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!
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.
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?
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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.
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):
- Pop Quiz bridge,
- Highgate Lenticular Truss,
- Bridges on the Mississippi River,
- A Replacement Bridge,
- The First Girder,
- B is for Bridge,
- A Favorite Bridge,
- How to Photograph a Bridge,
- Abandoned Bridge.
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).
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.
Next visit, I need more time to see the museums and the monuments. What’s your favorite part of Washington D.C.?
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).
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.