Yesterday’s image, “You Can’t Buy Happiness, But You Can Buy Local and that’s Kind of the Same Thing,” was well liked, so I thought you might like additional graphics. Who doesn’t love a good design, right? These “Buy Local” advertisements have probably been floating around the internet for a while, but some are so creative and fu that they warrant sharing with as many people as possible. Does your town or city have a similar poster or logo?
Clearly, this could go on forever. Point being, the next time you are looking for some local shopping inspiration, take a look at these images. Share them (with proper credit to their original sites, of course) and get out to support those local businesses in whatever way you can. Have an image to share? Send it along. Enjoy!
Yesterday we talked about a dream house from a child’s perspective along with children’s impressions on the built environment. To follow up on that topic, I wanted to share a few pages from a book I found last summer in an antique shop in Barton, Vermont. It caught my eye because of my ongoing interest in playgrounds.
The Home Workshop Library was a series of books for the industrious DIY-ers in the post World War II era, that reprinted articles from Popular Homecraft magazine.
“A playhouse is in the largest sense, a child’s castle. It is also a safe haven for young energy and a storage place for a child’s priceless treasures.”
Ranging from playhouses to playground equipment to bunk beds to playhouses, the pages are filled with plans and specifications and equipment needed.
I think I will build a playhouse in my backyard (someday). Anyone else? Have you used old plans to design a structure, whether a slide or a house? The Home Workshop Library also includes household furniture. Anyone have a copy or something similar?
Historic Preservation Month: it’s like a month long holiday. Sweet.
Holidays need decorations, so I searched around for some preservation posters to share. And I kept returning the GSA collection. The GSA is the U.S. General Services Administration. A brief history (from the GSA website):
GSA was established by President Harry Truman on July 1, 1949, to streamline the administrative work of the federal government. GSA consolidated the National Archives Establishment, the Federal Works Agency, and the Public Buildings Administration; the Bureau of Federal Supply and the Office of Contract Settlement; and the War Assets Administration into one federal agency tasked with administering supplies and providing workplaces for federal employees.
GSA’s original mission was to dispose of war surplus goods, manage and store government records, handle emergency preparedness, and stockpile strategic supplies for wartime. GSA also regulated the sale of various office supplies to federal agencies and managed some unusual operations, such as hemp plantations in South America.
Today, through its two largest offices – the Public Buildings Service and the Federal Acquisition Service – and various staff offices, GSA provides workspace to more than 1 million federal civilian workers, oversees the preservation of more than 480 historic buildings, facilitates the purchase of high-quality, low-cost goods and services from quality commercial vendors, and had about $39 billion in federal assets at the end of fiscal year 2010.
GSA Public Buildings Heritage Program has a collection of 100+ of its most significant buildings. You can download these posters in PDF and read the history about each building when you click on its link. Each building page is filled with images, significance, architectural descriptions and more. It is a terrific resource. They are beautiful posters. Back in 2004 at the National Trust Conference in Louisville, KY, the GSA was giving out many for free. I have a bunch, including this one framed. But browse in a variety of ways (including architectural style) and choose your favorite.
They are all beautiful buildings. Take a look at this Old Post Office and Courthouse in Little Rock, Arkansas.
And I’m going to have to refrain from posting too many (as a matter of practicality), but here are a few more.
Find one you need? Contact the Historic Buildings Program. Happy Preservation Month! Happy weekend!
Taken at Fort Ethan Allen in Colchester, Vt.
Concrete, wire glass, large metal windows, it is almost poetic. Industrial buildings aren’t my favorite, but I really like this one.
How’s that for eye-catching for someone with a blog relating to pink flamingos and who despises vinyl siding as much as replacement windows? This book is custom written for a bunch of people I know, mostly readers of this blog.
The Pink Flamingo Murders by Elaine Viets is an entertaining murder mystery set in St. Louis. To begin with, the story centers around the rehabilitation of North Dakota Place. The characters live in beautiful houses that they restore slowly. There is gossip galore and petty fights — perhaps like Desperate Housewives without the housewives and with less glamorous abodes?
