Dispatch from Dubuque: Luring People Back to the Heartland

Posted on: February 24th, 2009 by Patrice Frey 2 Comments


Las Vegas sprawl. (world.mongabay.com)

Las Vegas sprawl. (world.mongabay.com)

For awhile now I’ve been pondering the huge challenge presented by American demographic shifts –- that is, the massive movement of population from the industrial cities of the Northeast and Midwest to points south and southwest. For the last few decades, Americans have fled the heartland as manufacturing jobs went overseas, for cities such as Las Vegas, Atlanta, Houston, and Phoenix. Ahh the painful, troubling reality of masses of people fleeing smaller, sustainably designed older cities for the sprawling, largely soulless tracts of suburbia -- albeit with the promise of warmer winters and much needed new jobs. All of this while the planet heats up.

And what is to become of these smaller industrial cities? The Pittsburghs, Buffalos, and Clevelands? These paragons of sustainability? Don’t laugh -- I think that these places are paragons of sustainability. Designed before widespread use of the automobile, these communities were built more compactly out of necessity. These neighborhoods tend to be dense, walkable, feature mixed uses, and are very often accessible to public transit. These places contain the very features that are promoted by Smart Growth and New Urbanist advocates today.  And that's to say nothing of their charm and character.

But we have nearly abandoned so many of these special places -– in favor of, well, the photo above. But there’s hope yet.

My colleague Jennifer Sandy and I spent two days in Dubuque, Iowa last week with National Trust for Historic Preservation President Richard Moe, attending a conference on Sustainability and Historic Preservation where he gave the keynote speech. We spent some time touring the city and meeting with local leaders and property owners to learn about Dubuque’s plans for the sustainable redevelopment of their Historic Millwork District. This area includes 28 buildings comprising one million square feet that are largely vacant or underutilized.  (See the city's masterplan for the Millwork District.)

The warehouse district in Dubuque.

The warehouse district in Dubuque.

Historic preservation is at the very core of Dubuque’s sustainable redevelopment effort; the city recognizes the need to reuse existing buildings in their efforts to be more sustainable, and is determined to improve energy efficiency, and reduce water usage in these buildings as well. The Historic Millwork project also includes a significant social component, and is connecting disadvantaged youth to jobs produced as part of the project.

And their work is already starting to pay off. Just a few weeks ago IBM announced that it would locate a service center in Dubuque -– bringing 1,300 new well-paying jobs. And the reason IBM chose Dubuque over the 350 other cities under review? That would be because of the city’s commitment to public-private partnerships, and its commitment to sustainable development. Seems the IBM executives are just as enthusiastic about the vision for the sustainable redevelopment of the historic Millwork District as many of us nerdy preservationists…since the warehouse district revitalization will produce highly desirable (and affordable) housing in a dynamic and vibrant historic setting. That makes it a whole lot easier to attract talent to fill those jobs.

I left Dubuque optimistic –- thinking that perhaps this is the beginning of a way to address our seemingly intractable demographic challenge.  And I’m wondering if the National Trust would be interested in opening a field office in Dubuque. I know exactly where I want to live.

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.

Teaching Preservation: Making a Mark in History

Posted on: February 24th, 2009 by Guest Writer


My classmate, Seth B., and I are on a mission to make sure that Good Hope Cemetery has a historical marker like this one day.

History is everywhere.

Whether we realize it or not, the neighborhoods we live in, the roads we drive down, and the many houses and buildings we pass are all part of a larger story.

This is why historical markers are so much more than just metal signs; they tell stories that no one should forget and serve as much-needed reminders to all of us to recognize the history in our daily lives. They're a friendly “Hey you! Pay attention! This is important!”

For this reason, I am honored to be working with fellow Research History classmate Seth B. on applying for an Ohio historical marker for Good Hope Cemetery.

You may remember from some of our previous posts, but if not, here’s a refresher. Good Hope Cemetery is located not far from our school in Washington Court House. Its rural country setting makes it a pleasant place to visit and a serene place for the dead to rest in peace. A historical marker would not only add to the significance of the cemetery, it would encourage more people to stop in and explore.

To start the process of obtaining a marker, we met with the trustees who manage the site and proposed our idea. Luckily, they were all in. They knew the marker would be a great addition to the cemetery and agreed to our help. Following the meeting, Seth and I began looking up prices for makers on the Internet, which ranged from $1,900 to $2,150.

With this knowledge in mind (and with the assistance of our teacher, Mr. Paul “Lash” LaRue), we applied for a grant through our local travel, tourism and convention bureau. Seth and I (neatly) filled out the application for a grant for $2,400 for an Ohio historical marker for Good Hope Cemetery. We even hand delivered it to the main man in charge at the bureau, Mr. Roger Blackburn.

