Another Chicago Partners in Preservation Project is Complete – Bohemian National Cemetery Water Tower

Posted on: October 28th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

Work on the restoration began by replacing the deteriorated decking surrounding the tank, providing the work crew with a stable platform for the roofing replacement and tank repairs.

Work on the restoration began by replacing the deteriorated decking surrounding the tank, providing the work crew with a stable platform for the roofing replacement and tank repairs.

The Bohemian National Cemetery on Chicago’s north side is the final resting place of over 114,000 people, many of Bohemian, Czech and Slavic descent. In addition to an amazing collection of buildings and funerary statuary, the grounds also boast a historic wooden water tank, which was constructed on the grounds in 1898 to draw water from the North Branch of the Chicago River for irrigation of the 122 acres of landscaped property in the Cemetery. Severe deterioration of the roofing and wooden staves of the tank had comprised its ability to draw and hold water, and the damaged platform surrounding the tank made it difficult and dangerous to access it for repairs.

The restoration was finished earlier this month when the historic signage on the exterior of the tank was repainted in its original colors. (Photo: Bohemian National Cemetery Association)

The restoration was finished earlier this month when the historic signage on the exterior of the tank was repainted in its original colors. (Photo: Bohemian National Cemetery Association)

Earlier this summer Carlson Tank Sales & Service Company -- one of the few surviving companies that still repairs Chicago's hundreds of historic wooden water tanks -- reconstructed the platform to provide safe and secure access. The roofing was replaced and the staves of the wooden tank were repaired.

The final step of repainting the historic signage on the exterior was completed earlier this month, restoring the Bohemian National Cemetery Water Tank to its position of prominence as a neighborhood landmark.

– Christina Morris

Christina Morris is a program officer in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Midwest Office.

Learn more about the Partners in Preservation program 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.

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.

Tulsa's Closing Plenary Looks at Historical Narratives, Need for Preservation Laws

Posted on: October 27th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

The National Preservation Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has concluded, though staff members from around the National Trust for Historic Preservation are still sending in field reports. In our final post from the conference, Virgil McDill, communications manager, reports on the closing plenary session, as well as his unusual choice for his last breakfast in Tulsa.

Just before attending the closing plenary session of the 2008 National Preservation Conference, I breakfasted on a popular local Tulsa food item that I’d never had before: Frito Pie. Spurred on by Jane and Michael Stern’s popular Roadfood website, I’d been going to the restaurant Coney I-Lander (motto – “Since 1926 We haven’t Changed a Bite) for lunch most days of the conference. There are a few locations of this popular local restaurant around town -- the one I went to is underneath a cool, abandoned 1960s motel right in the middle of downtown Tulsa -- a great place to soak up local culture along with the local cuisine. And what is Frito Pie? Basically, it’s chili sauce atop a bed of Fritos, topped with cheddar cheese, onions and a special chili-powder mixture. Mmmmmmmm.

The closing plenary took place at the Tulsa Convention Center, the Edward Durrell Stone-designed modernist building where much of the conference took place, and a building that few people fell in love with this week. The windowless third floor room where I spent much of the week seemed designed to snuff out any inkling of spirit or joy that might come its way.

The first keynote speaker for the event was Nell Irvin Painter, a professor of history, prolific author, and award-winning scholar. Painter noted the individual stories that, taken together, contribute to our understanding of a place. Focusing on the story of famed historian John Hope Franklin and his Oklahoma roots -- his father was in Tulsa during the infamous 1921 race riots -- Painter said the story of Franklin’s family is one narrative of Tulsa’s past, part of the fabric of the community that must be preserved.

She noted that the “public sphere is contested space,” in that there is a constant struggle over what we choose to remember, and how we choose to interpret past events. Painter cited Germany’s struggles with interpreting its Nazi past as an especially profound example this (as described by the German term Vergangenheitsbewältigung).

As a counterpoint, she closed with several photos of her own 1940s girlhood, spent happily, she said, in what looked to be middle-class environs of the Bay Area. Painter’s point? That the dominant narratives don’t tell everyone’s story. In an era thought of --  rightly, in so many cases -- as rife with racial oppression directed at African-Americans, the photos of a happy young Painter vacationing with her family amongst the California redwoods is a reminder that there are always other stories, other points of view.

