Hot Springs

Norfolk-Southern tracks in Hot Springs, NC

Norfolk-Southern tracks in Hot Springs, NC

I love trains and railroad tracks. Can’t you just imagine walking forever on them?  How many stories do you know involve a train? It’s the gateway to the American west.  Historic preservation involving trains and the railroad tracks and beds, once the tracks are removed, are important part of transportation history. 



Does anyone know what the “179” could mean? It’s a number significant to me, which is why I took the picture, but don’t know what it means otherwise. A mile marker on the train? A station number?

If you have never read of the Rails to Trails program, check it out. It’s an excellent way to rehabilitate former rail lines to usable, environmentally friendly space while preserving the actual space, vistas, and impressions. 


Christmas Shopping Considerations to return on Thursday November 20

Christmas Shopping Consideration #2

A series of posts considering the options for Christmas shopping (online, retail, local, eccentric) and the impacts of our decisions (financially, socially, preservation-esque). This is post 2 of 4. See considerations #1, #3, #4.

Consideration 2:  Can you Shop Locally?

I know, I know, I ramble on about shopping in your local downtown and avoiding big box retailers.  You might roll your eyes and call me a crazy idealist.  Okay, fine. But, I am acknowledging that there are instances when people cannot shop local businesses.  For example, some people live in the middle of nowhere (as in, hours to stores) or people live in suburbia (as in, chain stores have taken over everything), or the local downtown caters to the wealthy, the tourists, or those who like tchachkas or really expensive clothes and décor that normal people cannot afford.  And in all honestly, those chain stores sometimes (not always!) beat the local prices.

If one of these fits your situation, then you probably are calling me crazy. Anyway… Now what do you do?

How to Shop Locally.

Consider turning to the world of online shopping (also a separate consideration).   Sites like Etsy, DaWanda, and GLCMall are online stores set up and “owned” by individuals who have a specific craft and sell their work. Craft? By crafts, I do not mean only potpourri pillows and candles and knitted scarves (though some people like such things).  On these sites you can buy artwork, jewelry, clothing, furniture, leather goods, picture frames, kids’ toys, stationery, Christmas ornaments…the list never ends. Etsy even has a search by location function.  Dawanda is based in Germany. DaWanda and GLCMall seem to rely more on crafts than Etsy, but all sites have interesting products.

Take a look and you will see that handmade doesn’t mean grandma style crafty or elementary school art class.  I only know one person who owns a shop on Etsy. Check out Jennifer’s shop for picture frames, mirrors, and furniture.

Why consider such sites? Well, consider this: You may not be able to shop locally, but if you are supporting self employed businessmen and women (the artisans, if you will), then you are at least part of the local economy and not just corporate America. With the search by location feature, you can choose which region to support. What a wonderful idea.

You could also consider shopping ahead of time, when you’re traveling or visiting friends and family. And of course, some good “googling” can usually help you find what you want. 

What about those voids that can’t be filled locally?

No, some items are not sold in locally owned stores because that is no longer how the economy works.  I always think of electronics for this example or mundane necessities like random household cleaning items. We do have our limits. But, that does not mean that presents (aside from electronics) cannot be found. The point is to try. After all, if everyone could just put in some effort then, combined, we can all make a difference and help the local businesses.

Happy shopping! 


Next in the series: online shopping…

Christmas Shopping Consideration #1

A series of posts considering the options for Christmas shopping (online, retail, local, eccentric) and the impacts of our decisions (financially, socially, preservation-esque). This is post 1 of  4. See considerations  #2, #3, #4.

Consideration 1: Avoid big box retailers.

Christmas decorations popped up in stores long before Halloween, some radio stations are already playing Christmas music, and stores already have holiday sales.  I don’t know about you, but I love Christmas…AFTER Thanksgiving. Before then, I consider it my personal horror movie. I love the fall and winter season. They should each have their own season rather than Labor Day, sort of fall, Christmas.  If you haven’t been, you are about to find your mailbox and Sunday paper  bombarded with flyers and catalogs every week, often from the biggest chain stores like Wal-Mart and Kmart and Target.

