Santa Barbara Fires Claim First Historic Resource, Others Remain Threatened

Posted on: May 8th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Anthony Veerkamp

The Jesusita fire, as seen from the Upham Hotel in Santa Barbara.

The Jesusita fire, as seen from the Upham Hotel in Santa Barbara.

More than 20,000 residents of Santa Barbara have been evacuated and thousands of properties are in peril as the Jesusita Wildfire burns out of control in the hills immediately surrounding the historic oceanside community. Mandatory evacuation orders cover most of Santa Barbara north of Highway 101, including the historic Mission Santa Barbara, while evacuation warnings encompass much of downtown Santa Barbara.

Already, many dozens of homes have been lost, including the century-old Gane House, the first documented historic casualty to the blaze. The Craftsman-style Gane House was part of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden in Mission Canyon.

In their L.A. Now blog, the Los Angeles Times reported:

"Obviously we're very heartbroken. It's a large, large loss for us," said Nancy Johnson, the garden's vice president of marketing and government relations. "We were hoping to restore it to its grandeur."

Johnson said firefighters "made a valiant effort to save our other buildings," including the herbarium, the library and library annex and the rare book room. "They really worked hard yesterday to save those buildings so we're really appreciative of that."

She also said the garden was saved by a decision last year to spend between $300,000 and $400,000 on six hydrants. "The firefighters told us that had those hydrants not been installed, they couldn't have saved the other buildings," she said.

The Jesusita Fire comes less than six months after last November’s devastating Tea Fire, which burned 20,000 acres and destroyed over 200 homes as well as the historic Mount Calvary Retreat House.

Smoke billows behind Santa Barbara's Upham Hotel, a member of Historic Hotels of America.

Smoke billows behind the Upham Hotel in Santa Barbara.

Earlier this year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Santa Barbara one of America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations. In making the designation, the National Trust noted the legendary beauty of the city and it setting, stating that the town and country form a distinctive cultural and natural landscape that is more than the sum of its parts. National Trust for Historic Preservation President Richard Moe said it best: “once you have experienced Santa Barbara’s vitality and extraordinary character, you won’t ever want to leave.”

Today, the future of much of that heritage may be determined by the speed of Santa Barbara’s “sundowner winds.” We will provide updates as they become available.

Anthony Veerkamp is the senior program officer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation Western Office.

Updated May 11, 2009 to add photos submitted from the Upham Hotel, a member of Historic Hotels of America located in Santa Barbara.

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.

 

Written by Dione Chen

The Free China junk is the oldest Chinese wooden sailing vessel of operable condition in the world and the last of its kind.

The Free China junk is the oldest Chinese wooden sailing vessel of operable condition in the world and the last of its kind.

The Free China junk made international headlines when it crossed the Pacific with an inexperienced crew of five Chinese fishermen and one American diplomat. The oldest Chinese wooden sailing vessel of operable condition in the world and the last of its kind, the junk sits abandoned at a Sacramento delta boatyard, and will be chopped up and burned if a new home is not found by the end of this May.

I never planned to spearhead efforts to preserve this historic vessel. But standing before it in late 2007 with my children, I thought that I must try.

Since then, I’ve traveled a steep learning curve in historic preservation – and it’s been an amazing journey.

To California by Sea – A Story of Immigration

I have a personal connection to the Free China junk. My father was one of the 1955 crew. Growing up in California, I took my father’s story of how he came to America for granted. It was not until he passed away in fall 2007 that I visited the junk along with my young children, my mother, brother and a local journalist. We found the junk a mess, and on the verge of being destroyed.

I wanted to save the junk. I believed I could. I transformed that belief into a commitment by telling the journalist to state in her article that I was going to try to save the junk. It was a thrill to see the article on the front page of the San Jose Mercury News. And so my education began…

Preservation Vision

Knowing next to nothing about historic preservation and maritime restoration myself, I founded Chinese Junk Preservation together with a small group of historians, maritime experts and friends of the Free China junk. Our vision: to preserve the junk and the story of its transpacific voyage so that they may generate public awareness and appreciation of maritime, Chinese and California history and culture. We dream that the Free China--a distinctive, once-beautiful and now rare vessel--might serve as a tribute to past generations of immigrants who have traveled by sea to come to America, and a catalyst for inspiring others to explore their rich family history before the people and memories have passed.
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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.

South Asian History in America: When Does Our Story Begin?

Posted on: May 7th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Priya Chhaya

An 1899 article on the fate of four Sikhs who made it to San Francisco. (From the UC Berkely exhibit

An 1899 article on the fate of four Sikhs who made it to San Francisco. (From the UC Berkely exhibit "Echoes of Freedom: South Asian Pioneers in California, 1899-1965.")

So I have a confession. Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is not something I usually associate with South Asians. I've performed Indian folk dances at heritage month celebrations all my life but have always seen the month as primarily a celebration of those cultures with much longer roots in American history. Our story, or so I thought, began just over fifty years ago when the laws preventing immigration from South Asia were lifted. More specifically my Indian-American story is wholly in the present with the recent suffusion of Indian food, Bollywood movies, and strains of the sitar and classical Hindi songs within popular hip-hop.

