For the Olympic Lovers: The Olympics and Place

The Winter Olympics have been near and dear to my heart for a long time, since my sister Annie O’Shea is on the USA Skeleton team. While she is not competing in the Olympics this time around (women’s skeleton had two spots, not three), it’s still exciting to cheer on the athletes whose names and faces are familiar to me. Go Bobsled & Skeleton!

Have you been watching the Olympics yet? Have you noticed the gorgeous scenery in and around Sochi? While you’re watching the Olympics with a preservation eye (let’s face it, we never stop thinking preservation), have you considered how the Olympics alter a place? Suddenly there is an entire village constructed, inhabited and then deserted. Surely this alters its host city. Does it have the benefit of creating beautiful spaces and opportunities for these cities? Or is it just too much to handle all at once?  It seems that cities have varying results, but overwhelmingly there are venues without a purpose.

A list of the summer and winter sports (wow, there are many more winter sports!)

Toboggan runs in Yosemite National Park, 1932.

The Bobsled/Skeleton/Luge track from the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics.

Olympic cities after the Olympics (a positive spin).

Decaying cities follow the Olympics (a negative spin).

And some eerie abandoned post Olympic venues.

Three lessons cities should learn by hosting the Olympics.

Successful changes to Barcelona due to the 1992 Olympics.

The Olympic City Project, a book documenting post Olympic cities, and the NPR interview (with photos).

The 1932 Bobsled and Skeleton track at Lake Placid, NY. The 1980 track remains in use.

What do you think? What should cities take into consideration when bidding on, planning for, and constructing the Olympic venues? And what can we do these monstrous venues following the close of each Olympics? Is there value in preservation? Planners, preservationists, everyone – what do you have to say?

Vermont Downtown & Historic Preservation Conference

It’s a busy week in preservation and for PiP adventures! Following the SIA conference, it’s time to head to another one, only this is much closer to home.

Tomorrow, Friday June 7, 2013, is the annual Vermont Downtown & Historic Preservation conference, to be held this year in Barre, Vermont. It’s not too late to register - do so online or at the morning registration. Come join us in Vermont for local history, master planning, discussions as to why downtowns are important, good keynote speakers & presenters, inspiring preservation awards, and much more! See the full program here.

This is a good place for all preservationists to meet others, to network and to learn! Students are encouraged to come. If you’re in central Vermont and heading to the conference, let me know. Hope to see you there. VT_DCHP_Program_2013_final
Last year’s HP Conference in Wilmington and the 2011 HP Conference in Poultney with write-ups here and here.

The First Girder – January 27, 2011

Two years ago (yesterday) was a momentus day in the lives of those involved with the Lake Champlain Bridge. On a frigid January day, the first girder was set on Pier 7 of the Lake Champlain Bridge at Chimney Point. To those of us who had never seen such a feat, it was incredible, and we stayed long past normal working hours. And to those waiting for the bridge to open, it was another visual sign of progress.

The first girder on Pier 7.

The first and second girder on Pier 7.

The first girder on Pier 7.

The first and second girder on Pier 7.

Following the first girders, other significant Lake Champlain Bridge events include the Arch Raising on August 26, 2011 and the bridge opening on November 7, 2011 and the opening ceremony on May 19-20, 2012.

Other Lake Champlain Bridge posts: Lake Champlain Bridge Photo Update &  Love a Replacement Bridge?

Preservation Photos #155

20121030-113557.jpgToday’s NYTimes: October 30, 2012. Wishing safety to all from the storm, a quick recovery, hope, and strength to those in need.

Historic Preservation and the Final Frontier

All of a sudden, it seems, the discussion of historic preservation, cultural conservation and archaeological protection on the moon and in space, is making the news. If you glance over space preservation or moon preservation or similar subjects, it could sound a bit strange, yes? Some people (the pessimists) might even think, oh great, now the preservationists want to prevent change on the moon and in outer space. Or maybe you thought that. I’ll admit, I had never given thought to preservation in space until a recent few articles.