When you choose to begin your Christmas shopping is on your terms. But, when Christmas season arrives, do you consider where you are shopping? Are you more likely to cave and shop at chain superstores? Or do you look for more unique gifts from boutiques, local and regional stores, festivals, etc.? 

The economy is suffering and holiday shopping is likely to reflect recent economic trends. Consumers will probably shop less, but still shop at the discount retailers like the giants of Wal-Mart, Kmart, and Target.  Local stores and even smaller chain businesses are going to have a hard time keeping pace, I would imagine.

What does this have to do with historic preservation?

While the subject of giant retail stores has many tangents, let’s stick with the basic tenets.  As preservationists we typically want to support local businesses – those that support, appreciate, and create communities, those that comprise downtowns and those who have roots in the area.  Avoiding chain businesses is something that we generally strive for year round, but it might become more difficult when you need to shop for multiple people and spend a lot of money. Temptations might be rising.

Here are a few reasons for avoiding those chain stores:

1.       Shopping locally will keep money in your community.  Money in the community keeps business thriving, which translates into a good quality of life for everyone around.

2.       Local stores will probably be less crowded than the materialistic inducing megastores.  Less crowded stores mean a more pleasant shopping experience for you, which equals enjoying the holiday season and fewer cases of buyer’s remorse.

3.       Many downtowns will have special holiday shopping weekends with store specials and other incentives like snacks and cider.

4.       Employees are usually more helpful in local businesses and can spend more time helping you, when needed.

5.       With all of the scares in children’s toys and food production, you will have an easier time finding answers to those questions at smaller stores.

6.       If you normally shop locally and suddenly cave to large retailers for the holidays, then you’re not really sticking to your beliefs about preservation, are you?

7.       By shopping at chains stores during the most profitable time of the year for many businesses, you’re only supporting the chain. They don’t need to earn more money, if we’re comparing earnings here.

I could go on and on with reasons as to why local shopping is better for the community (read: your life), but we all know that dollars spent in local stores benefit your community.  If you’re up for some deep research, read this report on the affects of big box retail in Austin, TX (from FullCircle). See this blog post or this newspaper article for another list of reasons to shop locally. Chain stores represent corporate America. Yes, America is based on capitalism, but that should mean that everyone has a chance, not that only a few monopolies have a chance to make a living.  

Local Options

Local stores do not just mean “unique gifts,” if you’re not into that sort of thing.  There can be local and regional sporting good stores, toy stores, book stores, hardware stores, etc.  If you live in a city, there will be no end to stores, museum stores (some of the best kids’ gifts, by the way), festivals, flea markets, and other varieties. A place such as a flea market or a festival will probably have unique handmade items, antiques, and typical bulk items from kitchen items to pocketbooks and shoes to home décor, etc.  And okay, sometimes you can’t find everything you need locally, but don’t automatically rely on the big box retailers.

Please, before you shop, consider shopping locally or regionally.


Next in the series: what if you can’t shop locally?

Historic Preservation Job Search

The economy has seen better times; thus, the historic preservation job market has seen better times. Many 2008 graduates, whether in a bachelor’s or master’s program, have had a difficult time finding work in the field.  It can become disheartening and make other fields seem more appealing.  How in the world is anyone supposed to find a job when budgets are being cut everywhere?

I’m not an expert and I’m not in the market for a new job, so take my suggestions however you like.  I was lucky enough to have an internship following graduation and a full time job before the internship ended.  My philosophy for finding my first preservation job was quite simple: “I will go anywhere and do anything that is preservation related.”

And that is the advice that I will continue to offer: do not limit yourself geographically or in just one sector.  And if you don’t know exactly what you want to do, then an internship is a great, short term way to experiment.

