NTHP Savannah 2014: A Location Review

A street near Forsyth Park: porches, brick sidewalk, mature trees.

A street near Forsyth Park: porches, brick sidewalk, mature trees.

Savannah, Georgia: a perfect setting for the National Trust for Historic Preservation Conference (or “PastForward” as we call it these days). Historic homes and live oaks draped with spanish moss line the gridded streets and monumental squares of Savannah, planned in the manner of the Ogelthorpe Plan. Everywhere you look, the architecture is beautiful and photo-worthy. It’s a photogenic city in every sense of the word (and we preservationists love our photographic documentation). The Savannah Historic District is a National Historic Landmark District designated in 1966. The Historic Savannah Foundation is active in restoration, stewardship, and community involvement to achieve its mission of preserving and protecting Savannah’s heritage. Students of the Savannah College of Art & Design benefit from having Savannah as a living, learning lab. Historic preservation and heritage are common conversations in Savannah (not to imply that it is always easy). You can understand why preservationists were excited for a conference in Savannah. After attending the conference, I can say that my excitement for Savannah was well worth it. The National Trust has always put together great conferences, too.

However, I am interested in discussing the location in more detail. Anyone up for it? Let me explain. Many of the conference sessions were held at the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center located on Hutchinson Island, which is across the river from the city of Savannah. It’s a short drive over the bridge or a free ferry ride across the river, which wasn’t really a big deal. The issue that I found (and discussed and overheard many times) related to the fact that the convention center felt so far removed from downtown Savannah.

Looking at Hutchinson Island, waiting for the ferry from the Savannah side.

Looking at Hutchinson Island, waiting for the ferry from the Savannah side.

Why did it feel so far removed? The only places on the island were the convention center and a Westin hotel. This meant that there were no local businesses to support on the island. Your break between sessions, if any break, could not be spent wandering the street to another session and passing by the local stores or cafes. Speaking of cafes, there was no place to buy a cup of coffee or a snack or lunch on the island, unless you wanted to spend an arm and a leg at the corporate hotel next door. If you took time to catch the ferry and head back to the city side, you would miss sessions, probably those lunch time sessions! That was not convenient.

In such a large convention center, there was definitely space to contract with a few local cafes or caterers to sell coffee, lunch, or snacks. If contracts limited that option, perhaps that was not the best location. On Thursday and Friday there were “nosh and network” breaks in the preservation studio, but it didn’t quite fit the bill. Most people eat and drink coffee on different schedules. This seemed like a major oversight.

In a city so large with so many hotels located in the downtown historic district, it would seem that session locations could be spread out and attendees could walk from one to another or easily slip outside for a coffee before catching the next session. Spending most of the day in a convention center, only staring at the historic district across the river, felt odd to a preservationist, particularly to one attending a historic preservation conference.

Perhaps there were perfectly good reasons to site the conference across the river. It should be noted that field sessions, TrustLive and other events were located on the city side of the river, but many sessions were held at the convention center. I’d be interested to know why. And I’d recommend to the National Trust that the next conference be sited more in line with preservation practices.

In summary: great conference content, great overall location, poor conference HQ choice.

What do you think?

Spotlight on the Historic Bridge Foundation, Part Two

Yesterday we started talking about historic bridges as a way to introduce the Historic Bridge Foundation (HBF). Have you heard of the HBF prior to this? If not, let’s get you acquainted, as HBF is one organization you should know for your historic preservation projects.

HBF

The Historic Bridge Foundation is a national advocacy organization for the preservation of historic bridges in the United States. HBF achieves its mission through the following avenues:

  • Service as a clearinghouse for information on the preservation of historic bridges via a website, electronic newsletters or alerts, and directory of consultants
  • Identification of and communication with individuals and groups interested in the preservation of historic bridges
  • Consultation with public officials to devise reasonable alternatives to demolishing or adversely affecting historic bridges
  • Development of educational programs to promote awareness of historic bridge

How can the HBF help you? HBF provides support and resources. You’ll most likely be looking for help if you have a historic bridge threatened with demolition. You can start by reading How to Save a Bridge. This page has a list of contractors who have worked with historic bridges, steps to get you started for rounding up community members, as well as case studies of historic bridge projects.

