It's Columbus Day: Long the hero of elementary school history lessons, the actions of the Genovese admiral have understandably come under closer scrutiny and criticism in the past few decades, following the rise and inclusion of the new social histories. While the destruction of people and culture that did result from European-Native interaction can not be justified, it's important to remember the words of Marc Bloch and his seminal work, The Historian's Craft: "What do I care for a historian's belated decision on [a] point? We should only beg him not to be so hypnotized by his own choice as to forget at the time another was possible." To summarize--historians make terrible judges. Comparing choices made by people from one time period to the next is an easy and understandable activity, but doing so, and acting like a "judge in Hades, charged with meting out praise or blame to dead heroes," fences our comprehension of history. Some Americans may celebrate the holiday, while others may consider it an imperialistic recognition of genocide. Either way, we have to remember that it is our responsibility to avoid simply passing judgment and instead unearth the facts and provide the clearest picture of the past as possible. Here's a few links to stories out there on Columbus Day. Enjoy the day off from work and school! (If you were lucky enough, that is)

Huffington Post - Story on Columbus Day Celebrations and Columbus Circle, NYC

American Creation - A religious history look at whether we should celebrate the holiday.

Tower Blog - Books on the subject.

Odd Wisconsin - Probably one of the smallest cities named after Columbus is in Wisconsin, with some cool info on the city.

Will Gulf Coast Communities Ever Be Safe From Hurricanes?: Coastal towns along the Bayou have been slammed by hurricanes in the past few years. Besides the destructive damage severe storms bring to buildings and their cities, the coastal wetlands and barrier islands of Louisiana are diminishing at an alarming rate. According to AlterNet.org, since the 1930's the region has lost 1,900 square miles of land--an area equivalent to the size of Delaware. Storms such as Rita, Katrina, Ike and Gustav have all contributed to the situation, which is proving extremely dangerous for the communities of Cajun and French-Indian people who call the areas home. [AlterNet]

Urban Sprawl and the Swiss Alps: It's many a man's dream to one day reside in a quaint, mountainside, alpine cabin--but at what cost? "The Swiss National Science Foundation study released on Wednesday revealed that since 1935 urban development has claimed as much of the Swiss landscape as it did during the previous 2,000 years." [swissinfo.ch]

19th Century Presidential Mudslinging: If only once I could turn on a presidential debate and hear one candidate label his opponent a scurvy knave or a dastardly charlatan. Lincoln's Cottage looks at documents from the 1860 election, where in a New York Tribune editorial, "the Republicans claimed the Democrats formed, 'the rendezvous of thieves, the home of parasites and bloodsuckers, the enemy of God and man, the stereotyped fraud, the sham, the hypocrite, the merciless marauder, and the outlaw renegade and malefactor.'" The democratic explanation of Lincoln's emigration to Illinois from the South is equally colorful. [President Lincoln's Cottage Blog]

The New Modernity: "Historic preservation is one result of the collision between tradition and modernity. As traditions and traditional things become obsolete, we desire to preserve them. It is an impulse with expressions as diverse as Mount Vernon and Farm Aid. The advent of “globalization” in the 1990s caused much hand-wringing, although historians and economists might argue that globalization is contemporaneous with modern capitalism, dating to the late 18th century creation of the joint-stock corporation. Preservation has similar roots and a similar timeline – it is a product of the Enlightenment." [Time Tells]

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.

Partners in Preservation Grant Aids in Stabilization of Viking Ship

Posted on: October 10th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 4 Comments

 

The Viking Ship sailed from Norway to Chicago in 1892 for the World's Columbian Exposition.

The Viking Ship sailed from Norway to Chicago in 1892 for the World's Columbian Exposition.

I traveled to Geneva, Illinois, last week to see the results of our Chicagoland Partners in Preservation grant on the Viking Ship. Constructed in 1892 as an exact replica of a 9th century vessel, the Viking Ship sailed from Norway to Chicago for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893 in an attempt to prove that Leif Ericksson and Viking sailors could have reached North America before Columbus.

For much of the twentieth century the ship remained in Chicago as part of the Chicago Park District, until a local volunteer group in Geneva offered to take it and raise funds for a restoration. Unfortunately, those plans never came to fruition. The ship sat neglected and open to the elements under a tarp in Good Templar Park for several years. With no plan for its stabilization, and no funding available for repairs or relocation, Landmarks Illinois placed the Viking Ship on their 2007 statewide endangered list to draw attention to its plight.

A system of cables was installed to realign the hull.

A system of cables was installed to realign the hull.

But the Viking Ship has come a long way in the past 12 months, thanks in large part to the hard work and dedication of Liz Safanda, the Preservation Partners of Fox Valley (PPFV), and many others. With assistance from a Partners in Preservation grant and local fundraising, the ship has undergone a remarkable transformation. The steel cradle carrying the ship was modified with several new supports, a system of cables and turnbuckles was installed to carefully return the ship to its proper position, the sternpost was straightened, and over a dozen frames were added to reduce stress from the many split and cracked planks.

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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.

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.

Farnsworth House Offering Restoration Tours to Raise Funds

Posted on: October 9th, 2008 by Sarah Heffern 1 Comment

 

Less than one month ago, the Farnsworth House, a National Trust Historic Site and icon of modernist architecture, was flooded in the by tropical storm Lowell and the aftermath of hurricane Ike. The house was closed to the public in the immediate aftermath, but is now opening on a limited schedule to help raise funds to repair the damage from the floods. These tours provide a rare chance to experience the restoration first-hand.