From the New York Times article, “To Preserve History on the Moon, Visitors Are Asked to Tread Lightly,” to the post on HISTPRES, “Space Preservation: Proposing a Lunar Protection Agency,” preservationists, archaeologists, and others are abuzz with what this might for our related fields. For those who have worked toward preservation in space, some (such as Dr. Beth O’Leary of New Mexico State University) since 1999) this recognition and widespread discussion must be a long time coming.

Read the above articles for the full story (both are worth your time). In brief: as space travels moves closer to reality, people are starting to consider what cultural significance there is on the moon (Tranquility Base – on the moon – is where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. Their footprints remain). Artifacts from the space expedition in 1969 are stored in California and cataloged in the archives in the states California and New Mexico. In other words, the objects are protected.

However, what about the footprints? The famous footprints of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin? These footprints and Tranquility Base could be considered a worldwide cultural landscape (called a World Heritage Site).

Buzz Aldrin's boot print on the moon. Photograph via Wikipedia through NASA (this photograph is in the public domain).

As the articles point out, lunar tourism – even just one group or spaceship – could destroy this landscape. How do we (collectively, as an entire population) protect such a place? Who will curate the space? Who visits the landscape? How do you protect something in space? Chloe Castro’s HISTPRES post (based on her thesis) discusses the current lack of measures for protecting the landscape and the footprints. She makes suggestions for a Lunar Protection Agency and explores need for international, cooperative involvement.

What’s the bottom line right now? Why is this an issue and not some ridiculous preservation idea? Simply put, many people are keen believers in space travel for the future. People – and not just scientists or preservationists – will walk on the moon again. That puts the significant landscape at risk. Fortunately, one nation does not own the moon. And while the footprints may be those of United States citizens, they represent the world and new beginnings. Losing the very beginning – the physical evidence on the landscape – of human contact with the moon because we had not considered its importance and its preservation, would be a tragic loss for the world’s heritage. In other words, we need to act now in order to preserve our heritage on the moon and in space.

A Field of Saying No?

Lately, one of the buzz conversations among many in the preservation field includes the idea that historic preservation is too often in the practice of saying no to something, rather than saying yes. This conversation was discussed at the National Trust Conference and in many related blog posts after the fact. One particular blog post is from Time Tells by Vince Michael; a quote he referenced stuck with me and I’ve been wanting to talk about it.

While I am taking this quote out of context here, I think the idea is still important to discuss. If you are interested, read the post for the entire context.

“Y’all won. Most people accept the conservation of important buildings and districts as a community and civic value. Why do we continue to act like victims? Why are we still defensive?”

When I read that quote, I was insulted. I have never felt that I am in such a position. As a preservationist, do you really feel like you are always saying no? Do you think our standard operation procedures are negative and defensive? While there are laws to “say no” for us, which regulators are charged with enforcing, that doesn’t mean preservation means no and it doesn’t mean that laws are only for prevention. It seems like a backwards way of thinking, if you ask me.

Preservation is about compromise, suggestions, guidance and working with other fields in order to protect and channel our best and most valuable resources. Sure, the battles are highlighted in the media. But, what about the accomplishments and the rest of what the field represents? Economic development, successful planning, neighborhood revitalization, cultural appreciation – all of this has nothing to do with saying no. Preservation is about creative solutions and thinking, just like everything else. Every field, academic and professional, from banking to environmentalism to architecture has ethics, standards and laws that govern how it operates.  At some point, everyone will say no, but that is not mean that’s the purpose of the profession.

Of course, every field, just like every person, can benefit from periods of reevaluation and thoughtful improvements. However, I will say, if you are thinking that historic preservation is a bunch of people saying no – even in the 21st century – then you are thinking about preservation in the wrong way.

What do you think, readers? Is this an issue of semantics? Do you see preservation as a field of victims and saying no?

Fort Monroe Joins the National Monument Club!