Viets provides St. Louis pop culture and landmarks throughout the story, likely a treat for anyone who knows the city well. The characters are charming or interesting enough that you’ll care about the end of their stories. Francesca, the protagonist and a writer for the fictitious St. Louis Gazette, keeps a quippy, smart mouth on her, one that will make you laugh throughout the book as you try to unravel the neighborhood murders along with her.
While the book will not teach you about rehabilitation or historic homes, as there are only a handful of terms tossed throughout the book, it was a fun read. Of course, I might be partial because of the hilarity of pink flamingos and rehabilitation in the same book. Seriously, this book was published in 1999? Where has it been hiding? If you love pink flamingos, local color, and a mystery, I’d recommend this book.
Series introduction. No. 1 = Ideas You Should Not Believe About Historic Preservation. No. 2 = Vocabulary for Translating and Holding Your Own in a Preservation Conversation. No. 3 = Let’s Talk about Architecture / The Very Beginning of Describing Buildings. No. 4 = Let’s Talk about Buildings A Bit More. No. 5 = The National Register of Historic Places (What You Should Know).
No. 6 = The History of Historic Preservation
As a recognized, formal academic and professional field, historic preservation is only about fifty years old. Organizations, ordinances, laws, and motivated individuals have been the backbone for establishing historic preservation in the United States.
Because preservation is connected to many other fields and its individual recognition is recent, the movement can be defined in different tracks, with a never-ending list of events. Books and professors can easily give you a long, thorough discussion on preservation’s history, so this post will highlight a few of the dates that are important to historic preservation in the USA. This particular list, assembled here, owes credit to Thomas Visser’s HP304 class lecture at the University of Vermont and to the book Historic Preservation by Norman Tyler. (Much of that same information can be found on this EMU webpage. I’ve simply compiled from the two and chosen which would be most relevant to readers.
You’ll note that the earliest efforts of historic preservation are centered on saving buildings and recreating environments. When that is under control and understood for the time, policy enters into the picture. As the years progress, policy plays an even larger role and the reaches of preservation are widened.
Now, for your very brief lesson in preservation history… enjoy! Feel free to add dates in the comments.
1813: Independence Hall (Pennsylvania State House) is purchased by the City of Philadelphia in order to save it from demolition.
1856: The Mount Vernon Ladies Association was chartered by Ann Pamela Cunningham in order to save George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, after Congress refused to purchase the property. The MVLA served as a basis for the structure of historical societies and organizations: run by women, raising money and restoring individual, landmark-worthy buildings in order to benefit the American public.
1872: Yellowstone National Park is designated as a federally protected area.
1876: The Columbian Exposition in Philadelphia introduces such items as the telephone, telegraph, linoleum, typewriter, and features an exhibit, The New England Kitchen of 1776, which will create an interest in Colonial architecture and style — hence, Colonial Revival.
1879: The Boston Antiquarian Club was founded in order to prevent the Old State House from being moved to the Chicago World’s Fair.
1901: William Sumner Appleton forms the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA), which is now Historic New England (HNE).
1906: Antiquities Act, the nation’s first historic preservation legislation, designates monuments on federal lands and imposes penalties for destroying federal owned sites.
1912: Wallace Nutting (1861-1941), a minister, photographers, preservationist, who wrote Old New England Pictures, acquired and restored a “Chain of Colonial Picture Houses” that were open to the public for a fee and serve as backdrops for historical photographs.
1916: The National Park Service is established.
1926: Colonial Williamsburg begins receiving funds from John D. Rockefeller, ,lead by Rev. W.A.R. Goodman. The 130 acre site is “weeded” to 18th century structures with important missing buildings reconstructed. Restoration guides the philosophy.
1927: Storrowton Village formed in West Springfield, MA using buildings relocated from MA and NH.
