Work in Progress

Work in progress! Photograph courtesy of Andrew Deci.

Photograph courtesy of Andrew Deci.

This weekend I’ll be working on the layout for Preservation in Pink (website, not newsletter), so don’t be alarmed by a skewed layout. WordPress doesn’t allow me to make changes and then publish them, so it’s like trial and error available for the public to watch. Anyway, as always, send suggestions my way! It won’t be anything drastic, but hopefully little improvements.


Historic Bridges

Covered bridges, steel truss bridges, arch bridges, suspension bridges – all of these, and numerous other categories, are found throughout the United States. Many of these are historically significant structures.  Typically, the term historic preservation is accompanied by a mental image of a historic building, or so I would imagine. But, do we give bridges a fair amount of attention? Covered bridges are the easiest to recognize, possibly the most romanticized, but steel truss and arch bridges may be less recognizable and remembered.  The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) documents buildings, while the Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS) handles landscape, and the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) documents structures such as bridges, railroads, ships, canals, and steelworks.  HABS, HALS, and HAER are programs of the National Park Service. Search the collections at the Library of Congress.

Historic bridges provide important information about previous transportation systems, routes, the locations of roads and towns, and by preserving bridges, original character of a roadway can be retained (think scenic byway).  They are just as important to historic preservation as buildings and landscape.  Many historic bridges fall into disrepair and the traffic outgrows the bridges. Sadly, instead of restoration, repair, or reinforcement, they are often replaced with new bridges.

Fortunately, many people begin with small, personal efforts to record and save structures, buildings, and landscapes. The efforts begin small and spread as other find their shared interests. Thank goodness for individual interests.  After all, HABS, HAER, and HALS can only reach so many properties scattered across the vast country in cities and down country dirt roads.  One such example of an effort is the website, Historic Bridges of the United States, which is a database of currently 29,164 bridges across the USA.  Civil engineers, preservationists, historians – all sorts of people contribute to this site.  James Baughn started the site , is the acting webmaster, and continues to add bridges. Everyone is encouraged to send information and photographs. [Read the background of the site and effort here.]

Viewers can search the database by specific geographic locations, designs of bridges, status, waterways, cities, years, roads, or builders.  Or viewers may browse randomly. The site also posts news relating to the bridges.  Even better, existing HAER reports on these bridges are listed on the website.  Each database entry includes a photograph (if available), a map with the bridge’s location, any known history, UTM coordinates, and its status.  It’s a great website and fun to browse, if you’re interested in bridges.  

The photographs below are from my Route 66 road trip in 2006.  

A rainbow curve bridge on Old Route 66 in Kansas.

A rainbow curve bridge on Old Route 66 in Kansas.

Sign at the end of the bridge. (Excuse the camera lens).

Sign at the end of the bridge. (Excuse the camera lens).

Sign at the other end of the rainbow bridge.

Sign at the other end of the rainbow bridge.

No Farms No Food

Where would this country be without farmland? Imagine a nation filled to the boundaries with suburban development and cities, the only open land not being suitable for agriculture and livestock. Our quality of life, our health, and our economy would be grim, to the say the least.  Farmland and ranch land is disappearing faster than we can imagine: 125 acres every single hour, or 1.2 million acres annually, according to the American Farmland Trust. This organization, created in 1979, is committed to working with farmers in order to establish the best farming practices, protecting farm and ranch land, protecting the environment, implementing legislation to save the land, and supporting and advocating local farms and food, among many sub-initiatives.  (See here).

If you check out the website, American Farmland Trust, you’ll see the vast array of programs and goals of the AFT. One aspect that stands out, to me, is the easy access to supporting the AFT via advocacy in their Action Center. There are simple things like filling out a preformatted letter to send to your local Congressmen (re: legislation), signing and sharing the current 9 in ’09 Farm & Food Policy recommendations to President Obama, signing and personalizing your own personal pledge to shop and eat local food (Keep it Local), among others. The website is fun, easy to navigate, eye appealing, and very informative.

You may have seen the bumper stickers proclaiming No Farms, No Food. Good news, you can request your own, for free! Sign up here and show your support for farmland and local food.  If you’re looking for the easiest ways to show your support, sign up for the bumper sticker and take the Keep it Local Pledge. Then follow the 7 ways to save farmland.  If you need to look up local food, try Local Harvest where you can find sustainably grown food closest to you.

Preservation, landscape, environmentalism, sustainability, locally grown shop, local stores, good planning – they are all connected. We may not be able to work together on a regular basis, but supporting the others’ efforts will help all of us reach our similar goals.

Check out the new widget on the side bar.

