Repair, Not Replacement, for the Tomb of the Unknowns

Posted on: August 20th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 4 Comments

 

Preservationists took heart this week when Federal officials released a long-awaited report to Congress on the future of the Tomb of the Unknowns. Bowing to public outcry, the Department of the Army, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Arlington National Cemetery have done an “about face” and have informed Congress that the Cemetery now will conduct much-needed repairs to the 1932 Tomb Monument.

While this is an important victory for preservationists, the report to Congress makes it very clear that replacement of the authentic monument still is seriously being explored as an option. The Cemetery’s stubborn fixation on replacement has amazed some observers, especially in light of the fact that officials now concede that replacing the 48-ton marble block would “diminish the integrity” of historic Arlington National Cemetery and cost taxpayers substantially more -- an estimated $2.2 million to construct a replica monument compared to only $65,000 to properly repair the original Tomb.

The National Trust and our allies in this fight will continue to closely monitor the Cemetery’s treatment of the Tomb Monument.

Many thanks to so many Members and friends who contacted Cemetery Superintendent John Metzler and Members of Congress about the historic Tomb Monument – your support was critical in this important victory. Visit www.preservationnation.org/tomb to read a copy of the report or to find out how you can help.

-– Robert Nieweg

Robert Nieweg is the director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Southern Field Office.

Updated 8/21/2008 to correct the size of the Tomb (48 tons).

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.

Housing Bill Enhances the Federal Historic Tax Credit

Posted on: August 19th, 2008 by Sarah Heffern 2 Comments

 

Federal tax policy is a complicated thing - and something that, despite years of being a taxpayer, I don’t even begin to understand. One piece that I am able to grasp, however, is that offering tax credits for the rehabilitation of older and historic buildings helps make real gains in linking historic preservation to community revitalization nationwide.

Thanks to the housing bill passed late last month that included several key enhancements to this incentive, the federal historic tax credit will work even better in the future. Given that, in 2007, it sparked more than $4 billion in private investment and created more than 40,000 new jobs, the fact that it was improved even further is amazing.

What does the tax credit do? It rewards building owners who choose to renovate and rehabilitate historic and older structures for use as rental housing and other commercial purposes. In lower income areas, where the overlap between historic buildings and households in poverty is greatest, this transformation of what is often considered “blight” can help stabilize neighborhoods, reduce displacement, and build vibrant communities.

Follow the links to learn more about the National Trust's work to improve this great preservation tool and to find out more about commercial preservation funding.

-- Patrick J. Lally, Director of Congressional Affairs at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, contributed to this story.

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. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.

New Help for Teardowns

Posted on: August 18th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

As we all watch and wait to see how the slumping economy and struggling housing sector either rebounds or continues to fall, one has to question if teardowns – the demolition of houses for larger replacement homes, often referred to as McMansions -- are likely to continue or even make economic sense in the near future. While the demolition of perfectly good houses doesn’t meet our sustainability goals, the practice has developed a strong foothold in many communities around the country, and in Canada and Australia. As I’ve watched this trend grow into a profitable niche market and, most recently, have seen it slowdown in the last year, I’m not convinced teardowns are finished. If anything, teardowns are likely just on a hiatus and, in many places, continue full steam ahead despite the gloomy national economic outlook.

What this current economy does offer us though is a cooling off period to get a handle on this issue and be proactive before teardowns start up full force again. The ways in which communities are responding to teardowns are diverse in approach and overall effectiveness. So in places like Downers Grove, IL, the community is trying to balance the needs of newcomers while also addressing a reduction in affordable “starter” housing, storm water drainage impacts caused in part due to teardowns, and the overall loss of original community character. In Westport, CT, community leaders are responding to teardowns by increasing the period for a demolition delay from 90 to 180 days. Sometimes efforts are being done on a house-by-house basis, such as in Seattle, where a resident is currently making a last ditch effort to save an intact 1908 Craftsman-style home by moving it out of harms way. And in Raleigh, an organization called Community Scale has formed to advocate for approaches that guide infill construction while also preserving the integrity and diversity of the city’s older neighborhoods.

There’s no single tool out there to solve the problem but rather a combination of strategies works best. Recognizing that most people don’t know where to start or go for best practices, a new online tool has been developed called Teardown Tools on the Web. Created as part of the Teardowns Initiative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, this tool is intended as an easy-to-share, user-friendly, one-stop-shop highlighting approximately 30 tools and more than 300 examples of best practices being used around the country. Check it out at http://www.preservationnation.org/issues/teardowns/

-Adrian Fine, Director Northeast Field Office, 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.

 

Ferris Wheels and Shikinen Sengu: Preservation Wayne looks at the replacement of historic landmarks, and how this can affect their surroundings. While die-hard preservationists may lament over the loss of a historic building, Wayne acknowledges that appropriate rebuilding can enhance the surviving buildings and areas. [Preservation Wayne]

Historic College Hill: Like any other institution of higher learning, UNC-Greensboro is rapidly growing and in need of expanding in order to accommodate. Standing in the way of at least one phase of this expansion is a small residential area named College Hill--a National Register designated neighborhood. [Preservation Greensboro]

The Old House and the Sea: Clinghouse--a century-old mansion built on a rock in  Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay--has quite a unique history. [New York Times]

10 Myths About Abraham Lincoln: Slaves? Depression? Lovers? President Lincoln's Cottage addresses some of the most widespread rumors surrounding our 16th President. [President Lincoln's Cottage]

Marlan Blackwell's Arkansas House: A fire-damaged property gets an sleek, modern redesign. [ModernTulsa]

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.

Notes from New Orleans: An Alternate Site for the VA?

Posted on: August 13th, 2008 by Walter Gallas

 

The Lindy Boggs hospital sits on part of the land being considered as an alternative site for the VA.

The Lindy Boggs hospital sits on part of the land being considered as an alternative site for the VA.

An alternative site for the VA's new hospital is getting serious scrutiny. A public meeting is set for Monday, August 11 to present information on the Lindy Boggs alternative hospital site and to take comments in compliance with environmental and historic preservation review requirements.

This is an encouraging sign, but of course only another step before final resolution of the question of where the VA will ultimately build. The alternative site is known as the Lindy Boggs site, because of the hospital which stands on part of the land now. The hospital served the Mid-City neighborhood until it was closed after Katrina.

One of the warehouses on the alternative site.

One of the warehouses on the alternative site.

Surrounded by warehouses and non-residential building numbering maybe 20 at the most, the site seems an ideal alterative to the so-called "RPC site," which contains 154 structures, mostly houses, of which 123 are contributing historic buildings in the Mid-City National Register District. The Lindy Boggs site lies outside of the Mid-City NR district.

Another encouraging sign is that the Mid-City Neighborhood Association supports re-establishing a hospital at that site.

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.