Playgrounds of Yesterday

Following up yesterday’s Preservation Photos #25 post, which featured the Giant Stride, here’s a glance at other unique playground equipment from the early 20th century. Of course there are many sources with great photographs and information, so consider this a sampling.

First, a search through the Library of Congress digital records always provides good entertainment:

Another Giant Stride (or is it a may pole?) - at a playground in New York City, ca. 1910-1915. Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division (click).

Merry-go-round, ca. 1918-1920. Source: Library of Congress Prints & Photographs (click).

A playground apparatus that reminds me of a merry-go-round and a giant stride combined. Source: Library of Congress (click).

A children's city playground. Source: Library of Congress Prints & Photographs (click).

Seesaw, 1902, in Chicago, IL. Source: American Memory, LOC (click).

With the digital world taking over, Flickr is a wonderful resource as well. People share their own images as well as scanning in magazines, advertisements, etc. By searching for “playground” in the uploads or the “playground” groups, you will find some awesome images. Most of it will be mid 20th century, not ca. 1910 or 1920, but it’s fascinating in a different way. Check out the sets by Nels_P_Olsen on Flickr for images of vintage defunct and surviving playgrounds.

Part of the 1975 Miracle Equipment Company playground catalog. Click and scan through the other pages. Source: Nels_P_Olsen.

More from the Miracle Playground Equipment catalog. I include this one for my sisters and our friends at Norwood Elementary: that thing we always called the spider web -- apparently it's a geodesic dome (note bottom). Source: Nels_P_Olsen, flickr (click).

For more, try the “old playground furniture” group. See also this August 26, 2009 “Playgrounds” post from PiP.

How’s that, Erin? Enough to hold you over? I’ll post more in the future. When you’re out exploring, be sure to let me know of any great old playgrounds! Let’s go build a giant stride in the backyard for now.


Preservation Photos #25

One of the best parts of my semester is researching playground layout and equipment for my HP201: History on the Land course using periodicals. This advertisement above is found in many issues of The American City during 1909-1914 (and later, but those are the years of my research). Have you ever seen such a piece of equipment? The Giant Stride – basically you hold on and run around really fast to where you feel like you’re flying. I’ve seen it referred to as the Flying Steps for that reason. Sounds like fun to me!

I’m intrigued the Giant Stride and am trying to find out more information about it, particularly its evolution of construction. Do any of you readers happen to know about the Giant Stride? Do you have pictures, stories, or perhaps an AG Spalding & Bros. catalog? Or any other playground catalog? The early 20th century versions are hard to find, but would be a great help to my research! Thank you!

Book: Outside Lies Magic

Ever wonder about your surroundings? Just how much of a story do everyday aspects of the built environment tell? What do they layers of our cultural landscape reveal about the past? These layers and clues are in plain sight, not even hidden. You just have to look a bit. Take a walk. Go for a run. Or as recommended by John R. Stilgoe, go for a bike ride. Just get outside; “get out now.”

John R. Stilgoe’s book, Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and Awareness in Everyday Places, teaches readers how to be explorers and how to read the land via telephone poles, railroad corridors, interstates, fences, parking spaces, and more. Stilgoe weaves an interesting, captivating text that gives seemingly mundane surroundings context, character, and meaning. The best part about this book is that you do not have to be a preservationist, geographer, planner, architect, or historian to appreciate and understand the content. If you like to gaze at your surroundings and occasionally wonder about streets, rails, land, boundaries, mail routes, etc. then it is the perfect book. An easy, enjoyable read, this is something everyone should add to their library.

Read the book, take a bike ride — you’ll never be the same.

Your Thoughts

Preservation in Pink readers,

I would like to collect your favorite thoughts, sayings, or quotes relating to historic preservation. Simply, is there one phrase or line that always reminds you of preservation? A wonderful quote, perhaps? A saying that you have? It doesn’t have to be said by a famous author – something you’ve written would be much better!

Spring is taking a while to arrive in the northeast, it’s around midterm time or a semester crunch for many students, it’s almost tax day, it’s raining — whatever your trouble may be right now, a collection of sayings to make a preservationist smile would make an excellent springtime collaboration.

For instance, my favorite quote, one that always makes me smile and one that gets at the essence of preservation is:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

So what about you? What is your inspiration? What do you keep pinned above your computer, on your bulletin board, or at the end of your email? Leave a comment below, please.


P.S. Remember when Izzy was this big? Well, now this kitten, who likes to help me with my work, takes over my workspace. She’s giant!