1929: Greenfield Village formed by Henry Ford by replicating and moving buildings.
1931: Charleston, SC establishes its “Old and Historic District,” which is the country’s first designated historic district. The district collectively develops restrictions in the general interest of the city.
1933: The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) is formed; it is the nation’s first federal preservation program.
1935: Historic Sites Act, passes by Congress, establishes preservation policy in the United States: “to preserve for public use historic sites, buildings and objects of national significance for the inspiration and benefit of the people of the United States.”
1936: The Vieux Carre is established as a historic district in New Orleans, LA.
1949: National Trust for Historic Preservation – established by Act of Congress as membership based organization, partially supported by federal appropriation.
1963: The demolition of Pennsylvania Station in New York City mobilizes the preservation movement.
1964: The country’s first historic preservation academic program is established at Columbia University by James Marston Fitch.
1966: National Historic Preservation Act is passed, establishing federal, state, and local government preservation responsibilities. Also established was the National Register of Historic Places.
1969: The Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) is formed by the National Park Service.
1970: Vermont’s Act 250 Land Use & Development Act, of which Criteria 8 states that proposed projects will not have undue adverse effects on aesthetics, beauty, historic sites, or natural areas.
1976: Tax Reform Act removed the incentive for the demolition of historic buildings.
1978: Revenue Act – passed by Congress and established incentive (investment tax credits) for rehabilitation of historic buildings.
1978: Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties introduced.
1980: The Main Street Program is established by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The NHPA of 1966 is amended to include Certified Local Governments.
1988: The National Trust for Historic Preservation launches its 11 Most Endangered Places List. (The entire state of Vermont is listed in 1993 and 2004.)
1991: New Orleans Charter for the Joint Preservation of Historic Structures and Artifacts, drafted by the Association for Preservation Technology and the American Institute for Conservation, in order to address how preservation interests and collection considerations could co-function. The result is that both are important and require care. A set of 10 principles is adopted.
1995: The Secretary of Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties is revised to adopt the four sets of standards: preservation, rehabilitation, reconstruction, and restoration.
1998: The National Trust for Historic Preservation chooses to become independent of federal funding.
2000: The Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS) is established by the National Park Service.
2005: 1897 Century Building in St. Louis, MO demolished, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation supported demolition. A New York Times article “When Preservation equals Demolition,” covers the story. This serves, to some, as a wake up call for ethics.
2007: The National Trust for Historic Preservation begins addressing historic preservation and sustainability issues.
2008: The Pocantico Proclamation on Sustainability and Historic Preservation is released by the National Trust. It addresses how to make the existing environment sustainable. Read it here.
The Elgin Springs House in Panton, Vermont was built ca. 1845 by architect James Gorham. Originally a Classic Cottage, the Greek Revival addition (right) was built ca. 1850. Owner Solomon Allen and his son, Hiram, started an enterprise focused on the supposed medicinal qualities of nearby Elgin Springs. Guests to this boarding house/inn were encouraged to drink from a spring on a nearby hill, which would “purify blood.”
The book, New England: A Handbook for Travellers by Moses Foster Stewart (1875) writes of Elgin Springs, “About 3 miles south of Vergennes are fine cascades of Otter Creek, near which is the Elgin Spring (small hotel) containing sulphates [sic] of magnesia, iron, and soda, and carbonates of soda and lime” (page 184).
The Vermont State Historic Sites & Structures Survey recorded this house in 1977. At that it had already been abandoned and was identified as threatened. Now, 34 years later, the house sits abandoned and seems to facing demolition by neglect. As to the reasoning and its fate? I’ve only heard in passing that it’s caught up in a family matter.
The poor, poor house.
For those interested, yes, there is a “Keep Out/No Trespassing” sign. These pictures were taken from the road. And, of course, I love this house.
Historical information obtained from The Historic Architecture of Addison County: Vermont State Register of Historic Places, published by the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation (1992).
Today the New York Times ran the obituary of a woman named Kathleen Harriman Mortimer, the daughter of W. Averell Harriman.
