This issue is in the process of layout. I will have it ready, posted, and emailed on Friday! If you have any lingering comments or photographs or perhaps a mini-article to send my way, please do so by Thursday morning. Thanks!
Month: December 2008
In the Company of Houses
My corner of town is rather quiet, save for the freight train that passes through about four times per day, the flock of birds that hovers every afternoon and makes me feel like I’m in a Hitchcock movie, the occasional drag racers up and down the street, the neighbors who are generally working on car repairs, or the faint sound of the U.S. Army artillery rounds. Okay, that doesn’t sound very quiet. But when you account for the fact that you can’t hear the highway from my house and it’s a small town, it really is much quieter than some of the places I have lived (not counting that year I lived down a dirt road in the woods).
When I look out my window I am reminded of the quietness. Near my house are three empty houses: one for rent, one that looks like it’s in the midst of repairs, and one with boarded up windows. It makes the block particularly dark at night. The odd thing is that I never really consider my block to be lonely. The houses keep my house company; I’d feel lonelier in the woods.
Truth be told, most people might be alarmed by their neighbors being only empty houses. After all, what does that say about the neighborhood? As for me? I like these houses. Maybe it’s because I am a preservationist, but I get the feeling that the houses watch over me without being nosy neighbors. I like to glance out my window and see the colonial revival house. And the little vernacular one-story house next to it must have some secrets behind its boarded up windows. The other house I cannot see unless I’m out for a walk, but it, too, is just waiting for some inhabitants. Stories are waiting to be discovered by the next owners.
I’m sure there are some interesting details to the stories – maybe unique woodwork, names scratched into floorboards, an old newspaper article, layers of paint, evidence of additions, etc. They look old enough to be considered historic, but the interior would answer lingering questions.
Somehow, I have so far resisted the urge to peek in the windows. For now, I’m content to have the houses greet me when I come home from work, after a run, when I’m daydreaming, or sitting on the porch. These houses can be as mysterious as they like and I’ll admire from across the street. I don’t want to be the nosy neighbor.
Just when you think a particular small town has had its fill of parades, there is another one the following weekend. That’s right, here in Southern Pines we have a Christmas parade and a carriage parade, carriage being of the “horse and carriage” type. Southern Pines is known as the “Mid-South Resort,” dating to the early 1900s when trains traveled from New York to Southern Pines overnight and the wealthy came to relax in the Sandhills, breathing in the long leaf pine air and revelling in the warm temperatures. Due to the landscape, the climate, and the wealth, Moore County, North Carolina, became a great place for horse breeding, training, racing, and the equestrian lifestyle. Today, much of Moore County remains “horse country,” with some of the wealthiest horse owners just outside of Southern Pines. Each year they dress up their carriages and horses to parade through downtown Southern Pines. Once again, much of the county appears for an enjoyable parade. Here are a few photographs from the parade this past Saturday.
What can I say? Small town America = good parades.
To readers, contributors, etc.
I am in need of some photographs for this issue! Do you have any good photographs that could qualify for a cover image? By that I mean anything that’s a general preservation type image. Interpet that however you will.
Please send them to me this weekend! I would very much appreciate it.
Country music often speaks to my preservation heart, the vernacular part of my preservation heart. There is a good chance that many of you reading this know of my love for country music. There is also a good chance that you do not love country music. Whether or not you appreciate country music, I am often reminded of preservation in some tangential form or another. Now, I don’t mean the songs that lament I lost my girl, my truck broke down…or whatever they say. I mean the songs whose lyrics sing of houses, country dirt roads, road trips down the lonely highways, community, small town America, and the like. It’s the kind of music that makes me love where I am and instills some sense of patriotism. After all, historic preservation partially owes itself to patriotism.
And then there is blue grass music. That twangy sound is synonymous (to me) with vernacular architecture and small town America. And fiddles.
You should listen to “Chicken Fried” by the Zac Brown Band. Click on the song link, which will take you to the album tracks. You can listen to it for free on the website – it will open in a new window. It’s my latest country favorite – a feel good, toe-tapping, sense of place and pride filled song. Let me know what you think. It’s also the perfect Friday song. You’ll hear why.
Small Town Christmas Parade
Ah, the small town parade: marching bands, beauty queens of everything and anything, brownie troops, cub scout packs, baton twirlers, fire trucks, classic cars. It’s just like any big city parade, only smaller. As it turns out, the Southern Pines Christmas parade is really anything but small. It looped both sides of Broad Street, allowing everyone to watch it twice, if desired, and it lasted about one hour. Four marching bands added to the prestige of the parade, including those from UNC-Pembroke and Fayetteville State University.
To top off this busy day in Southern Pines, there was also the Reindeer Fun Run in the morning, a pancake breakfast at the elementary school, and the annual tree lighting in the evening. I have never seen so many people downtown. Leave it to a parade to bring out that sense of place, community pride feeling.
And, for some humor, which group expresses community pride more than the Shriners? How about the Red Hat Society? I think it’s a tie, in classic small town fashion. It’s impossible not to love such an event. See the photos below for the Shriners in their little cars and the Red Hat Ladies on their big 4x4s. I think these men and women enjoyed the parade more than anyone.
If you’re wondering why the Red Hat Society has so much fun, read this poem, “Warning” by Jenny Joseph, whose words inspired such a society.
