I Say "In With The Old!"

Posted on: December 30th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

Delores and I in Tulsa.

Dolores and I visiting a historic site in Tulsa this past October. Both of us resolve to see more of them in 2009.

2009 is right around the corner. As we all make exciting plans to celebrate the new year, I would like everyone to take a moment to really think about the new year. What will it bring to preservation?

I'll admit that I'm not usually one for making resolutions, but one of my hopes for 2009 is that - through my work at the National Trust for Historic Preservation - I can help people better appreciate what's old, inspire them to hang on to what they have, and perhaps even fix it up a little so that it sticks around longer. That's the right thing to do for the environment, for our pocketbooks and for our community. In the go-go economy of the last five years, it seems like anything that was new was all the rage. Well, it's a new era, so I say in with the old!

And, if I can indulge myself, along with polishing the wood floors in my dining room and replacing the aging linoleum in my kitchen, I want to try to see more historic places in 2009. Every time I visit one of our sites or a historic place within our network, I find myself newly inspired to work harder and to save more places.

For instance, this last year I spent several days touring New Orleans and looking at art within the context of historic buildings. What I saw and the stories I heard were powerful reminders of the creativity and the tenacity of the city's residents, both then and now. Another example is my trip to Chicago when we launched our Partners in Preservation program. Our Midwest Office took us on a tour of the prospective grant winners, and I fell in love with the Fountain of Time, the Viking Ship, the Robie House and Unity Temple. The Pui Tak Center taught me about the history of Chinese immigration in Chicago, and our opening event was held in the Stock Exchange Room at the Art Institute, an exquisite space that was saved from demolition.

These places tell a diverse and fascinating story of our irreplaceable heritage, and actually seeing and experiencing them brings them to life in a way that photos can't possibly replicate. When I asked some of my colleagues at the National Trust what resolutions they wanted to share, our Vice President for Membership Dolores McDonagh sent along a similar sentiment:

"My resolution is to take my boys on more 'mystery rides,'" she said. "As a child, my father would announce on random Saturday mornings: 'Who wants to go on a mystery ride?' It was always a crapshoot. You might end up tagging along on a trip to the hardware store to pick up a part for a broken lawnmower, or you might find yourself enjoying a frosty root beer float delivered by a roller skating carhop at A&W. You just never knew. Some of my favorite mystery rides were to historic sites, and in 2009, I resolve to take my own two boys on more of them. Over Thanksgiving this year, I took Ian and Noah to President Lincoln's Cottage in Washington, D.C. I was, of course, proclaimed the 'Wicked Mom of the West' over the injustice of depriving them of another hour of video games. And at one point, I feared they would refuse to get out of the car when they realized that we were at an historic site. But all was forgotten after a great tour. Noah was even overheard saying, 'That was pretty good, Mom. I'd even go again.'"

This past October, Dolores and I were traveling together in Tulsa for the National Trust's annual conference. In between sessions and meetings, we had some time to drive out to nearby Bartlesville to see Frank Lloyd Wright's only skyscraper. It was shorter than I imagined, but incredibly consistent with his legacy. It was not only a highlight of my trip, but something I want to be sure to do more of in the new year.

But enough about me. I want to hear about you. What is your preservation resolution for 2009? Post a comment below and share it with our other PreservationNation readers. Who knows? You might just inspire someone.

–Jan Rothschild

Jan Rothschild is the Vice President for Communications & Marketing 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.

 

Preserving Susan B. Anthony's Neighborhood: The Landmark Society of Western New York's mini-grant program supplied 12 applicants with money for exterior repairs to pre-Civil War homes in the neighborhood of Rochester's favorite daughter. "Historic preservation grant programs can do more than preserve properties; they also can nurture and preserve the communities they serve!" [Confessions of a Preservationist]

Atwater Building, Wabash Ave., Chicago. From Time Tells.

Atwater Building, Wabash Ave., Chicago. From Time Tells.

Time Tells End of Year Roundup: Vince Michael’s take on preservation in Chicago-land and beyond for 2008 (with plenty of interesting photos). [Time Tells]

NYC to Test New Energy Efficient Street Lamps: Street lamps played an important role in the creation of public space in the city. Originally fueled by gas, street lamps opened up the dark and seedy areas of the city to families and the emerging middle-classes. Now, New York's DOT is taking their lamps to the next level. "Rather than just designing a new bulb to replace the older high-pressure sodium light bulbs, OVI (Office for Visual Interaction) has completely re-envisioned the streetlamps from the ground up. The new LED lamps will use considerably less energy and will reduce the city’s power usage by 25-30 percent if all the streetlamps are switched out. As an added bonus, the lamps are expected to last 50,000-70,000 hours compared to the high-pressure sodium lights that last only 24,000 hours. As a result maintenance and energy costs will be considerably reduced, and the expected ROI on each lamp is 2-3 years." [Inhabitat]

