Preservation Photos #229

The lenticular truss bridge in Highgate Falls, VT.

The lenticular truss bridge in Highgate Falls, VT.

This two-span wrought iron lenticular truss bridge was constructed in 1887 by the Berlin Iron Bridge Company in Highgate Center. It currently serves pedestrians. A bit about lenticular truss bridges (and other metal truss bridges here):

Lenticular trusses consist of both upper and lower curved chords, giving the bridge the shape of a lens (hence the name lenticular). This bridge type gained popularity during the early 1880s, and a number were constructed in Vermont. 

Freeways to Boulevards and Parks: A Brief Introduction

Transportation tells the story of our culture: how we travel, in what style, what mode and to where. Depending on the design and form of our routes, it tells our priorities and the purpose of the roads.

Consider parkways of the 1920s-1940s: scenic, winding, stone bridges and underpasses, grassy medians, low speed limits. These roads were constructed for an enjoyable ride, making the journey part of the destination. Now consider interstates of the 1950s – 1970s or later: wide lane with wide shoulders, limited access, high speeds, blasting through the landscape. These corridors were built for efficiency and speed, getting the traveling public from one place to another.

Why is there such a difference in road construction? Just as our tastes in fashion, design, food, and culture change, so do our theories and methods of planning, construction, and transportation. Theories and methods change to fit our needs and wants, as evident by the evolution of our roadways.

Take note of where major highways are located, and you’ll see that many hug the waterfront of cities. These roads divide the waterfront from the city dwellers, which seem to ignore the potential high-value real estate. Don’t the best cities embrace their waterfront? Why would we ignore that by constructing roads instead of boardwalks, beaches, and parks? There are a few important factors to understand (note these are not all-inclusive).

(1) Until the modern era, the waterfront often represented the industry of a city. Shipping ports were major transportation centers, where goods would come in or leave the city. Waterfronts were for business, not play. Even little Burlington, Vermont had  waterfront filled with railroad lines, oil tanks, the lumber industry, etc. It was much different than today.

(2) Since the waterfront was not a cherished place in cities, especially as industry changed in the United States, building a road along the shorelines seemed to make sense. Transportation was replacing industry, particularly the shipping and rail industry.

(3) Before the interstate were the low speed (relatively speaking) parkways were constructed (think early Robert Moses era), driving was recreation and leisure. A Sunday drive was leisure time to Americans, and driving on a scenic highway adjacent to the the water made for beautiful views and a lovely afternoon.

(4) Interstates often replaced parkways. And interstates caused devastation through cities across the nation. However, building the interstate along the waterfront often was a path of least resistance, as they would transport vehicles around the city at high speeds, avoiding the congestion of inner city loops. .

(5) Recreation and city planning changed. Whether a parkway or an interstate, this pattern of development left the waterfront divided from city dwellers. At the time when these roads were constructed, people were moving out of cities, not living in them. The effects to a city were less noticeable than they might today. When people began living in cities as opposed to living in the suburbs, city dwellers wanted to reclaim the empty waterfronts.

Half a century later and development patterns and planning theories have indeed changed. Today cities across the country are working to remove (yes, remove!) freeways and reclaim the waterfront by turning the roads into boulevards or parks. An article 6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever (Gizmodo) is an amazing collection of examples around the world. On the east coast, you might know the Big Dig in Boston. On the west coast, Harbor Drive in Portland, OR is a well-know case study.

6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

Harbor Drive in Portland, Oregon BEFORE freeway removal. Click for source & article.

6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

Harbor Drive AFTER freeway removal. Click for source & article.

And there are many cities with proposals in mind such as Syracuse, New York and Niagara Falls, New York. PreserveNet keeps a website by the Preservation Institute detailing freeway removal projects. These are not minor undertakings. They are an incredible feats, requiring major design shifts. Improving quality of life within cities by giving pleasant open space to all speaks volumes to how we view and use cities today. Gone are the days when people are fleeing cities to the suburbs and need the roads to get in and out of the cities as quickly as possible. Instead, we see the value in these dense, urban environments. Quite the bold revitalization, and an example of what good a dramatic change can accomplish.

