Not Your Typical Architecture Patron

Posted on: September 29th, 2008 by Dolores McDonagh 1 Comment

 

Living room of the Pope-Leighey House, a National Trust Historic Site. Photo by Ron Blunt.

Living room of the Pope-Leighey House, a National Trust Historic Site. Photo by Ron Blunt.

I know as VP of Membership for the National Trust for Historic Preservation I shouldn't have favorites among our historic sites.  And I love them all for different reasons.  But I can't help but have a major soft spot in my heart for the Pope-Leighey House on the grounds of Woodlawn Plantation in Alexandria, Virginia.  That's why the obits took me back a little this weekend when I read that Loren Pope had passed away, the man who commissioned the Usonian jewel of a house the National Trust for Historic Preservation rescued in the 1960s when it was slated to be demolished for Interstate 66 through suburban Virginia.

Now many of us think of Frank Lloyd Wright homes as iconic, groundbreaking, beautiful.  But rarely are they ever thought of as "affordable."  But that's just what Loren Pope's home was -- part of FFLW's vision for "Usonian" architecture -- utopian housing for the "common man."  I've heard Mr. Pope tell his story about how as a young DC journalist he wrote FFLW and asked him to design him a home within his modest budget.  And how, rather than scoff at him, Wright accepted the challenge and answered "Of course I am ready to give you a house."  (Of course it came in over budget, but it was still a bargain.)

I've always loved the Pope-Leighey House -- the way it sits in nature, the way you immediately feel welcome and embraced when you enter this modest home.  And I've often thought it said volumes about Frank Lloyd Wright.  But until today, I never really thought much about what it said about Loren Pope.  The next time I visit, I will think about Loren Pope and what he taught us through his bold act to commission this masterpiece.

Don't be afraid to be bold.  Don't be afraid to ask for what you want -- you might just get it.  Patronize the arts -- you don't have to pay a zillion dollars to bring beauty into your life.  And don't let anyone tell you to settle for less because you are looking for "affordable" housing.  We ALL deserve homes, neighborhoods and communities that enrich our lives, even if we're not Wall Street magnates with golden parachutes.

Thanks, Mr. Pope.

I'll leave the obituary to the Washington Post, but I will pass along that you can learn how to visit the Pope-Leighey House (the only FFLW home open to the public in the DC metro area, and yes (National Trust for Historic Preservation Members DO get free admission) by visiting our Pope-Leighey site on PreservationNation.

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.

 

Victorian England's Mobile Homes: Hurricanes are no joke when it comes to their destructive power. Here at the National Trust, we've been all over the current season, and are still very active in Gulf Coast relief efforts due to Katrina's wrath over three years ago. What if, instead of watching your beach house wash away into the ocean, you simply drove it away to higher ground? Landscape architecture blog Pruned uses an example from Victorian prudishness to highlight the possibilities. [Pruned]

Hollywood and Period Landscapes: Major studios love incorporating dramatic, sweeping landscapes into their films, and the use of such backgrounds is both popular and helpful when highlighting specific historic periods and scenes. Architecture and environment blog a456 examines the "visual language used to depict the natural and built environments of the 19th and 20th century." [a456]

Reuse, or "Contained Use" in Historic Buildings: In response to Cathleen McGuigan's recent Newsweek article, "The Bad News About Green Architecture," Laura Keeney Zavala from the Landmark Society of Western New York points out an important issue that McGuigan overlooked--adaptive re-use and preservation. [Confessions of a Preservationist]

Green Modernism in La Defense: International firm Valode and Pistre have completed a design for the Generali tower, a huge new office building in the Paris business district making a name for itself in sustainable architecture in addition to economic prosperity. [Inhabitat]

Frank Lloyd Wright On, Well Pretty Much Everything: In a 1957 interview with Mike Wallace (and plenty of cigarette smoke), the famed architect covered organized religion, war, mercy killing, art, critics, his mile-high skyscraper, America's youth, sex, morality, politics, nature, and death. [The Harry Ransom Center: UT-Austin]

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.

Partners in Preservation Project in Chicago Area Unveiled

Posted on: September 25th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Earlier this month I attended the first annual "Taste of Spring Grove" event at the Spring Grove Fish Hatchery, one of the 2007 Partners in Preservation grant recipients. The building looks fantastic, and it is incredible how much interest the Partners in Preservation project has generated in Spring Grove and the surrounding communities!