When you’re hoping to save a historic bridge you need to know how the project is being funded, because that determines which regulations apply. If it’s federal funding, Section 106 comes into play. If it’s federal transportation dollars, then Section 4(f) applies. Both of these federal laws require public input from stakeholders. That’s you!, but you have to get organized. HBF offers guidance on that. HBF will point you in the direction of the resources you need.

Want to get involved and keep up with the Historic Bridge Foundation? Follow HBF on Facebook or Sign up for the newsletter. Questions? Need help? Have something to offer? Contact the Executive Director Kitty Henderson at kitty@historicbridgefoundation.com. If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Kitty, she’s extremely passionate, knowledgeable, and dedicated to the cause. She’s a guardian angel for historic bridges!

If you’re at the NTHP Conference in Savannah, stop by the HBF table in the Preservation Studio and talk to Nathan Holt, the creator of Historicbridges.org and the newsletter editor for HBF.

Spotlight on the Historic Bridge Foundation, Part One

While driving around Georgia, I’ve noticed one bridge railing in particular: a two bar concrete railing with rectangular concrete posts. It’s a rather simple design and it’s used all over Georgia’s highways (those that I’ve seen in south Georgia), from long spans to short spans, interstates and state highways. Something about this railing says engineering and economic efficiency, yet there is an aesthetic quality to it. And those that are replaced with concrete Jersey barriers are just not the same.

Georgia railing as seen from the passenger seat.

Georgia railing as seen from the passenger seat.

Bridges take us from one side to another, physically and/or metaphorically (whichever you prefer). Historic bridges stand as records of engineering heritage. Each genre of bridge speaks to its designers, materials available at the time, the technology available, the width of vehicles they transported, and methods of construction. And, quite often, those historic bridges that survive today are beautiful, photogenic and interesting to see. Covered bridges, metal truss bridges, arch bridges, small ornamental concrete railings – they’re all a part of the larger picture of bridges and transportation.

Unfortunately, because our transportation needs are constantly changing due to larger, heavier vehicles, more traffic, and safety standards, many of our historic bridges must be repaired, altered, or replaced. Deferred maintenance and deteriorating materials place many of our historic bridges at risk for demolition. Even with federal regulations to aid in preservation, the decision to rehabilitate a historic bridge is sometimes a difficult path.

Every resource needs an advocate or many, and advocates need a guiding force. What do historic bridges have? Enter the Historic Bridge Foundation based in Austin, TX. Before diving into the nuts and bolts of HBF, read the story on the main page, which is written by Executive Director, Kitty Henderson. She writes about the Vida Shaw Swing Bridge and how it really inspired the work of the HBF.

After you read Kitty’s story, take a moment in the comments to share your favorite bridge or a bridge story. Why do you love bridges? What got you hooked on bridges? What do you think of bridges? Tomorrow I’ll share more about the HBF and its mission, work, accomplishments, and challenges. 

A few bridges posts from over the years (I love bridges; I write about them often):

I’m looking forward to our bridge conversations. And if you’re here for #pastforward, be sure to visit the Historic Bridge Foundation in the Preservation Studio (exhibitor’s hall).

In Savannah at the National Historic Preservation Conference

This week is the annual National Trust for Historic Preservation Conference in Savannah, GA. If you’re in with the social media crowd (anyone can be, jump on!) you’ll see the hashtag #presconf and #pastforward. If you see that this week, you’ll know that person is hanging out with a couple of thousand preservationists in Savannah. It’s warm and sunny and beautiful, and I’m looking forward an intense few days of preservation overload, in the best possible way. Already, I’ve been touring Georgia with some of my Vermont preservation colleagues and we’ve had a blast and some true southern experiences. I hope you don’t mind picture overload! Get ready for more this week.

If you’re not able to be here in Savannah, the NTHP has made it easier to join from afar. Check out these live streaming events. Register (free) so you can get your virtual attendance packets. Hope you enjoy. Let me know how it goes! 

One part of the conference includes the exhibitor’s hall, at which preservation minded businesses, organizations, and schools set up camp to chat with conference goers and let everyone know what they have to offer. This week it is my pleasure to share with you the Historic Bridge Foundation. Read on in the next post. 

