DSP Alumni

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.

Hunting for Georgia's Equalization Schools

Posted on: March 15th, 2011 by Guest Writer

 

Written by Joy Melton

The concrete covered walkway highlights the entrance to the equalization era building on the Carver Freshman Campus. (Photo: Joy Melton)

The concrete covered walkway highlights the entrance to the equalization era building on the Carver Freshman Campus. (Photo: Joy Melton)

What usually has a flat roof, large banks of windows and is clad in bricks? The answer: an equalization school. Equalization schools were built in Georgia during the 1950s and 1960s to create school facilities that were “separate but equal” for whites and blacks. As an intern for African American Programs at the State Historic Preservation Office in Georgia, I - along with my supervisor (and National Trust Board of Advisors member) Jeanne Cyriaque - have surveyed numerous equalization schools. This project is of particular interest because nearly 400 new schools were built and additions were made to over 100 existing equalization schools for African Americans in Georgia alone. In a state as geographically diverse as Georgia, Jeanne and I have studied a wide variety of adaptive uses for these historic school buildings.

The Roberts School in Acworth was recently rehabilitated for adaptive use as a community center. A low flat roof, brick exterior and large banks of windows are common architectural features. (Photo: Jeanne Cyriaque)

The Roberts School in Acworth was recently rehabilitated for adaptive use as a community center. A low flat roof, brick exterior and large banks of windows are common architectural features. (Photo: Jeanne Cyriaque)

I begin each assignment by researching possible addresses for each school and mapping out directions. The research of Reuben Acosta, a former intern in the office, has been invaluable in helping me locate the schools. Reuben prepared a school list that identifies information such as the county and city of each school that he researched at the Georgia Archives. Information, gathered by my co-workers, on equalization schools from Section 106 and environmental review has also been helpful. Additionally, during Jeanne’s frequent travels across the state for speaking engagements and meetings about African American resources, we learn of and document equalization schools in the area.

In the field, Jeanne and I have traveled to over 80 equalization schools in 45 counties. Today, many equalization schools are still in use as schools, some are vacant while many others boast creative adaptive uses such as a homeless shelter in Morven, a church in Pearson, and an assisted living facility in Valdosta. The most highly used example is a community center such as the one located in Woodbine which houses a Head Start/daycare, senior center, health department, cooperative extension program and alumni meeting place. Many alumni of the equalization schools are still living and have been a tremendous help with preservation efforts.

The 1923 Coffee County Training Rosenwald School in Douglas now known as the Carver Freshman Campus was a recent discovery of a Rosenwald and equalization school on one campus. (Photo: Joy Melton)

The 1923 Coffee County Training Rosenwald School in Douglas now known as the Carver Freshman Campus was a recent discovery of a Rosenwald and equalization school on one campus. (Photo: Joy Melton)

Several equalization schools also have Rosenwald schools on their campuses. These include the Colored Memorial Rosenwald School/ Risley School in Brunswick, the Eleanor Roosevelt Rosenwald School in Warm Springs and the Vienna High and Industrial School in Vienna. Rosenwald schools, funded in part by the philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, represent another large construction boom in schools for African Americans in the early 20th century. One of our recent equalization school discoveries is Fairmont High also known as Griffin Vocational, the 50th Rosenwald school discovery in Georgia.

Along the journey, Jeanne and I have encountered amazing success stories and incredible people who work to preserve and find new uses for these endangered yet historic treasures. Within our office, architectural historian Steven Moffson is researching and documenting equalization schools. Steven will speak on equalization schools at the Georgia Statewide Preservation Conference in Macon, March 31st - April 1st 2011.

Joy Melton is a graduate student in the Heritage Preservation Program, Historic Preservation Track at Georgia State University and an intern in African American Programs at the Georgia State Historic Preservation Office. She attended the National Preservation Conference as a member of the Diversity Scholarship Program in 2009  and 2010.

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.

Conference Scholarship Program Offers Informative, Motivating Experience

Posted on: February 23rd, 2011 by Guest Writer

 

Written by Diana Molina

Diana Molina addresses fellow scholars during Diversity Scholars and Texas Scholars Opening Session (Photo: Pepper Watkins)

Diana Molina addresses fellow scholars during Diversity Scholars and Texas Scholars Opening Session (Photo: Pepper Watkins)

Privileged to attend the National Preservation Conference in Austin, Texas as a Diversity Scholar this past autumn, my greatest challenge was finding a way to take it all in.