Kathleen Mortimer died at age 93 at her home in Arden, NY. Throughout the course of her life she was journalist, a United States ambassador to Moscow, traveled with her father abroad to important political events such as the Yalta conference, among many other accomplishments.
The obituary caught my attention because of my association with Mrs. Mortimer from my days of Overhills Oral History research. The Harriman family had a cottage on Overhills property; Averell Harriman, along with Percy Rockefeller, were important figures in the 1910s and 1920s of Overhills history. Kathleen and her sister visited Overhills when they were babies and toddlers. You can see a picture of Averell Harriman and his daughters on the Harriman Cottage porch on page 109 of the Overhills book (Arcadia Publishing, 2008).
I spoke with Kathleen Mortimer on the phone a few times throughout 2006-2009 about her brief time at Overhills. She sounded like a classy, interesting woman. At the time, I had no idea of her impressive life adventures. It was honor to speak with her. I extend my sympathies to the Harriman and Mortimer families on their loss of Kathleen.
By Nicholas Bogosian
A New Beginning
Coolidge Architects in Topeka, Kansas started giving hints that there could be layoffs. The year was 1988. Dave Mertz, then twenty-eight-years-old and married with two young kids, was perusing job listings in the back of the PRESERVATION newspaper put out by the National Trust. He applied to three. The position as Architectural Division Director for the statewide West Virginia Main Street Program looked promising, all except for a recent indictment of Gov. Arch A. Moore, Jr. and the threat of more job cuts. Steve Meridian, past President of Belmont Technical College in St. Clairsville, OH called. Mertz had applied for Director of a new historic preservation program there, but hadn’t heard any word until now.
“It is evident that other countries concerned with historic preservation are far ahead of the United States in providing for the conservation of craft skills. Czechoslovakia, for example, has a national system of craft centers supported by the government for this purpose. Japan, by law officially recognizes certain skilled craftsmen or groups of practitioners of early skills as “intangible cultural monuments” important to the life of the whole nation.” Whitehill Report of 1967
Bob Ney, Ohio State Senator, appropriated $300,000 to Belmont Tech for a new program. It was Meridian’s idea for creating a two-year historic preservation program. In an early interview, Mertz pointed out to Meridian that the program should be trades-related; otherwise two-year graduates of a purely academic preservation program wouldn’t stand a chance against students with Master’s Degrees of a similar study.
While Mertz was in grad school at Kansas State receiving his M.Arch in Architecture with an emphasis in Historic Preservation, he had the opportunity to teach undergraduate drafting classes as well as architectural studios. “That’s where I fell in love with the teaching aspect.”
Meridian saw that Mertz had a true vision for the program. He was offered the position, and he accepted. For the next four months he worked on developing the curriculum, ordering tools and equipment, ordering books, restructuring space to accommodate lab classes, and promoting the program to local news stations and high schools. Belmont Tech initially saw the Building Preservation & Restoration [BPR] program’s demographic as older students that were recently laid off from their job, but Mertz questioned, “Why aren’t we recruiting high school kids?” Both saw the program as an opportunity to provide the local valley with skilled labor, but neither could have conceived at this time of the national thirst for preservation craftsmen. By the summer of 1989, twenty local students had signed up for the first quarter. Classes began.
Some would have argued that the BPR program was ahead of its time in fulfilling a specific need in trades education, but John Fugelso had conceived of a two year hands-on preservation program at Durham Technical Institute in North Carolina over a decade prior to Belmont Tech’s. The stars hadn’t quite aligned, though, for the public’s grasping of the whole idea of building preservation training at a trades level. The Durham program lasted only a couple of years.
A Rare Breed
While at Coolidge Architects, Mertz realized that it didn’t matter what a designer wanted on paper. The skilled craftspeople available dictated whether a design was feasible. “BPR is a technical program…it exposes you to all sorts of things – it allows you to find yourself. To become a craftsman takes decades. This is the first step in a long journey,” says Mertz. “…as late as the nineteenth-century, the construction trades were considered highly desirable fields which required manual dexterity, critical thinking skills and advanced technical knowledge. This array of skills attracted highly qualified apprentices who were academically proficient and career driven.”
