through conscious knowledge or first-hand experience.

All that changed when we decided to get hitched.

Last July, I asked Mike if he would do me the honor of commemorating our love and our commitment to each other in front of our closest family and friends. While I’ve supported marriage rights for same-sex couples throughout my adult life, I didn't really know if it was something that I would do myself. Then I met Mike. Over the years, I've watched our love bloom to a point where I simply could not imagine anyone else ever understanding, contrasting (in a good way) and loving me so completely.

Now I'm a believer. 

The decision was made, but now we needed the perfect venue. Mike considers himself a New Yorker (he lived there for 13 years) by way of Minnesota (where he was born), and I’m more of a gypsy (my family moved five times before I was 16). Washington, DC is where we truly began our life together, and for this reason, it is where we decided to have our ceremony.

As for us, Mike and I are both fairly laid back people – more hoi polloi than elite (though we think it’s funny to use words like "hoi polloi"). And at this point, both of us are more spiritual than religious. We wanted a secular location that was simple but not plain, elegant but not pretentious, and that spoke to both our shared interests and to sophisticated DC life. And as someone who grew up around the lakes, forests and natural beauty of the Midwest, Michael hoped for a place with some connection to nature where we could hold our ceremony outside.

Now, here’s where I need to debunk a major gay stereotype. Unlike what you’ve seen on "Sex and the City" or "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," not all gay men have an automatic knack for event planning. Some of us have to really work at it. And some of us just flat out need help. Enter the wedding planner...

Ours booked appointments and site visits for us all over the hills and dales of Maryland, Virginia and the District. We looked at mansions (too "Gossip Girl!"), country estates (where's the public transportation?), concert halls (there goes the budget!), and even an enormous log cabin (um, bugs!).

The beautiful garden at the Woodrow Wilson House where we'll get hitched.

The beautiful garden at the Woodrow Wilson House where we'll get hitched.

Then we visited the Woodrow Wilson House, which is located only a couple of blocks from our apartment in the adjoining neighborhood of Embassy Row. On the outside it looks like a simple brick building, making it easy to underestimate. But once you step inside, it has a powerful elegance that leaves a lasting impression. From its sweeping staircases to its preserved furnishings, we fell in love with everything about the place. And the second floor outdoor garden was just the place we were looking for to hold our ceremony – stunning and bucolic without being too over the top. It also overlooks the very street where our apartment is located, which we think makes it even more special.

After we settled on the locale, I started to research our 28th president and his final residence. I didn’t know much about him before, other than the fact that he was commander-in-chief during World War I, eventually helping to write the framework for the original Treaty of Versailles. However, it turns out that he had many similarities to my family. He came from a family of Presbyterian ministers (my mother’s side), lived in New Jersey (my father’s side) and he was known as a diplomat (something I aspire to be). He also had some similarities to Mike, as Wilson was in a fraternity, had a PhD (so far, he’s the only president of that distinction), and possessed a great love of the science of structures.

Oh, and it didn’t hurt that, for two self-professed “mama’s boys” like us, Woody was the first president to declare Mother’s Day.

Of course, there were some other more thought-provoking milestones in his life. While he helped progress the women’s suffrage movement (yay!), he was also a vocal supporter of segregation (boo!). Being an interracial couple, Mike and I talked about this last fact quite a bit. Ultimately, we decided that, like with most events in history, it’s important to remember the good ideas that were ahead of their time, as well as the not-so-great ones that were simply a product of their era.

As we continue to plan every important detail of our big event (I'm trying really hard not to turn into one of those bridezillas you see on TV...yikes!), life goes on. Every morning, my fiancé and I rush to work from our one-hundred-year-old apartment building that is located across from DC’s own reproduction of the Spanish Steps in Madrid. I pass countless other older and historic buildings with amazing architectural detail along the way. However, unlike before, I now notice them.

For that, I thank the Woodrow Wilson House.

