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 social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. 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.

Grading the Stimulus: What Happened to Federal Funding to Repair Our Schools?

Posted on: February 20th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Photo taken by Washington, D.C. students through the Critical Exposure program that illustrates the need for funds to rehabilitate school facilities.

The roller-coaster ride that was the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act ended on a downswing for the modernization of our nation’s schools.

Down from the high when the House of Representatives passed a $14 billion school construction bill, preservationists now face an uphill fight for a portion of the state stabilization fund for school repair and renovation.

For my policy job at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, I read newspaper article after newspaper article about school construction. During the weeks that the stimulus legislation was making its way through Washington, it was exciting (and maybe a little worrying as well) to read dozens of media clippings from around the country focusing on school boards that were delaying decisions about their facilities in anticipation of federal money. Exciting because, as a preservationist, I believe that investing in our existing schools and updating them with 21st century technology means that they’ll be around for another 100+ years. On the other hand, I was scared because there was no guarantee that the federal money would ever arrive and actually be spent on school modernization.

Sadly, provisions to modernize some of our worst-off buildings for our neediest children were removed from the Senate version of the recovery bill. However, thanks to a last minute push during the conference period, $8.79 billion was added to the state stabilization fund for K-12 and higher education school repair and renovation.

Photo taken by Washington, D.C. students through the Critical Exposure program that illustrates the need for funds to rehabilitate school facilities.

But even that isn’t as cheery as it sounds.

The final language that President Obama signed into law this week indicates that state stabilization funding “may” be spent on school repair or renovation, and that there are no guidelines on its allocation or use. The decision of whether and how funding should be spent is left completely to the states. Sadly, because preservationists are accustomed to fighting for scraps at the funding table, we shouldn’t be surprised that once again we have our work cut out for us.

In the plus column, there’s $20 billion for a new credit enhancement program in the tax code designed to both improve the ability of school districts to borrow and to reduce the overall cost of that borrowing. But most likely, this will only help the more affluent school districts with the resources to actually pay back the loans.

As many of us know first hand, rehabilitation is labor intensive. That’s why the economists were excited about school modernization; the number crunchers understood that jobs - many jobs - could be created.

But it turns out that those most concerned about the future of our children’s schools didn't finish their homework. Amid the many voices shouting at Congress, it was difficult to show that schools - just like roads and bridges - are an important part of our country’s infrastructure. We were unable to convey that existing funding for our nation’s public school facilities is inadequate, and therefore we now face a huge backlog of deferred maintenance.

Now it’s time for our “make-up test” – one that we’ll take to every statehouse and governor’s office across the nation. I believe it’s critical for preservationists to try again in making the "fix-it first” case, this time to state officials. If we continue to allow our older schools to deteriorate, a case for their abandonment and demolition will be easier and easier to make.

- Renee Kuhlman

Renee Kuhlman is the director of special projects for the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Center for State and Local Policy. Visit our neighborhood schools page to learn more about the work she and her many colleagues nationwide are doing to protect the older schools that anchor many of our historic communities. Also, check out our updated stimulus tracker and analysis page to learn more about what the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act means for preservationists.

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.