DSP Alumni

Exploring the Social Design Narratives of Buffalo, New York

Posted on: August 17th, 2011 by Guest Writer

 


(Photo: National Trust for Historic Preservation)

Written by David Rose

The City of Buffalo and the Eastern Great Lakes region, as a whole, bears a wealth of history that spans well beyond great architecture and landscape design. At every corner there is a story that is sown deep into local, national and international memory. Robert Shibley, the Dean of Architecture & Planning at SUNY Buffalo, suggests that in order to be familiar with the city one must learn the story of Fredrick Law Olmsted’s system of parkways, Joseph Ellicott’s radial grid and the diverse functionality of the water throughout the city’s history. The narratives that frame the architecture and design features of Buffalo have great depth, building a legacy that has immensely contributed to the development of the city. If we commit to a holistic understanding of these stories then we may find ourselves getting through to Buffalo “for real.”

Michigan Avenue Baptist Church, home to an underground railroad station before the Civil War. (Photo: National Trust for Historic Preservation)

Consider, for instance, the social implications of Fredrick Law Olmsted's abolitionist disposition as we peruse his masterfully created system of parkways throughout the city. Olmsted, who took to the southern United States just prior to the Civil War and reported on slave life in the ‘Cotton Kingdom’, calling on President Lincoln to stop the spread of slavery out west, was a social designer. His conceptualization of ‘The Parade’ in Buffalo, now Martin Luther King Park, took into account the celebratory culture of German immigrants that resided in close proximity to its locale.

We may also draw connections between Joseph Ellicott's radial grid street plan, his Quaker heritage and familial ties with Benjamin Banneker, a man of African descent who was commissioned by the Ellicott family to survey the nations capital. Joseph Ellicott’s radial grid plan was inspired by the outlay of Paris in the same manner as his brother Andrew and Benjamin Banneker’s workings for Washington DC. The intent was to bring communities of people together. I am sure that Olmsted and Ellicott believed that they were laying the groundwork for what would be the city’s social conscious, by design.

Finally the water was the key element in producing the city’s hydropower and industry. It existed long before Olmsted, Ellicott, Sullivan, Richardson, Wright and countless other place makers in Buffalo developed their crafts. The water sustained the livelihood of American natives for centuries, being used most notably as a vessel that brought fugitive slaves to freedom. It is such socio-architectural underpinnings that aid in preserving the past while cultivating a social meaning for those who are often left at the periphery of the preservation movement.... 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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

A Preservation Discovery at Colorado's Granada Relocation Center

Posted on: July 19th, 2011 by Guest Writer

 

The refuse pile where water tower part were found on private ranchland southeast of the Amache site. (Photo: Barbara Darden, Schueber + Darden Architects)

Written by Jane Daniels

Hidden for years underneath tractor tires, rusty metal cans, old farming equipment, and windblown dirt and debris were the original wooden legs, metal nuts, bolts, brackets and other parts of a water tower that once stood at the Granada Relocation Center (Amache) in Colorado. Located about 260 miles southeast of Denver, Amache is one of ten former Japanese American internment camps that existed in the United States during World War II. Amache operated from 1942-1945 and was listed on Colorado’s Most Endangered Places List in 2001. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2006.

Dismantling the water tower tank. (Photo: Jane Daniels, Colorado Preservation, Inc.)

Renewed interest in the water tower was spurred by the donation of the tower's tank by a private rancher who used it to contain water since 1947, and the tank was documented and dismantled in December 2010. Other tower parts were soon uncovered in a nearby refuse pile. It was quite a surprise for many that the parts still existed – it was much like hitting the preservation jackpot!

Though this discovery was recent, preservation efforts at Amache are longstanding. For years Amache-related organizations such as the Amache Preservation Society, Friends of Amache, the National Park Service, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the University of Denver, as well as former camp internees, local high school students and an incredibly committed teacher have spearheaded countless projects at Amache. I serve as Colorado Preservation, Inc.’s liaison to Amache, and I am endlessly impressed with the passionate carefulness exhibited by those involved with Amache. As a first generation immigrant, I deeply appreciate working with these diverse and devoted groups to find the best means to interpret Amache’s important and complex history.

Earlier this month, through the Japanese American Confinement Sites Grants Program, the National Park Service awarded funds for the reconstruction of both the water tower and one of the guard towers at Amache. With the generous award and anticipated matching funds, the towers will be rebuilt in close proximity to a proposed future reconstructed barrack block to include the original water tower, a guard tower, a mess hall, recreation hall, and laundry building. A historic building stock survey is also now underway by Colorado Preservation, Inc. to research, identify, locate, and assess these former Amache buildings with the idea that a few could potentially be relocated back on site in the block development area as an interpretive museum and visitor center. By using original historic fabric from the former camp, the tower reconstructions and the barrack block development will aid interpretation, public education, and heritage tourism efforts throughout in the southeast region of Colorado.