Not only will it be the backdrop to what promises to be one of the happiest days of my life, but it has taught me and mine to look at – and appreciate – our city and neighborhood with brand new eyes.

David Johnson ("DJ" to his friends and "My Boo" to his fiancé, Mike) is a journalist turned non-profit professional in Washington, DC, where he lives in the very historic – and very gay – Dupont Circle neighborhood.

Interested in having an event or commitment ceremony at the Woodrow Wilson House? With intimate and elegant spaces furnished with the personal effects of a president, Wilson House offers the perfect surroundings to entertain in classic Washington style. Dine intimately in the Presidential Dining Room, enjoy cocktails throughout the main museum rooms, linger in the tranquil period garden, or relax and unwind on the terrace. The only presidential museum in Washington, DC, Wilson House offers a unique setting for any occasion – from dinner for two to garden receptions and commitment ceremonies for up to 125. For more information, please contact Sarah Andrews at sarah_andrews@nthp.org or visit our website, WoodrowWilsonHouse.org.


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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Written by Karina Muñiz

Pico Union Walking Tour  (Credit: Los Angeles Conservancy Staff)

Pico Union Walking Tour (Credit: Los Angeles Conservancy Staff)

Oprime aquí para la versión en español.

As Community Outreach Coordinator for the Los Angeles Conservancy, I am fortunate to be able to work in vibrant, diverse communities throughout the county, and one such neighborhood is Pico Union. Rich in architectural and social history, Pico Union is one of L.A.’s most architecturally distinctive neighborhoods, with two National Register Historic districts and a wide range of building types. The area was developed between 1880 and 1930 as a suburb of young Los Angeles. As the city grew, Pico Union evolved from its suburban origins to an increasingly diverse, urban neighborhood. In 2004, the area became the city’s nineteenth Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) – the city’s term for historic district. In addition to its unique architecture, Pico Union has a rich cultural heritage woven by generations of immigrants who came to the city in search of a better life – from European immigrants and Midwestern US transplants at the turn of the century, to Mexican Americans in the early twentieth century, to Central American, Cuban, Mexican and Korean populations today. Each community has shaped the built environment, and added new layers of history to the neighborhood.

To celebrate this vibrant community, the LA Conservancy launched its new bi-lingual Self-Guided Walking Tour at a Kick Off event and Community Fair on March 21st, 2009, in partnership with the Pico Union Branch Library. At our press conference, Councilmember Ed Reyes spoke and we got great coverage in the LA Times and La Opinion.

At the community fair, we had over a dozen local groups present to provide residents with information about housing, legal and social services, adult literacy, youth programs and more.

Children gather at the community fair. Photo: Jason Gutierrez

Photo: Jason Gutierrez

Residents were able to access information on important community resources, while at the same time learn more about the architectural and cultural history of their neighborhood. The community fair was also an opportunity to bring local groups together, and from that event discussions on doing a short documentary on the neighborhood and starting a community garden are in the works. Our most popular booth had to be the face painting for the kids, and they also enjoyed the scavenger hunt activities they could do while taking the walking tour. We had community leaders join us as docents in leading the tours – one of the tours being in Spanish.

Several sites reflecting the social history of the neighborhood are also featured on the tour. For example, Angelica Lutheran Church, originally founded by Swedish immigrants in 1888, played a key role in the LA Sanctuary Movement in the 1980s by providing shelter to Central American refugees facing deportation after fleeing civil war in their home countries.* The Institute of Popular Education of Southern California (IDEPSCA) building was once known as “El Refugio”, and through the nonprofit group El Rescate, sheltered more than 200 refugee families in the eighties. Today IDEPSCA maintains the legacy of the building by continuing the tradition of community empowerment. This event and tour sought to celebrate landmarks and historic resources that reflect an inclusive history of diverse communities, such as Pico Union, that have formed and contributed to LA’s unique legacy. The Conservancy is continuing to partner with community groups in Pico Union, such as the Pico Union Housing Corporation, by building a curriculum for workers interested in learning rehabilitation techniques for historic homes, and by engaging young artists who are learning about the history of their neighborhood and contributing to the community’s character through public art.

