Dallas Hotel Sparks Community Conversation

Posted on: September 19th, 2008 by Dolores McDonagh

 

Every morning we get an email called "Preservation in the News" that includes links to news stories that mention the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Since by some act of God my schedule today is actually bereft of meetings, I actually took a few minutes to read the "feed" and came across this story in Unfair Park, the online blog of the Dallas Observer about the Statler Hilton Hotel, listed on this year's 11 Most Endangered list. The story talks about the city's dilemma with the abandoned hotel but what really struck me were the comments made on the story by Dallas residents (Dallas-ians? Dallans? Dallasites?). Reading the comments was a fascinating experience. At first, I felt like an eavesdropper, listening in on a married couple's argument at the next dinner table.  Then, I felt like an urban planning grad student, getting into the past and possible future of a city I'd never visited.

As a preservationist, I wanted to only love the comments from people advocating to save and reuse the Statler and find nothing but buffoonery in those giving other opinions. But I couldn't -- because in almost every comment I found a love of Dallas and a common desire for finding the best future for their downtown and city. And I took encouragement from the fact that even those who weren't advocating preservation weren't accusing preservationists of "blocking progress" -- which I think shows how we're having some success convincing Americans that preservation isn't JUST about preserving the past, but also about helping to define our future.

I will share my favorite comment, even though I'm not sure john's a preservationist:

john k. says:

I only wish downtown were like it was in the 50's. Before the $4.00 mixed drinks. Before the old library closed. Before the Dalls Police Department quit enforcing the traffic laws and let the Constables do it. Before the Internet. Before the tunnel which put most of the daily pedestrians under neath the city. Before the hotels quet having named entertainment in their big rooms. Before, Jack Ruby and Oswald put Dallas on the map as a bad place. Before, when Dalls women needed some time before going to bed with a stranger. We all got to know each other better and loved being here as one of the best places in the United States to live.

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.

James Madison's Montpelier: Restoration Celebration

Posted on: September 18th, 2008 by Matt Ringelstetter

 

"If you're looking for Madison's memorial, look around. Look around at a free country, governed by the rule of law." With these words, Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts presided over the opening of the newly restored physical memorial to the life of our nation's fourth president.

In addition to being the home of the Madison family for nearly 80 years, and the building where, in the mid-1780's, James Madison crafted the Virginia Plan--a major influence at the Constitutional Convention of 1787--Montpelier can now lay claim to be what National Trust for Historic Preservation President Richard Moe calls, "the biggest, most complex, most ambitious research and restoration project in the history of the National Trust and probably in the history of the nation." On Wednesday, September 17 (Constitution Day) with several thousand in attendance, the ribbon was cut, signaling the completion of Montpelier's five year architectural restoration.

Built around 1764 by James Madison's father, the house went through several additions by the family before

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

the President's death in 1836 and the selling of the estate by his wife Dolley in 1844. The history of the estate does not end there, as later families who called Montpelier home added their own unique touches to the property. Most notable amongst these was the duPont family whose purchase in 1901 by Delaware native William was soon followed by the eventual transformation of Montpelier into a luxurious country home. The duPonts expanded the house from 26 rooms to a total of 55. The family also added a second story to each of the Madison-era wings and rooms to the rear of the building--additions that doubled the square-footage of the home.

In 1928, William duPont’s daughter Marion duPont Scott inherited the estate and continued to add her own personal flavor to Montpelier. Known around the world for her equestrian interests, the duPont heiress added a race track and other facilities on the grounds. Her exquisite Art Deco “Red Room” displayed trophies and the photos of winning thoroughbreds. Marion, however, was also interested in history, and understood the significance of the home in the context of the American nation. This led to her wish to have Montpelier restored to its Madison-era appearance in her will.... 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.

Notes from New Orleans: News Update — Mayor to Rescind Executive Order

Posted on: September 18th, 2008 by Walter Gallas

 

Still standing: A demolition permit was issued for this craftsman-style house at 1716 S. Gayoso in New Orleans' Broadmoor neighborhood this week, even though it is not in imminent danger of collapse nor was it cited as an imminent health threat.

Still standing: A demolition permit was issued for this craftsman-style house on S. Gayoso in New Orleans' Broadmoor neighborhood this week, even though it is not in imminent danger of collapse nor was it cited as an imminent health threat.

Mayor Nagin announced before the City Council's recovery committee yesterday afternoon that he will lift the executive order which suspends the functions of the Neighborhood Conservation District Committee on Friday at 5 pm. This is a committee charged with the review of demolition applications in National Register and other older neighborhood districts not within one of the local historic districts. His executive order sought to speed the process of demolishing buildings that were in imminent danger of collapse -- a power he already had without any order.

We think the executive order was a misguided effort, opening the door to more mischief among the sanitation department, code enforcement officials, demolition contractors, and property owners eager to clear properties throughout the city. Why the executive order couldn't be lifted sooner is not clear. We are going to try to determine -- of the properties for which demolition permits have been written since the executive order--how many of them were improperly issued because they did not in fact pose a threat of collapse, but rather had been swept up in the net as properties the city had cited as imminent health threats.

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.

Flood Waters Have Receded at World-Famous Farnsworth House

Posted on: September 16th, 2008 by Barbara Campagna 2 Comments

 

After two days, staff and volunteers at Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois can finally reach it without a boat, albeit waders!

View into the Farnsworth House through the front door after the waters receded.

View into the Farnsworth House through the front door after the waters receded.

The flood waters started to recede yesterday morning, and unlike the flood of 1996 when the waters rose over 4’ into the house, it appears it was about 18” above the floor level this time. Our very ingenious low-tech way of raising the furniture on plastic milk crates worked and not one of them was displaced.

With that said, we are trying to evaluate the impact to the building and it will be some time before the full impact to the historic site and landscape can be fully understood. The existing primavera wood wardrobe does have water damage along the bottom which will be evaluated by a conservator, as do the other fixed-in-place wood panels. The famous primavera wood panels in the living room were demounted and safely stored on top of the “core”.

No glass was broken and the travertine floors on the interior seem only mildly dirty. We still don’t know the full impact to the mechanical and electrical systems but are hopeful since most of the equipment is located more than 18” above the floor. Several very large trees were literally uprooted and getting an arborist in to determine the safety of some of the other trees is a priority.

Because there is massive disaster recovery occurring all over the country right now, getting the insurance

The Farnsworth House as the waters recede.

The Farnsworth House as the waters recede.

adjusters to the house may take a week or more. In the mean time, our dedicated Director, Whitney French, and her staff and volunteers will be working with engineers, restoration recovery companies and conservators to make the most informed restoration decisions. As a result, the site is closed for tours for the remainder of 2008. While we understand that people who have planned trips in advance and purchased tickets are very disappointed that their tours have been cancelled, please understand that this is necessary, not only to facilitate the physical recovery of the building and landscape, but to ensure the life safety of our staff and visitors. Any questions, please feel free to email me at Barbara_campagna@nthp.org .

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.

 

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Modernism in Greensboro: The "Gate City" has developed a reputation as a center of Modernism in the southeast. [Greensboro's Treasured Places]

Interpreting Slavery at Historic Sites: With the inclusion of "history from below" into many historic sites and museums, topics such as slavery need to be interpreted alongside more traditional areas. Max Van Balgooy details the strategies for interpreting these unique histories laid out at a recent meeting of the America Association for State and Local History, held in Rochester, NY. [National Trust Historic Sites]

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.