DSP Alumni

Giving Thanks for the Heroes of Preservation

Posted on: November 25th, 2010 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by David J. Brown

Villa Finale, the home of Walter Nold Mathis. (Photo: Carol Highsmith)

Villa Finale, the home of Walter Nold Mathis. (Photo: Carol Highsmith)

Thanksgiving is a time of year to reflect on the things that matter to us in life, from friends and family to shelter and health.  This year, I’m also thankful for the people who work tirelessly to protect, revitalize and enhance places that matter – the heroes of preservation.

These are people like Walter Nold Mathis, who in 1967 saw a chance not only to restore an Italianate mansion to call his home, but also the opportunity to spark the revitalization of an entire San Antonio neighborhood.  Although Villa Finale was Mathis’ last personal residence, it wasn’t the last house he owned; he purchased another fourteen houses and invested his own time and money to undertake essential preservation work on them before selling them to individuals who would continue their restoration. Mathis – who passed away in 2005 – is widely recognized as the catalyst for the revitalization of the King William National Historic District. Villa Finale, which I had the honor of helping to open in September as the National Trust’s newest historic site, now shares his story with the public.

Rick Wallace of Lincoln, NE is another preservation hero to celebrate this year.  Rick serves on the Board of Directors for the National Trust’s statewide partner, Heritage Nebraska, but his service to preservation doesn’t end there.  He recently completed a program for the Nebraska Humanities Council called African Americans of Nebraska: 1854-1945, which focuses on the lives of early African-Americans who settled in Hastings, Nebraska. The program also addresses the circumstances faced by the African-American community and Hastings in 1943, when the Navy announced plans to build a munitions plant outside of the town. The impact of this history can still be felt today in Hastings and is only an introduction to a wonderfully rich story.

Art on the Square, in Oskaloosa, Iowa - a Main Street community.

Art on the Square, in Oskaloosa, Iowa - a Main Street community.

It’s not only individuals who are preservation heroes – sometimes entire organizations fit the bill as well.  Since 1986, Main Street Iowa, housed in Iowa’s Department of Economic Development, has worked in 64 cities and towns. These communities have seen almost 8,000 buildings rehabbed, 10,000 jobs created, and $904 million invested in historic preservation.  This success is a testament to Main Street Iowa’s commitment to relationship-building and advocacy. This commitment has forged strong bonds between Main Street and decision makers at all levels, from the US Congress to the state capitol to the bank manager’s office. These relationships, coupled with Main Street Iowa’s formidable advocacy skills, have resulted in the establishment of funding programs that – among other things – keep small businesses thriving, create upper-floor housing, and encourage sustainability projects that make Main Street greener. A preservation powerhouse and a model for other organizations to follow, Main Street Iowa is making a real difference in the economic health and livability of America’s heartland, and I’m thankful for them.

The University Heights Community Center in Seattle. (Photo: Susan Doupe)

The University Heights Community Center in Seattle. (Photo: Susan Doupe)

I’m thankful for Dorothy Lengyel, executive director, and all the staff and friends of the University Heights Community Center in Seattle, WA.  The center, housed in a historic school in Seattle’s University District, was awarded a $60,000 Partners in Preservation (or PiP) grant this year.  The grant supported the rehabilitation of the 1902 University Heights School’s deteriorated historic wood windows.  In all, 351 of 468 window panes were restored.  The PiP project has helped assure the long-term preservation of the historic school, the largest building in Seattle’s University Heights commercial district and a major community landmark that receives more than 5,000 visitors each week.  The center took advantage of the project to educate visitors about window restoration techniques, setting up a display featuring photos and a partially-restored window.  Like the engraving on the walls at the building’s entrance proclaim, “Old Schools still teach.”

Frank Gilbert

Frank Gilbert

Finally, I am very thankful for a person whose contribution to the preservation movement cannot be understated – Frank Gilbert.  Frank will be retiring next month after more than 35 years as a dedicated National Trust employee, and more than 45 years of valuable service to the field of historic preservation.  In 1965, as a young lawyer, he began working for the newly-minted New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.  Over the next decade – first as the commission’s secretary and later as its executive director – Frank worked to develop a comprehensive system for designation and preservation of historic districts and individual landmarks in New York.  The results of that work became a model for many hundreds of other communities across the country.  However, it also became the subject of a critical legal challenge – the battle over the constitutionality of New York City’s regulation of Grand Central Terminal, which really was a battle over the very concept of local landmarks laws.  The legal fight over Grand Central – the Penn Central case – was waged for much of the time that Frank worked at the commission.