Paseo auto-guiado de Pico Union y la Feria Comunitaria

Karina Muñiz

Photo: Cindy Olnick, Los Angeles Conservancy

Photo: Cindy Olnick, Los Angeles Conservancy

Como Coordinadora de Enlace Comunitario para el Los Angeles Conservancy, me siento honrada de poder trabajar con vibrantes comunidades multi-étnicas por todo el condado -- Pico Union siendo una de ellas. Con una rica arquitectura e historia social, Pico Union es uno de los barrios mas interesantes de Los Angeles desde del punto de vista arquitectónico, contando con dos distritos designados en el Registro Nacional de Lugares Históricos y exhibiendo una gran variedad de tipos de edificios. Esta zona surgió entre 1880 y 1930 como un suburbio del Los Angeles emergente. A medida que crecía la ciudad, Pico Union se desarrolló dejando atrás sus origines suburbanas para transformarse crecientemente en un barrio urbano multi-étnico. En 2004, esta zona se convirtió en el decimonoveno distrito histórico (HPOZ). Ademas de su arquitectura sin igual, Pico Union posee un rico legado cultural tejido por varias generaciones de inmigrantes que llegaron a la ciudad buscando una vida mejor. Estos eran inmigrantes europeos, migrantes internos provenientes de la parte centro-occidental de Estados Unidos que llegaron a principios del siglo veinte, Mexicanos-Americanos que también llegaron a principios del siglo veinte, hasta hoy en día las poblaciones Centro Americanas, Cubanas, Mexicanas, y Coreanas. Cada una de estas comunidades ha transformado el ambiente físico y agregado nuevas facetas a la historia del barrio.

Para honrar esta vibrante comunidad, el Los Angeles Conservancy inauguró un paseo auto-guiado bilingüe durante una feria comunitaria que tuvo lugar el 21 de marzo de 2009 en colaboración con la biblioteca de Pico Union. Durante una rueda de prensa, el concejal Ed Reyes profirió un discurso, y todo el evento fue cubierto por el Los Angeles Times y por La Opinion.

Photo: Jason Gutierrez

Photo: Jason Gutierrez

Más de una docena de grupos locales asistieron a la feria comunitaria y dieron informaciones a los residentes sobre asuntos tales como vivienda, servicios legales y sociales, alfabetización de adultos, programas para jovenes, etc. Los residentes pudieron obtener información sobre los recursos brindados a la comunidad, y al mismo tiempo aprender más sobre la historia arquitectónica y cultural de su barrio. La feria comunitaria también ofreció una oportunidad para reunir diferentes grupos locales. De ese evento surgieron discusiones en torno a una idea de realizar un documental sobre el barrio y también sobre un jardín comunitario – ambos proyectos están siendo implementados. Nuestro quiosco más popular fue aquel donde los niños se pintaron el rostro y también disfrutaron otras actividades. Como uno de los paseos fue realizado enteramente en español pudimos contar con la presencia de líderes comunitarios.