Then things started going downhill. In the second half of the nineteenth-century, higher education in America became an instrument of upward mobility for many. Though this may have been a beacon of opportunity for those wishing to make such a transition, it set in motion a trend which has become a national epidemic.
“Our testaments to physical work are so often focused on the values such work exhibits rather than on the thought it requires. It is a subtle but pervasive omission…. It is as though in our cultural iconography we are given the muscled arm, sleeve rolled tight against biceps, but no thought bright behind the eye, no image that links hand and brain.” Mike Rose, The Mind at Work
A recent documentary Race to Nowhere brings the epidemic into bright light. Many students today are pressured on all sides to become successful. White-collar success is the rule. Parents don’t want their kids to have to “toil” with their hands. Students feel a sense of ruination if they don’t get into the college that is going to set them for life.
“Today, students who struggle academically or who are socially maladjusted are often pushed into high school vocational programs. This influx of under-prepared and often unmotivated class of students, along with the shift to assembly-like construction practices during the post-war building boom, has led to the “dumbing” of the trades,” (Mertz[i])
It is precisely the preservation activity in the past thirty years that has been the force which is bringing about a revision and reawakening of the tradesman’s place in American society. Present-day craftspeople which harbor the jewels of historic building trade skills are a rare breed. They are a breed which various organizations and leaders within the preservation movement have begun to reproduce in various education experiments. To attract academically and manually proficient students that the preservation trades require, a work has begun to legitimize the trades once again.
The first International Trades Education Symposium [ITES] took place at Belmont Technical College in 2005. More than seventy-five preservation trades people and educators from around the world came together under the common understanding that the future of our built environment is under imminent threat. Projected shortages of trades people is alarming. America is not the only victim; it is an international problem.
“PTN [Preservation Trades Network] formed the concept of the International Trades Education Initiative in 2004 when it became clear that an important part of PTN’s educational mandate was to provide an opportunity for networking the people involved in the process of creating and sustaining programs that provide education in the trades worldwide.” Rudy Christian, Executive Director of PTN[ii]
If the apprenticeship model carried on a legitimate craft force in the past, today the trades are being legitimized and propelled at the collegiate level. “The more programs, the better. The more there are, the more legitimate the whole idea of it becomes,” says Mertz.
The BPR Program, similar to the hands-on preservation programs at College of the Redwoods in Eureka, CA and The American College of the Building Arts in Charleston, SC, bridges preservation theory and preservation practice. By gaining an understanding of preservation history, law, and economics, the student can have a better framework by which to base their implementation decisions. By gaining an understanding of building pathology and material sciences, the student can diagnose the root cause of building problems rather than make narrow-minded and wasteful repairs. The student is also prepared to gauge meaning and significance in the material world by studying architectural history and research/documentation methodologies.
Eventually, though, the student must step away from the textbooks and put on their Practitioner helmet. They must evaluate the problem before them, consider all the variables, and eventually make an informed decision of what to do about it. Jon Smith, superintendent of Allegheny Restoration in Morgantown, WV, teaches the field lab class every Friday for the BPR Program. Students work on actual historic sites doing everything from structural repairs to Dutchmans to lime slaking and soldering. In the field labs it is all about developing your technique; whether it’s gauging the consistency of mortar as it hangs from the trowel or hand chiseling mortises and tenons for heavy timber joinery.
An Era of Change
The National Council for Preservation Education (NCPE) was instituted as an organizing body of academic programs around the country. In order to be included in this body of programs, certain standards must be met. Through NCPE, prospective students can identify preservation programs around the country which have specialties that interest them. Michael Tomlan, president of NCPE in the early nineties and current Director of Cornell’s Graduate Program in Historic Preservation Planning, was instrumental in creating PreserveNet – an extension of NCPEs database. PreserveNet keeps a regularly updated listing of preservation resources, internships, jobs, field schools, and scholarships.
