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?

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).

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!

Abandoned Vermont: Reading House

Over the years, I’ve driven past this house many times getting that “abandoned” vibe from it, then noticing broken windows, overgrown brush, yet a mowed lawn. Maybe it wasn’t entirely abandoned, but certainly no one lived in this house. Finally I stopped to take some photographs. Considering how long it’s been neglected and vacant, it is in good condition. Who needs a house in Reading, Vermont? Advice for when you cannot information about a property (e.g. if it’s for sale): call the town offices.

Surrounded by trees.

Surrounded by trees.

The side of the house.

The side of the house.

The rear of the house is a bit more worn. But the slate roof is gorgeous.

The rear of the house is a bit more worn. But the slate roof is gorgeous.

The porch has seen better days, and this rear ell.

The porch has seen better days, and this rear ell.

Beautiful back porch (you probably remember this photo from an Instagram post).

Beautiful back porch (you probably remember this photo from an Instagram post).

The interior is not too far gone.

The interior is not too far gone.

Seen through the back door, not in such great shape.

Seen through the back door, not in such great shape.

But it might need some plaster. This Rutland Patching Plaster is from nearby Rutland, VT!

But it might need some plaster. This Rutland Patching Plaster is from nearby Rutland, VT!

Beautiful doorknobs!

Beautiful doorknobs!

Barn view from the porch.

Barn view from the porch.

Front of the barn.

Front of the barn.

The front of the house is hard to see from the road, as the road sits further behind this photographer.

The front of the house is hard to see from the road, as the road sits further behind this photographer.

What a beautiful property, isn’t it? It hasn’t been surveyed (that I can find), and is not listed in the State or National Register. However, I’m sure you could make a strong case for eligibility in Reading, VT. What do you love most: original windows, hardwood, wood details, doorknobs, slate roof?

Westmount Conservatory

An answer and a follow up to the most recent Preservation Pop Quiz

In the Westmount neighborhood of Montreal, this 1927 conservatory (also called a Victorian greenhouse) sits adjacent to the Westmount Public Library. It’s open year-round to the public and is filled with plants, flowers, and water fountains.

The view inside the conservatory.

The view inside the conservatory. 

Looking up at the ceiling on a rainy day. Imagine the warm sunshine beaming through those panes!

Looking up at the ceiling on a rainy day. Imagine the warm sunshine beaming through those panes!

Pink flowers!

Pink flowers and tiled floors.

The still-operational ventilators inside the greenhouse. The wheel and shaft open the windows.

The still-operational ventilators inside the greenhouse. The wheel and shaft open the windows.

The conservatory is adjacent to the Westmount Public Library.

The conservatory is adjacent to the Westmount Public Library.

Any greenhouses by you? I’m not a plant expert, but the sight of flowers and historic buildings is enough to draw me in for a stroll through a conservatory.

Preservation Photos #237

20140617-161844-58724267.jpg A Tudor style entrance in Westmount, Montreal. What is more inviting than a beautiful, historic entrance?