33 Stunning LEED Platinum Projects: Jetson Green discusses thirty three LEED Platinum Projects from the past year. [Jetson Green]

Touring Hitler's Air Palace: If you happened to catch the new Tom Cruise fim, Valkyrie, you may recall the scene where German reserve soldiers muster in a vast, high-walled courtyard. The space belongs to one of Europe's largest buildings, Templehof Airport. "Typical of Nazi-era architecture, Tempelhof's main building was built to last all 1,000 years of Hitler's Reich. A short walk from the U-bahn stop at Platz der Luftbrucke, the first view is a city block of art deco limestone, itself only a small part of a complex that goes on and on and on. Don't even bother photographing the exterior unless you have a satellite. The curving arms of the terminal span 1.2 kilometres, and the complex encompasses three million square feet." [The Globe and Mail]

Nuclear Urbanism: Google Maps mash-ups are all the rage (personally, I'm a huge fan of MapMyRun's distance tracker) these days. This one, while possibly a bit frightening, is worth a look. CarlosLabs.com has created a mapplet that allows you to select a place, choose your desired nuclear weapon and "Nuke It!" in order to see the results of an attack. I'm not saying I'm a fan of nuclear weapons, but I couldn't resist entering the address to a certain division-rival's stadium and looking at the results. [BLDGBLOG]

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.

Meet This Week's Faces in Preservation

Posted on: December 23rd, 2008 by Jason Clement

 

This week, Faces in Preservation is back with a look at preservation movers and shakers who are leading by example through innovative transportation programs and policies.

Arlyne Reichert
She's known as the "Bridge Lady" on the streets of her hometown and in the country's leading circles of preservationists and historians. Read how Arlyne Reichert's love for the Historic 10th Street Bridge in Great Falls, Montana, has not only made her famous, but evolved into a model case study about the intersection of preservation and transportation policy. >> Read More

Joe Morris
As director of city planning for Salisbury, North Carolina, Joe Morris knows firsthand how transportation enhancements funds can spark the transformation of an entire neighborhood. From a historic train depot to a newly refurbished entertainment district, Morris has used federal transportation grants to enhance the quality of life for Salisbury’s 30,000 residents. >> Read More

Rose Rohr
Adaptive reuse definitely comes with its fair share of challenges, but what happens when the project calls for refurbishing and then airlifting a century-old bridge to a new home that is some 15 miles upstream from its original location? If it sounds impossible, you haven't been to Hale, Iowa, or heard Rose Rohr's story. >> Read More
 

Intended to supplement our policy platform for President-Elect Barack Obama, Faces in Preservation is a weekly showcase of preservationists who are amazing examples of the kind of work we are hoping to see more of in the future. Stay tuned as we continue to explore new fields and new faces in the days leading up to the Inauguration.

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.

A Preservation Newbie's Walk Through Mid-City New Orleans

Posted on: December 23rd, 2008 by Jason Clement

 

I have a confession to make: I'm a preservation newbie.

That's right; I'm not an architect, an archeologist, an urban planner or a historian. I don't totally understand tax credits (yet!) or Section 106 (workin' on it!). And unless time logged vegging out in front of HGTV counts, I've also never restored original moulding or weatherized a window.

I am, in all honesty, a twenty-six-year-old writer turned web geek who simply tends to follow his heart a lot. Three months ago, it led me to my first day at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and just one week ago, it led me to Palmyra Street in New Orleans.

A Louisiana native, I was home mainly to see family, though I knew I would have a few hours of downtime between eating and eating again (it's what us Cajuns do best). Now, if you've ever been to New Orleans, you know firsthand how a "few hours of downtime" can lead you in so many very interesting directions. I won't elaborate, but let me say that this trip was no exception: I found myself walking the streets of Mid-City, a place that's seemingly worlds away from the French Quarter and a neighborhood that I had previously never been to.

Since starting at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, I had heard a lot about Charity Hospital and the surrounding area. I had read reports, looked at photos and worked on projects supporting our work. None of it, however, prepared me for what I felt on foot as my first-timer curiosity slowly turned into unabated anger. I saw Christmas lights, "I'm Home!" signs, toys in yards, fresh paint jobs, and new and ongoing restoration projects. And the more I looked around and saw these things, the more I realized what I was really witnessing: people making the most out of a life in which nonnegotiable decisions about what stays and what goes are ultimately being made in boardrooms.