Amazingly, amidst a hotel lobby bustling with preservationists from every corner of the nation, I ran into a familiar face upon arrival. David Romo, an engaging historian, author, and borderland neighbor was the guest speaker for our orientation session. Romo’s explanation of the plight of the historic Segundo Barrio—my birthplace in El Paso—struck a chord as his imagery walked me through the streets of my childhood, reminding me of their imperiled existence. Public awareness of the Hispanic impact and cultural influence on U.S. history is an important step in saving our sites of significance. His call to action was inspiring.

This was the first of many motivating and informative speakers and panelists staunchly advocating for the protection of structures, natural resources, culture and land. My session preferences leaned toward topics that included the changing U.S. demographics, the integration of sustainable design, the legacy of music and dance, and culinary agri-tourism’s role in historic preservation and its subsequent potential for jobs. I envision applying many of the lessons to our own community pursuit in Southern New Mexico’s Mesilla Valley to develop a sustainable cultural heritage corridor along Hwy. 28.

L-R Ernesto Ortega, NM Advisor; Diana Molina; Dreck Spurlock, Washington, DC Advisor

L-R Ernesto Ortega, NM Advisor; Diana Molina; Dreck Spurlock, Washington, DC Advisor

Culminating with a dynamic and unifying message by the charismatic Juan Hernandez at the majestic Paramount Theatre, the conference provided a plateful of new connections and information to digest. Above all, the attention placed on ecological concerns and the discussion of topics and places linked to the diversity of our cultural heritage, left me with a sense of hope for greater inclusive representation in the preservation movement and the betterment our nation’s future.

To that end, in our region’s steps for a Green Cultural Corridor, we welcome ardent supporters, needed resources, expertise and guidance to help pave the way and extend an invitation to visit the scenic Hwy. 28—its wineries, pecan groves, chile fields and centuries of history and cultural legacy in New Mexico’s Land of Enchantment.

Diana Molina works a freelance photographer and is spearheading the development of the State Highway 28 “destination corridor” to preserve the Mesilla Valley landscape in rural Southern New Mexico. She attended the National Preservation Conference in Austin, Texas as a Diversity Scholar in October 2010.

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.

AmeriCorps Presents Hands-On Preservation Lessons in West Virginia

Posted on: February 3rd, 2011 by Guest Writer

 

Written by Crystal Whiters

Elkins (West Virginia) City Hall

Elkins (West Virginia) City Hall

As I type this blog entry, I am sitting in an office in the penthouse suite of the Elkins City Hall. I know, this makes me sound pretty official, however, this is an unoccupied, dusty office with peeling plaster that looks out into the even more dusty former workout room of the City of Elkins Police Department. In place where windows once hung are pieces of plywood. However, fear not, for myself and three other AmeriCorps members are remedying the situation!

In May of 2010 I graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a masters degree in architecture (historic preservation concentration) and a masters degree in urban planning (community development concentration). It seemed like a logical progression to work with my hands for about a year after spending the summer post-graduation surveying historic buildings and historic districts in rural Indiana. So, for the last four months I have been living and working in Elkins, WV as a member of the AmeriCorps program sponsored by the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area. In total, twenty AmeriCorps members serve on three different teams – conservation, heritage development, and historic preservation.

Restoration work at the Collett House in Beverly, WV.

Restoration work at the Collett House in Beverly, WV.

Standing on a ladder and scrapping paint from the exterior clapboard siding of the Collett House in Beverly, WV is how I began the service term with the other historic preservation team members. The site sponsor for the Collett House is the Beverly Heritage Center, under the direction of Chelley Depp. The year 1772 is the earliest year designated as the year of construction for the house. Montgomery “Gum” Hart built the original log fort on which later owners built additions. Andrew J. Collett and family owned the house 1871-1948. The two-story, L-shaped house with a Federal-style entryway served as a hospital during the Civil War. Before the first snow fall, the team reached a good stopping point for scrapping and painting, with nearly all of the exterior clear of the old lead paint and covered with two fresh coats of paint.

Back in Elkins, the team members and I worked with AmeriCorps alum and site supervisor for the rehabilitation of Riverside School, Joe Sabatino, at Riverside School. The community built this historic school to educate the African American population in and around Elkins in two phases: the first story in 1906 for eight grades and the second story in 1925 to expand the school for ten grades. After the school closed in 1954 due to school integration, it passed from several owners until its last incarnation as a mechanic's garage. In preparation for the rehabilitation, we organized the first floor classroom/garage conversion into an organized workshop equipped with lumber, hardware, and tools.

The Riverside School rehabilitation has been a valuable resource for the team to learn about a critical component of historic preservation – the bid process. In preparation for the bid package that contained the scope of work, we learned how to map the areas on each elevation that are in need of re-pointing. Additionally, we surveyed the windows, noting the existing condition of the windows such as missing sashes and muntins. Also, I drew as-built drawings of the school to assist the owners with the rehabilitation and with the space planning process.

