Teaching Preservation: Tracing My Family Roots

Posted on: April 7th, 2009 by Guest Writer 1 Comment


This week, my period of Research History took a field trip to the nearby Mark Cemetery. When we got there, we were greeted by a special guest speaker – my dad.


Research History in action (and finally in short sleeves) in Mark Cemetery.

That’s right; he’s a retired township trustee, and he met up with us to discuss the unique history of the cemetery and the people who are buried there, including members of my family.

Coincidence or what?

Come to find out, Mark Cemetery is where many of Fayette County’s first settlers are buried, and it is located right in the middle of where members of my family made their first homes here. In fact, they established their farms on what is now Staunton-Jasper Road and a housing development called Lake Wood Hills.

Our project that day started with taking measurements of the cemetery. We also sorted through the broken headstones located in the back corner of the property, which we pieced together and took pictures of so we could record the names and birth/death dates in our new cemetery record. In doing this, we actually discovered several broken headstones that had not been recorded in any previous databases.


Piecing together history.

Back at school, I created three separate spreadsheets for the headstones: one for graves that were accounted for on previous lists as well as my own; one for the new graves we found; and one for the graves included on previous lists that we could not locate. I also uploaded all of our headstone photos and organized them by where they were found and what condition they were in.

One of my projects for the remainder of this semester will be to make a scale map of the cemetery that brings all of this research together, including data and photos for each headstone.

This research obviously means a lot to me because of my family roots in the area, so I hope that you’ll stay tuned to our blog as my work progresses.

- Marci M.

Marci M. is a senior at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. For the remainder of this semester, she’ll be working with her Research History classmates on a variety of preservation projects, including documenting and preserving local cemeteries. 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.


Our own Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has an op-ed in today's New York Times. It bears an unfortunate title, but that doesn't lessen its strong message about greening historic homes:

Experience has shown that virtually any older or historic house can become more energy-efficient without losing its character. Restoring the original features of older houses — like porches, awnings and shutters — can maximize shade and insulation. Older wooden windows perform very well when properly weatherized — this includes caulking, insulation and weather stripping — and assisted by the addition of a good storm window. Weatherizing leaky windows in most cases is much cheaper than installing replacements.

He goes on to point out that this retrofitting work has an additional benefit:

The labor-intensive process of rehabilitating older buildings would also create jobs, and this labor can’t be shipped overseas. The wages would stay in the community, supporting local businesses and significantly increasing household incomes — just the kind of boost the American economy needs right now.

The full article is available here. It's well worth reading.

Learn more about our sustainability initiative.

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.


The Vistors Center at President Lincoln's Cottage.

The Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center at President Lincoln’s Cottage

It’s Official! The Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center (VEC) at President Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington DC became the first National Trust Historic Site last week to receive LEED certification. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), is a third party rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to measure the impact of building construction and building operations on the environment. The Visitor Education Center received all 44 credits the project applied for under NC 2.2 (New Construction and Major Renovations). A minimum of 39 points are required for LEED Gold. The project was completed prior to USGBC releasing LEED 2009, which includes changes to the rating system that will benefit existing and historic buildings even more. (See my article in the AIA Newsletter for more detail.)

The VEC is the former Administration Building at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Northwest D.C. An Italianate Renaissance Revival style building that was constructed in 1905 as part of the Soldiers’ Home complex, it has been adapted for use as the Visitor Education Center (VEC) for President Lincoln’s Cottage, and incorporates administration space for the Trust. The National Trust is very grateful to our partner United Technologies Incorporated who contributed $1 million and technical expertise to the project.

For a more detailed description of the features of the rehabilitation project that makes the project “greener” than normal and a discussion of the project’s place in the National Trust’s Sustainability Program, please go to the Historic Sites Blog and Erin Carlson Mast’s blog on the President Lincoln’s Cottage webpage.

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.