So, small town parades may not be as exciting as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but it’s always fun to see an entire town (or even county!) out and about, cheering for people they know and enjoying what town has to offer. These are events that bring that feeling of community pride. And, of course, they provide entertainment of all forms. In this parade, there was a huge gap and people thought the parade was over even though the last marching band hadn’t come through, nor had Santa Claus! They eventually came through and everyone enjoyed the show.
Annie O’Shea, Skeleton Athlete and Solo Road Tripper on I-15
During the winter months, the skeleton and bobsled athletes compete in the United States, Canada, and Europe. For a number of reasons it was easiest for Annie to fly into Salt Lake City, Utah and rent a car to drive up to Calgary for her most recent competitions. Knowing my fetish for road trip photographs, she took many for me and wrote a blog post on her adventure.
The route from Salt Lake City to Calgary follows along I-15. If you have a GPS, do not rely on it, according to Annie. It did steer her in the wrong direction for part of her trip. Even though Annie had to travel the interstate for time consideration, she was still able to see the beauty of these states.
Annie, knowing how much I love crossing state lines, remembered to take the above photograph of the Montana sign. Montana, known as Big Sky Country, was quite cloudy as Annie traveled through, but its beauty is not lost in these photographs.
These photographs are more than enough to make me wish that I could have joined Annie on her road trip. She considered that factor, but also considered that I might slow her down a bit. Something to the effect of “Oooh, wait, can we take a picture of that? Let’s stop here!!”
Continued Concrete vs. Asphalt Discussion
A reply written by Jen Gaugler to Concrete vs. Asphalt, one that I did not want to get lost in the comments section. Following the reply is another short discussion, inspired by a reader comment.
Economics and durability aside, I agree that the environmental factors of choosing asphalt vs. concrete are very important to take into consideration. You are right about the heat absorption properties of the two materials being very different. The “heat island effect” is the tendency of paved areas and building rooftops to absorb the sun’s energy and result in the microclimate of that area being several degrees warmer than it would be otherwise. Believe it or not, this can have a big negative impact on the surrounding ecosystem. The albedo, or solar reflectance, of a material is its ability to reflect the visible, infrared, and ultraviolet wavelengths of sunlight. Concrete has a significantly higher albedo and therefore it is definitely better to use it in warm, sunny climates to mitigate the heat island effect. It may be more acceptable to use asphalt in northern climates (like Alaska) where it may help with snow and ice, as you suggested. But I think for most of the continental U.S. it is probably more environmentally sound to use concrete.
However, there are also systems available which are similar to dirt parking lots but slightly more durable (important in some places, for example where erosion may be a factor) and they consist of open-cell concrete systems (to form a grid pattern) with grass in between. This absorbs less heat AND allows storm water to be re-absorbed into the ground to recharge underwater aquifers. Pervious concrete – made with extra large aggregate and little or no sand, to make a very water-permeable paving substance – is another good compromise between durability and sustainability.
And of course the most important factor in decreasing the heat island effect – shade, a.k.a. trees! So lining our streets with mature trees is the way to go!
See also, an article from The Boston Globe on December 7, 2008, Architect Finds Beauty in the Asphalt Jungle. An assistant professor of landscape architecture from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design is taking another look at asphalt and our the public views it, since it is our most commonly used landscape. This professor and her students are taking a new look at the “jungle” without vilifying it. One of the projects include “Steamroller Printing.” It’s something that most preservationists, including me, would have never considered; but, to step and work with the existing environment is possibly just as important as our other endeavors. Regardless of opinions, it’s something neat to explore and ponder. See also the onasphalt website. Thank you to reader, Melsiel, for adding a comment with the article.
Preservation & the GRE, part 2
Thankfully the GRE is no longer in my thoughts, but you might be interested to know that historic preservation did play an important role in my test taking experience. It did not appear in either the quantitative or qualitative sections, but I had the opportunity to use it in one of my essays on the analytical writing section. And it wasn’t even a stretch to use historic preservation. Go ahead and laugh, but it made me happy. You know as well as I know that the mental battle of a standardized test is just as important as any other part of it.
Here’s What You Just Did…
On Saturday I continued my Christmas shopping at The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines. It rates as one of my favorite bookstores, offering that comforting aura with wood floors, beautiful bookshelves, cozy corners, a friendly staff, and a good selection. (Not to mention, they sell my book). I like to support this business whenever possible. Later in the day, when I was sorting through my purchases, I found a small slip of (pink) paper proclaiming the above, “Here’s What You Just Did!”
You Kept Dollars in Our Economy
For every $100 you spend at one of our local businesses, $68 will stay in the community. What happens when you spend the same $100 at a national chain? Only $43 stays in the community.
You Embraced What Makes Us Unique
You wouldn’t want your house to look like everyone else’s in the U.S. So why would you want your community to look that way?
You Created Local Jobs
Local businesses are better at creating higher-paying jobs for our neighbors.
You Helped the Environment
Buying from a local business conserves energy and resources in the form of less fuel for transportation, less packaging, and products that you know are safe and well made, because we stand behind them.
You Nurtured Community
We know you and you know us. Studies have shown that local businesses donate to community causes at more than twice the rate of chains.
It’s nice to see local businesses helping themselves. I’m proud to support The Country Bookshop, in particular. I would rather spend my money at a local business over a chain business, whenever I have the choice. An extra $25 for every $100 spent stays in the community. It sounds good to me. What about to you?