The 3/50 Project

The flyer above says it all: every individual (yes, even you and me) has the ability to help the local economy, a little bit at a time.  And sure, there is always a lot of talk about shopping local and the benefits of doing so, with vague explanations included, but until The 3/50 Project, I had never seen it described so simplistically, so easy to for one person to take action as an individual.

Most of us do a lot of shopping, whether it’s for groceries, clothes, gifts, books, or something else. Most of us probably spend more than $50 per month at businesses. Well, why not take your shopping elsewhere? What if you can’t spend $50? Then spend what you can. Combine  your money with friends and collectively spend $50 at a local business, because that $50 at a local business does more good than $50 elsewhere.

And just what is local independent business?  Good question.  See the 3/50 Project FAQ page for a short answer, or see the Independent page for a longer answer. Basically (according to the information provided): the business is private, it is in business in a community that it serves, it is not a national name brand, it does not have a corporate office, the owners make the decisions and are responsible for the business, there are no more than six business outlet in its registered state of business, and it is not a franchise.

Cinda Baxter began this endeavor with a blog post, a flyer, and a website, and the project has flourished. She, like the business owners she believes in, sleeps little and works hard. Check out her website and support The 3/50 Project by sharing flyers, blog widgets (check out the one on the sidebar), buying coffee mugs, etc.  But, most importantly, make a commitment to your local, independent businesses. Look what one person has already started (thanks, Cinda!). Imagine what you can do.

A note: I learned about The 3/50 Project from a friend in Fayetteville, NC who frequents downtown Fayetteville and the coffee shop, Rude Awakening.  Their website links to The 3/50 Project. Do you know a local business that hasn’t joined? Print out a flyer and drop by your favorite store, restaurant, etc.  Good luck!

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Preservation in Pink continues to support efforts that support the local economy. Previous related posts include:  The Good Part About this Bad Economy, No Farms, No Food, Here’s What You Just Did, Christmas Shopping Considerations  series #1, #2, #3, #4.

Birthdays!

Happy Birthday to Vinny!  Without Vinny, Preservation in Pink would look like it had just started.  He designs and redesigns the blog header, images for the magnets, postcards, and tshirts, and keeps everything looking sharp. (That font isn’t something you can find just anywhere). And, of course, there’s that whole thing about encouraging flamingo habits and letting me plan really long road trips.

Happy Birthday to Irene! We all miss you over here in the U.S. but hope you are having a blast in England, school and all. Your sense is humor needs to be shared. =)

A belated Happy Birthday (Sunday the 26th) to Amy, so far away in Scotland.  Amy, also like Irene, has a contagious sense of humor. (Your Mary Wash girls miss you dearly).

Another belated Happy Birthday (Monday the 27th) to my sister Sarah, who is studying Conservation & Wildlife Management at Delaware Valley College.  I’m looking forward to the point in the future when our fields cross more than we expected. Right now, it’s on the environmentalism side.

Have a fabulous day!

Alabama #7: Ave Maria Grotto

A series of weekly posts about Birmingham, Alabama and the surrounding area. See Post #1,  Post #2, Post #3, Post #4, Post #5, Post #6. This is Post #7 of 7.

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Before visiting Ave Maria Grotto I imagined it to be a collection of folk art in a farm field in the middle of nowhere, a true roadside attraction. In my defense, my friend described it as such, though he had never visited. Intriguing folk art, roadside America, and the fact that someone said I should definitely see it (being a preservationist) was all the convincing I needed. We drove 45 minutes north of Birmingham, AL to Cullman, AL, a town that was sleeping on that Sunday or more likely at church and brunch.

After navigating our way through Cullman with only a few u-turns (it took one driver, one navigator, and two backseat drivers) we found our way to the St. Bernard Abbey, where the Ave Maria Grotto is located. To our surprise, we didn’t find a farm field; but rather a parking lot and large visitor’s center / gift shop.

What is the Ave Maria Grotto? It is widely known as “Jerusalem in Miniature”. It is a four-acre landscaped park that is home to the lifetime work of Brother Joseph Zoettl, a Benedictine Monk at the St. Bernard Abbey. His work is 125 miniature replicas of historic and famous buildings throughout the world, constructed of stone, concrete, materials such as glass, marbles, cold cream jars, costume jewelry plate chips, tiles, and more.  

Brother Joseph Zoettl (1878-1961) worked on the Grotto from 1934-1958, always studying photographs of places (he had never visited the places he replicated) and working with the materials with extreme patience and commitment.  The Ave Maria Grotto is 40 years worth of Brother Zoettl’s work. After his death, a man who had worked with Brother Zoettl continued the artistic tradition, adding new miniature replicas to the site.