Restoring Persia's Ancient Capital: Once known as one of the largest and most cosmpolitan cities in the world, the "Persian Florence," has seen better days. Between development and the effects of military conflict, the city's magnificent buildings are in need of restoration. Luckily, some individuals are taking on conservation projects in order to help. [Smithsonian Magazine]

Yankee Stadium II

Yankee Stadium II

Reviewing New York City's New Ballparks: "Each stadium subtly reflects the character of the franchises that built them. Yankee Stadium is the kind of stoic, self-conscious monument to history that befits the most successful franchise in American sports. The new home of the Mets, meanwhile, is scrappier and more lighthearted. It plays with history fast and loose, as if it were just another form of entertainment." [New York Times]

Reinventing America's Cities: Taking New Orleans, the Bronx, Buffalo and LA as examples, Nicolai Ouroussof explains how the American city can once again be great. [New York Times]

Montpelier Updates: Updates on plans for upcoming exhibits at the newly restored home of James and Dolly Madison. [Montpelier Restoration and Curatorial Blog]

New Life for Donuts Delite:A 1950's Rochester, NY icon looks like it may be saved for use by local pizza chain Salvatore's. Now if they could only restore their old five dollar pizza deal. [Confessions of a Preservationist] [Democrat and Chronicle]

Turning Cul-de-Sac's into Communes: Social experiment in LA cul-de-sacs looks to start neighborhood communes in the suburbs. So the hippies give up on the dream, buy khakis and Honda Pilots and move into cul-de-sacs only to have those cul-de-sacs turned into communes? Oh, the irony. [NPR]

Sustainable Restoration of 1960's Ranch Home: "The addition of carefully selected architectural and construction elements transformed the home from dank and dark to airy, comfortable, and energy efficient." [Green Bean Chicago]

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.

How Did We Get Here?

Posted on: April 3rd, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment


A photograph taken by the Baltimore City Police Department during the civil disturbances in April 1968.

A photograph taken by the Baltimore City Police Department during the civil disturbances in April 1968.

Leah Suhrstedt and Priya Chhaya, both employees in the Center for Preservation Leadership, are attending the National Council on Public History (NCPH) conference in Providence, Rhode Island this weekend. NCPH advances the field of public history, promoting professionalism among history practitioners and encouraging their engagement with the public. The theme of this year's conference is "Toward Broader Horizons" and sessions center around looking past our traditional conversations about history and the past to new practices, ideas and techniques.

Below, Leah and Priya have re-created some of their conversation about the beginning of the conference.

Leah: So, our keynote speaker was Jill Lepore, noted colonial American historian at Harvard. In her speech she noted that before preparing this talk she asked a friend to define public history. Oddly enough, upon further research, she decided she was, in fact, herself a public historian. I like how she said that we are those who “do history,” and her central concern that historians of all shapes and sizes (including preservationists) have a responsibility to answer the age old question of “how did we get here?”

Priya: Yeah, and I also appreciated the distinction of that while we have to ask “how did we get here?” we also have to be careful comparing past to present. That we don't have to only think about relevance, but that no project (in any historical form) can exist without at least a form of resonance. This became especially clear when she described how while historians may not solve problems, our role is to help our public to see things more clearly. In order to do so, in her paraphrase of Carl Becker's 1931 speech to the AHA we have an “obligation to remember what everyone else forgets.”

A photo taken by Paul J. Lioi, Baltimore City Police Department during the civil disturbances in April 1968.

A photo taken by Paul J. Lioi, Baltimore City Police Department during the civil disturbances in April 1968.

Leah: Like in the session we went to yesterday on the 1967 riots in Newark, New Jersey and the 1968 race riots in Baltimore. I thought that was a great example of historians making history relevant and helping to heal a community in the process. In what they called a convening rather than a conference, professors at the University of Baltimore organized a three day program centered around Martin Luther King biographer Taylor Branch's idea that the only way we are going to make progress with race is by listening to each others' stories. I especially liked the use of theater, oral history and conversation to make numerous connections to different parts of the community.

Priya: I agree. What was remarkable was how both the Newark and Baltimore contingents responded to their communities' positive responses by expanding their own programming. For example, area schools have embedded this information into their lesson plans, and University of Baltimore offers teacher training over the summers. They have also made all the recordings and images available online for others to use. This connects back to what Jill Lepore stated about history in the public sphere—that we need to take our work to the grassroots level and open up the dialogue for greater understanding, and in this case reconciliation.

Leah: I think this relates back to the preservation movement as we try to make the issue of sustainability relevant to those beyond our core membership. In the session we talked about above, one speaker, Dr. Clement Price, said that in working with issues that are controversial we have to “be reverent, earnest, and willing to take a hit,” and that if we do our chances of success are much higher.

Priya: So how did we get here? I think the connection between this conference and role of preservationists in dealing with advocacy issues like sustainability involves creating broader forums for discussion—between those with the environmental know-how and those on the ground who may not get the need for a broader community perspective on issues like the environment.

What do you think? Post your comments below...

--Leah Suhrstedt and Priya Chhaya

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.