The other keynoter was author and urbanist Anthony Tung, a former member of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, who promised, tongue firmly in cheek, that his presentation would cover “preservation efforts around the world in 20 minutes.” He was kidding, but clearly, Tung has a global perspective on preservation. To research his first book, “Preserving the World’s Great Cities: The Destruction and Renewal of the Historic Metropolis,” Tung traveled extensively to examine and compare the preservation tradition in 20 cities around the globe.

Tung’s travels reinforced a basic fact he’d learned as a member of the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission, and one that will surprise few preservationists; the most effective way to engender what he termed a “culture of conservation” is through stringent, binding preservation laws. Simply put, cities with strong preservation laws on the books tended to save more of their historic infrastructure.

After his formal remarks, Tung was asked what advice he would give to local Tulsa preservationists, and he returned to the same theme -- the need for a binding preservation law. The fact that 52 percent of downtown Tulsa is covered in surface parking lots, he said, owes in large measure to the fact that historic buildings are not designated by the city. Until they are, the glory of Tulsa’s rich architectural heritage -- including the many art deco buildings still standing -- could be further eroded.

-- Virgil McDill

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.

1950/60s Neighborhoods… What to Save and Lose?

Posted on: October 27th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 3 Comments

 

The National Preservation Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has concluded, though staff members from around the National Trust for Historic Preservation are still sending in field reports. Adrian Fine, director of the Northeast Field Office, looks at some of the conflict that surrounds architecture from the recent past.

The 1950s and 60s-era built environment evokes strong reactions… those that really love it and the rest that struggle with places that came at the expense of an earlier era of architecture, that represent something antithetical to smart growth ideals, and architecture that doesn’t always come in first place in a beauty pageant. The National Preservation Conference in Tulsa was a great lab for testing out this ongoing debate.

A home on the Mid-Century Tulsa field session.

One of the homes visited on the Mid-Century Tulsa field session.

The Mid-Century Tulsa field session immersed conference-goers in the city’s Post-War neighborhoods like Lortondale and Ranch Acres, featuring tours of humble ranches to truly one-of-a-kind modernist icons that could easily pass for the I Dream of Jeannie bachelor pad. Deciding what to save and figuring out how to do it was also the theme of the educational session, Teardowns in Suburbia: Preserving 1950/60s Neighborhoods. Postwar residential housing is unfortunately rarely considered historic, much less protected or bestowed with any type of designation; and we’re losing some of the very best examples of our postwar era ranch houses, spilt levels, icons and entire neighborhoods to teardowns and the resulting over-scaled and out-of-character infill homes.

Field session participants enter a Mid-Century home.

Field session participants enter a Mid-Century home.

In an already rabid private property rights environment, it’s a tough sell to put in place local historic or conservation district designation anywhere these days, let alone to do it for a 1950s ranch house neighborhood. A big part of the problem is us and our need to get over ourselves. The idea of saving places which are from the period of our living memory is affected by a number of prejudices, where taste all too often trumps judgment. History didn’t stop in 1945 or in 1975. We cannot pick and choose arbitrarily which era of our past to deem more important. In Tulsa and all over the country, we’re hearing about the need to identify this era’s resources and how to apply criteria to make good decisions about what to save.

Like a lot of others, my family grew up in the 1950s ranch, a 1960s raised ranch and a 1970s French Provincial catalog knock-off. While none of these houses are particularly noteworthy or significant, they represent something important to me. It’s the same for others who are drawn to this era for its design, but also for its story of innovation and experimentation. These places are symbols of a country that was all about growth, breaking down barriers and exploration. It is more than architecture alone but also Civil Rights struggles and advancements, the Sputnik race to space, and the misguided vision for Urban Renewal. Through a radical shift in our focus, we abandoned our cities or “modernized” them beyond recognition, pushed out our development, and defined suburbia as the goal for every American family.