Ave Maria Grotto is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for Architecture/Engineering with a historic and current function of landscape as well as recreation and culture.  

When visiting, you may take a self guided tour or a guided tour.  We were able to do a bit of both tours, beginning on our own but reading the plaques in front each replica as well as the pamphlet we received with our tickets. Towards the end, the man who currently works on the Grotto was giving a tour, so we followed along to listen. The entire experience is fascinating; especially when you imagine Brother Zoettl working years on these pieces and moving them and deciding on how each structure relates to another. 

You may think that it’s a destination for those who would consider themselves religious, since it is in the St. Bernard Abbey.  However, visitors can make it whatever they want. To some, it is a religious experience, but to others it can be a cultural or architectural experience.  Many of the buildings are from Jerusalem, but just as many are not. There is a memorial to Red Cross workers, Hansel & Gretel’s house, a fairy cottage, the Roman Coliseum, the tower in Newport, Rhode Island, and others. Regardless of your religious background and beliefs, it is a unique site to see and well worth it.

See the gallery of images below. Click on a picture for a larger version.   

Meet Pip

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Pip was another birthday present this year (yes, I received many flamingo related gifts). Pip is about as cute as flamingo stuffed animals get and he’s happy to be the mascot of Preservation in Pink, blog and newsletter, seeing as even the adopted real flamingo must live at the National Zoo.

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Speaking of the adopted flamingo, I would like to announce a contest to name him/her. The “adoption” certificate is really just a thank you,  not for a specific bird, and thus does not have a name. Yet, seeing as how I received a photograph with it, I think this flamingo needs a name.  Start thinking and submitting names.

Contest Rules:

1.       Submit names for the flamingo until Saturday May 9, 2009.

2.       Once all suggestions are in, I’ll post them and hold it to a vote.

3.       You may submit more than one name.

4.       Votes will be in comment form and each voter can only vote once, for one name.

5.       Voting for the name will be May 10-17.

6.       Winner will receive a prize (not flamingo related – more like coffee from my favorite local coffee shop or something like that).

7.    If more than one person suggests the same name, it will credited to the first one who commented or emailed.

 

Photo courtesy of Smithsonian's National Zoological Park

Photo courtesy of Smithsonian's National Zoological Park

Preservation and Prevention: Natural Disasters

By Kristin Landau

Copan Ruinas, Honduras 

 

Here in Central America we’re at the tail end of the dry season. The April 30 zenith sun passage is approaching (when the sun passes directly overhead and casts no shadow at noon) and it’s difficult not to squint outside even while donning a pair of dark sunglasses. The beautiful greenery that characterizes Honduras for most of the year now appears burnt and crispy. The air is thick with dust and some days the mountains are hidden by haze. Until the wet season approaches – around the third week of May – it will only become hotter, dustier and drier. 

 

It is also that time of year when local farmers burn residual, dead crops to prepare their fields for planting in mid-May, a practice in performed in the Copan Valley since ancient times and at least for the last 1500 years. The field across from the lab where I work has been set afire the last few days, and entire mountainsides in western Honduras are black with ash. As dusk falls one can see bright orange fires burning high up in the mountains. There are two stelae (pl., tall standing, inscribed stone monuments) in the Valley placed by the 12th Ruler of Copan, in AD 652. Standing roughly east-west of each other, creating a line oriented nine degrees north, and spanning the expanse of Copan’s Principal Group of ruins, these stelae are said to mark or glorify the start date for field burning: standing at Stela 10, one can witness the sun setting  directly behind Stela 12. This ‘alignment’ occurs on April 12 and September 1, the former date indicating the start of this burning period.  

Morley's map of Stela 10-12

Morley's map of Stelae 10-12. Morley, 1946.

Leaving aside this ritual cycle codified in stone and other such romanticized interpretations of antiquity however, we are left with the practical implication of dry, dusty and intensely sunny conditions: fires. In the US and other more developed countries, fire prevention and educational propaganda are basic; I remember learning how to dial 911 before I was old enough to answer telephone calls at home. Firefighting is respected employment or revered volunteerism. As far as I know, town lines are drawn and school districts delineated according to the nearest fire department. Fire prevention is law and town planning and zoning are governed by it.