Okay, it’s not actually called the “National Monument Club,” but it sounds fun, right? I’d wear a button.

On November 1, 2011 President Obama designated Fort Monroe in Hampton, VA a National Monument using his presidential power designated in the Antiquities Act of 1906.

 The Antiquities Act states:

The President of the United States is authorized, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.

Read here to learn which Presidents have designated which monuments. It began with Teddy Roosevelt and Devil’s Tower in Wyoming.

Devil's Tower (future) National Monument, ca. 1900.

The PreservationNation blog gives you the full scoop on the efforts by the National Trust, politicians and citizens to persuade the President to designate Fort Monroe. Here is a brief bit of history about Fort Monroe, from Rob Nieweg at PreservatioNation:

Located at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, Fort Monroe is a principal landmark of African American heritage. Old Point Comfort was the site of the 1619 First Landing of enslaved Africans in the English-speaking New World, and in 1861 it became the unique birthplace of the Civil War-era freedom movement. The May 1861 events at Fort Monroe inspired 500,000 African American women, children, and men – dubbed “contrabands” by the Union Army – to liberate themselves from bondage. They didn’t wait for permission, but made their way at great risk to relative safety behind Union lines, first at Fort Monroe and shortly thereafter at the ring of fortifications surrounding the nation’s capital. The courage and plight of the freedom seekers influenced national politics and hastened President Lincoln’s formal Emancipation Proclamation.

Fort Monroe. Image from Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park. Click for source & CFMNP website.

Read the rest of the article and browse through the blog for more information. If you’re happy to hear this news, join the National Trust in thanking President Obama for his efforts and designation. (It’s a simple form to fill out, but as your parents should have taught you, saying thank you goes a long way.)

Wondering the difference between a National Park &  a National Monument? The National Park Service describes it as such:

The two classes of reservations comprising the national-park and national-monument system differ primarily in the reasons for which they are established. National parks are areas set apart by Congress for the use of the people of the United States generally, because of some outstanding scenic feature or natural phenomena. Although many years ago several small parks were established, under present policies national parks must be sufficiently large to yield to effective administration and broad use. The principal qualities considered in studying areas for park purposes are their inspirational, educational, and recreational values.

National monuments, on the other hand, are areas reserved by the National Government because they contain objects of historic, prehistoric, or scientific interest. Ordinarily established by presidential proclamation under authority of Congress, occasionally these areas also are established by direct action of Congress. Size is unimportant in the case of the national monuments.

Thanks to everyone for your efforts. Here’s to another success story in preserving our national heritage!

News: Preservation Funding at Risk

Extremely important news from the National Trust for Historic Preservation:

Dear Preservationist,

As early as today, the U.S. Senate could vote on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill. It is likely that a harmful amendment to this bill will be offered that would prohibit preservation-related activities under the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program – the single largest source of federal funding for historic preservation.

This change would be devastating to preservation projects that capitalize on existing historic resources to create jobs, improve the quality of life, and protect the environment. With the help of advocates like you, we overcame a similar threat to the program last month. Now we must rise to the challenge again to defend this important program.

The bill also carries damaging new language (Section 128) that would waive National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) review provisions designed to protect historic and cultural resources from disaster recovery projects. This measure is redundant and sets a harmful precedent of waiving the NHPA.

Please contact your U.S. Senators TODAY and ask them to vote NO on any amendment eliminating preservation-related transportation enhancements, and to OPPOSE Section 128 of the THUD appropriations bill.

Visit PreservationNation for more information on the importance of the Transportation Enhancements program to your state and the National Historic Preservation Act.

Thank you for standing up for historic preservation!

Your friends at the National Trust for Historic Preservation

CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION NOW.

Please take a minute to complete this form to have it automatically sent to your representatives. It barely takes any effort and could make all the difference in your community. As discussed on Preservation in Pink a few weeks ago, transportation enhancement grants are vital to historic preservation and to your town, state and our nation. Please don’t wait. Contact your senators today.