What do you think? Anything to add?

 

The Movers & the Shakers

Following up with Where Are the Running Preservationists?: It’s nice to know you fellow running-preservationists are out there! Thanks for speaking up, including those of you on Twitter. Check out the fun responses below.

Bottom line, you’re out there. And we’ll have to meet up at conferences to go running and exploring. However, not everyone is a runner. (Or some of you are, but are hesitant to admit it, see comments). This leads me to ask:

What is your favorite mode of transportation for exploring? Foot? Bicycle? Horse & carriage? Trolley? Car? I’d love to know. John Stilgoe, author of Outside Lies Magic, encourages everyone to walk or bike, because it enables to observe elements of the built and cultural landscape that we’d never see otherwise. Of course, certain modes are more fitting than other, depending on where you are and what you aim to do. When would you bike or drive?

I’d take a bike around a city so I can stop where I please, but still carry water, my bag, camera, and other essentials. Biking was the best way to see Minneapolis. I’d drive in rural areas because I don’t like to bike on roads with narrow shoulders. And there is the appeal of the open road. I’d take a trolley in a big city for the experience. In New York City, one of my favorite modes is the elevated train because you see cornices and rooftops and life from an entirely new perspective. What else. Where are you going next and how will you explore?

Abandoned Vermont: Randolph Coal & Ice Shed

In the center of Randolph, Vermont, just down the tracks from the Randolph Depot sits the former Randolph Coal and Ice Shed, ca. 1920. The railroad is no longer delivering coal to Randolph, but the structures sit relatively intact and intriguing.

The building sitting trackside.

The building sitting trackside.

Looking to the Randolph Depot.

Looking to the Randolph Depot (on left). It sits in a cluster of buildings.

Randolph Coal & Ice is still visible on the shed.

Randolph Coal & Ice is still visible on the shed.

View on the other side of the building.

View on the other side of the building.

Two large wooden silos held the coal.

Two large wooden silos held the coal.

Coal chutes.

Coal chutes.

Conveyor systems of buckets carried the coal.

Conveyor systems of buckets carried the coal, which is still visible throughout this building.

A door allowed access above the silos.

A door allowed access above the silos.

The coal shed is adjacent to the side rail.

The coal shed is adjacent to the side rail.

The rail industry has changed in the past 100 years, but these buildings allow us to understand how important this transportation network was to our country. Whether carrying passengers, agricultural products, timber, coal, quarry products, it was the best mode of transportation at the time. For this reason, towns were often built around the railroad and associated buildings were located prominently in the centers of our cities and towns. Do these rail buildings have a use? It’s hard, as they remain in railroad right-of-way, and often must be relocated. What could a former coal be used for in a new life? Any ideas?

The Carriage Museum

The second part of my visit to the Long Island Museum (first part was the Coney Island and Jones Beach exhibit) was exploring the newly renovated Carriage Museum:

The Carriage Museum houses the museum’s collection of more than 200 horse-drawn carriages, widely recognized as the finest in the United States. About 100 carriages are regularly on display, along with other rare artifacts from the carriage era. Admired for their beauty and craftsmanship, the carriages reflect an important part of America’s industrial and transportation history. The Carriage Museum also houses an authentic 19th century carriage making shop, complete with working machinery.

Long Islanders probably remember the carriage museum from elementary school field trips (fourth grade, anyone?). Today the carriage museum houses many exhibits that illustrate the evolution of carriages (that is to say horse and buggy, not baby carriage) and the importance of transportation to the development and culture of Long Island. From market wagons to stagecoaches to small peddler wagons and fire hose wagons, it makes for an interesting visit.

One of your first impressions of the carriage museum.

One of your first impressions of the carriage museum.