Time Travel Wish

Some days I really wish I could travel back in time. Today I wish I could travel to Overhills, North Carolina in the 1920s or 1930s. I want to be an observer for just a little while, to see the daily happenings, the people, the country club days. I cannot imagine 40,000 acres of open space and rural solitude, fox hunting, or wealthy New York business chatting by the fire. I can easily picture the steam engines pulling into the Overhills station and postal workers tossing mail bags off the train, and the endless miles of horseback riding trails, and the golf course. Mostly, I want to see the houses that have since been demolished (the Clubhouse and the Covert) and the elaborate Hunt Complex of dog kennels, horse stables, and an elaborate “Circus”.  If I could choose just one building to explore, it would be the Clubhouse.

Luckily, the oral history interviewees have wonderfully described their years at Overhills, hundreds of photographs help to tell their stories, and I have set foot on Overhills. But you know as well as I do, that with the setting altered since the 1930s, some pieces remain missing. I suppose that is why many of us found historic preservation and history: we love the eternal mysteries of places and enjoy the search to find answers, and then the challenge of adequately sharing the past with others.  It is a profession but it is also a hobby; we can’t help it.  Still, while the unknown is always fascinating, we cannot help but wish to see the true story for ourselves.

This is not an Overhills horse, just a North Carolina horse. But when you imagine Overhills you should imagine horses leaning over fences like this one with the green pine trees and Carolina blue sky in the background.

This is not an Overhills horse, just a North Carolina horse. But when you imagine Overhills you should imagine horses leaning over fences like this one with the green pine trees and Carolina blue sky in the background.

I don’t own any photographs of Overhills for my own use [to post here], but if you are interested in Overhills, see the Fort Bragg Cultural Resources website or the Overhills book.  On the website there is a slideshow of Overhills photographs and a brief history. The oral history project will be completed in a few months and parts of it will be available for viewing on the Fort Bragg Cultural Resources site. (I’ll keep you posted).

To where do you wish you could time travel?

Growing Up on Long Island

Being humans that we are, when we hear of a geographic location (state or region, for example), we probably have preconceived notions of the lifestyle there  and subsequently what it would have been like to grow up in that area.  What comes to mind when you hear the south, the north, the west, California, South Dakota, New York, Georgia, Kentucky, Wisconsin? It’s probably a mixture of accents, surfboards, cows, skyscrapers, peaches, farm country, hill country, home cooking, and any other region based image, right? And it’s not really a bad thing, unless you let it control your thoughts after that first impression, right? And that you keep these stereotypical thoughts to yourself.

Anyway, for those reasons I’m intrigued by New York Times Art Review on February 18, 2009, “Nostalgic Exhibit with Room for Play” about the exhibit “Growing Up on Long Island” at the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook, New York. 

I’m not sure what people think when I tell them I’m from Long Island, but some of the responses I’ve received are: “You don’t sound like it”; “I would have guessed Iowa”; and “You’re not a typical Long Island girl”. It’s always interesting. Regardless, I know what my life was like and I know what my mother’s life was like, growing up on Long Island. But, are they typical? Is anything typical or just stereotypical? I’d like to see if the exhibit to see if our lifestyles are represented. The review states that everyone should find something to connect with and it includes the recent past as well, to make sure that children are interested.  It seems to be mostly nostalgic and fun, though a few more serious issues are included.

The exhibit runs through October, so I’ll be sure to visit when I’m home this summer and share the visit.

George Washington

Happy Birthday (February 22nd) to George Washington! According to the Julian calendar, Washington was born Feburary 11, 1731, but according to the Gregorian calendar the day was February 22, 1732.  Britain and its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, which is what changed the dates. (It sound extraordinarily complicated to me – to have to change every single date record!?)

George Washington slept here is many sites’ claims to fame. For a few places that you should visit relating to George Washington see Ferry Farm, Kenmore, and Mount Vernon.  See Andrew Deci’s flickr page for a few photographs of his, shared freely under the Creative Commons License.

Kenmore in Fredericksburg, VA was home to Fielding Lewis Betty Washington Lewis, George Washington's sister.

Kenmore in Fredericksburg, VA was home to Fielding Lewis Betty Washington Lewis, George Washington's sister. Photograph by Andrew Deci.

The Bowling Green Side of Mount Vernon, George Washington's home near Washington DC. Photograph by Andrew Deci.

The Bowling Green Side of Mount Vernon, George Washington's home near Washington DC. Photograph by Andrew Deci.

And see this link for a list of places in Virginia where Washington actually did sleep, including places in Yorktown, Fredericksburg, Northern Virginia, and the Shenandoah Valley. Just to clarify, the University of Mary Washington is named for George Washington’s mother, Mary Ball Washington. His wife was Martha Washington.

Appearance Update

Preservation in Pink readers,

In honor of the looming mark of 10,000 (!!) hits on this blog, I am planning to change the look of this blog, hopefully making it more reader friendly and appealing. So if you come here and everything is looking a bit out of place, don’t be alarmed. But please do let me know if there are certain things you would like to see or wouldn’t like to see anymore. What do you think would help with organization, etc? I’ll begin layout changes this week or so.