It’s that Time Again!

Who is going to the National Trust for Historic Preservation conference next week in Savannah, GA? More information on it’s way. Hope to see you there!

pastforward

[Book Signing] Vermont Beer: A History of a Brewing Revolution

Vermont is known for its craft breweries, in addition to our foliage, cheese, ice cream, skiing, and maple syrup. Tonight at Phoenix Books in Burlington, VT, come join the authors, Adam Krakowski & Kurt Staudter, of Vermont Beer: A History of a Brewing Revolution for a discussion of the book and a book signing. (Then go find a good pint around the corner!) It’s sure to be a good event. Adam is a good friend and a fellow UVM HP alum, and is absolutely passionate about his studies and his beer. Knowing the hard work he put into this book, I’m excited to see it presented. Way to go, Adam and Kurt!

beercoverSome information about the authors & the book:

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Adam Krakowski is a decorative and fine arts conservator based in Quechee, Vermont. He holds a BA in art history with a minor in museum studies and a MS in historic preservation from the University of Vermont. He has worked at museums, historical societies, art galleries and restoration firms all over New York and New England. He was the recipient of the 2010 Weston Cate Jr. Research Fellowship from the Vermont Historical Society for his project A Bitter Past: Hop Farming in Nineteenth-Century Vermont.

Kurt Staudter is the executive director of the Vermont Brewers Association, which represents all the breweries in the state. He is also the Vermont columnist for the Yankee Brew News and has written about beer and politics in the Vermont Standard and Vermont Magazine. He learned about beer at a very early age (perhaps a little too early by today’s standards) from his first-generation German American father, who made sure that his love for good food, great beer and family were passed on to the next generation. Along with his wife, Patti, he runs the trade association for the Vermont brewers from Springfield, Vermont.

ABOUT THE BOOK: Vermonters love all things local, so it is no surprise that the Green Mountain State has had a thriving craft beer scene for more than twenty years. Early Vermont brewers, though, faced many obstacles in bringing their beer to the thirsty masses, including a state-imposed prohibition beginning in 1852. Conditions remained unfavorable until Greg Noonan championed brewing legislation that opened the door for breweries and brewpubs in the 1980s. About the same time, beloved Catamount also began brewing, and Vermont’s craft beer scene exploded. Years ahead of the rest of the country, local favorites like Hill Farmstead, Long Trail and Rock Art Brewing have provided world-class beers to grateful patrons. From small upstarts to well-recognized national brands like Magic Hat and Harpoon, Vermont boasts more breweries per capita than any other state in the country. With brewer interviews and historic recipes included here, discover the sudsy story of beer in Vermont.

Hope to see you there!

Phoenix Books, 191 Bank Street, Burlington, VT @ 7pm

Washington D.C. Excursion

For years, I’ve been dreaming of Washington, D.C. When you think the top of the preservation world, you think Washington, D.C., right? (Well, I do.) Thankfully, a flamingo wedding just outside D.C. was the perfect reason for a mini-excursion to D.C. and for the annual flamingo reunion. It was a flurry of jaw-dropping architecture, good food, bicycling, and flamingo-ing. While a sort visit, the best way to use that time was wandering around, hopping on and off Capital BikeShare bikes, and just enjoying the sights. However, be warned, D.C. wasn’t all that bike friendly in terms of bike lanes.

Everything is beautiful in D.C., even the lamp posts.

Everything is beautiful in D.C., even the lamp posts.

The U.S. Capital.

The U.S. Capital.

The Washington Monument.

The Washington Monument.

The World War II Memorial is stunning.

The World War II Memorial is stunning.

View of the Washington Monument from the World War II Memorial.

View of the Washington Monument from the World War II Memorial.

Lions at Judiciary Square.

Lions at Judiciary Square.

Finally, I saw these in person. I've wanted to see these columns and capitals for years.

Finally, I saw these in person. I’ve wanted to see these columns and capitals for years.

Beautiful.

Beautiful.

U.S. flags surround the Washington Monument.

U.S. flags surround the Washington Monument.

Glen Echo Park, an art deco setting for a flamingo wedding.

