Preserving the Pre-Historic: You may have heard of such initiatives promoting the preservation of the modern and recent past, well how about projects that worked towards preserving the exact opposite--all while incorporating modern design and materials? Earth Architecture provides some interesting photos from a 1930's project to protect Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. " Perhaps nowhere is the blending of modernity and tradition more evident than at the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. Casa Grande was constructed between AD 1200-1450 by the Native American Hohokam near Phoenix, Arizona. In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison created the Casa Grande Ruin Reservation to protect the one of a kind "Casa Grande", or Great House, thus becoming the first prehistoric and cultural site to be established in the United States." [Earth Architecture]

Saving the Economy with Preservation: "Think about it historically – preservation was rife in the Great Depression in places like Charleston and Greenwich Village. This was the time of sweat equity, and that community-oriented effort continued into the 1960s and gave us the modern preservation movement: a movement about communities taking control of their environment." [Time Tells]

Undulating Brick Walls: "A brick is a modular masonry unit, something that wouldn't appear to "want to be" composed into undulating surfaces. Of course this doesn't stop architects from trying, from using limitations as inspiration and opportunities for doing something new." Daily Dose uses some examples from modern architecture to show the innovative ways in which architects have attempted to bend and shape brick walls and forms outside of their supposed 'naturally' flat state of being. [Daily Dose of Architecture]

Montpelier Restoration Update: The grand opening has come and gone, but restoration work continues at the National Trust Historic Site. [Montpelier Restoration Updates]

Dude, Where's My Car?: A former impound lot in downtown Minneapolis could find new life as "multi-unit housing and a corporate campus." [Star Tribune]

21st Century Street Designers Reimagine 4th Ave and 9th: "Transportation Alternatives announced three winners today in their "Designing the 21st Century Street," competition, which sought new visions for the heavily-trafficked intersection of 4th Avenue and 9th Street in Park Slope. The intersection is notoriously dreary and annoying, with pedestrians coming from the east forced to cross several lanes of traffic to get to the shabby elevated F station, which will be renovated someday maybe, the MTA swears." [Gothamist]

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 Trusts in Action Around the World

Posted on: November 10th, 2008 by David J. Brown


Bratislava, Slovakia's Old Town area.

The Old Town area of Bratislava.

On our third and final day of meetings for the Executive Committee of the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO) in Bratislava, we wrapped up all the detail work that any board has to address. But after the budget was approved, annual plans reviewed, and grant proposals considered, our hosts from the National Trust of Slovakia invited us to join them in an afternoon that put all our work in perspective.

One of the reasons for meeting in Bratislava was to help reinforce the important work of the Slovakian National Trust and to provide its supporters with ideas from National Trusts around the world. So with the help of the Directorate for Education and Culture for the European Commission, the 10 National Trusts represented at the meeting joined in a symposium to demonstrate partnerships between national governments and the private or non-government organization (NGO) sector.

For four hours we heard presentations and saw photographs of how preservationists and conservationists (as we are often called in Europe) are making a real difference in people’s lives. From Australia, Simon Molesworth – INTO’s chairman – told how the Australian Council of National Trusts’ 10 Most Endangered Historic Places list was instrumental in stopping a major waterside development in North Bank, Brisbane, that would have effectively severed all connection between a historic community and its residents and the ocean that was their heritage.

Indian National Trust Chairman S.K. Misrah was forceful in showing how INTACH was using heritage to provide job training, skills, and livelihoods for some of his country’s most impoverished – and oldest – places. I’ve seen INTACH’s work in person and believe that they have built a powerful program that provides critical support to help people live because they respect and support local traditions and heritage.

There were more presentations that spoke to critical work of National Trusts. The Bermuda Trust under Nicola O’Leary’s leadership was working closely with local government to push consideration of the harmful affects of hotel over-building – before the hotels were built. Simon Murray of the National Trust in the United Kingdom spoke of their pioneering work in combating climate change through good conservation practices at the vast holdings of the Trust, including 1/3 of the coast line in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Support for best practices in land conservation on local agricultural lands in Canada, protection for more than 130 of the most historic and beautiful places in The Netherlands, and work to raise awareness in Ireland were just other examples from a very full afternoon.

After participating in the partnership symposium, I came away convinced that we’re making an important difference in the lives of people from all walks of life all around the globe. And for that all of us – whether we call ourselves preservationists or conservationists – can take a short victory lap before we return to the never-ending work at hand.


David J. Brown is Executive Vice President of 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.

Prestigious AIA Award for Decatur House Restoration Project

Posted on: November 7th, 2008 by Barbara Campagna 1 Comment


The Award

Restoration of entry & stair halls, standing in the entry hall looking into the stair hall. (Photo © Dan Redmond)

Restoration of entry & stair halls, standing in the entry hall looking into the stair hall. (Photo © Dan Redmond)

The AIA/DC awarded the Stephen Decatur House Museum in Washington, DC a Design Excellence Award for Historic Resources on Thursday, October 30 for the Restoration of Benjamin Latrobe's Entry Hall and Stair Hall. This is a beautiful and nuanced restoration project which demonstrates that if you couple a sound preservation methodology with a passionate and collaborative design and construction team, the result can be one which reactivates an entire building, even though its actual physical scope and budget may be small.


