Veterans Day 2008: Update on the Historic Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery

Posted on: November 11th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment


Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington Cemetery

Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington Cemetery

On this day when we honor the sacrifice of the men and women of our military, there now is hope that the authentic Tomb of the Unknowns will be restored rather than discarded and replaced -- thanks to the intervention of Congress, historic preservationists, and the American public.

Marble conservation experts agree that the monument’s cracks are cosmetic, nonstructural, and – most important – can be repaired to be virtually invisible to the millions of annual visitors to the Tomb of the Unknowns.

On November 7, 2008, Arlington National Cemetery convened a meeting, pursuant to the National Historic Preservation Act, to begin planning for what Cemetery officials call the “possible repair” of the 1932 Tomb Monument. Following this meeting, the National Trust for Historic Preservation can report that:

  • Arlington National Cemetery has agreed to consider conducting the high-tech tests and analysis necessary to understand the cause of the cracks and to design the most effective restoration techniques.
  • The Cemetery has agreed to invite a blue-ribbon panel of marble conservation experts to help select the marble conservator, if the repair project moves forward.
  • If the Cemetery agrees to repair the marble monument, the conservation work likely would be conducted in late Spring or early Summer 2009.
  • Cemetery officials expressed concerns on November 7th that the repair project would disrupt the visitor’s experience of the Tomb of the Unknowns. (On the contrary, preservationists believe the repair project would present an opportunity to educate visitors about the historic significance and proper treatment of the monument.)
  • Replacement of the Tomb Monument with a replica would cost $2.2 million, while preservation-based repair would cost $65,000.
  • Finally, Arlington National Cemetery has not committed to repair the marble monument and has not abandoned the Cemetery’s long-term plan to discard and replace the authentic monument with a replica.

Government agencies participating in the November 7th meeting included the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Arlington County Historic Preservation Office, Department of Defense, Army Corps of Engineers, National Park Service, National Center for Preservation Technology & Training, and U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.

The nonprofit historic preservation community was represented by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the American Institute for Conservation.

-- Rob Nieweg

Robert Nieweg is the Director of the Southern Field Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.


Learn more about our ongiong efforts to save the authentic Tomb of the Unknowns.

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.

Abraham Lincoln — and His Horse — Arrive in Washington, DC

Posted on: November 10th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation


Abraham Lincoln and his horse.

Abraham Lincoln and his horse arrived at President Lincoln’s Cottage today—in bronze form, that is. The 2500 pound sculpture, commissioned through the generosity of Robert H. Smith, commemorates Lincoln's bicentennial and will be dedicated in February 2009.

Lincoln and his family lived at the Cottage for one quarter of his presidency -- it was the place where Lincoln plotted Union wartime strategies, worked on the emancipation proclamation and determined to include the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery in the Republican platform of 1864.

The sculpture, designed by StudioEIS in New York, took one year to create from sketches to final cast. To render an historically accurate likeness of the 16th president and his horse, StudioEIS conducted extensive research, including: examination all of the known photos of Lincoln, plus the lifecasts of his face and hands; taking measurements of his top hat and coat at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History; and, working with equine experts and photos of the president's favorite horse, "Old Bob."

Overall, the sculpture measures 84 inches tall and 88 inches long. Unlike the many formal depictions of Lincoln, this one is informal and highlights a moment at either the beginning or the end of Lincoln’s daily commute from the Cottage to the White House.

The Cottage opened to the public February 19, 2008, following a 7-year, $15 million restoration. To find out more and to reserve space on one of its multimedia, state-of-the-art tours, visit:

-Caroline Barker
-Video by Matt Ringelstetter

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.

Priorities for President-Elect Barack Obama: Our Voice Makes the News

Posted on: November 10th, 2008 by Jason Clement

President-Elect Barack Obama (Photo:

Though we're still 71 days away from his inauguration, President-Elect Barack Obama is attending his first-ever meeting in the Oval Office today to discuss with President Bush the enormous challenges he faces after he is sworn in.

Today’s meeting at the White House shows how President-Elect Obama is intensively preparing to lead the nation. In fact, shortly after wining this historic election, his transition team launched a new website to seek feedback from the American people on their visions for his presidency.