Architect Studio 3D

Architects and preservationists may have different philosophies, academic programs, and professional endeavors, but it seems that we cross paths very often, especially with the amount of architects gaining interest in the preservation field.  To me, it seems easier for an architect to enter the preservation field vs. a preservationist becoming an architect. And even though I do not harbor any desires to be an architect, I would like to understand how an architect thinks. 

As a first step, I rediscovered* Architect Studio 3D, an interactive online exhibit / classroom that provides the basic concepts of architecture such as understanding what a clients need and how to fill those needs. After reading about architecture, you choose your client, and then design your own house and come up with other architectural solutions. It is a lot of fun. The website is targeted for students in 7th – 12th grade, but I think it benefits anyone who is interested. Do not be intimidated – you need no prior architectural experience.

This program is a part of the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust. On this site you can also learn about Frank Lloyd Wright, who happens to be your guide through the architecture gallery and design studio. Enjoy!

*Thank you to whoever first introduced me to this website (Kerry? Maria?).

And My Heart Broke

Do you know what it feels like to watch history fade away before your own eyes and not be able to do a thing to save it? Do you know how it feels to know that within a short period of time, certain invaluable memories will be erased?  It pulls at my heart in a way similar to an abandoned house doomed for demolition does or the way lonesome washed-up towns look in photographs. This is partially a result of knowing that no one else has bothered to save this history and partially because I can’t do anything about it.

If you have ever worked in the oral history field or conducted research using oral history, there is a good chance that you know exactly what I mean.  Oral history has its positives and negatives, just like any form of research. It captures stories that would have never been heard or found otherwise, but your research is often at the mercy and kindness of your interviewees.  Ethically, you cannot interview someone and use that information without their permission. Interviewees must sign (what I call) a Deed of Gift form, which grants permission for the transcript and recording in the current project and sometimes, future use. The majority of interviewees are happy to sign the form and aid the project, but some people will refuse.

I have had a few people refuse to sign a deed of gift in my oral history experience. And no matter how much you explain to them the benefits of the particular project or show them exactly how their transcript and recordings will be used, no matter how much you reason with them, they will not concede. And there are only so many rounds of discussions you can have before it’s just too much and too exhausting (mentally and emotionally) and there is no more you can do.

Why would someone refuse? The reasons vary, but in my experience it has been because he or she did not like how the interview transcript read. Most people are shocked by their spoken words being directly translated on to paper. We all speak differently than we write, so reading oral history transcripts can be quite the trip. I assume only the most eloquent public speakers have near perfect transcripts.  This shock turns into vanity, which can be easily erased with the explanation of the transcript use.

Except for one case that I know: One interviewee could not fathom sharing this transcript (or even a few paragraphs of excerpts) with the public because she felt that she sounded less than educated, whereas she had indeed attended higher education to earn her M.A. After over one year of discussing and trying to convince her by demonstrating uses of the transcripts and explaining its value, she finally decided once and for all that she would not participate.

And my heart broke. Her memories are so important and rare and would complement the rest of the project. I should mention that her transcript read just fine, on par with the best interviews. It’s so sad to me that people could let vanity get in the way of sharing history, especially when they might be of the few who still know that information. Now, I cannot pass on this interview, not even to the archives. Nor can I tell this story because I’d have to cite the interview.  And so the memories will disappear.


Readers, am I missing anything? Is there a solution I haven’t found? Please help if you can.

Atalaya Castle

Huntington Beach State Park near Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, is home to Atalaya Castle, the house of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington. According to the National Register nomination, the house, a single story of masonry construction was built ca. 1932. It was built in the shape of a square with 200ft long outer walls and can be classified as Moorish style architecture reflecting the Mediterranean Coast.  This house sits about 150 yards from the ocean.  Huntington specialized in sketching, painting, and sculpting animals and her work is internationally known.  Unique features include an interior courtyard, 30 rooms, iron grillwork over the windows, animal pens, latticed brickwork, 25 chimneys, outdoor rooms, and elaborate wood shutters.

The Huntingtons spent winters at Atalaya until 1947. Around 1960, the property was leased for use as a state park. In 1984, Atalaya was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places and as a National Historic Landmark, as part of the Brookgreen Gardens, where much of Anna Hyatt Huntington’s artwork can be seen.

Visitors to Huntington Beach State Park are free to walk through the site, no tour required, and investigate the rooms, take photographs, and sit in the courtyard. While I haven’t been there since summer 2007, I remember being very intrigued that this building was just subjected to the elements, constantly, and it was only serving as outdoor art, if you will. It recalls the discussion about buildings as museums, as livable spaces, or open to the casual observer.  I think this particular “abandoned” building does serve a good purpose of public education and architectural intrigue since it is in a public park and not out in the middle of nowhere. But, how long can something be out in the elements before it needs conservation, without which, it will eventually fade away.

p.s. The state park is a great place to camp, picnic, swim, run, and spend an afternoon or a weekend.

p.p.s. click on each gallery photo for a larger image.