But I was wrong. South Asians have been pioneers in the United States since the early 20th century, coming to California via Hong Kong and Japan. In 1907, due to fear that Hindu immigrants would take their jobs, a mob of 400 attacked a group in Bellingham, Washington—an act just the opposite of individuals in Astoria, Oregon, who found the Hindus "vastly interesting and peaceable.” The oldest Sikh temple in the US, founded in 1912, still stands in Stockton, California, and a man named Bhagat Singh Thind fought for citizenship in 1917, only to have it taken away when the Supreme Court determined that while South Asians may be considered Caucasian, but "the average man knows perfectly well that there are unmistakable and profound differences.” Then after I found a PBS documentary “Roots in the Sand” by Jayasri Majumdar Hart detailing the remarkable lives of three Punjabi-Mexican families, I realized that the South Asian American story is not the story I expected.

Whether the narrative begins in 1899 with a Punjabi farmer in California or with an aspiring engineering student in 1974 New York City, I would like to hear more. As preservationists, volunteers, or history buffs are there any significant South Asian sites in your town, or do you have your own story you would like to share?

Priya Chhaya is the program assistant in the office of Training and Online Information Services at 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.

The Results Are In: My Home Energy Audit

Posted on: May 7th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

Two weeks ago, I blogged on Earth Day about an energy audit I had done on my middle-aged house.

There was a lot of information shared with me that day – more than I could really process or remember, even with my photos and copious notes. Luckily, a few days later, I received a detailed report from Pascale, my extremely knowledgeable auditor from Energy Efficiency Experts. What a help! She pulled together the major recommendations as a checklist for the actions that I need to take. She also provided links, phone numbers and resources for how and where I can purchase some easy fixes that I can do on my own, such as installing a chimney balloon in my leaky chimney flue and weather stripping my front door.

And, as if I needed any additional incentive, the report includes an energy-use comparison between my home and a similarly-sized counterpart that is sealed, insulated and equipped with energy-efficient appliances. Those little charts and graphs are definitely eye openers! It also has some great references on where to buy compact fluorescents – including dimmable ones and where to recycle them! I’m planning to follow up by installing some smart power strips, which will help reduce my phantom energy load.

I have taken some other steps since my audit. I’ve purchased weather stripping, caulk, spray foam and cement to patch my many holes and cracks, and let me tell you, I’m putting them to good use. I’m also starting to call insulation contractors to get some quotes.

As a card-carrying environmentalist, I’m relieved to learn that there are many easy actions that I can take to save money while making my older home more energy efficient. After all, you don’t have to demolish older and historic homes or commercial buildings to reduce your carbon footprint.

I encourage you all to put your home to the test. It’s worth it.

>> Download My Full Energy Audit Report

- Denise Ryan

Denise Ryan is the public lands policy program manager for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Visit PreservationNation.org to learn more about how the National Trust celebrated Earth Day.

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.

Tales from the AIA Convention

Posted on: May 6th, 2009 by Barbara Campagna

 

The new Jewish Contemporary Museum in San Francisco's SOMA neighborhood, near the Moscone Convention Center, the location of this year's AIA Convention.

The new Jewish Contemporary Museum in San Francisco

Last week I made my annual mecca to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Convention, held this year in San Francisco. This is my favorite conference every year because it reinforces my decision (or rather calling) at the age of 14 to become an architect. This year was particularly special because I was inducted into the AIA College of Fellows, along with three of my friends who are also preservation architects. In fact, of the 112 inductees, a large portion were architects who mentioned preservation or adaptive use in their statements – it was large enough that everyone was commenting on it. It made me think that possibly being a preservation architect is no longer on the edge of architecture but has become more mainstream. And that’s a good thing.

Sustainability Isn’t Separate or Special Anymore

One of the best things I noticed about the convention was that there was no longer a “sustainable” track or theme. Instead, it was now an integral component of the convention and most of the talks. And starting this year architects need to get sustainable design (SD) credits as part of our continuing education requirements. So I focused on going to sessions that would allow me to complete these new SD requirements.

Can We Live More Like a Redwood Forest Than a Ragweed?

Dongtan City, a megacity designed by Arup located on the third largest island in China at the mouth of the Yangtze River.  (Renderings from www.arup.com).

Dongtan City, a megacity designed by Arup located on the third largest island in China at the mouth of the Yangtze River. (Renderings from www.arup.com).

The opening keynote on Thursday (April 30th) was presented by Peter Head, a principal at Arup.

Peter works in Asia evaluating and developing megacities in China. On the surface that would seem an incredibly unsustainable action, but I must say his discussion of the social and cultural issues, both ours and theirs, made me think about sustainable development in the “developing” world in a whole new light. His underlying concern was whether our planet can actually sustain 10 billion people when the way we have been living and our use of non-renewable resources is in essence shrinking our planet, which is a closed system.

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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.

Barbara Campagna

Barbara A. Campagna, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C was formerly the Graham Gund Architect of the National Trust in the Stewardship of Historic Sites office. She is currently a sustainability consultant to the National Trust and can be reached at bcampagna@bcampagna.com.