By digging deeper, literally and figuratively over the next few years, Amache will be even better able to show that there is more to learn and see beyond the surface of historic places. Albeit a seemingly barren site, Amache has much to offer. A new website, an integrated iPod driving tour, and newly constructed way-finding signs are also coming soon. This incredible historic resource, its current preservation activities and growing public support are wonderful tell-tale signs of what’s to come for Amache.

Jane Daniels is the Preservation Programs Director at Colorado Preservation, Inc. She was a 2008 and 2010 National Trust Diversity Scholar. Jane can be reached at jdaniels@coloradopreservation.org. For additional information about Amache, visit http://www.amache.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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Kansas City History: Out, Loud and Proud

Posted on: June 21st, 2011 by Guest Writer 2 Comments

 

Written by Christopher Leitch

Publication illustrating Phoenix House, the first gay and lesbian “community center” in Kansas City. 1968. (Photo: LaBudde Special Collections, UMKC)

History - that deliberate recording of human activity - is interesting for what it tells us, but should not be thought of as the independent, scientific record of what actually happened. Oscar Wilde said that “history is merely gossip, made tedious by morality.” Similarly, we understand that histories can be falsified or altered thus excluding whole segments of society. Being included in history – having been and done – is validation of existence; being removed from history is one of the most egregious actions. Personal experience tells us that the past must have been more richly textured than the abbreviated digest presented in majority institutions. However, if the evidence is edited or absent, owing to racism, homophobia or other prejudices, how will we know?

Because history collections are often incomplete or don’t provide deep evidence of minority and marginalized communities, the Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America (GLAMA) was founded. GLAMA is a collecting partnership of the Kansas City Museum, the Jackson County Historical Society and the University of Missouri Kansas City Library’s LaBudde Special Collections Department. GLAMA’s mission is to collect, preserve, and make accessible evidence of the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Kansas Citians throughout the city’s history.

The 2-year old collection is deep and diverse and includes photo albums from the KC Co-ed Sports Association; oral histories with LGBT senior citizens; political papers and memorabilia from ACT-UP KC and the Condom Crusaders; and costumes and archival materials documenting the career of Melinda Ryder, a well-known KC female impersonator. Actions to date have included publications and lectures, tours of collections and a very popular Gay and Lesbian History Trolley Tour that visits urban sites of interest to LGBT history. The trolley tour visits residential neighborhoods where our “places that matter” have not always survived. It offers a powerful historical lesson about the secrecy of social and political gatherings in private homes before a time when LGBT persons could gather publicly without fear of harassment or living in fear for their lives.

Cover of LGBT publication showing marchers from KC’s first Gay Pride Parade, at the Liberty Memorial. 1979. (Photo: LaBudde Special Collections, UMKC)

GLAMA reinforces the notion that when something is absent from history – our public record – we cannot participate in it, remember it, reflect on it, learn from it. As such, we see various efforts to re-insert characters and people and activities into histories – like Women’s Studies programs and Black history departments – to build a complete story of the past. Similarly, we live in a society that insists on branding citizens with a sexuality-based identity, which can easily translate into marginalization, particularly of the LGBT community.

History museums are often imagined - and frequently behave - as warehouses of the records of previous generations. We remember, reflect upon and learn from the past in order to make sense of our continually-evolving present. What physical evidences of today will we remember 50 years in the future? A fundamental starting point for a museum is the decision to actively collect history as-it-happens. Museums are highly valued in our society and are well-placed to capture local history as it’s made. By building a picture of the community as it grows and changes, we can be poised to present accurate stories to future generations. The GLAMA project seeks to do just that.

Christopher Leitch is the Director of the Kansas City Museum, the city’s history museum. He founded GLAMA in 2009 with Stuart Hinds of the University of Missouri Kansas City and David Jackson of the Jackson County Historical Society. Christopher attended the 2010 National Preservation Conference as a Diversity Scholar.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Main Street at Work in Des Moines' 6th Avenue Corridor

Posted on: May 17th, 2011 by Guest Writer

 

Written by Alecia Kates

Dowling Honor Students volunteer for the Rock the Block neighborhood clean-up. (Photo: Alecia Kates)

“We don’t like what you did and we called the manager to complain!” That was the running theme of the feedback we received after completing 10 hours of landscaping work through the Rock the Block neighborhood cleanup project. We hoped our hard work to beautify 13 properties on 6th Avenue would inspire others to improve their businesses and homes. That was not the case, at least not initially.

As the executive director of our Main Street Urban Neighborhood District, I anticipated my greatest challenge would be to raise millions of dollars to fund a streetscape improvement effort or entice developers to see 6th Avenue as the next greatest area for commercial property development. By far, understanding the most effective way to engage the people is the most interesting piece of the puzzle.

After hearing the opinions of seemingly every Des Moines resident on how to transform 6th Avenue, I decided one more opinion couldn’t hurt. So, I asked one of the residents to specifically identify what he did not like about the landscaping job. We listened to each other’s perspectives and eventually compromised on the choice of the plants and their placement. He decided to help with the landscaping project on the spot. I helped him sort the plants and showed him different ways to arrange them. Meanwhile, he invited several of his neighbors over to hear about our revitalization plans.