Benjamin Henry Latrobe, one of the giants of early American architecture, designed this Federal townhouse for naval commodore Stephen Decatur in 1817. The Decaturs only lived there together for less than two years before Decatur was killed in a duel on March 22, 1820. The National Trust for Historic Preservation acquired the building as a historic site in 1956. In 1960, it was designated a National Historic Landmark and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. Located across Lafayette Park from the White House, Decatur House remains at the center of Washington’s social activities and indeed its carriage house rental space is one of the most sought after special event spaces in the city.

The Restoration Project
(condensed from the AIA Application prepared by Davis Buckley Architects & Planners)

Entry hall before restoration, looking at front door.

Entry hall before restoration, looking at front door.

Over the past century, evolving ownership led to architectural and decorative transformations within the structure. The National Trust undertook the restoration of the entry hall and the main stair hall – two of the building’s most significant intact architectural spaces. These rooms retain features of Benjamin Henry Latrobe’s original design, including: projecting and receding moldings, a vaulted and domed ceiling in the entry hall, cornerblocks decorated with rosettes, and niches in the entry hall and on the staircase. The entry hall is approximately 81 square feet and the main stair hall consists of approximately 162 square feet, on two levels.

The restoration project: conserved the original architectural fabric found in the entry hall and stair hall; removed later features (including telephone and electrical elements, door and window hardware, and a late 19th century wood floor); replicated the original paint colors; and re-established missing original features. The architect researched the documentation in the National Trust’s files, and reviewed a 1990 Historic Structures Report, HABS drawings, paint analysis, and primary resources such as Latrobe’s design drawing “Detail of the Hall of Commodore Decatur” house in a collection at the Library of Congress. The priorities were to restore the character and articulation of Latrobe’s original design while preserving as much of the existing historic fabric as possible. Various technical measures were taken to achieve these priorities.

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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

Does the National Trust Model Have Value in Developing Countries?

Posted on: November 7th, 2008 by David J. Brown


Old town Bratislava.

Old town Bratislava.

On the first day of the annual Executive Committee meeting for the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO), more than a dozen representatives from National Trusts around the globe gathered in Bratislava, Slovakia, to focus on our work for the years ahead. INTO was established last December in a burst of celebration at the 12th International Conference of National Trusts in New Delhi, India. Since then we’ve hired part-time staff, engaged two high-level volunteer directors, and established an office in London.

But the hard work lies ahead. We have to take the vision and promise of INTO and translate that into an aspirational yet achievable plan that helps existing National Trusts while encouraging and supporting new organizations in countries without similar non-governmental advocacy groups.

We sat down this morning with Alan Hunt from The National Trust of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Alan has the wonderfully descriptive title “Head of Foresight” and he helped us think through what an organization made up of disparate organizations could do to be effective in the 21st century. We talked about building on the power of networks that already exist as well as ones that we help build. With the impact of the Obama campaign’s transformational use of the Internet fresh on everyone’s minds, we spoke of the need for staff and leaders who were flexible, nimble, strategic, and savvy in the ways of today’s communication tools. We agonized over the program priorities that would have the most impact in saving historic places.

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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.

Oil and Gas Leases Threaten Nine Mile Canyon

Posted on: November 7th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation


Earl Ivan White)

Truck traffic threatens prehistoric rock art in Nine Mile Canyon. (Photo: Earl Ivan White)

Late last week, media reports revealed a plan by the Bureau of Land Management to sell oil and gas leases in areas of Utah that contain some the nation’s most significant cultural resources, including ancient rock art in the Nine Mile Canyon region. The reports suggested that these potential sales are being conducted with unusual haste in an effort to complete the sales before the administration changes in January of 2009.

While fully detailed maps of the affected areas are not yet available, we have managed to get some additional information on the specific parcels that would be affected. Unfortunately, it looks like they include thousands of acres within Nine Mile Canyon, which many people call the "World’s Longest Art Gallery."

Specifically, the sale contains at least 21 parcels totaling approx. 36,000 acres that are either partially or entirely within the Nine Mile Canyon Area of Critical Environmental Concern (which covers a total of 70,368 acres). Although BLM will sell the leases with No Surface Occupancy (NSO) stipulations - which generally prohibit the lessees from constructing wells, pipelines and other types of oil and gas infrastructure within the boundaries of the leases - BLM will not prohibit or restrain the lessees from using Nine Mile Canyon and its principal side canyons to access project areas on the West Tavaputs Plateau.

So, if issued, the leases will in all probability increase industrial traffic levels in the canyon. This is bad news. As those who have followed this issue know, it is the dust kicked up by heavy truck traffic through the Canyon that is causing damage to the rock art (also harmful are the chemical suppressants that ameliorate some of the dust, but also contribute to the degradation of the rock art).

We will continue to monitor the situation closely, but from what we’ve learned thus far, the BLM’s proposal would further increase truck traffic through the Canyon and dramatically exacerbate the damage to thousands of irreplaceable cultural artifacts.

-- Ti Hays & Virgil McDill

Ti Hays is the Public Lands Counsel and Virgil McDill is the Communications Manager 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.