 

In Honduras and other poor countries, this is a very, very far off (and sometimes irrelevant) ideal. When one’s infant is dying of dehydration and there is no water supply to the urban downtown a few times every week, fire prevention does not rank high, and poor planning and nonexistent infrastructure makes it impossible. Walking to a café earlier today for my morning coffee and work session, I noticed black smoke in the air and people running down the hill. A wood workshop had just caught on fire and the fire had started to spread to two stores adjacent, a house overlooking the workshop, and another residence nearby.

 

There are no firefighters in Copan, there are no fire hydrants, and I’ve never seen even a garden hose. A few surrounding businesses did have fire extinguishers (likely bought in San Pedro, a city three hours to the northeast) and these were quickly donated. I have been in this workshop before and it is covered in sawdust. There are a few woodworking machines with chairs and workstations covered by corrugated metal roofs; the floor is a bed of sawdust and there are larger piles here and there. The two storefronts and neighboring houses are also made of wood; branches of a tall tree located in the workshop connected the wooden roof beams and walls of the houses.  

View of the fire: Straight ahead is the workshop, to the left is one the storefronts.

View of the fire: Straight ahead is the workshop, to the left is one the storefronts.

When I arrived, families who owned the two storefronts were running all of their products (mostly plastics, displayed on wooden shelving) across to the other side of the street. The huge buckets that they sold were used to collect water. Town residents and perhaps friends of people affected ran up the hill with an empty bucket, filled it at someone’s home, ran back down to the fire, threw the water on, and repeated. If the town hadn’t any water this morning, I imagine the entire block could have burned to the ground. As the tall tree went up in flames and the adjacent house began to catch, other people ran up to the second story and sprayed the roof with fire extinguishing chemicals and punched out burning roof tiles. At this point I could feel the heat from the fire and the direct sunlight, two mototaxis blocked the road to prevent traffic, and around 100 people had gathered. A single (female) police officer was at the scene and helped about as much as I did (i.e., not at all).

Plasticware from the stores.

Plasticware from the stores.

After about 20 minutes of throwing buckets of water on the fire and using the extinguishers, and I imagine after all the sawdust burnt, the fire calmed down: the corner roof of the house had burnt, the storefronts were untouched and completely evacuated of all items, and the workshop was still smoldering yet dripping wet. As with all such disasters and big events in Copan, it was the community and teamwork that had put the fire out and saved the day – and lives. Despite the accelerated rate of urbanization in downtown Copan due in large part to the tens of thousands of foreign tourists who visit every year, this small, slow town always manages to hold its own. The same sense of community and sameness the US and New York City felt after 9/11, I think Copan residents feel on a smaller scale and more regular basis. Within every disaster here, emerges and strengthens something beautiful.

The sole police officer.

The sole police officer.

This is not the only recent fire however and a historic structure in the city of Comayagua suffered a much worse fate. See this article here. Comayagua is a colonial city and national monument – once the capital of Honduras – located in the central western part of the country. The building affected was constructed over nearly 200 years (1545-1737), and included the Episcopal Palace of Comayagua, the only museum of colonial art, a church, a chapel, and a library of ecclesiastical literature. It was used at one time as a high school and then was converted to the first university in Honduras, and until recently housed over 400 years of Honduran history (in comparison, the US as a country has only 233 years of history). After the fire, only the exterior walls still exist. The local fire department was not equipped to handle this, and if it were not for firefighters from nearby Siguatepeque, La Paz, Tegucigalpa and the US military base in Palmerola, the fire would have certainly spread. The bishop of Comayagua as well as the priests and monks who used to live in the building have lost everything, and are out of house and home. Although according to the article 90% of the materials and museum artifacts were rescued, the director of the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History tells a more nuanced story.

 

Although stationed in Comayagua due to the fire, he was able to come to Copan for a recent conference on 3D Archaeology. Standing at the podium in front of the 70 or so conference attendees, speaking slowly and fighting tears, he told us that almost all of the 16th century archives – nearly 85% – stored in the Museo had been destroyed. Many of the objects and pieces on display had been taken out, but no one thought of the archives, he said. There are no duplicates of these archives, no copies, no other records, and no inventory of them. They include documents from the Spanish conquest, the first presidency of Honduras, and marriage and baptism certificates of modern citizens. The history and cultural patrimony of Honduras and Central America have been lost and world heritage sacrificed.