The PIP funding has done exactly what it was supposed to do -- galvanize the local groups and leverage additional funding and support from other sources. A huge turnout at the event indicated that the public is very interested in the Fish Hatchery. My conversations with Village officials showed that they have very ambitious plans in the upcoming year: complete the interior restoration and restore large portions of the grounds; place the entire site on the National Register and locally landmark it; make the "Taste of Spring Grove" and annual fundraiser for the Fish Hatchery; and start other public programming at the site including a farmers market and arts program. I could not be more pleased with what they have done and what they plan to do.

The Partners in Preservation grant money has completely transformed this site and this small town.

-- Christina Morris

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

Partners in Preservation funding helped the Village of Spring Grove install new windows in several locations. Many of the original wood windows were placed in the 1990s with new units that were inappropriate. The new windows, such as those seen on the north side of the Fish Hatchery, were designed to match the original double hung windows.

Partners in Preservation funding helped the Village of Spring Grove install new windows in several locations. Many of the original wood windows were placed in the 1990s with new units that were inappropriate. The new windows, such as those seen on the north side of the Fish Hatchery, were designed to match the original double hung windows.

... 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.

Ike in Indiana

Posted on: September 24th, 2008 by Margaret Foster

 

The Sullivan House, in Madision, Ind., was damaged by Hurricane Ike.

The Sullivan House, in Madision, Ind., was damaged by Hurricane Ike. (Credit: Historic Madison, Inc.)

Hurricane Ike hit Galveston, Texas with full force, and even its remnants had an impact on the Midwest. By the time Ike reached Madison, Indiana, it was only a tropical depression, but downed trees smashed many buildings in the city’s vast historic district, which includes 1,600 buildings in 133 blocks. And, like Galveston, this week Madison is still trying to pick up the pieces.

“Things are starting to reopen,” says John Staicer, executive director of Historic Madison, Inc., formed in 1960. Seven of the group’s 16 properties were damaged in the September 14 storm, but Historic Madison will reopen two of its house museums this week.

Incorporated in 1809, Madison is known for its intact downtown, which was designated a National Historic Landmark—the country’s highest honor—two years ago.

Named a Dozen Distinctive Destination in 2001, this Indiana town wrote the book on heritage tourism. During Madison’s down-and-out days, residents restored rather than demolished old buildings. “By the early 1900s Madison, because of its beauty and charm, was starting to attract tourists, and people started restoring,” Staicer says.

More on this story from Preservation magazine.

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.

 

923 St. Maurice, before.

923 St. Maurice, before.

On Friday, September 5, the mayor, invoking his emergency powers, issued an executive order suspending demolition review by the Neighborhood Conservation District Committee (NCDC), the body designed to keep an eye on properties in National Register and older neighborhoods outside of the local historic districts. The committee's normally-scheduled meeting the previous Monday had been scuttled by the city's mandatory evacuation due to Hurricane Gustav. The mayor's action triggered a flurry of activity within the Department of Safety and Permits, which began to write demolition permits at an accelerated pace for the next two weeks. By 5:00 p.m. on Friday, September 19 (when the mayor's executive order was rescinded), about 200 permits had been written.

At least 18 properties under the jurisdiction of the NCDC were demolished this past week, including an especially tragic one at 923-25 St. Maurice Street, just outside the boundaries of the local Holy Cross historic district. The property had been cited as an imminent health threat and was on the agenda of the September meeting of the NCDC, which was canceled due to the mayor’s order. I went to City Hall Wednesday morning and talked to a staff member of Councilwoman Cynthia Willard-Lewis in whose district the house is located, urging the staff member to relay to the councilwoman that the house was not in imminent danger of collapse and could be saved.

923 St. Maurice, after.

923 St. Maurice, after.

Later that day, Willard-Lewis scolded the preservation community at the City Council recovery committee meeting, while commending the city inspectors for making their decisions "based on science, not on emotions." The house was demolished. It turns out that the city assessor’s office had not properly updated the ownership records for the St. Maurice house, so all attempts to reach the owner were too late to save the building. The wife of the couple owning the house had lost her job with the public school district after Katrina, we learned when the owner finally was reached — but most heart-breaking, was the fact that the couple had just received their Road Home money to repair the house. Had Willard-Lewis stepped in and stopped the demolition, the house — and the family — would have had a whole different story. Had there been a public hearing on the proposed demolition, the likelihood of the correct owner being identified would also have increased.

The incompetence of code enforcement throughout the city continued to be recorded by the local media this past week. In one story, a woman who had evacuated the city for hurricane Gustav returned to find her home in New Orleans East demolished. In another case, the city’s code enforcement department cited and fined the owner of an occupied commercial building in New Orleans East for blight and threatened demolition. See the two links below for details:

http://www.wdsu.com/news/17501325/detail.html

http://www.wwltv.com/local/stories/wwl091808mlcrowder.8d14595f.html

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.