Take an internship with the National Park Service or the National Council for Preservation Education or just a local organization. Sign up for the Student Conservation Association, where you can find preservation related jobs. Stay in the field. Do not be afraid to start at the bottom. An internship on the other side of the country for a few months may give you great experience. You can do anything for a short period of time. Do not be afraid of applying for a job that requests a M.A. if you have a B.A. – but keep in mind that if it requires 10 years of experience, you might be under qualified.  Consider something with ICOMOS or ICCROM. There are endless opportunities when you think tangentially.

Most of all, keep applying, keep searching, and keep thinking of unconventional options. Try not to obsess. You will find a job and although it might not be your dream job, you have to start somewhere.  And if you love historic preservation, your efforts will be worth it in the end. For now, hang in there and stay in the field in whatever way you can. Showing continued enthusiasm will give you an edge over other applicants.

Some of the best job boards (in my opinion) are found here:

PreserveNet (see also NCPE internships)

UVM Historic Preservation  

Mary Washington Historic Preservation

UVA School of Architecture 

Student Conservation Association


There are many other resources for jobs. Generally, all of the academic preservation programs have job boards.  And of course, Google provides additional search options. I hope this helps. And I hope I remember this the next time I’m searching for a job.

Good luck!


Sent to me by Jen Gaugler, fluent in architecture and historic preservation, this website, WebUrbanist is addicting. You might get lost. You will not be able to look away because there are photographs of recycled art and architecture, green architecture, abandoned buildings, beach houses, houses dubbed “amazing,” Greek art, street art, furniture, photography tricks, abandoned cities…it never ends! 

The website itself is slightly cumbersome because the advertisements take up half the screen when all we really want to see are the pictures, but it’s still worth your time and scrolling the mouse. Check it out. Think about it. Share comments if you’d like.  And you might want to have a clock nearby so you don’t lose your day to architecture (not that that is ever a bad thing, but you might have other responsibilities.)

Easy access links from WebUrbanist


Abandonments (my personal favorite & another topic for another post)



Step out of your box & find the inspiration in all of these subjects (& more listed on the site.)

Enjoy! Thank you Jen!


Some people are natural storytellers.  You can’t help but smile when they are speaking, sharing stories from their past or just spinning yarn. Folks like this are often rooted where they grew up, knowledgeable in local history and the old ways.  They are invaluable sources and have often never imagined that people would be interested in what they have to say.  Oral history and the love of primary sources for researchers have proved otherwise. 

Most of the people I meet who are native to rural North Carolina, I meet through my work on the Overhills project, whether during interviews or meetings relating to Overhills. Johnny is one of the people whom I have met. Johnny grew up in the Harnett County – Cumberland County areas of North Carolina and knew Overhills for his entire life. He and his brother worked on Overhills and Long Valley Farm and loved it dearly. He still takes care of Long Valley Farm, which is going to become part of the North Carolina State Parks.

Johnny is a true storyteller. He is a delight to be around and hear. Johnny can talk for hours about the old ways of tobacco farming. He states that he is not an expert, though he does know a lot because his Daddy was a tobacco farmer.  In the fall and spring, Johnny still slaughters his own pigs and makes sausage and bacon and pork.  People drive by his house and stop to take pictures and ask about what he is doing because their grandparents used to do that.

Clearly he is a sponge of information and a fountain of knowledge; I think I could talk to Johnny for days and never get tired of listening. I can imagine walking tobacco fields and listening to him teach about farming and telling stories of local history.  He is animated, as nice as can be, a true Southerner, and down to earth. I do think his carefree attitude and smile is contagious. I hope everyone knows someone like Johnny, whether as a friend or as a resource.

I find inspiration in unexpected places and become reinvigorated by random people.  Johnny reminded how important my work is to so many people who loved Overhills dearly. Sometimes we underestimate the value of people as research resources, often favoring an actual document over someone’s spoken words. However, what we forget is that a newspaper article was written by a human being just as fallible as the rest of us. Personally, I tend to trust the spoken word over a historic newspaper article.  Comparing historic documents such as bills, telegrams, letters, receipt, etc. to newspaper articles, I have found many inaccurate statements in the articles. If my colleague and I weren’t searching through the Overhills documents, a future researcher could very well believe the inaccurate article over the primary documents. Hopefully our end report and project will correct any misconceptions.