Teardowns in Suburbia

Teardowns in Suburbia(click to enlarge)

History is not always supposed to be pretty or inspirational, but it should be honest. We cannot afford to erase our Post-War past or choose to only save the very best icons as if we’re in an architectural petting zoo. We’ve done that already and now know better. Tulsa is just now starting to have these discussions and, like a lot of places, will likely lose some landmarks before it gets a handle on this issue. A new online resource from the National Trust for Historic Preservation is on its way to help. Teardowns in Suburbia: Tools to Preserve 1950/60s Neighborhoods will soon be launched on PreservationNation. Email nefo@nthp.org to get on the list and be the first to receive this resource.

-- Adrian Scott Fine

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.

Going Green Tulsa Style: Final Thoughts on the National Preservation Conference

Posted on: October 27th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 3 Comments

 

The National Preservation Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has concluded, though staff members from around the National Trust for Historic Preservation are still sending in field reports. Today, Barbara Campagna, Graham Gund Architect of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, shares her experiences on a green tour and final thoughts on Tulsa.

Ken Busby describes the Tulsa 2025 program in the First Street Lofts.

Ken Busby describes the Tulsa 2025 program in the First Street Lofts.

I was in Tulsa for four days before I was actually able to get out of downtown, and start to feel like there may just be a community here. I took a wonderful tour Friday afternoon, “Going Green Tulsa Style”, led by the passionate and amusing Ken Busby, executive director & CEO of the Arts & Humanities Council of Tulsa. From Ken I learned that 60% of Tulsa’s downtown core is covered with parking lots and that the neighborhoods, communities and culture exist on the edge of downtown or the older “suburbs”. That encouraged me a bit, although I would like to understand sometime what happened to downtown Tulsa to devastate it to such an extent. There is no retail, few restaurants, no pharmacies, grocery stores, or dry cleaners anywhere in sight downtown. And while many downtowns around the country go dormant on the weekends, I have never seen a major city that is dormant during the week also. Let’s be honest, I was pretty depressed my first few days here. I saw no people, few cars, no sign of activity or life on downtown streets until Saturday –- when the streets came alive with runners for the Tulsa 5K in the morning and hockey-goers for the game at the new Cesar Pelli BOK Center in the evening. Ah hah! I figured, there are people close enough to enjoy these activities so maybe there is hope that downtown Tulsa may be reactivated and come alive again in the future.

First Street Lofts

All of the buildings on our “Going Green” Tour were outside of or on the edge of downtown. Our first stop was the First Street Lofts, a warehouse being adapted for use as 17 condos (ranging from 550 sq. ft. to 3,500 sq. ft.) with ground-floor retail. The First Street Lofts are your classic 20th century warehouse -– steel and concrete frame with brick infill walls. It was hard to tell what is actually happening there since it’s in the midst of construction and unfortunately, due to some glitches in scheduling, the owner never made it while we were there. So beyond the fact that an existing building is being reused, I can’t really confirm how “green” the project is. It did seem that an effort was being made to salvage materials with bricks and steel structure etc., being piled up in corners, hopefully to be recycled and not to end up in a landfill.

But Ken was able to tell us about a city program called Vision 2025 which is providing encouragement and funding to developers to improve the residential density of downtown. The developer of this project is receiving $3 million towards the work, which is the first of 5 projects to be funded and launched under this program. The intent is that the housing should be as affordable as possible and start to increase the dire lack of housing downtown.

... 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

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

 

Change of the Season At the Soldiers' Home: Leaves are falling at President Lincoln's Cottage, revealing the stunning views into the city that President Lincoln once enjoyed. [President Lincoln's Cottage]

House Museums and Ultimate Use: Vince Michael reports from the National Preservation Conference on the annual Site Council meetings. [Time Tells]

Everhouse - A new Plan for post-Katrina Homes: Housing is still a major problem in the post-Katrina Gulf Coast.  John Sawyer, a Boston-based builder, has proposed an affordable and efficient solution to the problem. [Innovation - The Christian Science Monitor]

The Supersurface of Architectural Diaspora: Pruned uses the recent planned movement of a church in China to discuss landscape history and changes to place and space. [Pruned]

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.