En el paseo figuraron varios sitios que reflejaban la historia social del barrio. Por ejemplo la Iglesia Luterana Angélica fundada inicialmente en 1888 por inmigrantes suecos, jugó un importante papel en el movimiento santuario en Los Angeles en la década de los años ochenta cuando abrió un albergue para recibir a los refugiados centro americanos que corrían el riesgo de ser deportados luego de haber huido de las guerras civiles que asolaba a sus países de origen.** El edificio que actualmente alberga al Instituto de Educación Popular del Sur de California (IDEPSCA), fue conocido una vez como “el refugio”. Gracias al grupo El Rescate, más de 200 familias refugiadas fueron albergadas allí durante los ochenta. Hoy, el IDEPSCA perpetúa esa herencia actuando como una entidad que obra a favor del empoderamiento de la comunidad. Este evento y el paseo buscaban honrar los sitios y recursos históricos que reflejan una historia inclusiva de todas las comunidades que formaron y contribuyeron al crecimiento singular de Los Angeles. Pico Union fue una de estas. El Los Angeles Conservancy sigue colaborando con los grupos comunitarios de Pico Union, tales como el Pico Union Housing Corporation (PUHC) (http://www.puhc.org/), en proyectos como la creación de un currículo para trabajadores interesados por aprender las técnicas de rehabilitación de residencias históricas. Y también esta trabajando con jóvenes artistas que se interesan por la historia de su barrio. A su vez, estos últimos contribuyen a elevar el perfil de su comunidad con su arte público.

* Part of an anti-war campaign protesting U.S. foreign policy in Central America, the Sanctuary Movement started in the Southwest and grew into a network of hundreds of religious congregations that provided shelter to refugees facing deportation.

** El Movimiento Santuario comenzó en el suroeste de Estados Unidos como parte de una campaña contra la guerra y como una protesta contra la política estadounidense en America Central. Este creció rápidamente, convirtiéndose en una red conformada por cientos de congregaciones religiosas que ofrecieron refugio a los inmigrantes que vivían bajo la amenaza de ser deportados.

Karina Muñiz is the Community Outreach Coordinator for the Los Angeles Conservancy, in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Karina Muñiz: Coordinadora de Enlace Comunitario, Para la Conservación de Los Ángeles, en colaboración con el Fideicomiso Nacional para la Preservación Histórica.

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 editorial@savingplaces.org.

Out Beyond the Castro: Life on Over-the-Top Valencia Street

Posted on: June 23rd, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 5 Comments


By Anthony Veerkamp

Zeitgeist Matters

San Francisco’s natural environment is one of soft, feminine contours. The transition from bay to marsh to dunes to hills happens almost imperceptibly, with the ebb and flow of coastal fog lending the whole landscape a gauzy quality. Alas, it didn’t take long for the men who built this town to assert masculine rigidity and order to what is, after all, the tip of a frankly phallic peninsula.

The clearest manifestation of this urge to conquer nature and make her submit to man’s will is the orthogonal street grid that cinches San Francisco like a Victorian corset, leaving only her twin peaks untamed. Ironically, in the name of order and expediency, San Francisco’s developers unwittingly gave the city the distinctive romantic quality that makes it like no other city in the world – a place that practically demands to be sung about. Cue the band: “San Francisco, open your Golden Gates!”

As most visitors quickly realize, San Francisco isn’t built on a single grid, but rather an assortment of grids, each marching to its own master. The primary east-west grid that grew from the Spanish pueblo Yerba Buena’s central plaza (today’s Portsmouth Square in Chinatown) was followed by the diagonal grid of super blocks and alleyways that was developed south of Markey Street by Yerba Buena’s American usurpers. (By the way, as far as I’m concerned, go ahead and say “Frisco," but please don’t call South of Market “SoMa” – ick!) South of South of Market is the Mission District, whose own grid is roughly in line with the main Yerba Buena grid, but is oriented north-south instead of east-west. Got it?

Within these grids, Euclidian order reigns, but eventually they bump up against each other like tectonic plates, forming an urban planner's no man’s land just south of the intersection of Market and Gough. It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way – there’s an 1852 plan of San Francisco that shows the grids neatly coming together around a boomerang-shaped plaza.

However, as is so often the case with grand urban schemes, greed won out over grace, and the plaza never came to pass. Instead, and in an ironic twist of fate, the block that was to be the plaza contains a spec office building that houses the City of San Francisco Planning Department. Today, the messy clot of streets doesn’t even have an agreed upon name. It is, nonetheless, an area of keen interest to me, as it’s the neighborhood that I call home.

... 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.