Of course, the stories that people tell could just be stories mixed with fact and fiction. But for all of the otherwise-unknown details that living storytellers provide, from building locations to personal anecdotes and characteristics, to stories about those who have passed, to former road names and lessons about the old ways of occupations, the few inaccuracies are well worth the trouble and confusion. If we are only to rely on research and the “facts” via documented history, then we will find ourselves with an unfortunate gap in history.

People like Johnny help me to remember the importance of community connections and the value of reaching out to find history in unlikely places. And it’s even more fun when they are natural, entertaining storytellers.  Don’t always take the word of a newspaper article. And make sure to listen to and really hear people like Johnny. 

Thank You for Your Service to the United States

Happy Veterans Day to the men and women who have served in the United States Military, whether in active duty, basic training, or in any capacity.  Thank you for your service to our country. And thank you to those of you who will be veterans someday. It is because of all of you that the rest of us live in freedom and not worry about our lives on a day to day basis. I’m sure I speak for the majority of the population when I say that I am eternally grateful and hold you in highest regards. 

Whether you have a relative, a friend, a spouse, a colleague, or anyone you know who has served in the military, please take the few minutes to send them a thank you today. It doesn’t have to be anything extraordinary, but a simple thank you for your service to our country will suffice. It will most likely mean a lot to that person. Forget your view on the war and the government; the soldiers are still protecting our rights as Americans.

Understanding the history of Veteran’s Day will perhaps enhance your appreciation of today. Originally Veterans Day was known as Armistice Day because it is acknowledged that World War I officially ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year, 1918.  From the Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Day History webpage: 

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued a “Veterans Day Proclamation” to establish Armistice Day as a day to recognize all veterans. If you are wondering about the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Memorial Day is honoring those who died in battle or those who were wounded in battle and later died. Veterans Day honors the living veterans for their service.

Most of us, if we do not grow up around the military environment, do not have the opportunity to talk to veterans about their experiences or see soldiers and veterans anywhere aside from parades. That was the case for me anyway. Several family members of mine did serve in the military, but I never really talked to any of them about it until I took Professor Stanton’s American Folklore class at Mary Washington. In this class, we had the honor of participating in the Veterans History Project. Students took various routes to finding interviewees for the oral history project. I was fortunate to interview my uncle who served during the Vietnam War. Most people who I know who have served in the military during a war do not spend much time talking about it. The same is true with my relatives. For this reason, I was honored to talk to my uncle, as much for family history as for American history. 

Many of the interviews from the Veterans History Project are available online, including the interview with my uncle, James H. Robb. The interview recording and transcription are available online. I am grateful to Professor Stanton for taking the time and energy to make sure that we did everything correctly in order to officially submit our interviews and transcripts to the Library of Congress. School children of all ages – elementary school to college – can participate in the project. It is an incredible and valuable initiative. 

And most importantly, thank you, Uncle Jimmy, for your service during the Vietnam War. 

Happy Veterans Day.

Colorado Lessons for a Preservationist

Lauren Trice, a fellow Mary Washington Preservation Alum, is currently living and working in Colorado as a fall survey intern for Colorado Preservation, Inc. She and another intern are exploring rural Colorado, ranches, and seeing a different way of life, that of the Colorado ranchers.  She’ll be there until mid December and will surely return to us with endless stories, preseration related and then some. Lauren has begun chronicling her Colorado experiences on her new blog, Adventures of a Historic Preservationist. Featured here is her latest post about lessons learned after one month on the job. Aside from future blog posts, she will also have an article in the next issue of Preservation in Pink.  Read the post below and you will most likely be eagerly awaiting further explanations of her points.  Here is Lauren’s list of lessons:

1. Tarantulas migrate south in the end of October in southeastern Colorado. They travel across the road one at a time, so you have to be careful not to hit them.

2. Over 100,000 people can fit into Civic Center Park in the middle of Denver to see, now President-Elect, Obama speak.

3. It is not uncommon to see a salad bar on a covered wagon in a restaurant. (The bathroom’s also say “Cowgirls” and “Cowboys.”)

