Old Ruskin Church, Ware County, GA

Traveling across Highway 84 in Ware County, Georgia, you’ll see a worn sign with red lettering on the side of the road in Ruskin, an unincorporated community in Waycross.

Off Highway 84.

Off Highway 84.

Looking back down the dirt road (in front of the church).

Looking back down the dirt road and across the tracks (in front of the church).

The “Old Ruskin Church” intrigues a preservationist familiar with John Ruskin’s, The Seven Lamps of Architecture.  Pull over, make a u-turn and turn down the southern dirt road, Griffin Road. Cross the tracks at the curve in the road is the Old Ruskin Church. This darling white church sits quietly beneath the picturesque canopy of long leaf pines, among the fallen pine straw.  On a sunny day, it seemed to be one of the most serene spots to find.

Old Ruskin Church.

Old Ruskin Church.

Perfect southern setting.

Perfect southern setting.

The steeple among the pines.

The steeple among the pines.

Beautiful detail on this little church. And also many bees nests. It's in need of some maintenance.

Beautiful detail on this little church. And also many bees nests. It’s in need of some maintenance.

One more for good measure.

One more for good measure.

The Old Ruskin Church, ca. 1899, belonged to the Ruskin Commonwealth, a Utopian socialist community incorporated in 1899. This community was founded by 240 people who moved near Waycross in 1899 from the Ruskin Colony in Tennessee (1896-1899). As the name suggests, the community was founded on principles of the English social reformer John Ruskin.  See photographs of the community here. Unfortunately, the settlement lasted only a few years, disbanding in 1901 due to poor farming land, poor business ventures, disease and poverty.

Who owns this church? What goes on here? There was no indication. Do you know anything about it? Please share!

Preservation Pop Quiz: Buena Vista, GA edition

It’s been a while since there’s been a Preservation Pop Quiz around these parts. This one is from my travels in Georgia. A group of us attended a local art opening in Buena Vista, GA. The opening took place in a historic building, though the drop ceiling and other modifications hid the original details of the building. But, like the preservationist that I am, I walked around the perimeter of the big room and looked up, staring at a particular corner for a while. Why was this door here and how did it function? I do have the answer to this one, but tell me your impressions first!

First up: the exterior of the building in Buena Vista, GA.

First up: the exterior of the building in Buena Vista, GA.

Storefront of the building.

Storefront of the building.

Exterior of the particular corner that perplexed me.

Exterior of the particular corner that perplexed me.

Interior space for the art opening. Note the fluorescent lights and drop ceiling.

Interior space for the art opening. Note the fluorescent lights and drop ceiling. Corner in question is on the right.

The interior corner, a door.

The interior corner, a door.

Bottom of the door.

Bottom of the door.

Looking up above the door.

Looking up above the door.

Looking up in the same area.

Looking up in the same area.

You can see the door, then the transom, then the ceiling.

You can see the door, then the transom, then the ceiling.

And another interesting feature of this building. Vents beneath the sidewalk.

And another interesting feature of this building. Vents beneath the sidewalk. (Unrelated to the quiz question.)

What do you think?

Boquet Octagonal Schoolhouse

It’s not everyday that you encounter an octagonal stone schoolhouse; but drive on Route 22 through the tiny hamlet of Boquet in the town of Essex, NY and you’ll come across this historic 1826 structure. Designed by architect Benjamin Gilbert, the school served the population around the local, growing sawmills. The octagon was later popularized by Thomas Jefferson at Poplar Forest (read more here from AARCH). Today the building is owned by the town and open for tours by appointment. Many original features remain in this octagonal schoolhouse. The community is undertaking a fundraiser to raise money for restoration of the building. Read more here. And there’s an old set of swings, too. Take a look!

Boquet Schoolhouse in Essex, NY.

Boquet Schoolhouse in Essex, NY.

Stone & octagonal. The local heritage orgainzation (ECHO) is raising money to repair to building.

Stone & octagonal. The local heritage organization (ECHO) is raising money to repair to building.

And a bit of a historic playground to go along with the schoolhouse!

And a bit of a historic playground to go along with the schoolhouse!

These old swings are made of a canvas-like material instead of rubber like you'd see nowadays.

These old swings are made of a canvas-like material instead of rubber like you’d see nowadays.

Still functioning swings.

Still functioning swings.

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?

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

Featured: Happy Vermont

Today, find Preservation in Pink at Happy Vermont, a travel blog by Vermont writer Erica Houskeeper. Interested in historic buildings and abandoned buildings, Erica asked if I would be interested in talking about Vermont’s abandoned buildings in time for Halloween. Of course! Read the post here and let Erica know your thoughts.

Click to read the article by Erica Houskeeper at Happy Vermont.

Click to read the article by Erica Houskeeper at Happy Vermont.

Happy exploring!

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.?

Abandoned Quebec: Mirabel Airport & Chateau Aeroport-Mirabel

Mirabel Airport opened in 1975, just in time for the 1976 Montreal Olympics. At the time it was the largest airport in the world, and meant to solve the problems of Montreal’s (supposed) overcrowded Dorval Airport (now Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport). While Mirabel Airport was sited a fair distance (34 miles) outside of downtown Montreal, the master plan was to construct high speed rail and a highway to provide easy access for travelers. It sounded good. However, the rail was never constructed and the highway ended before the airport. Mirabel became too inconvenient for travelers and airlines, all of whom preferred Dorval Airport. Passenger numbers never reached the predictions of 20 million, and slowly declined, with passenger service ending in 2004. Since then, the terminal has sat empty, used only for the filming of a few films (The Terminal; Warm Bodies, for example). The former passenger airline runway is used for racing tracks (a brilliant adaptive reuse of all that pavement!) The airport serves only cargo planes.

However, an abandoned airport is particularly on the creepy side, when you consider that it’s a modern relic. The approach to the airport includes an empty parking garage on one side and the abandoned hotel on the other side. The Chateau Aeroport-Mirabel closed in 2002 due to lack of business. The hotel has sat empty since then. For a while there was talk of rehabilitating the terminal into a conference center, but plans never materialized. As of May 2014, the demolition of the airport terminal was announced, citing that rehabilitation / adaptive reuse could cost tens of millions of dollars.

Drag racing on the runways. You can see signs of the airport taxi lanes.

Drag racing on the runways. You can see signs of the airport taxi lanes.

A portion of the terminal that you can walk up to, but not see in.

A portion of the terminal that you can walk up to, but not see in.

That same portion outside the fence.

That same portion outside the fence.

The terminal is fenced off.

The terminal is fenced off.

View of the terminal from across the runway.

View of the terminal from across the runway.

The terminal at sunset.

The terminal at sunset.

The Chateau Aeroport-Mirabel.

The Chateau Aeroport-Mirabel.

Broken windows, curtains hanging, some lights on... creepy in concrete. There's a Soviet Russia feel here.

Broken windows, curtains hanging, some lights on… creepy in concrete. There’s a Soviet Russia feel here.

View of the Chateau and the abandoned parking deck, with the terminal in the background.

View of the Chateau and the abandoned parking deck, with the terminal in the background.

An example of poor modern planning, perhaps? What do you think of this modern relic abandoned and demolished?

Want to read more? Mirabel Airport & Chateau Aeroport-Mirabel & interior photosAn article and videos of the hotel’s interior. And check out the video of the airport.

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!