“Old Style”

If you’ve spent any time reading city tax assessments or records, you may know that old or historic houses were often just labeled “old style” regardless of what kind of style it actually was.  A ca. 1935 Dutch Colonial Revival (with shingle influence) house that I researched last semester was called “old style” and so is my current ca. 1910 Colonial Revival house. Granted, both are Colonial Revival so it’s a poor example.  The obviously Shingle style house next to mine is characterized as “Colonial.”  I point these out not to say that all city assessments are wrong; I scanned just a few in Burlington and did come across some that seemed correct upon first glance. This is merely a warning to homeowners, researchers, students, etc.: do not necessarily believe the tax records.

In the same vein, realty listings are often entertaining. The architectural vocabulary is quite different (and quite frankly, often inaccurate. I do not mean to pick on realtors — some listings just provide obvious examples). Do realty listings use inaccurate vocabulary because the general public does not care to know all of the architectural terms and details or because that is all realtors were taught and therefore employ?  Are realtors properly educated when it comes to historic homes? We all grow up with the terms cottage, victorian, bungalow, and colonial, but they tend to be overused.  But if we are all talking about houses and architectures, shouldn’t we be on the same page? Shouldn’t one style mean the same to two different groups? What do you think?

Architectural vocabulary can be very specific and debated, but it’s fair to say that there are standard proper style and feature names that the general public (i.e. non-architectural historians and non-preservationists) could easily understand. So I offer some easy pictorial guides for anyone who wants to have a better understanding of architectural styles. (Of course styles will vary slightly by region.)

1. Residential Styles: this first one is actually from Realtor Mag, (go!) and it is a good, basic guide for residential styles.

2. Architectural Style Guide: a brief listing with recommended books from Preservation Directory.

3. Architectural Style Guide: from Arkansas but applicable across the USA. (PDF — print for easy reference!)

To find additional resources, search for “architectural style guide,” “easy architectural style guide” or something like that. Your state historic preservation office should have a comprehensive guide as well.

So what do you think? Should we all be on the same page for vocabulary? Is there a large gap? Is it shrinking, growing?

Cutest Flamingo Fan

Presenting PiP’s youngest and cutest fan… Miss Claire, the adorable daughter of a good friend of mine. Claire is one of my favorite babies and definitely one of the cutest. She’s sort of hiding her flamingo outfit here, but it says Pretty & Pink.

It has matching pants, but since Claire is a southern summer baby, she doesn’t really need pants. However, these are the pants:

Actually, for any fans of Preservation in Pink and cute flamingos, the last few years of baby fashion seem to have flamingos in vogue. I know this because I’ve had many opportunities to share the flamingo love.  In addition to Miss Claire, my cousin has a toddler to whom I have definitely gifted flamingo attire.

Roadside Kitsch in Burlington

Who doesn’t love ridiculously large objects on the side of the road? See evidence of my love here. Well, to my surprise and delight, Burlington is not without it’s roadside kitsch.

Soda bottle on Pine Street, Burlington VT.

Bike rack at the locksmith in Burlington VT. See the lone bike lock on the bottom right.

That bike rack always makes me laugh when I pass it. And I know there are many more objects to share, but consider this an introduction from Pine Street. Anyone know of some in or around Burlington? I’ll keep my eyes open and camera handy.

Irish Soda Bread

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! And it’s finally the time of year for Irish soda bread. According to the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread, if you think you’re eating “traditional” Irish soda bread, you’re probably not. And if it has raisins, then it’s definitely not “soda bread.” And soda bread made only date to the mid 1900s. The original, traditional recipes contain four ingredients: flour, baking soda, buttermilk, and salt (nothing else)!  It certainly does not include yeast.

While the Society aims to provide everyone with the truth about traditional recipes, it is not insinuating that people are making soda bread improperly. They say that a family tradition is a tradition, that recipe is worth being passed down generations. Simply, do not claim that your modern recipe is a true traditional cultural recipe.

With that said, some modern recipes are delicious!  Everyone is allowed to modify recipes. My family tradition (not traditional to Ireland) includes sour cream and cream of tartar and lots of raisins. My great-aunt passed down the recipe to my mom, and that’s what we use and will keep using. This year I tried some variations (muffins and no raisins) but also stuck with my favorite recipe and method.

Soda bread goes well with a bit of butter (though it’s just as good plain) and nice cup of coffee. Enjoy!

Soda bread muffins anyone? (Paper muffin cup not recommended.)

Soda bread that ended up looking like a clover.

Soda bread in a cast iron pan, my family's tradition.