Frank left the commission while the Grand Central case was still in the courts, but luckily for the National Trust he soon became our expert and our advocate.  My colleague and the Trust’s General Counsel Paul Edmondson calls Frank a “preservationist Johnny Appleseed,” as he worked with hundreds of communities in almost every state to help develop strong and effective preservation laws.  He is renowned, respected, and held with great affection by preservationists and municipal officials across the country.  It is no exaggeration to say that his work has resulted in the protection of many thousands of historic places across the United States.  Frank Gilbert is truly a preservation hero.

Who are your preservation heroes?  Please share in the comments below – and have a happy Thanksgiving!

David J. Brown is executive vice president and chief preservation officer 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.

Preserving a Piece of US Forest Service History

Posted on: September 9th, 2010 by Guest Writer

 

Written by Heather L. Bailey

The Alpine Guard Station site on my first morning of work.

The Alpine Guard Station site on my first morning of work.

As a Tennessee Scholar at the 2009 National Preservation Conference in Nashville, we were encouraged to take our experience and education out into the field and become personally involved in historic preservation.  My graduate work involved education and outreach, and my employment after graduation involved preservation planning.  While that framework certainly ensures that historic preservation is possible, I was eager to find an opportunity to have a direct and immediate involvement with historic preservation.

Shortly after moving to Colorado, I learned about Historicorps, a new initiative that grew out of a collaboration with Colorado Preservation, Inc., Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, and the United States Forest Service.  Modeled on community service initiatives like the Civilian Conservation Corps and Americorps, volunteers had the opportunity to work on a number of projects that involved hands-on historic preservation.

An exhausted crew enjoying our pre-dinner cocktail hour (the Wisconsin carpenters came well prepared) while our site manager installs final flashing around the ranger station chimney.

An exhausted crew enjoying our pre-dinner cocktail hour (the Wisconsin carpenters came well prepared) while our site manager installs final flashing around the ranger station chimney.

Never one to take the easy route, I volunteered for the week-long commitment to work at the Alpine Guard Station located 11,600 feet up on a mountain in the Grand Mesa-Uncompahgre-Gunnison National Forest, roughly between Lake City and Powderhorn, CO.  The volunteers brought tents and campers, stayed on site, drew our water from a well, and gathered around a campfire at the end of each work day.

The ranger station (1920) and bunk house (1913) were built a century ago so that rangers could check the permits of the sheepherders (of Basque and Spanish descent) who used US Forest Service land to graze their animals.  While the sheep industry was prominent in the Western Mountain Region in the early twentieth century, this location has remained vacant for decades.  The only residents were an enormous population of rats inside the buildings, and ground squirrels outside.  Our work was to repair and stabilize the buildings, with minimal modifications to allow the cabins to be adaptively used as seasonal rentals.

Staff and volunteers gathered at the end of the week to commemorate our experience with a group picture.

Staff and volunteers gathered at the end of the week to commemorate our experience with a group picture.

Prior to my arrival, the staff and volunteer crews had already completed considerable work on the barn and bunk house (including rat clean up), installed a pit toilet and shed for the solar array accouterments, and installed the new pump well.  The crew of volunteer expert carpenters from Wisconsin took up numerous tasks inside the buildings, and the rest of us took on re-shingling the roof on the ranger station, among other things.

I learned that laying cedar shingles (pre-treated to be fire resistant) is truly an art form and that precision matters (particularly after a helper who showed up for two days quickly laid down a number of rows, bragging about his speed, and leaving us with a few noticeably wavy rows to correct). I also learned that the nail gun (powered by our onsite generator) was a lot more fun when I was seventeen and re-shingling my parents’ roof; thus, I opted to use a regular hammer most of the time.  But, hey, I could claim that I was being authentic in my craftsmanship.  I also realized that the heaviest thing I lifted on a regular basis doing preservation planning was my computer mouse.

The volunteer opportunity with Historicorps was inspirational and invigorating.  It brought full circle my work in the field by doing hands-on preservation rather than just making it possible for others to do preservation.  I’ll always be able to go back to that ranger station and know that this place stands in part because of the physical work we did on this historic treasure.

Heather L. Bailey is a State and National Register Historian for History Colorado.

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.

Learning – and Preserving – the Lessons of Internment

Posted on: May 5th, 2010 by Guest Writer

 

Written by Hanako Wakatsuki

Chizuye Wakatsuki with her children, Patricia, George, and Woody Jr.  at Manzanar.