Glen Echo Park, an art deco setting for a flamingo wedding.

This needs no explanation, except that it was handmade by the best man's mother. Everyone gets in on the flamingos.

This needs no explanation, except that it was handmade by the best man’s mother. Everyone gets in on the flamingos.

Riding the historic carousel!

Riding the historic carousel!

Georgetown is gorgeous.

Georgetown is gorgeous.

Near the White House.

Near the White House.

So many cornices to photograph.

So many cornices to photograph.

The White House, behind a fence.

The White House, behind a fence.

The National Building Museum, the former U.S. Pension building.

The National Building Museum, the former U.S. Pension building.

Next visit, I need more time to see the museums and the monuments. What’s your favorite part of Washington D.C.?

A Visit to Wilmington

If you’re a preservationist in Vermont, you know Wilmington for the 2012 Historic Preservation and Downtown conference and the 2011 flooding of Tropical Storm Irene, among other reasons. If you’re an out-of-stater, you probably know Wilmington as a ski town; Mount Snow is just up the road. And maybe you’ve all heard about Dot’s Restaurant (The NY Times reported on its reopening last December). Wilmington is a beautiful small town in southern Vermont with a good stock of architecture, amenities for visitors and pleasant streets. Take a look (side note: click on the photographs to enlarge, and see them with better clarity). 

Wilmington is currently filled with giant chairs.

Wilmington is currently filled with giant chairs.

Ascending front gables on South Main Street.

Ascending front gables on South Main Street.

The 1898 Crafts Inn.

The 1898 Crafts Inn.

Route 9 & Route 100. Check out those brackets!

Route 9 & Route 100. Check out those brackets!

This building is undergoing renovations (still, post flood). It is the 1930 Parmalee & Howe Drugstore.

This building is undergoing renovations (still, post flood). It is the 1930 Parmalee & Howe Drugstore.

The intersection of Route 9 and Route 100 features a beautiful pocket park.

The intersection of Route 9 and Route 100 features a beautiful pocket park.

Looking for more history? Read the entire National Register nomination here. It’s now available online thanks to the massive digitization effort by Vermont Division for Historic Preservation (our SHPO office). And it’s almost leaf peeping season, followed by ski season. Enjoy Vermont if you’re coming for a visit!

Clever Place to Hide an A/C Unit

There’s got to be better places to store an air conditioner than where a transom should be or hanging out a window, right? What about a flower box disguise?

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You can barely notice it (unless you’re really tall, I suppose).
What do you think?

Philly Forum 2014

forum2014

This week Philadelphia welcomes Forum 2014: A Keystone Connection, the Statewide Conference on Heritage / Byways to the Past. The 2014 conference is a partnership between the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions, Preservation Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

Transportation, historic preservation, history, technology – this conference looks like it’s going to be great. Tickets sold out! Will you be there? I’ll be presenting on Thursday July 17 as part of the session, Crossing into History: Compatible Bridge Design in Historic Districts. Here’s the panel summary and speakers:

Bridges are not always mere conduits for transportation, but can play important roles in shaping, or affecting, the identity of a place.  While some bridges are small and unnoticeable, others are visual representations of a particular period in time and important elements of historic settings.  What happens when a bridge in an historic setting cannot be rehabilitated?   How do you design a new bridge that is compatible with the setting but does not end up looking historicized?  Is it better to design a bridge that is modern and does not attempt to imitate history or is it possible to develop compatible new designs that reflect their setting.  This session will explore these issues and offer insight into appropriate context sensitive design.

Moderator:

  • Monica Harrower, Cultural Resources Professional, PennDOT District 6-0

Speakers:

  • Michael Cuddy, Principal, TranSystems
  • Mary McCahon, Senior Historian, TranSystems
  • Barbara Shaffer, Planning and Environmental Specialist, Federal Highway Administration
  • Dain Gattin, Chief Engineer, Philadelphia Streets Department
  • Emanuel Kelly, FAIA, Philadelphia Art Commission
  • Kaitlin O’Shea, Historic Preservation Specialist, Vermont Agency of Transportation


Join us to learn about historic bridges, replacement projects, and historic districts!