“…NCPE acknowledged the need to foster historic preservation education in public primary, secondary, and technical schools (K-12). However, their organizational infrastructure comprised exclusively of post secondary educators limited their practical contribution to the development of curricula at these “primary” levels…There are only a handful of educational institutions that confer degrees with an emphasis in historic preservation building arts, craft, and construction related skills…less than fourteen percent of our educational institution capacity is oriented toward these practitioner skill sets.” Robert W. Ogle, Dir. of Colorado Mountain College Preservation Program[iii]
Originally, NCPEs academic institution database included only Graduate and Four Year programs. In the mid-nineties, two year programs like Belmont Tech’s were not yet considered a legitimate training mode. But Michael Tomlan had a different perspective. “He understood the value of a community college education in how it related to finding you work,” says Mertz. Tomlan changed the format to allow for a two-year program and quickly encouraged Mertz to run for Chair of NCPE. Mertz was elected Chair in 1998 and completed a four year term. Suddenly new doors opened for the BPR Program and trades education initiatives. Mertz became the new voice of trades education development and found himself sitting in Dick Moe’s office at the National Trust and consulting new programs developing around the country.
Over the years, the BPR Program gained momentum. Eventually students started arriving from out of state. What may have been a degree for the out-of-work or the high school graduate started becoming secondary training for students already having undergraduate and graduate degrees. A local venture suddenly turned into a national commodity. “What I didn’t realize early on was how badly these people were needed on a national level.”
Beauty and Dignity
“From the very beginning, at Tuskegee, I was determined to have the students do not only the agricultural and domestic work, but to have them erect their own buildings. My plan was to have them, while performing this service, taught the latest and best methods of labour, so that the school would not only get the benefit of their efforts, but the students themselves would be taught to see not only utility in labour, but beauty and dignity, would be taught, in fact, how to lift labour up from mere drudgery and toil, and would learn to love work for its own sake.” Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery
He [Mertz] pauses. “Nothing has changed in twenty-one years. I have a paternal responsibility to every student.” There is a litany of names; names of students past. His pride for their achievements is palpable. He casually mentions them in class, in lab, in late night conversations. I have learned them myself.
“Nobody wants to work for a living anymore. There’s a sense of entitlement. Our parents are largely responsible for that – they want the kid to be a “professional” so they can earn the “big bucks,” and people complain that you can’t get into the dentist, doctor, or get your car fixed anymore.”
Students don’t always come to BPR to begin their journey as preservation craftspeople. Many graduate to become economic developers, preservation consultants, architectural historians, or administrative personnel at state preservation offices. Mertz wishes there were a through-line in all the stories of students that have decided to enter the field, but everyone’s story is unique. If there were a particular type of person with a particular set of interests, marketing for trades education might hit more directly.
As a student of the BPR program, I can see now that the diversity of skills gained here can open doors to so many avenues of the complex and interdisciplinary field we call Historic Preservation. In a world where hard work has been equated to “mere drudgery,” I am proud to be entering a profession which challenges that belief on every front and is restoring not only our built environment but also the beauty and dignity of our work.
[i] Mertz, David. “Shifting Sands: Why We Are Where We Are and Where We Are Going. Papers from the International Trades Education Symposium. 2009: Preservation Trades Network, Inc.
[ii] www.iptw.org. Feb. 3, 2011.
[iii] Ogle, Robert W. “Historic Preservation Craft Education Leads the Way: The Colorado Story.” http://www.iptw.org/rogle-ites07.htm. Feb. 3, 2011.
Rose, Mike. “The Mind at Work.” Viking: 2004.
Washington, Booker T. Three Negro Classics. “Up From Slavery.” Avon Books: 1965.
The Whitehill Report: http://www.iptw.org/whitehill-home.htm.