Residents of the 6th Avenue Corridor enjoy the 2010 Jazz in July festival. (Photo: Alecia Kates)

By the end of our conversation, he shared his vision to have neighborhood picnics that would bring the community together. I promised that if he put together a committee and gave me a budget, my organization would help sponsor the neighborhood event. Two days later he reported back to me that he came up with a draft budget and that a neighbor was working on a flier for the event. He even asked if I had extra materials for landscaping the garden in the back of his apartment building. He was eager to meet again to plan the rest of the event. It was at that point, I realized I found one of the neighborhood’s leaders.

It’s the people that create the memories and make the buildings important. It’s the residents whose purchases will sustain existing and new businesses in the district. I came into this work with the idea that I somehow needed to change things; however, to make meaningful change, the first order of business is to work with the people and resources already there. With the help of the community, there is so much exciting progress on the 6th Avenue Corridor — from partnering with the Public Art Foundation in order to design art concepts for the streetscape to achieving a zero vacancy rate to creating 7 new businesses and 13 new jobs.

Revitalizing one of the lowest income and most diverse communities in Iowa has its challenges: fundraising, planning, and recruiting volunteers, to name a few. Although challenging, the most rewarding part is engaging the people. As much as revitalization is about giving new life to a community, it's also about celebrating the life that already exists.

Alecia Kates is executive director of the 6th Avenue Corridor, Inc., a Main Street organization and recent recipient of the Public Art Foundation Award. Alecia attended the 2010 National Preservation Conference as a Diversity Scholar and will attend the National Main Streets Conference in Des Moines, Iowa to be held May 22-25, 2011.

Would you like to attend the National Preservation Conference as a member of the 2011 Diversity Scholarship Program? We are now accepting applications for this year’s conference, which will take place in Buffalo, New York from October 19-22. The deadline to apply online is June 1, 2011.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Bike Tour Highlights Austin’s Preservation Successes and Challenges

Posted on: April 19th, 2011 by Guest Writer

 

Written by Ellen Davis

View of Austin skyline from Long Center for the Performing Arts. (Photo: Ellen Davis)

View of Austin skyline from Long Center for the Performing Arts. (Photo: Ellen Davis)

The 2010 National Preservation Conference in Austin was outstanding, but the best part for me came during the three-hour bike ride around Austin. At the beginning of the ride, we passed through an old Hispanic neighborhood downtown. This neighborhood is the site of the city’s new Mexican American Cultural Center. Unfortunately, this cute neighborhood is located right on the edge of Austin’s growing convention center district. Most of the houses have been demolished to make way for commercial structures and the few remaining houses are in very poor condition.

We took our first rest break in an area of town called Clarksville, which was founded by freed slaves. There are not many African-Americans living in Clarksville today due to gentrification of the area. In fact, the Sunday after the conference ended, the Austin American-Statesman featured Clarksville in its real estate section. A 1,344-square foot 1920s cottage in the neighborhood was on the market for $429,900. An 836-square foot cottage was on the market for $299,900. We enjoyed drinks and snacks with members of the Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church, which was built in 1871. One of my fellow Texas Scholars is trying to raise funds to restore the church, which has been the cornerstone of the community.

Bike Tour rest stop at German Free School, headquarters of the German-Texas Heritage Society. (Photo: Ellen Davis)

Bike Tour rest stop at German Free School, headquarters of the German-Texas Heritage Society. (Photo: Ellen Davis)

Our second rest stop was at the headquarters of the German-Texas Heritage Society, which is housed in a limestone building that was constructed in 1857 as a school for the children of German immigrants. Our tour organizers even had homemade apple strudel brought up from New Braunfels. The building’s tree-lined property is a beautiful oasis in the heart of downtown. We also stopped near another historic limestone building that bears an uncanny resemblance to one of the buildings on the campus of Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, where I work. I wondered if the two were designed by the same architect.

Seeing the historic buildings that remain in Austin made me realize how beautiful a city it must have been before the state government expanded its presence in the city and many of the historic buildings were destroyed to make room for nondescript office buildings and parking garages. The tour underscored for me a statement that appeared in the Austin American-Statesman on the day of the bike tour − the National Trust chose Austin for its 2010 national conference because of its preservation successes and challenges. We certainly saw both in the course of the tour. The tour also was a great example of how bike tours can be used as a way to promote heritage tourism and get people excited about historic preservation. I would like to commend the people who worked hard to make the bike tour possible and encourage anyone who plans to attend future National Trust conferences to consider signing up for the bike tour!

Ellen Davis is a National Trust member who lives in Georgetown, Texas. She blogs about her neighborhood at aroundoldtown.blogspot.com. She attended the 2010 National Preservation Conference through the Statewide and Local Scholars Program.

Would you like to attend the National Preservation Conference on a scholarship? We are now accepting applications for this year’s conference, which will take place in Buffalo, New York from October 19-22. The deadline to apply is June 1, 2011.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.