Rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Ike floods the Farnsworth House

Rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Ike floods the Farnsworth House, September 2008.

Unfortunately, Texas is not the only state impacted by Ike and the other tropical storms. Our National Trust Historic Site and National Historic Landmark, Farnsworth House , designed by Mies van der Rohe and opened in 1951 is under water. Tropical Storm Lowell and now Ike are behind the rains that are still pummeling the Midwest.  The flood waters continue to rise. It has been raining with flood waters rising since Friday night. Unlike the story many of you have heard about the flood last August at the house, the rains/floods have not stopped 6” below the entrance and the house now has at least 1 foot of water in it.

Water from the Fox River entering the Farnsworth House

Water from the Fox River entering the Farnsworth House, September 2008.

Our director, Whitney French, and a host of volunteers from Landmarks Illinois , our partner and manager of the site, worked tirelessly last night to secure the house before it got dark. There is really little that can be done beyond lifting all the furniture on plastic milk crates (a system we devised last August when confronted with similar flooding) and turning the electricity off. The house was built in a hundred year flood plain, but if you read my previous posting on disaster planning – climate change has significantly impacted so many of our regions, including Plano Illinois. In the 60 years since the house was built, there have been 60 floods and now 7 hundred-year floods.

Securing the furniture in the Farnsworth House - a photo from last August.

Securing the furniture in the Farnsworth House - a photo from last August.

There is about 1 foot of water INSIDE the house. All the furniture was raised but there is nothing further that can be done, and in fact the house is pretty close to being unreachable, as the entire community is underwater and it is a very dire situation. Three bridges between the town and the house are now out. Whitney is now fearful for her house and is working to protect her house and family. The rain is still coming down and is not showing any signs of letting up. We will get the insurance ball rolling tomorrow morning, but in the mean time we can just hope and pray that the rains stop and that the community and its citizens are safe. And send good wishes and karma to Whitney and her family.

The house and tours are closed for the foreseeable future. Access to the house currently is only by boat, and this is not safe. The ironic thing of course, is that with the house sitting on 5 foot stilts, it is incredibly evocative as this photo at the top of this posting shows - taken last year when the floods did stop before entering the house. We will keep everyone apprised and ask you to give Whitney and the staff of Landmarks Illinois the space and time they will need to recover.

Below is a video on YouTube that one of our intrepid volunteers, Denny Frantzen, took last night, before the floodwaters entered the house.

Updated to include newly-received photos from today's flooding.

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.

 

Thirty colleagues representing many of our sites met with me in Monterey,CA earlier this week to discuss

Buildings & Grounds Staff visited Cooper-Molera Adobe in downtown Monterey.

Buildings & Grounds Staff visited Cooper-Molera Adobe in downtown Monterey.

Disaster Planning and Sustainable Practices. Every few years we get together during our Buildings & Grounds Conference to share experiences, policies and the ups and downs of managing buildings and grounds at our National Historic Landmark sites. This year our partner, California State Parks , helped arrange our retreat at Asilomar, their Julia Morgan-designed National Historic Landmark conference center by the ocean. With no televisions or phones and WiFi only in the Phoebe Hearst Social Hall, it’s the perfect place to evaluate our place on the planet and the impact we’re having on the climate crisis.

More and More Natural Disasters

The National Trust currently has 29 historic sites across the country which represent the diverse story of

Ice storms descended on Brucemore in Cedar Rapids last December.

Ice storms descended on Brucemore in Cedar Rapids last December.

America. And unfortunately nearly all of them seem to be located in natural disaster-prone regions. Although when I start to look at our sites, it becomes clear that there probably isn’t any area of our country that is totally safe at all times. In just the past year, we have had a hundred year flood at the Farnsworth House that just missed flooding the house; two microbursts at Cliveden and Lyndhurst which caused major tree damage and electrical damage; a tropical storm at Villa Finale in San Antonio (a site which hasn’t even officially opened); monsoon-like storms that destroyed barns and trees at Belle Grove , Oatlands and Montpelier all in Virginia; two ice storms ransacked Brucemore in Cedar Rapids last December and then this summer, Brucemore, which sits on a hill, served as ground zero for first responders to all the other cultural institutions in Cedar Rapids that were significantly damaged from their catastrophic floods , and just last week there was enough Gustav-induced damage at Shadows-on-the-Teche in New Iberia, LA to keep the Director from attending our conference. And so, in the 60 years since Mies van der Rohe designed the Farnsworth House in Plano, IL, there have been 60 floods – 6 of which were 100 year floods and 5 of our sites have braced for hurricanes in the past two weeks.... 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.

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.

Structural Engineers, Architects Needed to Volunteer Post-Ike

Posted on: September 12th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 6 Comments

 

Once again, the Gulf Coast braces for another hurricane.

