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.

Background

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.

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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.

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.

Does the National Trust Model Have Value in Developing Countries?

Posted on: November 7th, 2008 by David J. Brown

 

Old town Bratislava.

Old town Bratislava.

On the first day of the annual Executive Committee meeting for the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO), more than a dozen representatives from National Trusts around the globe gathered in Bratislava, Slovakia, to focus on our work for the years ahead. INTO was established last December in a burst of celebration at the 12th International Conference of National Trusts in New Delhi, India. Since then we’ve hired part-time staff, engaged two high-level volunteer directors, and established an office in London.

But the hard work lies ahead. We have to take the vision and promise of INTO and translate that into an aspirational yet achievable plan that helps existing National Trusts while encouraging and supporting new organizations in countries without similar non-governmental advocacy groups.

We sat down this morning with Alan Hunt from The National Trust of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Alan has the wonderfully descriptive title “Head of Foresight” and he helped us think through what an organization made up of disparate organizations could do to be effective in the 21st century. We talked about building on the power of networks that already exist as well as ones that we help build. With the impact of the Obama campaign’s transformational use of the Internet fresh on everyone’s minds, we spoke of the need for staff and leaders who were flexible, nimble, strategic, and savvy in the ways of today’s communication tools. We agonized over the program priorities that would have the most impact in saving historic places.

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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.

Oil and Gas Leases Threaten Nine Mile Canyon

Posted on: November 7th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Earl Ivan White)

Truck traffic threatens prehistoric rock art in Nine Mile Canyon. (Photo: Earl Ivan White)

Late last week, media reports revealed a plan by the Bureau of Land Management to sell oil and gas leases in areas of Utah that contain some the nation’s most significant cultural resources, including ancient rock art in the Nine Mile Canyon region. The reports suggested that these potential sales are being conducted with unusual haste in an effort to complete the sales before the administration changes in January of 2009.

While fully detailed maps of the affected areas are not yet available, we have managed to get some additional information on the specific parcels that would be affected. Unfortunately, it looks like they include thousands of acres within Nine Mile Canyon, which many people call the "World’s Longest Art Gallery."

Specifically, the sale contains at least 21 parcels totaling approx. 36,000 acres that are either partially or entirely within the Nine Mile Canyon Area of Critical Environmental Concern (which covers a total of 70,368 acres). Although BLM will sell the leases with No Surface Occupancy (NSO) stipulations - which generally prohibit the lessees from constructing wells, pipelines and other types of oil and gas infrastructure within the boundaries of the leases - BLM will not prohibit or restrain the lessees from using Nine Mile Canyon and its principal side canyons to access project areas on the West Tavaputs Plateau.

So, if issued, the leases will in all probability increase industrial traffic levels in the canyon. This is bad news. As those who have followed this issue know, it is the dust kicked up by heavy truck traffic through the Canyon that is causing damage to the rock art (also harmful are the chemical suppressants that ameliorate some of the dust, but also contribute to the degradation of the rock art).

We will continue to monitor the situation closely, but from what we’ve learned thus far, the BLM’s proposal would further increase truck traffic through the Canyon and dramatically exacerbate the damage to thousands of irreplaceable cultural artifacts.

-- Ti Hays & Virgil McDill

Ti Hays is the Public Lands Counsel and Virgil McDill is the Communications Manager 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.

In Memoriam: Dorothy Marie Miner, Preservation Lawyer, Educator, Advocate

Posted on: November 6th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

Dorothy Marie Miner (© Historic Districts Council)

Dorothy Marie Miner (© Historic Districts Council)

Dorothy Marie Miner — preservation lawyer, educator, and stalwart defender of New York City's historic places — died on October 21, 2008. As legal counsel to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission from 1975 to 1994, Dorothy’s close attention to detail and process protected the Commission, and the historic places it designated, from numerous legal challenges. She played an instrumental role in the court proceedings that eventually led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1978 ruling upholding the constitutionality of New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Law, as applied to protect Grand Central Terminal. Later, she played a critical role in a precedent-setting 1990 federal appeals court ruling upholding the City’s preservation law against both takings and Free Exercise challenges brought by St. Bartholomew's Church. That decision remains to this day the leading precedent under the U.S. Constitution regarding the landmarking of historic religious properties. In other important cases, Dorothy helped to defend the City’s effort to protect significant interiors, including a number of Broadway theaters.

Dorothy Miner's successful work at the forefront of preservation law in New York helped to ensure that historic places throughout the country would be protected as a result of the application of local landmark laws similar to New York’s. Paul Edmondson, general counsel of the National Trust for Historic Preservation remembered her work. "Dorothy's fierce defense of New York City's landmarks preservation law had direct national impact. As long as New York's preservation law stood on firm legal ground, other cities and counties throughout the country had strong precedent to support the legitimacy of their own local historic preservation laws." ... 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.

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.

Speak Up On Going Green

Posted on: November 6th, 2008 by Jason Clement 3 Comments

 

Speak Up: Sustainability and historic preservation go hand in hand because __________ .

From changing the way they get around (Prius, anyone?) to changing the way they shop (do you have your reusable grocery bag yet?), people are going green everywhere you look. It should therefore come as no surprise that a movement so ubiquitous is increasingly infiltrating our field.

This week, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Friends of the National Center for Preservation Training and Technology are convening 30 leaders in the historic preservation and sustainability fields at the Rockefeller Brothers Pocantcio Center in Tarrytown, NY, to discuss the three-way intersection of sustainable practices, historic preservation and public policy.  

Dubbed Sustainability & Historic Preservation: Making Policy, the overall goal of this meeting of the minds is to develop the core elements of a Sustainability and Preservation Charter. In acknowledging the inherent contributions of preservation to sustainability, this charter will call for the integration of sustainability principles into preservation policy and practice in such a way that is consistent with the values of our movement to protect and restore. 

So, while the thought leaders and subject matter experts discuss the details and policy nuances, we want to hear from you: Sustainability and historic preservation go hand in hand because...

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.