Detailed information on the tours -- as well as an opportunity to contribute -- are available at www.farnsworthhouse.org. And, In the event that you can't make it to Illinois for a tour, the staff of the Farnsworth House have started a blog to share the progress of the restoration.

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.

 

Heritage Preservation, Tourism and Inclusive Development in Panama City's Casco Antiguo: Efforts to revitalize historic districts in order to attract tourism in Latin American cities have often resulted in the displacement of the actual residents through gentrification and commercialization. Many of the people who have called the neighborhoods home for generations are low income families whose lifestyles don't always mesh with an increased accommodation to foreign tourists. Recently however, historic city center rehabilitation is being looked at in a broader view of pursuing "the recovery of the city centers (historical or otherwise) because of their key role as collective symbols or spaces of social interaction, or because of their potential efficiency as dense, well-serviced urban districts." [Land Lines- Lincoln Institute of Land Policy]

Civil War Photography Demonstration at President Lincoln's Cottage: This Saturday check out a free demonstration of wet plate collodion process, the technique used by photographers during the Civil War. Developed in the 1850's the technique produced a negative image, allowing photographers to replicate an unlimited number of prints from one photo--a huge advantage over the contemporary Daguerreotype. The demonstration takes place at 10 am and is free! [President Lincoln's Cottage Blog]

LEED Platinum Home of the Future Reduces Energy Costs by 80%: Imagine paying only 24 dollars per month in combined electrical and gas bills. This house of the future in the Sacramento-area town of Folsom is constructed "like a big thermos" according to it's designer and is only the second home in California to achieve LEED Platinum distinction. Energy saving resources include:

  • Resource efficient framing with blown-in cellulose insulation and two layers of Icynene foam insulation on the outside of the wall;
  • Spectrally selective glass windows with specially coated glazing to reduce radiant heat gain and loss;
  • A 3.85 kilowatt solar energy system with battery back-up;
  • Solar-assisted hot water and space heating with an advanced boiler;
  • State-of-the-art water cooled evaporative air conditioning;
  • Fluorescent and advanced LED fixtures that last 10 times longer and use 75 percent less energy than standard lighting;
  • Water efficient landscaping and irrigation with satellite assisted weather station on the irrigation controls;
  • Patios enclosed by recycled glass; and
  • Low VOC paints, cabinets and flooring for better indoor air quality

[Jetson Green]

Urban Adventurers: Who says you need mountains, backwoods trails, or whitewater rapids to find adventure these days? Now city-foots can find adventure too, and they don't even have to leave the metro area. Climbing, crawling and generally just breaking into abandoned buildings is growing in popularity amongst city dwellers looking for some weekend adventure. The British Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents has labeled such activity as "dangerous and irresponsible behaviour," but to urban adventurers, abandoned buildings offer a "fascinating, if dusty, window into a bygone era. The explorers use aliases to protect their identity, adding to the movement's mystique. Many are photography enthusiasts who post artistic pictures of their latest daring exploits online. Others are in it purely for the thrill, clambering to the top of towering cranes or exploring the network of sewers and storm drains beneath." The National Trust for Historic Preservation would like to advise our readers that we in no way condone or promote illegal and dangerous activity--no matter how cool the building may look, or exhilarating said activity may be. [The Independent]

Archaic Bathing Machines: Last week we featured a photo of mobile beach homes from Pruned. Here's another photo of a mobile beach house used by King Alfonso XIII of Spain. [Pruned]

Hitchcock and Architecture: anArchitecture ("An architecture blog dedicated to architecture and architecture thinking, news, links and opinions") points out Alfred Hitchcock's use of space in his films. Included, a ten minute sampler from Vertigo. [anArchitecture]

English Sites Pose Preservation Questions: Max van Balgooy from the National Trust for Historic Preservation discusses questions arising from the many preservation practices in England. [National Trust Historic Sites Weblog]

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.

Coming to you live from Oklahoma this is Oklahoma City!

Posted on: October 3rd, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

To be perfectly honest I really wasn’t sure what to expect for this marathon field session heading to Oklahoma City. I knew of the rivalry between Tulsa and OK City, and that OK City is the state capital but not much else. Farin and I headed out early one morning (after stopping at Topéca for our road-trip coffee –- make sure you don’t miss this fantastic local coffeehouse).

It is a two-hour drive to Oklahoma City from Tulsa. And what a gorgeous drive it is! Now, I have driven through rural landscapes before, but what strikes me as unique and oddly beautiful are the oil derricks lazily pumping oil -- many of them were just off the interstate.

A painting by Sandzen that captures the blues of the Oklahoma sky.

A painting by Birger Sandzen that captures the blues of the Oklahoma sky.

I have been told that Montana and the Dakotas are big sky country and since I have never been to any of those places I don’t have a comparison -– but to me Oklahoma would rank as one of the top when it comes to big sky country. The sky seems to go on forever. This was particularly evident during our drive back to Tulsa. I kept thinking that I needed to pull over and try to snap a few shots of the sky. However, I have learned that my memory is far better than any picture I could take, so I quickly talked myself out of stopping -– besides we were on I-44 and I wasn’t too keen about pulling off the highway onto the shoulder. What I will share is a painting by Birger Sandzen. For those of you going to Ponca City with Ponca City: Where the 20s Still Roar field session, you might have an opportunity to see this painting in the Public Library. Somehow Sandzen captures the colors we saw in the afternoon sky that day.

So back to Oklahoma City -- Dr. Bob Blackburn and his fabulous team were our guides for the day. Dr. Blackburn will be leading two of the three field sessions heading out to Oklahoma City. For those of you in the know Dr. Blackburn is the featured speaker in Tuesday’s Special Lecture.

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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.

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.