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.

Teaching Preservation: Past, Present & Future

Posted on: April 2nd, 2009 by Guest Writer



Notes from the Teacher's Desk

One of the coolest and most gratifying perks of being a teacher is, by far, hearing back from former students.

The other day, in the midst of our big move (which is still going on), I received a call from one of my former Research History kids who graduated some three years ago. As always, the conversation was totally out of the blue, yet totally heartwarming.

She is now a junior in college (geez, is time now moving at the speed of light?!?), and she was calling to discuss, of all things, her Spring Break plans. Now, if you’re connecting “college” and “Spring Break” and suddenly have dizzying mental images of underage mayhem, wipe that slate all the way clean and think again.

“Hey Lash! My family is headed to Washington, D.C. to visit President Lincoln’s Cottage over my Spring Break. Can you give me Erin’s phone number?”

Major brownie points.

By Erin, she was referring to the one and only Erin Carlson Mast, the curator and site administrator of President Lincoln’s Cottage who worked with my class back in the day on a project to develop a database of Civil War burials in the Soldier’s Home National Cemetery. This particular student spent her time with me studying individual soldiers and their regiments to figure out how each wound up in this particular cemetery. I will always remember her because she was one of those industrious students who completely digs their heels down into a project.

Needless to say, she did amazing work, and it meant a lot to me that she finally got to see and experience her contribution to President Lincoln’s Cottage.

Of course, Erin agrees: "It was such a pleasant surprise to hear from and finally meet one of Paul's students. While she is pursuing a career in medicine, she still has an obvious passion for history and preservation."

Looking around at the empty desks in my new classroom (which I know will be home to so many more extraordinary minds), I can’t help but be proud.

And, speaking of those desks in our new classroom, our Spring Break is over and we officially reported to our new digs this past Tuesday. All I have to say is, if you think it’s hectic to move between houses, imagine moving an entire building of high schoolers. Anyway, please stay tuned next week as my students resume their duties in the blogosphere.

- Paul LaRue

Paul LaRue teaches Research History at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. The ultimate “hands-on” classroom experience, his course takes students into the field to learn about preservation and community service. Stay tuned for what's left of this academic semester as Paul and his students document their project at Good Hope Cemetery here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream. Also, keep an eye out for future “Notes from the Teacher’s Desk” columns from Paul himself.

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

NY Times on "The Greening of Pittsburgh"

Posted on: April 1st, 2009 by Sarah Heffern


Yesterday's New York Times featured an excellent story, "The Greening of Pittsburgh," which talks about the city's successes with sustainable development and historic preservation:

A number of century-old landmarks have been revived as energy-efficient buildings in the last decade, and several major projects, both new and retrofits, will open this spring.

Years before national environmental building standards were set in 2000, Pittsburgh began experimenting in sustainability as local architects, engineers and academics debated how to reuse old industrial sites.

Included in the examples cited by the article is the Children's Museum project, which won an Honor Award in 2006:

The Children’s Museum sought to blend a historic 1897 post office with a 1939 planetarium that had stood vacant since 1991. The solution — a glass lantern shape that appears to float between the grand older structures — reused original materials, like terrazzo, marble and copper. In 2006, the design won awards from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the American Institute of Architects.

You can read the full story here.

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.


More often than not, protecting the places that matter in our cities and towns starts with local preservation ordinances. While they vary from place to place (after all, the best ordinance is one that is tailor made to meet the unique needs of a community), these land-use laws set forth rules and regulations for the designation of - and any subsequent alterations to - a community's historic properties.

But what happens when these effective lines of defense become threatened just like the irreplaceable resources they are designed to preserve?

Unfortunately, this is a question that is currently front and center for preservationists in Montgomery County, Maryland, where an entire local preservation program is under intense scrutiny following the introduction of amendments that would significantly alter an ordinance with proven effectiveness.

Announced last February, these amendments would establish an elevated threshold for designation should a property owner object to a nomination, effectively preventing the designation of new resources and potentially cracking the door for future efforts to de-designate already protected properties. They would also delegate final decision-making authority to the county’s Planning Board, which would enable it to disregard the informed recommendations of the Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission.

Last night, a well-attended public hearing was held before the Montgomery County Council, and as you can imagine, some extremely lively debate ensued. During the meeting, concerned citizens and national, state and local organizations – including the Maryland Historical Trust, Preservation Maryland, Inc., Montgomery Preservation, Inc., and the National Trust for Historic Preservation – rallied together in a strong showing of opposition to the proposed amendments. While all agreed that the current law could be improved, many questioned the legality and wisdom behind the proposed legislation.

More specifically, the legal staff of the National Trust for Historic Preservation prepared a memorandum in advance of the hearing that questions the county’s authority to adopt the proposed amendments under state law. At the hearing itself, Robert Nieweg, director and regional attorney of our Southern Field Office, delivered the following testimony:

The National Trust for Historic Preservation does not support the proposed amendments to Montgomery County’s historic preservation ordinance.

We respectfully encourage the County Council to table the proposed amendment and, instead, consider initiating a comprehensive examination of the county’s historic preservation program.

The National Trust believes that the amendment under consideration by the County Council would fundamentally alter the preservation program in ways which raise serious legal and public policy issues.

First, the proposed amendment would change key elements of the county’s current designation structure in a manner that would, to a large degree, leave final historic designation authority in the hands of the Planning Board, rather than the Council itself.

In fact, the proposed amendments would enable the Planning Board to disregard recommendations by the Historic Preservation Commission for reasons unrelated to the merits of the property.

Such a delegation of authority raises serious legal concerns.

- The proposed amendment would preclude County Council review of a Planning Board decision to deny historic designation. This change appears to conflict with the requirement of the Regional District Act that master plan amendments be made at the direction of the Council, rather than the Planning Board.

- The proposed transfer to the Planning Board of final decision-making authority for certain designation decisions would effectively delegate the Council’s authority to an administrative body that does not have detailed subject-matter expertise in historic preservation. This delegation of authority would be vulnerable to legal challenge.

Second, the proposed amendment would introduce special standards and procedures whenever a property owner declines to consent to designation.

- The Regional District Act requires that the criteria for designation of historic properties be “not inconsistent” with the criteria used by the Maryland Historic Trust to identify properties for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. These criteria focus specifically on the merits and significance of the property and do not consider the personal views of the property owner.

- The proposed requirement for a supermajority vote of the Planning Board in the absence of owner consent appears to conflict with the Regional District Act, which states that the Historic Preservation Master Plan is to be amended by three affirmative votes of the Planning Board.

- Adoption of the proposed owner-consent provision would jeopardize Montgomery County’s eligibility for Maryland state preservation funds, which the county has used to help support a wide range of projects such as research, community planning, training and public education.

Given the serious concerns raised by the proposed amendment before you tonight, the National Trust respectfully recommends that the County Council should initiate a comprehensive review of the county’s historic preservation program to fully explore the program’s challenges and a range of solutions with the goal of enhancing and strengthening the highly regarded program.

Thank you for considering the views of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

At the close of the hearing, the County Council announced that the record on the proposed amendment will remain open until May 22, at which time it would be taken up by the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee. Information on the bill and contact information for submitting written testimony is available on the Council’s website.

Please stay tuned to as we continue to monitor this situation.

- Julia Miller

Julia Miller serves as special counsel for 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.

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