Here are just some of the things we have learned in the process:

- In our county, funding for historical markers comes from a motel tax, and all decisions are made through a board process in which six members represent the different areas where the tax is collected.

- Funding can be considered for anything related to travel or recreation in our county.

- Most counties and communities throughout the country have programs like ours in which everyday people can get involved.

With the paperwork submitted, we must now wait for the board review, which we hear could take up to one month. Sure, I’m anxious to know if we are successful, but in the end, I know that trying was better than not doing anything at all.

- Jeremy M.

Jeremy M. is a senior at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. This semester, he’ll be working with his Research History classmates to document and preserve Good Hope Cemetery. Stay tuned as they share their experiences here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream.

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.

Wilderness Wal-Mart Update: “Battlefields can’t be moved. Big boxes can.”

Posted on: February 24th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments


What’s at Risk?

Wilderness Battlefield is one of the nation’s most important Civil War battlefields. It is designated as a Priority 1, Class A battlefield by Congress’ blue-ribbon Civil War Sites Advisory Commission.

However, construction of Wal-Mart’s massive Superstore would irrevocably harm the battlefield and degrade the visitor’s experience of the National Park. It also would open the flood gates for large-scale commercial development of this highly significant historic landscape. And yet, Wal-Mart decision makers stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that Wilderness Battlefield matters to the American people.

To raise the alarm, the Vermont Legislature recently passed a joint resolution asking property owners and elected officials in Orange County, Virginia, to protect the historic battlefield. On February 19th, the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star published an editorial in response to the Vermont Legislature’s resolution which concludes:

“No one dismisses Orange County’s need for revenue or Wal-Mart’s right to grow. But must the store occupy historic ground? As the Vermont resolution says, ‘The story of the Battle of the Wilderness is one of valor for both armies that fought there.’ Now, will commerce recognize that and take a second seat? Battlefields can’t be moved. Big boxes can.”

Here is an update on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s advocacy to save Wilderness Battlefield:

  • The National Trust is communicating directly with Wal-Mart corporate executives to ask Wal-Mart to relocate its planned Superstore. The National Trust and the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition also are talking to adjacent landowners who are preparing to intensively develop their property.
  • The Wilderness Battlefield Coalition and National Trust have offered to pay for a land-use planning study that would balance preservation of this irreplaceable historic site with sustainable economic development. We hope that the Orange County Board of Supervisors will accept our offer of technical assistance.
  • The National Trust and the Coalition are mobilizing concerned Americans to help preserve Wilderness Battlefield, including 800 members of the National Trust who live in Orange County, Virginia.
    But Time is Running Out.

The Orange County Planning Board is likely to hold a public hearing in March or April, 2009 to evaluate Wal-Mart’s project. Then, the Orange County Board of Supervisors may vote on the Superstore in May or June, 2009.

More than 5,000 members and friends of the National Trust for Historic Preservation have taken action to save the historic Civil War battlefield.

Please sign the National Trust’s petition to protect historic Wilderness Battlefield.

– Robert Nieweg

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.

Go Green with the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Posted on: February 23rd, 2009 by Sarah Heffern


The newest issue of Preservation magazine is our second annual "green" issue -- and it's chock-full of hints and tips that help save energy, save money and preserve homes. If you're a member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, it should be in your mailbox any day now. (What? You're not a member? C'mon... join now!) We've supplemented it online with a host of great online extras, including the welcome video below from Editor-in-Chief James Schwartz.

While the historic preservation community has known for years that the greenest building is the one that already exists, not everyone is aware of that -- so we're making the connection even more clear with our new, green website. By which we mean that it is literally green in color... after all, we like a pun as much as the next bunch of folks.

So, swing by the magazine's page and take a look at all the great features in the March/April issue.

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 National Trust's social media strategist. 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.

Preservation Roundup: Westside Edition, Preserving New Jersey's Bell Labs

Posted on: February 23rd, 2009 by Matt Ringelstetter


Mapping L.A.'s Neighborhoods: The Los Angeles Times has started a collaborative mapping project that seeks to give clear boundaries to its city's diverse collection of neighborhoods. Neighborhoods in the City of Angels have always had names, but city officials have never been willing to set clear parameters to match. So, why is the Times taking it upon themselves to do the job? "Consistency is one reason. If we report that an event occurred in Van Nuys or Westwood, we want people to know exactly what we mean. Beyond that, defining boundaries will allow us to give our readers a wealth of data, about demographics, money, crime, schools and more that we can break down for specific geographical areas." [Los Angeles Times]

Building a Better Las Vegas: What does the building downturn mean to a city that has been under an almost constant cycle of teardown, buildup, repeat for decades? Vegas can sometimes be viewed as a model for the anti-preservationist, and given its history of development, it's easy to see why. I'm not a total believer in this, however, as many older hotel/casinos are still in operation and together project an interesting piece of Americana. Anyways, Las Vegas Weekly sat down with a few of Sin City's best architects and urban planners to discuss the future of their city's architecture, development, and sustainable designs. [Las Vegas Weekly]