 

In addition to this incredible loss, there are other on-going concerns. The historic structure itself is lost and obviously no longer open to tourism. Not only is there no money or plans to reconstruct the building, the city of Comayagua will feel a loss in tourism revenue. Many of the rescued objects were, according to the article, moved to the “custody of neighbors”; although a registry of the missing pieces has been made, I question who these neighbors are and if the objects are safe or will “se pierden” (lose themselves). Events like these also make me think about the protection of history and who is responsible. It was determined that a short circuit in the chapel caused the fire, and due to wind and dry conditions it spread to the rest of the building. Should there have been copies of this archive? Yes. Were there personnel, a photocopier, and the money and foresight to do this? No. Since the archives document world history and the colonial period especially, should UNESCO and/or the Spanish have been involved in their protection? Probably.

 

What is most unfortunate about this tragedy is that this happens all over the world (in other poor countries and war zones) and I just can’t imagine such a structural change in historic preservation on an international scale occurring any time soon.

 

Photographs courtesy of Kristin Landau.

Article Reminder

To those planning to write articles for the June 2009 issue of Preservation in Pink, please send them to me by May 15 – 3 weeks from now. Have an idea, need an idea? Let me know. Also, if you want to share a movie or book review that relates to preservation, those are welcome. Road trips photos with descriptions, good websites, opinions, current events – all is encouraged.

Other than that, have a great weekend. The entire east coast is experience summer-like weather right now, so it’s a great time to get out, support your downtown, and enjoy your surroundings. In North Carolina, it seems to be festival weekend in every town. Enjoy and send a picture of your town’s activities.

thanks!

Alabama #6: Vulcan Park

A series of weekly posts about Birmingham, Alabama and the surrounding area.  See Post #1,  Post #2, Post #3, Post #4, Post #5. This is Post #6.

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Vulcan Park in Birmingham, Alabama offers an expansive view of the city and is home to the world’s largest cast iron statue, named Vulcan.  As you may recall, Sloss Furnaces, also in Birmingham, is famous for its role in the iron industry. At the turn of the 20th century, Birmingham wanted to highlight its industrial accomplishments and abilities, so city leaders hired Giuseppe Moretti, an Italian immigrant already well known for large statues.  Vulcan was chosen because he is the Roman God of the Forge.  The project took only six months to complete and was ready for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.  After the World’s Fair, Vulcan was sent back to Birmingham, where he sat in a variety of locations before the WPA created a park in 1939 on Red Mountain in order to give Vulcan a respectful home in the city.

Read “About Vulcan” on the Vulcan Park and Museum website for a more detailed history and interesting facts about Vulcan including his days of holding a coke can, a pickle, a light that indicated if there was a traffic fatality that day, his variety of paint colors, ;and how the hollow statue was filled with concrete. In 1999 the Vulcan Park Foundation formed to raise money to restore Vulcan after the statue suffered from years of deterioration. The statue was disassembled, repaired, recast when necessary, and reassembled piece by piece in Vulcan Park atop the original pedestal. Since 2003, the park has been open to visitors with a history museum about Birmingham on site.

We visited Vulcan Park late in the afternoon, and thus didn’t have time to venture up to the observation deck or into the museum. However, we were able to spend time looking at the Birmingham skyline, read the historic markers, gaze at Vulcan, and explore the giant stone map that is next to the pedestal.

Vulcan

Vulcan

Although it was a cloudy afternoon, the grey skies appropriately matched Vulcan’s paint color. What immediately struck me about Vulcan was the giant antenna in very close proximity, which detracted from the viewshed. Also, the elevator/stairs to the observation deck create an odd aesthetic alteration.

Note the antenna

Note the antenna

The addition for the elevator to the observation deck

The addition for the elevator to the observation deck

Shown for scale

Shown for scale

Looking up in between Vulcan's pedestal and the addition

Looking up in between Vulcan's pedestal and the addition

However, aside from the conflicted thoughts about the addition, I enjoyed the visit to Vulcan Park. And it brings to mind interesting discussion topics about additions and accessibility and things like cell phone towers or radio antennas.  Thoughts, anyone?

While Vulcan is very impressive, my favorite part about the park was, however, the giant stone map of Birmingham. It is drawn to scale and features neighborhoods and important landmarks.

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img_4617Admission to Vulcan Park is free if you just want to walk around and not visit the museum or the observation deck. It’s a nice spot in Birmingham to learn a bit of the city’s history and get a visual overview of the city. And, who can pass up visiting the world’s largest iron statue? Now that is some roadside architecture.

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View of Birmingham from Vulcan Park

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day!

Did you know that Earth Day first began in 1970? Gaylord Nelson, a US Senator from Wisconsin, proposed Earth Day in order to bring environmental issues to the front of discussions and to give everyone a wake up call about the environment regarding air pollution most importantly. Dennis Hayes organized Earth Day that same year.