Early reports from preservationists in Texas indicate that historic structures in Galveston will sustain significant damage from Hurricane Ike. The National Trust for Historic Preservation is in contact with our Partners at the Galveston Historical Foundation (GHF) and they have asked us to begin collecting names of structural engineers and architects who are willing to travel to the region as soon as the area is open to non-residents to conduct structural assessments of buildings. If you are an engineer or architect and would be willing to serve on a volunteer team, fill out our short survey.

We are also seeking donations to support our continuing hurricane recovery efforts.

Our thoughts are with our colleagues -- and all the residents of the Gulf Coast as they prepare for Ike.

-- Dolores McDonagh

Dolores McDonagh is vice president of membership 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.

Charity Hospital: "New Life for a Cultural Icon"

Posted on: September 12th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 10 Comments

 

RMJM Hillier, an internationally recognized architectural firm, produced a detailed four-minute video, “New Life for a Cultural Icon,” that outlines the history of Charity Hospital, and the feasibility of reusing it to provide high quality, 21st century medical care to residents of New Orleans. The results of RMJM Hillier’s assessment prove that ‘Big Charity’ possesses the infrastructure required to modernize this spectacular 1938 Art Deco Hospital.

This video features a brief history of the hospital, the proposed state-of-the-art improvements for the facility, and a specific vision of how this contemporary hospital would improve the quality of life for people in this unique city.

Richard Moe, President of The National Trust for Historic Preservation said, "this report confirms what we've long believed: Charity Hospital is a viable candidate for rehabilitation and reuse. By rehabbing Charity and preserving the 25 blocks of historic houses around it, New Orleans can get two things it desperately needs: top-quality medical facilities and livable in-town neighborhoods."

Emily Courtney, 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.

September 11th and the Preservation of Memory

Posted on: September 11th, 2008 by Matt Ringelstetter

 

Today marks the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, and while the National Trust for Historic Preservation works hard to preserve buildings, landscapes and neighborhoods, it is important to note that one of our fundamental goals is the preservation of memory through the use of these tangible remainders. Place and memory are concepts that oftentimes interact, with places acting as containers for the collective memories of a particular society or group. From these collective memories, a sense of identity can be derived. Without the buildings, objects, and places that preservationists are concerned with saving, we as a society run the risk of losing the physical pieces that help tie us to a collective identity--whether it be regional, national, or even global.

Two years ago—as we do every spring—the National Trust for Historic Preservation unveiled its list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. One of these places was the World Trade Center’s Vesey Street Staircase. Known as the “Survivors’ Stairway,” due to the hundreds of people who used it to evacuate the towers during the attacks, the staircase was the last remaining above-ground feature of the World Trade Center, it was also in danger of being lost forever. Construction and development of a memorial site around the area where the Towers once stood threatened the stairs with demolition. This drew the attention of preservationists and everyday citizens alike to the question of how to most appropriately save this important reminder of the attacks and of those who were directly affected by them. Unquestionable for its historic value, the preservation of this 175 ton piece of concrete and steel is more important for the symbolic nature of what it represents. These were the stairs that people who survived the chaos of that morning used to exit the building, they were also used as the entrance for rescue workers to enter the building in order to help those still inside. In addition, the Survivors Stairway is a tangible piece of the September 11th attacks that itself survived, and holds the memory of all those who did not.

Saving the stairway took the efforts of numerous organizations combined with public support via letters to important decision-makers. Groups such as the Lower Manhattan Emergency Preservation Fund, the Preservation League of New York State, the World Monuments Fund, the Municipal Art Society, and the New York Landmarks Conservancy all aided in the process and in March of this year, the stairway was moved out of the path of construction and to a temporary location. In July, the stairs were placed within the foundations of the Memorial where visitors will eventually be able to view them next to the functional staircase as they use them to descend into the museum and experience the site at bedrock level.

The memorial itself is estimated for completion in 2011, and is titled Reflecting Absence, a reference to its attempt to incite thinking on two buildings long-associated with the New York skyline which have been lost forever. In a September 16, 2001 New York Times article, Michael J. Lewis stated that:

"In their absence, the World Trade Center towers are more a monument than ever. The physical void they leave is itself a poignant memorial, an aching emptiness that is the architectural counterpart to human loss."

Besides rows of trees and two waterfall-fed pools representing the areas where the buildings once stood, the memorial will include the names of victims from both towers, the Pentagon and the four flights which crashed in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania on September 11th, 2001. The Pentagon opened its memorial this morning, and one planned for the Pennsylvania crash site is due to be finished in 2011.

The addition of a tangible, lasting piece of the buildings that did make it through the attacks is interesting when compared to the overall World Trade Center memorial itself, which focuses upon absence, emptiness and the recollection of things that are missing. The inclusion of the appropriately titled Survivors Stairway reminds us that some things did survive the catastrophe—both those who made it out, along with the memories of those who did not—and that we are still here as a nation and global community, whether it be one year after the attack or seven.

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.