Chizuye Wakatsuki with her children, Patricia, George, and Woody Jr. at Manzanar

I knew about camp, but never completely understood what it meant until I attended college. I knew that my family had been interned, but it did not mean much to me at the time because my family rarely spoke about it. I did not realize how much this experience affected my family until I tried asking my paternal grandmother a few times about her experience. In my second year of college, I found out that there was an internment camp, Minidoka, only two hours away from where I live in Boise, Idaho. I was appalled because it was never mentioned when I was a child attending primary or secondary school. Not once. This was when my interest turned into a passion for internment history. I wanted to preserve this time in history and let others know what happened in our backyard not long ago.

I am fifth generation Japanese American. My family emigrated from Japan to the United States in the late 1800s. Back in Japan, my family was a military family. My great-grandfather did not want to be a military man, so he left to start a new life in Hawaii. He eventually moved to the mainland and met my great-grandmother, who was American born. They moved down to Southern California and were in the fishing business prior to World War II.

Woodrow Wakatsuki Sr.

Woodrow Wakatsuki Sr.

After the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States entered World War II. The United States government used fear and hysteria to institutionalize racism in governmental policies. Under the authority of the Executive Order 9066 and the Act of March 21, 1942 the government excluded all persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast of the United States.

Japanese American families had to pack up their belongings and uproot themselves in a matter of days. Some people were not given enough notice that they literally only had the clothes on their backs. When the families arrived at one of the ten Relocation Centers, they found themselves stuck in remote, desolate locations strewn across the United States and inadequately furnished. Camp life was devastating to the family unit, undermining the family structure.

My family was uprooted from their Southern California home and was incarcerated at the Manzanar War Relocation Center. My grandparents, Chizuye and Woodrow Wakatsuki, were in their twenties when their young family was incarcerated. My grandfather enlisted into the Army in 1944 at Manzanar and fought on the Pacific front during World War II.

A modern view of one of the gardens at Manzanar. (Photo: National Park Service)

A modern view of one of the gardens at Manzanar. (Photo: National Park Service)

Many men felt that they should prove their loyalty to the US by enlisting and fighting in the war, and many became part of the 442nd battalion, a segregated Japanese American unit, which became the most decorated unit in the US for its size. Others felt that they were being just as patriotic by standing up to the government that was incarcerating them by not fighting in the war abroad but fighting the war for their civil liberties at home.

Over a span of four years, 120,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated. Men, women and children were prisoners of the United States. Many families lost everything they owned. Some families never recuperated from this traumatic event. Others struggled to forget their experiences and tried their best to suppress it from memory and just move on with their lives. They went through extreme hardships and treatment that we as a nation should never impose onto others ever again. We need to preserve and uphold the legacy of those interned and the internment experience and to promote education of this time in history.

Hanako Wakatsuki is an interpretive specialist assistant at the Old Idaho Penitentiary State Historic Site of the Idaho State Historical Society.

Manzanar was an early Save America's Treasures (SAT) grant recipient. Now, SAT and other preservation programs have been cut or underfunded by the proposed federal budget. Learn more about the National Trust's campaign to restore this critical funding, and how SAT has impacted other sites associated with Asian Pacific American heritage.

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.

 

Written by Isabella Rosete

Pictured from left to right at the Historic Hampton House site: Gordon Loader, Joseph McGill, Isabella Rosete, and Mario Berrios.

Pictured from left to right at the Historic Hampton House site: Gordon Loader, Joseph McGill, Isabella Rosete, and Mario Berrios

In October 2008 when the economic recession started, I decided to reach out to my community. At that time I met Dr. Enid Pinkney, a very well-known community activist and CEO for the Historic Hampton House Community Trust. Hampton House is located in a small neighborhood called Brownsville, which is a few blocks away from my house and a five minute drive from the Miami design district. I mentioned my background in architecture to Dr. Pinkney as well as my willingness to help in any way with the Historic Hampton House restoration. On December 17, 2008 I was nominated to serve as part of the Historic Hampton House Community Trust, Inc.

The Historic Hampton House project has brought me closer to the world of restoration. Today more than ever I realize how fascinated I have always been by old structures, pieces, stories, etc. My association with Hampton House enabled me to participate in the Diversity Scholarship Program at the National Preservation Conference. Being in Nashville at the 2009 conference was a very fulfilling experience. It was an honor to be surrounded by all the knowledgeable attendees and presenters.