Learning historic plaster repair skills.

Learning historic plaster repair skills.

As the mercury began to decline and the snow began to fall, we moved our AmeriCorps operation indoors. After receiving training from fellow team member Joey on window restoration, we began restoring the windows from the fourth floor penthouse of Elkins City Hall, a building that is an interesting case in adaptive reuse. Built in 1917, it was originally home to the Elkins Post Office and Federal Building. Today, it contains city offices and the police station.

In addition to providing hands-on restoration support to four buildings in the area, the preservation team members and I have received training in Elkins and at the Preservation Alliance West Virginia state-wide preservation conference. At the conference we learned from master plasterer Sarel Venter how to repair historic plaster and back in Elkins Joe Sabatino trained us on how to reconstitute deteriorated wood. We have applied this knowledge to our winter indoor project.

The team members and I are making progress on those City Hall windows – yesterday we installed the first beautifully restored window, eight have an “in-progress status,” and about seven remain. I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to experience small town living in the United States while doing work that I set out to do eight years ago when I decided to return to school to study architecture and historic preservation.

Crystal Whiters, a recipient of a 2007 Mildred Colodny Diversity Scholarship for Graduate Study in Historic Preservation, is a member of the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area AmeriCorps Program. When she is not restoring windows, she can be found sliding down a hill on an inner tube.

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.

Local Residents Rally Around National Listing for K-Town

Posted on: December 7th, 2010 by Guest Writer

 

Written by Charles Leeks

Long-time K-Town resident Paul Norrington and Mike Jackson of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency proudly display the certificate for K-Town’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places (Photo: Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, 2010).

Even in Chicago, many people don’t know much about K-Town.

K-Town is a collection of north-south streets west of Pulaski Road whose names begin with the letter K. On  Saturday, November 13, the entire country  learned a bit more about the 16 block area in the North Lawndale neighborhood on the near west side of Chicago, which boasts a unique mix of Chicago residential and commercial buildings and a very large concentration of Chicago’s unique Greystones.

Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, community residents, and the North Lawndale Historical and Cultural Society worked with the Midwest Office of the National Trust and Elizabeth Logman of Midwest Preservation for at least two years on the Trust’s “Cornerstones of Community” initiative that was funded by the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. While a purpose of helping those communities not traditionally included in conversations about historic preservation, it is my opinion that this initiative was an overwhelming success. A significant outcome of this effort was that on November 13, Mike Jackson from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency signed a certificate officially recognizing the listing of K-Town on the National Register of Historic Places.

A resident of the K-Town neighborhood, Paul Norrington--who just arrived back from Austin, TX, where he was a diversity scholar at the National Preservation Conference--spoke eloquently about his memories of the area when he was growing up the 1960s and 1970s.

It was particularly gratifying to me to see Paul and so many residents of the area, who remember fondly what the neighborhood was like for them twenty or thirty ago, as they began to learn more about the boarded historical record of the community: Who built the homes? Why did they choose the area? What happened to the communities of folks who moved on to other areas?

We held the signing event at the St. Paul AME Church on West Cermak Road, which is prominently located in the new Historic District. Even though there is beautiful terra cotta above the front door and dates on the sides of the building, Reverend Johnson and the congregation admitted that they did not have a keen sense of the building’s history. The building was built in 1905 as a memorial to the Bohemian free-thinker, John Hus, and it served as a sort of community center for the Czech and Bohemian community that settled and built much of North Lawndale. When St. Paul AME recently replaced its roof, the roofing contractor found a treasure trove of pictures with scenes of the community from the late 1800s, sparking an interest in the congregation to learn more about the history of their building and the neighborhood. The pride exhibited by the congregation and the community residents at the signing event was palpable. They now see how all of the pieces of the built environment, the community stories, and the layers of culture fit together in a narrative that makes their corner of North Lawndale so special.

Paul Norrington wondered in his remarks, “Now that we are a Historic District, what’s next?” At a minimum, there are discussions about “branding” this area with banners and plaques to call attention to its history and its recent designation. And, several homeowners have expressed interest in utilizing the services of Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, along with the Greystone Design Guidelines established by the Historic Chicago Greystone Initiative, in making some historically sensitive renovations to their homes that will be compatible with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards. This will allow these homeowners to take advantage of tax incentives as they preserve the character of the neighborhood.

From where I sit, these benefits to individual homeowners are certainly important, but it is the bigger picture that really resonates with me. Partnerships and collaboration, good ideas, and historic preservation have created a path forward in community development, and in communities that have not traditionally been included in conversations about the benefits of preservation.

Charles Leeks is the Neighborhood Director for the Neighborhood Housing Services North Lawndale Office in Chicago.

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.