Women’s Heritage

 

Written by Joan Nestle

The Lesbian Herstory Achives - exterior. (Photo: Saskia Scheffer)

The Lesbian Herstory Achives - exterior. (Photo: Saskia Scheffer)

Founded in 1974, the Lesbian Herstory Archives serves as a library, museum, and community gathering and performance space for collective lesbian memory, where the word “lesbian” is used in its most inclusive meaning. Born out of a time of historical deprivation, LHA now houses the world’s largest print and non-print collection of materials by and about lesbians and their communities—including books, unpublished papers, conference proceedings, newsletters, photographs, slides, periodicals, audio-tapes, CDs, DVDS, videos, films, subject and organizational files, reference tools, artwork, calendars, banners, manuscripts, music, clothing, and buttons.

For over thirty years, thousands of visitors have heard one of our volunteers say, “send us something in the language you make love in.” From its beginning, the Lesbian Herstory Archives has worked to collect the markings of everyday lesbians with the goal to be a social history of our complex communities. A grassroots project of emancipation, staffed by volunteer librarians and archivists, LHA is where activism and professional expertise join hands to preserve the lesbian past, to enrich the cultural life of the lesbian present and to provide clues to dreaming about lesbian futures. In doing all of this, LHA has become an important collection for all who are concerned with social change in any society.

The Lesbian Herstory Achives - interior. (Photo: Saskia Scheffer)

The Lesbian Herstory Achives - interior. (Photo: Saskia Scheffer)

For  our first fifteen years of existence, the archives resided in Joan Nestle’s apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. In 1985, with books three-deep on the shelves and every spare inch of space taken up with lesbiana, we began a fundraising campaign to find a permanent home. In 1990, with money donated by lesbians worldwide, we purchased a four-story, turn-of –the-20th-century limestone townhouse in one of the historic areas of Park Slope, Brooklyn. We had our official opening in June 1993.

The house retains an amazing amount of its original detail, including beautiful mahogany wainscoting, oak floors, leaded glass doors on built-in cabinets, mahogany closets, and marble sinks. We added built-in bookshelves, a workstation, an outside wheelchair lift, and a wheelchair-accessible bathroom on the first floor. The first floor has a comfortable couch you can sink into to watch a video or read a book as well as worktables, a photocopier, and hookups for laptops. The second floor also has worktables and laptop hookups. The basement, first and second floors are used for processing and storing the collections, as well as for research. The top floor has a caretaker’s apartment. We are working to digitize the collection so that many more people will have access to the wonders of this collection. The building itself will always be worth a visit, a living monument to what lesbian activism can accomplish.


Joan Nestle is the co-founder of the Lesbian Herstory Archives. Visit the archives online for a virtual tour.

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.

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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.

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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 Jeanne Cyriaque

As I walked across the stage to receive an Honor Award for the Initiative to Save Rosenwald Schools, I reflected on what an incredible journey it has been to save these endangered African American community landmarks.

My interest in preserving Georgia’s Rosenwald Schools started in 2001, when I began to meet advocates, alumni, and preservationists across the South who shared a common bond in preserving these historic schools. My interest increased when I attended a conference in Alabama and saw an excellent exhibit on their schools. Wanting to find out what happened to Georgia’s Rosenwald Schools, I journeyed to Fisk University to search their database, photos and files, and when I located the Georgia list, I knew that finding the surviving schools in Georgia would be no small undertaking. I began to focus my field research on locating living persons in communities who could help me to find the buildings and associated stories.

A major break occurred when the National Trust listed Rosenwald Schools on its annual listing of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Shortly after this list came out, I became a founding member of the Rosenwald Initiative. The Southern Office of the Trust had a knack for finding people like me in every state who wanted to preserve these schools, and gradually we collectively formed a movement that resulted in numerous rehabilitation initiatives.