As a newbie, I still don't completely understand the "how" or the "why" of the Mid-City story. I just know that my heart wants to go back and do more because the people I saw there might be ringing in the new year by watching their homes get torn down. To me, that chilling mental image is stronger than any talking point, any report and any study.

So, at a time when it seems like none of the decision makers are, I want to ask everyone here to please think with your heart. I invite you to follow me on my walking tour of Mid-City and then encourage you to tell a friend about our Mid-City website, send a letter or post a video on Facebook.

We don't have a lot of time, but even a newbie knows that there is still work that can be done - even if it is just with a mouse.

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.

Wal-Mart Superstore Threatens Wilderness Battlefield

Posted on: December 22nd, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 8 Comments

 

Virginia’s irreplaceable historic landscapes, from the Piedmont to the Tidewater, are at the heart of our national heritage and their preservation is an issue that should concern all Virginians.

So, it is shocking to learn that commercial real estate speculators are now pressuring elected officials in rural Orange County to approve plans for a bland but mammoth 145,000-square-foot Wal-Mart, a sea of parking, and a 900-acre business park and retail center with three more big-box stores. This cookie-cutter behemoth will sit just one-quarter mile from the main entrance to a unique treasure, the Wilderness Battlefield, which honors the sacrifice of the 29,000 Americans who were killed, wounded or captured there in one of the largest and most strategically important battles of the Civil War.

The heart of the battlefield sits within the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, a key destination in the “Journey Through Hallowed Ground,” named one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2005, and this year designated a National Heritage Area by Congress. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and a growing coalition led by the Civil War Preservation Trust and Piedmont Environmental Council strongly oppose intensive commercial development at this historic place, the intersection of Route 20 and Route 3.

These incompatible new commercial developments would irreparably harm the battlefield and the National Park – and the bulldozers are poised to start construction.

The so-called “Wilderness Wal-Mart” would severely degrade the wooded setting for the Civil War battlefield, promote commercial sprawl and drastically increase traffic through the heart of the park. Moreover, the resulting big-box traffic congestion is likely to resurrect VDOT’s flawed plan to widen Route 20 from two to four lanes, paving over a swath of the battlefield and the National Park – a fatal mistake strongly opposed by preservationists because the historic Orange Turnpike, now Route 20, was the scene of fierce fighting during the 1864 battle.

Beyond destroying the historic integrity of the area and creating a situation that might call for the destruction of part of the historic battlefield itself, the development also would undermine local efforts to generate much-needed revenue from tourism.

When visitors stand today on Civil War battleground at Gettysburg, Cedar Creek, Antietam, or the Wilderness, and are able to see the same fields and hills that soldiers fought across nearly 150 years ago, their understanding of the history that happened there is greatly enhanced. When those heritage tourists are inspired to extend their visits or return for a future visit to the National Park and Wilderness Battlefield, Orange County’s local businesses benefit economically. Over-sized commercial growth adjacent to a unique and irreplaceable preserved landscape risks the authenticity of the battlefield viewshed and erodes the experience of those visiting the historic site.

Recently, 253 eminent historians – including David McCullough, James McPherson, Edwin Bearss and Ken Burns – joined the chorus of Americans imploring Wal-Mart to abandon its destructive proposal.

To its credit, Orange County’s comprehensive plan embraces the importance of conserving the county’s rural character by limiting sprawling growth and promoting the preservation of historic areas. In fact, in 2007 the comprehensive plan was revised to “discourage development that would necessitate the construction of a four-lane highway over any portion of Route 20 in Orange County.” Accordingly, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and its allies believe that Orange County’s elected officials should reject current plans for the Wal-Mart and business park at the gateway to the historic battlefield.

Experts agree that the Wilderness Battlefield is one of our nation’s most significant Civil War battlefields. More than 2,700 acres of the battlefield are permanently preserved for the public’s benefit within the boundaries of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. However, it’s up to the leaders and citizens of Orange County and the Commonwealth of Virginia today to conserve the battlefield’s rural setting against ill-conceived growth and transportation planning.

Preservationists certainly are not opposed to commercial growth in Orange County, but we believe the proposed Wal-Mart and 2.6-million-square-foot business park should not be permitted to critically threaten Virginia and our nation’s heritage. There are many potential sites for Wal-Mart, but only one Wilderness Battlefield, the preservation of which is crucial to the understanding of our history and the education of our children in addition to the welfare of local communities.

For more information about the Wilderness Wal-Mart, please visit www.wildernesswalmart.com.

-- Richard Moe

Richard Moe is the president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This op-ed article originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on December 21, 2008.

Sign Our Petition Against the Wilderness Wal-Mart

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.