Can America's West Stay Wild?: Policy on vast public lands has favored ranchers. Demographics and economics may alter that equation now. [Christian Science Monitor]

Bell Labs Rehabilitation and Redevelopment Plan: Preservation New Jersey details the development plans put forth regarding the Bell Labs complex in Holmdel, NJ. "Somerset Development has proposed an interesting solution to the challenges of rehabilitating the Bell Labs property. The public has posed multiple important questions, the answers and solutions to which will require careful consideration by Somerset and hopefully, will inspire productive deliberation between all interested parties." [PreservationNJ]

Did Google Earth Find Atlantis?: Did Google seriously find the city of Atlantis? They're in the process of denying it, but rumors running through the interwebs say that Google Earth software has located the mythical city off of the coast of Africa. First they download every piece of info on the web, now they're covering up the discovery of sunken cities? If the Googleplex moves to the swamp that houses the Hall of Doom, I would not be completely surprised.  [cnet]

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.

Telling the Stories of Internment – Reflections from the Western Office

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


It is remarkable to consider the sheer range of people and communities impacted by Executive Order 9066. In honor of yesterday’s Day of Remembrance, we wanted to share some of the work the Western Office has done to preserve historic sites related to Japanese-American internment in World War II. While this is by no means a complete list of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s involvement in this issue, the examples below showcase the wide variety of places affected by the internment order. This includes homes and stores abandoned during the War, as well as the internment camps, often located in extreme climates and operated as prisons for ordinary citizens.

The protection of these places allows us to tell an important, though tragic, story in American history. It was a time when the highest powers of our government disregarded the constitutional guarantees of a group based on their race and our highest court turned its head. More than two-thirds of those detained were American citizens, many of whom would later serve their country. The crime that caused a person to be interred, as Justice Jackson famously observed in his dissent in Korematsu v. United States, was “merely of being present in the state whereof he is a citizen, near the place where he was born, and where all his life he has lived.”

Here a few of the points of contact we’ve been honored to have:

Manzanar National Historic Site, Independence, California
Manzanar was one of ten internment camps operated by the War Relocation Authority. The National Historic Site, operated by the National Park Service, received a $150,000 grant in 2005 to restore its perimeter fence from Save America’s Treasures (SAT), a partnership between the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the White House Millennium Council.

Tule Lake Segregation Center, Newell, California
In 2002 the National Trust awarded the Tule Lake Committee a grant to develop a strategic action plan for preservation of the property. In 2009, the Tule Lake Segregation Center was declared part of the new "World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument." It is hoped that the Monument designation will increase national attention to the preservation needs of the remaining buildings at Tule Lake.

Poston Internment Camp Buildings, Parker, Arizona
In 2003, we gave the Ahakhav Tribal Preserve a grant to hire a consultant to facilitate a three-day workshop to develop strategies to restore and preserve the existing Poston Internment Camp buildings, including an adobe school building. Participants included members of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, former internees, and residents of Parker. In 1942, 18,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were sent to three concentration camps at Poston.

Honouliuli Gulch, Oahu, Hawai’i
The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai’i, Honolulu, in June 2007 was awarded a grant to help conduct an archaeological survey of the site of a former WWII interment camp at Honouliuli on Oahu (1943-1945). The survey recently completed includes detailed site mapping, feature and artifact recording, photography and narrative descriptions.

The Harada House, Riverside, California
In 1915 Jukichi Harada, a first generation Japanese immigrant, purchased the c.1880 Harada house and deeded it to his American-born children. Though the State tried to prevent the transfer based on the grossly restrictive Alien Land Law, Harada succeeded in convincing the California Supreme Court to permit the transfer. In 1942 the Harada family was “relocated” to internment camps from the modest house and returned to it again after the war, occupying it until 2000. Today the house is a National Historic Landmark. In 2003, the Riverside Municipal Museum received a grant from the Western Office to support a facilitated visioning workshop for the preservation, interpretation, and financial sustainability of the Harada House. Director Anthea Hartig serves on the advisory committee for the house to this day.

Far East Building, Los Angeles, California
In 2002, Little Tokyo Service Center Community Development Corporation was awarded a grant from the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Fund for Historic Interiors to support an interior preservation plan and cultural interpretation of the 1909 Far East Building. Owned by a Chinese family, the Far East was able to stay open during the relocation of Japanese Americans during WWII and remains a symbol of Chinese- Japanese friendship.

For those interested to learn more, a definitive resource for understanding Japanese Internment is Jeff Burton’s landmark study “Confinement and Ethnicity."

– Brian Turner

Brian Turner is the law fellow at the Western 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.