With help from the National Trust, the Rosenwald Initiative formed partnerships at many levels, culminating in a initiative with Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation, who funded bricks and mortar projects. Dr. Mary Hoffschwelle and Peter Ascoli, members of the initiative, wrote new books about Rosenwald Schools and the philanthropist, while grassroots advocates returned the buildings to new uses in their communities. We held a Rosenwald School conference at Fisk University and obtained funding from Cracker Barrel to support the digitization of the photo images that are now linked to our website, www.rosenwaldschools.com. Alice Rosenwald established a grant program with the National Trust to aid planning related projects.  We established a contact person in each state to field inquiries about the schools.

Several states, including Georgia, prepared historic contexts and submitted multiple property nominations to the National Register of Historic Places. I continue to search for Georgia’s Rosenwald Schools, and have located 50 surviving buildings. My work with Georgia’s surviving Rosenwald Schools was featured in People 2 People, an Atlanta ABC affiliate. The video features the Noble Hill School in Cassville that is always my inspiration for both its story and achievement as an adaptively used Rosenwald School. The Noble Hill School was featured in a National Trust publication, Preserving Rosenwald Schools. The Griffin Vocational School/Fairmont High School is the newest surviving building that is featured in the video.

Initiative to Save Rosenwald Schools, Southern United States
Award Type: Honor Award

Jeanne Cyriaque coordinates African American programs in the Historic Preservation Division (Georgia State Historic Preservation Office) at the Dept. of Natural Resources. She represents Georgia on the Board of Advisors for the National Trust.

Each year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation celebrates the best of preservation by presenting National Preservation Awards to individuals and organizations whose contributions demonstrate excellence in historic preservation. This is the latest in a series of posts highlighting 2010′s winners. Do you know of a deserving individual, organization, agency, or project? We are now accepting nominations for the 2011 National Preservation Awards. Learn 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.

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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.

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Saving the Childhood Home of Pauli Murray, Activist & Civil Rights Leader

Posted on: September 24th, 2010 by Guest Writer

 

Written by April Johnson

The Pauli Murray House c. 1910.

The Pauli Murray House c. 1910.

Dr. Anna Pauline (Pauli) Murray, an orphan, was born in1910 and raised by grandparents Robert and Cornelia Fitzgerald in Durham, NC. Pauli’s grandfather and great uncle established economic stability as landowners, educators and business leaders in the community and stood for everything the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow laws fought to prevent.

Pauli became an activist in her twenties, later emerging as a leader in the civil rights and women’s rights movements.  Pauli was also a writer, poet, teacher, feminist and a first of a few things.  She was the first African American woman to receive a J.D.S. from Yale University and the first African American woman to become an Episcopal priest.  During her career, Pauli worked with Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Thurgood Marshall and Philip Randolph.

Today, the one-and-a-half story I-house where Pauli grew up sits far back from the road up against a cemetery.  It stands tall and distinct from the other houses around it, but is vacant, rancid, trashed and constantly broken into by vagrants.  For years now the community organized meetings to figure out how the house can be saved.  Finally, thanks to the Pauli Murray Project, the talking is turning into action.  Baby steps, but action!

There is a core group of organizations thinking and strategizing about what to do to celebrate Pauli Murray’s childhood home.  I volunteered for this project like a schoolgirl raising her hand in the classroom shaking her arm uncontrollably nearly falling out of her seat.  Once I read only a few chapters of Pauli Murray’s autobiography Proud Shoes, I knew I was in.

The Pauli Murray House in 2010.

The Pauli Murray House in 2010.

A problem facing the groups is that the house has been altered a bit, so at least two applications to the State Historic Preservation Office were not approved for the study list. I was discouraged and didn’t think much else of it until I took my survey advisor with me to help me decide on historic district boundaries for the neighborhood where the house is located.  She too turned into that schoolgirl and urged me to send in the application again.  What?!

So now I’m excited about working with the Pauli Murray Project, the Durham Quality of Life Council and self-help, yes I said it…self-help.  Our priority is getting the funds for the work and yes we take checks, credit cards and cash. I will work on documentation and submitting a nomination for the National Register of Historic Places. Our mission is to save this house and make it a place to remember Pauli Murray’s activism and create a sense of community pride.  Maybe later we’ll decide on what we’d like to do with the house once it rehabilitated.

April Johnson is the Documentation of African American Historic Sites Coordinator for Preservation Durham in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation Partners in the Field program.

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.