This map shows the growth of types of roads over the centuries.

This map shows the growth of types of roads over the centuries.

Finally something you can touch! Feel the different road surfaces used over the years.

Finally something you can touch! Feel the different road surfaces used over the years.

An actual gypsy wagon.

An actual gypsy wagon.

A child's toy wagon.

A child’s toy wagon.

Historic sleighs including a few from Vermont.

Historic sleighs including a few from Vermont.

A view inside the exhibit hall.

A view inside the exhibit hall.

If you’re interested in history, Long Island history, or transportation, you will enjoy a visit to the Long Island Museum.

News: Vote for the Best Bridge

Voting for the 2013 Othmar H. Ammann Awards has been extended to January 11, 2014. (You can thank these polar vortex/arctic blasts/ice storms).

Lime Creek Bridge north of Fulda, Minnesota. Photo taken in December 2010. Courtesy of Jason Smith, The Bridgehunter's Chronicles. Click for source.

Lime Creek Bridge north of Fulda, Minnesota. Photo taken in December 2010. Courtesy of Jason Smith, The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. Click for source.

The Othmar H. Ammann Awards honors the Swiss-American, internationally known bridge engineer. Read more about the awards on The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.

Why vote? To raise awareness for the world’s significant bridges. As Jason Smith, writer of The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles blog, this is like the Bridge Bowl.

The categories include (among others):

  • Bridge of the Year
  • Mystery Bridge
  • Best Photo
  • Best Preservation Example
  • Spectacular Disaster

Check it out and show bridges some love. Get your ballot here. Vote by Saturday January 11, Winners announced January 13, 2014.

Preservation Photos #209

Classic railroad station brackets underneath large overhanging, flared eaves. Chester Depot, VT.

Classic railroad station brackets underneath large overhanging, flared eaves. Chester Depot, VT.

I’d love to be traveling home by train this Thanksgiving, but the Vermont to New York trains only run south in the morning. While I love to drive, the train is a great way to travel, too. How are you traveling home, if you are?

A Bit about Railroad Depots

Waterbury, VT

Waterbury, VT

Vergennes, VT

Vergennes, VT

Randolph, VT

Randolph, VT: two depots in one shot! 

I’m deep into the trenches of a report about rail passenger stations and freight depots, so it’s about the only subject on my mind, besides the preservation conference. In almost every place I’ve lived, I can hear the train, even if it’s only at night when the air is still and the world is quiet. In some of my houses, I’ve felt the entire house shake when the freight trains barreled through town. In other places, the train is a distant rumble and whistle. There’s something comforting about that sound, and something mysterious and so adventurous about the train.

Transport by train for passengers and freight isn’t what it used to be; cars and trucks have misplaced trains for the most part. Still, railroads were the interstates of their time – taking land wherever they wanted it, blasting through mountains, diving farmland, and creating new settlements along the way. And still, railroads replaced canals. Transportation continues to evolve and change our landscape with it (fortunately in a much more conscientious way today than 50, 100, or 150 years ago).

If you grew up around the railroad, you are probably familiar with railroad depots – for passengers and freight. Most historic depots are easily recognizable, just as schoolhouses of the 1920s/1930s are easily identified by their bank of windows. While some might be high style (see Waterbury above) or more vernacular (see Roxbury below) and are constructed throughout the mid to late 19th century, these rail depots all have a few key features in common: (1) Large overhanging eaves; (2) Eaves supported by large, brackets – often decorative; (3) A rectangular shape with the length along the tracks; (4) A ticket agent bay window. Not every building will have all of these features, but next time you see a building that looks like it might be a depot, you’re probably right.

Ludlow, VT

Ludlow, VT

South Londonderry, VT

South Londonderry, VT

Roxbury, VT

Roxbury, VT

Do you have examples in your town? Any buildings you can think of that are probably rail buildings? Want to see a few more? Vergennes, Wallingford, Fair Haven, Swanton.