Rooted in Preservation

Posted on: October 10th, 2007 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

St. Paul, fading into darkness. (Warren Shaver)(This post was written as part of PreservationNation’s coverage of the National Preservation Conference, October 2-6, 2007.)

From "Root Shock" to root vegetables, the two keynote speeches of the 2007 National Preservation Conference's Closing Plenary differed in their respective topics, but at root (do you get the theme here?), Dr. Mindy Fullilove and Arlin Wasserman shared a key value that is also near and dear to the preservationists sitting in the audience: the critical importance of place.

As we filed in to the Orpheum Theater in downtown Minneapolis on Saturday morning (past many of our familiar colleagues clad in some very unfamiliar attire: straw hats and bandannas. Hmmm, could all of these people have lost a bet, or was it a collective overreaction to Garrison Keillor's admonition that preservationists need to lighten up? More on this mystery in a minute), we were looking forward to an interesting double-bill.

Dr. Fullilove is a social psychologist who focuses on the psychological harm done to individuals when their community is dispersed and their social networks are disrupted. Wasserman, whose work focuses on "terroir"—French for "the taste of place"—is a self-described "foodie" who travels the globe tasting some of the world's greatest food. Wasserman's work forces him to drink Champagne in France, sample arugula in Cuba, and seek out iced cider in Quebec.

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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.

Making Space for Art

Posted on: October 10th, 2007 by Sarah Heffern

 

The multi-story lobby of the Tilsner Artists’ Cooperative in St. Paul

(This post was written as part of PreservationNation’s coverage of the National Preservation Conference, October 2-6, 2007.)

It's a fairly common occurrence that artists are often the earliest residents in neighborhoods, such as warehouse districts, overcoming years of neglect. With the cachet of a vibrant arts community, more and more people and businesses choose to locate in these areas, leading to an economic upturn. The downside, however, is that rents move beyond what artists can afford to pay, and as a result, they end up evicted from very places their presence made "cool."

Friday morning dawned rainy in St. Paul, but it didn't seem to dampen anyone's enthusiasm for a field session called "Adapting Historic Buildings for Artists" -- a look at the work of Artspace, a nationwide nonprofit that started in the Twin Cities. The organization's goal is to create affordable housing for artists, eliminating the "Soho effect," the problem outlined above, so called for the once-artsy, now trendy Manhattan 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.

Vinyl Angst

Posted on: October 10th, 2007 by Patrice Frey

 

Blissfully, this morning the Trust’s e-mail is down. (Not that I don’t enjoy each of the 150 messages I get every day, but it’s good to get away from it.) So I’ll take this opportunity to skip the Morning Roundup – since much of my news comes from Google Alerts dumped in my inbox -- and talk about something that’s really bothering me and still very relevant to discussions about green building: vinyl, and specifically the vinyl I now own.

I just bought a teeny tiny condo in a historic building. I adore it. The problem? My closet doors are made of vinyl – that nasty substance made from PVC, or poly vinyl chloride that is sometimes referred to as the “poison plastic.” PVC is a derived from fossil fuel – usually oil or natural gas -- and chlorine. The PVC manufacturing process produces highly toxic (read carcinogenic) chemicals, especially dioxins. And it’s the gift that keeps on giving because at the end of its life cycle, PVCs release even more dioxins if they are incinerated. According to the US Green Building Council, burning PVCs in landfills may now be the single largest source of dioxin release in the United States.

There are claims that PVC has been linked to cancer and birth defects, though not everyone agrees there is conclusive evidence of its toxicity. For example, vinyl manufacturers insist that the manufacturing of vinyl is highly-regulated and well controlled process, and does not present a public health hazard in the manufacturing, use, or disposal stages of it life cycle. I trust them, don’t you?

PVC is the material of choice for window manufacturers – witness those vinyl windows you see everywhere. Some green building advocates sing the praises of these windows because of their thermal resistance, while others have smartened-up about vinyl's enormous life cycle costs. For a thoughtful commentary on the choice between vinyl and wood windows – see the House In Progress Diary, a blog on the renovation of a 1900 bungalow.

So back to my problem – vinyl closet doors. They mock me and my environmental sensibilities, and I long to replace them with some wood doors – even a curtain would be better. But instead, I'm stuck with them. Because being stuck with them -- forever -- is the most environmentally responsible thing to do, since there isn't anywhere dispose of them safely. And that’s exactly the problem with Vinyl.

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.

Edith Wharton's Prize

Posted on: October 9th, 2007 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

The MountOne of the National Preservation Honor Awards, announced last week, went to The Mount, American author Edith Wharton's estate in Lenox, Mass. Since its reopening in 2002, it has become one of the most renowned literary landmarks in the country, drawing 30,000 visitors annually.

Wharton purchased the property in 1902 and renovated it according to her own design. "This place, every line of which is my own work, far surpasses The House of Mirth," Wharton once wrote in a letter. At The Mount, Wharton wrote The House of Mirth and Ethan Frome and entertained fellow literary stars such as Henry James. After a scandalous divorce in 1911, she left The Mount and moved to France, where she lived until her death in 1937.

The year after Wharton left The Mount, her ex-husband sold the property. After several other owners, a brief stint as a school, and a long period of neglect, the nonprofit group Edith Wharton Restoration, Inc. purchased The Mount in 1980 to restore the property.... 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.

Can the Junk, Save the Town

Posted on: October 9th, 2007 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

(This post was written as part of PreservationNation's coverage of the National Preservation Conference, October 2-6, 2007.)

How do you keep your town looking, feeling, acting, and even preserving as your town and not some other burg up the pike or across the country? That question -- how to hold on to community character (and what benefits accrue when you do) -- informed a special speech by Ed McMahon. This was an early-morning Saturday event, not the primest of times to attract those on the down slope of a long and busy conference. But preservation types are nothing if not enthusiastic and indefatigable, as they proved by showing up in huge numbers for McMahon, a senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute.

He really delivered. Flawlessly mixing humor and truth -- and showing plenty of slides, that beloved mode of making a good point -- McMahon illustrated the often-ignored fact that good design really pays off, not just in dollars but also with social and environmental benefits. He set the stage with the sad observation that “special and unique character has been disappearing faster than ever” but went on to show that communities can and have made U-turns toward saving their individuality.

“The problem is not development but the pattern of development,” McMahon said, flashing us a good slide/bad slide combo of, first, a well-preserved Civil War battlefield building in Virginia (beautiful!), then a high-dreck strip shopping center right next door (phooey!). Guess what, he said. Communities can choose whether or not they want this sort of thing. They can plan against such mistakes. And in the cases where development will happen anyway, they can tell developers and fast-food folks a big-fat “no” to business-as-usual design – then get the much better model. Images of McDonald’s in exquisitely local-appropriate buildings, some of them hard to distinguish from historic structures, proved this beyond a doubt.

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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.