When back in Miami at my first Historic Hampton House board meeting, I brought up two main points that became clear to me during the conference. First, turning old structures into museums is not a sustainable option in today’s world for restoration/rehabilitation; alternatives must be studied whenever possible. Second, a building that has suffered substantial damage must be monitored during restoration to comply with the Department of Interior standards in order to be eligible for National Registration of Historic Places. In general, these ideas have been well received. As we continue moving forward with the project, the construction documents are ready for permitting, a construction cost estimate has been prepared by the architects of record and there is a gap in funding. We believe that this can be resolved with Miami-Dade County County’s Building Better Communities General Obligation Bond Program (GOB) funds, grants and other contributions allowing construction to be finalized.

I will continue my efforts with the Hampton House Trust to see the plans realized for an active building at least 50% of which will be self sustained. Other features will include a jazz music education program in partnership with local Universities, museum exhibits of Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali and others to inspire visitors and a café/multipurpose room for entertaining. With the Hampton House project, Brownsville could become the Jazz district of Miami.

Isabella Rosete, an architectural designer based out of Miami, is a 2009 Diversity Scholar. She is a member of the Historic Hampton House Community Trust, Inc.

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.

Diversity Scholarship Program Inspires Georgia Preservationist

Posted on: March 23rd, 2010 by Guest Writer

 

Written by Joy Melton

Georgia Congressman John Lewis gave the keynote address at the closing plenary session of the 2009 National Trust preservation conference.  He greets former African American Programs intern Cordelia Payne and Joy Melton at a book signing after the session.

Georgia Congressman John Lewis gave the keynote address at the closing plenary session of the 2009 National Trust preservation conference. He greets former African American Programs intern Cordelia Payne and Joy Melton at a book signing after the session.

Eager to step into the world of preservation, last fall I joined the Diversity Scholarship Program (DSP) at the National Preservation Conference in Nashville, Tennessee on the road to preserving the nation’s built environment. There, I gained a greater awareness of preservation issues among minorities. The variety of educational pit stops that I made in Nashville inspired me. They included preserving Rosenwald Schools, community outreach, and advocacy movements.

During my DSP journey in Nashville, I attended an educational session entitled "Developing Historic Contexts for African American Schools." Jeanne Cyriaque, the African American Programs Coordinator in the Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, presented her process on how to research these African American resources. Another educational filling station about outreach to African American and Latino communities offered practical outreach suggestions, such as conducting window restoration workshops with youth or working one on one to both “tell” and “show” others how to carry out preservation work. These educational sessions provided me with tools to share with members of the Georgia African American Historic Preservation Network (GAAHPN). These practical tools can help us to fine tune the organization’s outreach efforts.

On this preservation road trip, I made time for a tour. Bud Alley, my assigned mentor for the Diversity Scholarship Program, gave me a personal tour of Nashville's many historic buildings. One of the most impressive sites he took me to visit was the Hermitage Hotel, most notable as headquarters for the national suffrage movement in 1920 when Tennessee cast the deciding ballot to give women the right to vote. Bud is a graduate student in History Department at the Middle Tennessee State University and a former plant manager in the packaging industry. His work with members of a Tennessee community to preserve a historic schoolhouse inspired me to stay involved with helping communities preserve schools in Georgia.

From left to right:  Bernika Melton, a graduating Senior at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, is learning about historic preservation with her sister Joy and Bud Ally.  Bud was Joy’s assigned mentor for the Diversity Scholarship Program.

From left to right: Bernika Melton, a graduating Senior at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, is learning about historic preservation with her sister Joy and Bud Ally. Bud was Joy’s assigned mentor for the Diversity Scholarship Program.

As I neared the finish line at the closing plenary session, Georgia Congressman John Lewis’ address encouraged me that the journey is not over. His reflection on civil rights advocacy and its comparison to historic preservation advocacy motivated me to continue to "get in the way" so that America's historic resources can be preserved. The John Lewis story of growing up in the South was an influence for his present work and a reminder that we all have a story. Here, I realized that historic preservation is an endless road I travel, for as long as time continues, history continues.

Currently, I research and document equalization schools in Georgia. Equalization schools were constructed for African Americans during the 1950s and 1960s to create school facilities that were “separate but equal”. I want to preserve the history of these schools because they tell the story of an important social movement for African Americans in Georgia and for me. While on the journey to preserve I will continue to research African American history, write about my findings and record the stories of others.

Learn more:

Joy Melton is a graduate student in the Heritage Preservation Program at Georgia State University and an intern in African American Programs at the Georgia State Historic Preservation Office.

Note: The Diversity Scholarship Program is made possible through a cooperative agreement between the U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service and the National Trust.  Views and conclusions in this material are those of the author and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policy of the U.S. Government.

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.