We had a similar idea with our priorities poll, but focused through the lens of preservation. The good news? People are noticing.

Just this weekend, the Boston Globe published a front-page article examining how a campaign run on the premise of change has inspired groups across the country to reach out to the new administration and let the President-Elect know about their priorities. The National Trust for Historic Preservation was featured in the story's lead paragraph.

Labor unions want President-elect Barack Obama to move quickly on universal healthcare and to make it easier for workers to organize. Latino advocacy groups want immigration reform. Even the National Trust for Historic Preservation is urging Obama to seek full federal funding 'to protect our heritage.'

As we prepare our official public policy agenda for Congress and the Obama Administration, we want to ensure that the voices of preservationists in the trenches around the country remain a part of the ongoing conversation about this important transition.

If you haven't already, please take our poll of preservation priorities for President-Elect Barack Obama and consider joining the PreservationNation readers who have left comments about important role that stewardship and heritage plays in their communities.

And remember, sharing your perspective with us is just as important for our work on Capitol Hill, too. On November 17th, Congress will reconvene for a brief "lame duck" session to focus on stimulating the economy. Keep checking in with us, as we plan to post our analysis of the post-election Congressional landscape as it relates to historic preservation. There are a lot of developments you need to know about that will affect our agenda and our grassroots message to lawmakers on Lobby Day in March.

Stay tuned, because "change" is huge.

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.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.


Preserving the Pre-Historic: You may have heard of such initiatives promoting the preservation of the modern and recent past, well how about projects that worked towards preserving the exact opposite--all while incorporating modern design and materials? Earth Architecture provides some interesting photos from a 1930's project to protect Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. " Perhaps nowhere is the blending of modernity and tradition more evident than at the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. Casa Grande was constructed between AD 1200-1450 by the Native American Hohokam near Phoenix, Arizona. In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison created the Casa Grande Ruin Reservation to protect the one of a kind "Casa Grande", or Great House, thus becoming the first prehistoric and cultural site to be established in the United States." [Earth Architecture]

Saving the Economy with Preservation: "Think about it historically – preservation was rife in the Great Depression in places like Charleston and Greenwich Village. This was the time of sweat equity, and that community-oriented effort continued into the 1960s and gave us the modern preservation movement: a movement about communities taking control of their environment." [Time Tells]

Undulating Brick Walls: "A brick is a modular masonry unit, something that wouldn't appear to "want to be" composed into undulating surfaces. Of course this doesn't stop architects from trying, from using limitations as inspiration and opportunities for doing something new." Daily Dose uses some examples from modern architecture to show the innovative ways in which architects have attempted to bend and shape brick walls and forms outside of their supposed 'naturally' flat state of being. [Daily Dose of Architecture]

Montpelier Restoration Update: The grand opening has come and gone, but restoration work continues at the National Trust Historic Site. [Montpelier Restoration Updates]

Dude, Where's My Car?: A former impound lot in downtown Minneapolis could find new life as "multi-unit housing and a corporate campus." [Star Tribune]

21st Century Street Designers Reimagine 4th Ave and 9th: "Transportation Alternatives announced three winners today in their "Designing the 21st Century Street," competition, which sought new visions for the heavily-trafficked intersection of 4th Avenue and 9th Street in Park Slope. The intersection is notoriously dreary and annoying, with pedestrians coming from the east forced to cross several lanes of traffic to get to the shabby elevated F station, which will be renovated someday maybe, the MTA swears." [Gothamist]

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 Trusts in Action Around the World

Posted on: November 10th, 2008 by David J. Brown


Bratislava, Slovakia's Old Town area.

The Old Town area of Bratislava.

On our third and final day of meetings for the Executive Committee of the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO) in Bratislava, we wrapped up all the detail work that any board has to address. But after the budget was approved, annual plans reviewed, and grant proposals considered, our hosts from the National Trust of Slovakia invited us to join them in an afternoon that put all our work in perspective.

One of the reasons for meeting in Bratislava was to help reinforce the important work of the Slovakian National Trust and to provide its supporters with ideas from National Trusts around the world. So with the help of the Directorate for Education and Culture for the European Commission, the 10 National Trusts represented at the meeting joined in a symposium to demonstrate partnerships between national governments and the private or non-government organization (NGO) sector.