U.S. Post Offices

Ripton, VT post office inside the general store.

The press is abuzz with articles about the government’s potential plans to shut down the smaller, less profitable, less used post offices across the country. There have been articles featured in papers from The New York Times to every local paper and news channel and NPR. Even Vermont’s generally anti-anything-preservation-related newspaper, Seven Days, featured a recent article about a small town post office. For a quick news story, check out ABC news and read or listen to the brief. Is your post office on this list? Look it up.

The overview of the news? The US Postal Service is facing $7 billion in debt this year, and predict exponential amounts of debt within the next decade. The Postal Service is considering closing almost 3,700 post offices (mostly in rural areas), ending Saturday delivery, raising stamp prices and changing healthcare benefits for employees.

If these post offices do close, some small communities will no longer have a civic or casual meeting place. Rural areas are difficult to understand if you live elsewhere, but often the post offices serve an important purpose. Residents worry that they will just disappear without a post office and will be metaphorically annexed or forgotten.

Bottom line: the government thinks it is a good idea. The people who will be losing their post offices think it’s a bad idea. For those of you not affected: do you care? What do you think?

Is consolidating post offices a good idea? Or is it one of those ideas like shutting down neighborhood schools and consolidating them into larger schools? In my opinion, it’s like the latter idea. It seems to me that finding a community gets harder and harder in this age, and erasing something that creates and enables community is not a good idea. Find a better way to solve the post office deficit. Perhaps not sending the junk mail telling me that I can buy stamps online will help. Just a thought.

While on the subject of post offices, does anyone else think that most of them are in hideous buildings: strip malls or vinyl sided, just-plain-ugly buildings? No wonder why no one wants to use a post office!? I love when I can walk into a post office in a historic building – that is the experience people need in order to appreciate the post office.

If writing one real letter per month would help to save the small post offices, would you do it? I love writing and receiving real letters. Granted, I love email, blogs and the internet, but something about a letter or a postcard is so much more thoughtful. Would you ever write a sincere thank you note via email? Just curious.

In a restaurant in Bethel, VT.

What do you think? Are post offices vital to communities? Is your post office vital to you and your community? What about Saturday delivery? (I’d rather keep Saturday delivery and get rid of Monday or Wednesday if we had to. You?) I consider this a preservation issue, how about you?

Historic Preservation FY12 Budget – HELP!

An important message from the National Trust for Historic Preservation:

Take Action on Funding for Historic Preservation!  Ask your Representative to Support the Historic Preservation Fund!

Right now Congress is making important decisions about the Fiscal Year 2012 budget, and your Representative needs to hear that funding for historic preservation matters in your community. You can help make the case for preservation!

Ask your Representative to sign on to the Dear Colleague letter sponsored by Congressional Historic Preservation Caucus co-chairs Michael Turner and Russ Carnahan that requests $70 million for the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) and ask that they also submit a programmatic request to fund the HPF at that amount for FY12.

The preservation community realizes that during tough economic times we all need to tighten our belts and therefore the FY12 funding request for the HPF is 10% less than the total funding these programs received in FY08. We also recognize a long overdue increase for funding to State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO’s) and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPO’s) and support the administration’s budget request for increase to these programs. The breakdown of our $70 million request for the Historic Preservation Fund includes:

  • * $50 million for the SHPO’s
  • * $11 million for THPO’s
  • * $9 million for grant programs like Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America

The deadline for this action is Tuesday, May 17th, so please contact your Representative TODAY. Check here for a list of signatories who have already committed to the Dear Colleague letter, and for questions or additional information contact policy@nthp.org.

PLEASE HELP! Programs, jobs, historic resources — so much depends on this Historic Preservation Fund budget. All you have to do is sign the letter. You don’t even have to write the letter or look up the appropriate representative. It will take seconds.

SIGN THE LETTER HERE.

Spread the word. Ask your colleagues and friends to sign. Thank you!