4. There are lots of subtle differences in quanset huts. They can even be used as movie theatres.

5. Ranchers are willing to make roads with their pickup trucks. They also look at you funny when you put a seatbelt on.

6. Although the Coors Brewery has its home in Colorado, nobody really like Coors beer.

7. Directions are given in N, S, E, and W instead of left and right. People orientate themselves by the mountains in the west and rely on the grid patterned streets.

8. There are places in the world where you can spin around and around and not see anything.

9. Double laid stone is simply beautiful.

10. It is always an option to order your food “smothered” in green chile.

11. Western preservationists have a broader approach to what needs to be saved, including modern linear landscapes.

-Lauren Trice

Philadelphia’s Magic Garden

Located on South Street in Philadelphia, this urban work of art is impossible to miss. Mosaics are everywhere in this few block radius, around S. 9th, 10th, 11th Streets: the sides of buildings, the facades of row houses, inside entryways of these buildings.  It is incredible. But, if you just catch a singular facade or a small portion of wall that, you would never guess that around the corner there could be an entire alley of mosaic facades. Little did we know that we would turn a corner and find this:

1020-1022 South Street

1020-1022 South Street

From far away it’s almost hard to discern what composes these walls; but up close you can see it’s everything: mosaic tiles, glass bottles, a bicycle wheel, iron, cups, and much more.  

A collection of materials compose the walls.

A collection of materials compose the walls.

What is this place? That was the question my sister and I had, anyway. It is Philadelphia’s Magic Garden.  Read the website to find out more about its history, which is truly amazing. It is part of the South Street Renaissance, a piece of Philadelphia’s history amidst the chaos in the world and a story of what happens when local residents join forces in hopes of defeating (in this case) an interstate through their neighborhood. 

Enter the Magic Gardens.

Enter the Magic Gardens.

According to the website, Philadelphia’s Magic Garden [501(c)(3) organization] hosts monthly workshops where students learn the techniques and construct a mosaic on nearby building wall, donated by someone. The work is pro-bono, but donations are appreciated. The man who leads the workshops is Isaiah Zagar, who began this ever growing work of urban art. On the website, you can look inside the Magic Garden with a 360 degree video.  One photograph cannot possibly capture the entire garden. Unfortunately, the day I walked by, it was closed and I did not have the chance to visit, aside from outside of the gates and the facades throughout the neighborhood. 

View through the gates on South Street

View through the gates on South Street

Urban art has recently received new appreciation from the general public, from such types as graffiti, mosaics, installations, stickers on poles, and much more. This UK website, Urban Art, defines some of the types. Urban Arts Magazine addresses FAQs that people may have about urban art, though in comparing its content to other websites, there doesn’t seem to be any limiting qualities about urban art. [Clearly, urban art is new to me.  However, it also seems to be a field that would be available for new scholarship, particularly because the public has long ignored urban art.]  Graffiti is the most common form to most people and this article in New York Times [Graffiti Celebrated by Josh Barbanel on May 25, 2008] explains how graffiti is appreciated and increasing home values in one New York neighborhood. Of course, as the opening line suggests, gentrification may one day be an issue.  For now, it is nice to see people opening their minds to all types of art displays. You may say it’s also folk art in its modern twist.

Cat of a Preservationist

Meet Fuzzy. He likes to study.

Meet Fuzzy. He likes to study.

Meet Fuzzy, formerly known as Harley, a 7 pound orange Tabby cat with black markings scattered on his fur. He’s antisocial, generally, but loves when I take out my books to study. He likes hanging around when I write for Preservation in Pink. He likes to be within reach of being touched, as long as I don’t actually touch him. Still, he just can’t help but get involved with my preservation career. Talk about a supportive cat. Too bad he’s afraid of the plastic lawn flamingos in my living room. That, or he’s jealous that he’s not our mascot.


Does anyone else have a pet who loves preservation studying? Send in some photographs!