For four hours we heard presentations and saw photographs of how preservationists and conservationists (as we are often called in Europe) are making a real difference in people’s lives. From Australia, Simon Molesworth – INTO’s chairman – told how the Australian Council of National Trusts’ 10 Most Endangered Historic Places list was instrumental in stopping a major waterside development in North Bank, Brisbane, that would have effectively severed all connection between a historic community and its residents and the ocean that was their heritage.

Indian National Trust Chairman S.K. Misrah was forceful in showing how INTACH was using heritage to provide job training, skills, and livelihoods for some of his country’s most impoverished – and oldest – places. I’ve seen INTACH’s work in person and believe that they have built a powerful program that provides critical support to help people live because they respect and support local traditions and heritage.

There were more presentations that spoke to critical work of National Trusts. The Bermuda Trust under Nicola O’Leary’s leadership was working closely with local government to push consideration of the harmful affects of hotel over-building – before the hotels were built. Simon Murray of the National Trust in the United Kingdom spoke of their pioneering work in combating climate change through good conservation practices at the vast holdings of the Trust, including 1/3 of the coast line in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Support for best practices in land conservation on local agricultural lands in Canada, protection for more than 130 of the most historic and beautiful places in The Netherlands, and work to raise awareness in Ireland were just other examples from a very full afternoon.

After participating in the partnership symposium, I came away convinced that we’re making an important difference in the lives of people from all walks of life all around the globe. And for that all of us – whether we call ourselves preservationists or conservationists – can take a short victory lap before we return to the never-ending work at hand.


David J. Brown is Executive Vice President 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.

Prestigious AIA Award for Decatur House Restoration Project

Posted on: November 7th, 2008 by Barbara Campagna 1 Comment


The Award

Restoration of entry & stair halls, standing in the entry hall looking into the stair hall. (Photo © Dan Redmond)

Restoration of entry & stair halls, standing in the entry hall looking into the stair hall. (Photo © Dan Redmond)

The AIA/DC awarded the Stephen Decatur House Museum in Washington, DC a Design Excellence Award for Historic Resources on Thursday, October 30 for the Restoration of Benjamin Latrobe's Entry Hall and Stair Hall. This is a beautiful and nuanced restoration project which demonstrates that if you couple a sound preservation methodology with a passionate and collaborative design and construction team, the result can be one which reactivates an entire building, even though its actual physical scope and budget may be small.


Benjamin Henry Latrobe, one of the giants of early American architecture, designed this Federal townhouse for naval commodore Stephen Decatur in 1817. The Decaturs only lived there together for less than two years before Decatur was killed in a duel on March 22, 1820. The National Trust for Historic Preservation acquired the building as a historic site in 1956. In 1960, it was designated a National Historic Landmark and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. Located across Lafayette Park from the White House, Decatur House remains at the center of Washington’s social activities and indeed its carriage house rental space is one of the most sought after special event spaces in the city.

The Restoration Project
(condensed from the AIA Application prepared by Davis Buckley Architects & Planners)

Entry hall before restoration, looking at front door.

Entry hall before restoration, looking at front door.

Over the past century, evolving ownership led to architectural and decorative transformations within the structure. The National Trust undertook the restoration of the entry hall and the main stair hall – two of the building’s most significant intact architectural spaces. These rooms retain features of Benjamin Henry Latrobe’s original design, including: projecting and receding moldings, a vaulted and domed ceiling in the entry hall, cornerblocks decorated with rosettes, and niches in the entry hall and on the staircase. The entry hall is approximately 81 square feet and the main stair hall consists of approximately 162 square feet, on two levels.

The restoration project: conserved the original architectural fabric found in the entry hall and stair hall; removed later features (including telephone and electrical elements, door and window hardware, and a late 19th century wood floor); replicated the original paint colors; and re-established missing original features. The architect researched the documentation in the National Trust’s files, and reviewed a 1990 Historic Structures Report, HABS drawings, paint analysis, and primary resources such as Latrobe’s design drawing “Detail of the Hall of Commodore Decatur” house in a collection at the Library of Congress. The priorities were to restore the character and articulation of Latrobe’s original design while preserving as much of the existing historic fabric as possible. Various technical measures were taken to achieve these priorities.

... Read More →

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