Meeting Mr. Wright in Minneapolis

Posted on: October 6th, 2007 by Margaret Foster 1 Comment

 

Purcell-Cutts HouseWalking into a Frank Lloyd Wright house is a little like entering a National Park. Something shifts and suddenly everything around you is richer, calmer, more beautiful than the rest of the world.

The first stop on yesterday’s sold-out bus tour, “Restoring Frank Lloyd Wright and Prairie School Structures in Minneapolis,” was Redeemer Missionary Baptist Church, one of the few Prairie-style churches ever built. Architects Purcell and Feick designed the 1910 church with horizontal lines and square motifs reminiscent of city blocks. Inside the churchy-smelling sanctuary, restoration architect Robert Mack showed us how his firm hid a baptismal font behind the wood-paneled altar. He stepped back, and the panel descended, revealing a tub, Murphy bed-style. “That was one of the more clever things that I’ve done,” Mack said. (The National Trust gave an Honor Award to the project in 2001.)... 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.

Can an Arena Help a Neighborhood?

Posted on: October 5th, 2007 by Sarah Heffern 1 Comment

 

Businesses along West Seventh Street, St. Paul, MN.I discovered the Xcel Energy Center on Sunday night, when I had the good fortune to get to see the Minnesota Wild play their final pre-season hockey game (which they won -- yeah! -- though that's relevant neither to the story nor the Wild's standings). I didn't know it at the time, but I would be returning to the vicinity of the arena repeatedly, as the adjacent RiverCentre was the conference headquarters. I also hadn't realized that the "From Immigrants to Sports Fans: Transformations in the West Seventh Street Neighborhood" tour for which I was registered was focused on the area immediately surrounding the Xcel Center -- though had the title specified hockey fans, I might have caught on a bit sooner.

I decided to take this particular tour because I wanted to see how St. Paul handled development in the surrounding area. Washington, DC, my home for nearly 10 years, built an arena in Chinatown just before my arrival that inspired a tremendous economic boom, but also caused the flight of the immigrant population who gave the neighborhood its name. With the exception of the arch over H Street and Chinese characters on the signs for chain restaurants and shops, the streets surrounding the Verizon Center could be anywhere. The local character has been erased almost completely. I needed this tour to tell me that other cities find a way to combine growth and development with maintaining the unique flavor of a neighborhood.

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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.

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.

Green and Affordable Historic Housing

Posted on: October 5th, 2007 by Patrice Frey 1 Comment

 

Hello from St. Paul! Friday’s conference line-up includes several panels on integrating green building practices and historic preservation. Our panel this morning on "Green Affordable Housing in Historic Buildings" featured three experts from the private and non-profit sector. The overall message: historic buildings can be excellent vehicles for developing green and affordable housing – though these projects are certainly not without their challenges.

The panelists discussed a number of green features that they incorporate into their buildings, such as solar panels, upgraded HVAC systems and low VOC paint. In many instances, high-tech green features can be incorporated sensitively into these projects (for example, high parapets on commercial buildings can serve as visual shield for solar panels.) But the session also included a frank discussion about the trade-offs that are sometimes needed in affordable and green rehabilitation projects – such as replacing historic windows with new windows because newer windows can be easier to operate and are maintenance-free. Lead-based paint on historic windows can also be costly to abate – especially on tight construction budgets.

See more details about all of our panelists below – and look for links to their power points soon.... 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.

St. Paul by Candlelight

Posted on: October 5th, 2007 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

So, blogging, huh? Well, I’ve never blug before, but here goes.

Before I get to the main issue at hand, I have some instructions for you. Whatever you’re doing, stop it. I mean it -- stop reading this, back away from the computer, book a flight to the Twin Cities (you don’t need a visa), and take a cab to the St. Paul City Hall. It’s a handsome enough building on the outside, but what you want to see is the lobby, aka Memorial Hall. The long, narrow, tall space is walled with shiny black marble and topped with a gold mirrored ceiling -- trust me, if Lenin had been a mad old drag queen, this is what his tomb would look like -- and at one end is an eye-popping 36-foot-high statue of onyx so shiny that it looks as if it’s been bathed in oil. It’s called “The Vision of Peace,” it was created by the well-known sculptor Carl Milles, and there’s not much more I can say about it except to assure you that it’s absolutely dazzling and unique, and you need to see it.

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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.

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.

From the Front Lines of Property Rights Battles

Posted on: October 5th, 2007 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Today in sunny Saint Paul, the National Trust Board of Advisors and a large group of fellow preservationists gathered to talk about "Property Rights Battles: Views from the Front Lines."

For those not familiar with the structure of the National Trust, the Board of Advisors is not the National Trust for Historic Preservation's governing board—that's the Board of Trustees. Instead, the Board of Advisors is a group of more than 100 volunteers who act as eyes and ears in places where the National Trust has no permanent staff presence and who complement and augment the knowledge, skills, and contacts of staff, offering always needed and frequently heeded counsel on emerging issues and trends.

Given their record of dynamism, it might seem odd that the advisors chose the theme of property rights for their sponsored session for the third year running. What's up with that? Hasn't this drum been beaten long enough? Judging from the sellout crowd, the answer is a resounding "no."

Of course, if, like me, you hail from the West, these battles are hard to ignore. A bit of background: In 2004, Oregon voters approved Measure 37, which essentially gutted Oregon's groundbreaking land-use protections that have been in place since 1973. Close on the heels of the Oregon fiasco, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Kelo v. New London in 2005.

At today's session, Dwight Merriam of Connecticut was able to add some local color to the Kelo story, including the stranger-than-fiction Christmas card that Mrs. Kelo sent out (cue scary movie music). As Mr. Merriam outlined, this case quickly became a cause celebre among private property rights advocates, who saw in Kelo the long arm of the law stretching way too close for comfort. They also saw an opportunity to push a much broader property-rights agenda.

... 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.