Each Earth Day millions of people get out and do something for the environment. Everyone can agree that the earth needs to be clean and protected. Communities across the world have big events planned. Click here to find one near you or check your local paper.

Don’t have time to partake in a big event? Try doing all of these little things that add up to being environmentally friendly – click here to read the top 10 list of climate change solutions from the Earth Day Network.

And if you are cleaning up a park, another landscape, the backyard, converting your house to be environmentally friendly, then you are being a preservationist at the same time.  After all, historic preservation is the ultimate recycling.  So, reduce-reuse-recycle in any way possible: water bottles, coffee travel mugs, packaging material, paper, and especially existing buildings!

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from CafePress. Click to find products with this logo.

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Originally from University of Wyoming Dusty Shelves blog.

Some Earth Day slogans:

Love your Mother Earth. — Give a hoot, don’t Pollute. — Don’t be a litter bug. — Reuse the past, Recycle the Present, Save the Future. — Everyday is Earth Day.

Upon Further Consideration

In yesterday’s post, I praised Southern Pines for its quality of life and vibrant downtown, while expressing my hope that the town wouldn’t lose its character and community affection. After work, I strolled to the post office and window shopped – every store closes at 5pm, except the bookstore which closes at 6pm.  As I was walking, two people stopped me and asked me where they could find a store to get everything. I asked if they meant a drugstore or a grocery store. Either would do, they said.  They were new to town but staying the week for vacation. They also asked me exactly where they were.

I informed them that they were in downtown Southern Pines, but sadly everything downtown is a boutique or a restaurant. They would have to go back to Route 1 and find the grocery stores and drugstores outside of town.  It was clear that they didn’t mind having to leave downtown to find something, but our brief conversation reminded me of my biggest complaint about downtown Southern Pines: it is more tourist based than anything else. For everyday needs, save for the post office and a few offices there is not a strong need to go downtown, whether by driving or walking.

Therefore, I would encourage the long-range plan to focus on a few viable businesses that would bring everyday folks to downtown – whether a small grocery store or a drugstore.  I am sure that there are many complications to such a task, but a new restaurant in a new building is opening soon and it filled existing space. Perhaps something other than a boutique or a restaurant would be good; a good downtown should welcome residents and tourists, not one or the other.

Southern Pines Long-Range Plan

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Click for larger image

At the local bookshop shoppers receive the above mini-poll, asking Southern Pines residents and others to voice their opinions regarding how the town should develop over the next 20 years.  As you can see, the poll asks about property rights, vacant lots, the heart of the town, walkability, development directions, town economy and job opportunities, among others. Participants are asked to respond yes or no to each question and then explain or elaborate if necessary.

To me, the poll seemed pointed very much in one direction. After all it does use terms like the “heart of Southern Pines”, “walkable” and “increase the need for car travel”.  However, it seems to be a preservation friendly direction, so I will not complain. After all, Southern Pines is a unique place. Horse people are drawn to this area because of the vast amount of open space and the fact that all of the farms connect, providing safe riding trails. Families enjoy the area because downtown is so friendly with a park, restaurants, schools, churches, and shops all within walking distance.  And of course, downtown is beautifully landscaped with azaleas, brick sidewalks, and other “charming” features.  You will be hard pressed to find a town as pleasant as Southern Pines in this area.  With the mild weather and relatively small population, it is an easy, comforting place to live.

Yet, outside of downtown there are big-box retail stores (including Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Petsmart, TJMaxx, Belk, etc.) and fast food chains, and booming development as people migrate from the colder northern climate and even from the Raleigh-Durham area.  Land is increasing in value and developers are moving in, adding more retail stores. Southern Pines and Pinehurst are very much based on tourism as well, mostly known for the resorts and world class golf courses. And it still an affordable place to live, whether you are a renter or a home owner (not counting the horse country estates and the historic Village of Pinehurst).

Thus, development will be more of an issue in the next 20 years as the area expands. It is nice to see that the town is interested in listening to its residents, hoping to maintain what people love about the area.  I only hope that there enough people who can identify what is special about this area (walkability, horse country).  One issue is that most people who live are married with families or retired; there are very few unmarried 20 somethings here.  It is a catch-22 situation: there are not enough jobs for the young folks, but there isn’t anyone to take the jobs.  Where to begin? I would guess that the last questions sort of relate to that.

I don’t know what the results of this survey will be or even how long the town is accepting replies, but the effort is promising and it shows that people do care about the future of Southern Pines. I hope other towns follow suit. Does anyone else live somewhere with similar issues? Please share.