Back to School

Good luck to everyone starting school today (or to those who have already started), students, professors, and everyone else. Study hard, learn, pay attention, and enjoy your work. Remember, you get out of your work what you put in!

Friday Links

The Brooklyn Bridge Forest project brings yet another link to preservation + sustainability. The general idea? Growing and responsibly maintaining a tropical hardwood forest to replace the 11,000 planks of tropical hardwood on the Brooklyn Bridge when necessary, rather than using uncharacteristic synthetic wood.

Love Route 66? Scott Piotrowski has picked up his blogging again (hooray!) about Historic Roads in Los Angeles County, CA. He plans to uncover the final 66 miles of Route 66 in 66 different blog entries leading up to 2012 Route 66 Festival in Santa Monica. That sounds like quite the task – and interesting one at that! Leave a comment on his blog with suggestions & encouragement.

Speaking of Route 66, who wants to buy the NR listed Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico? It’s for sale!

And, if you’re a fan of the movie Cars you may know that Disneyland is opening “Cars Land” in summer 2012. Scroll down for a bit info and some pictures.

Anyone attending the Society for Industrial Archaeology’s Fall Tour in Vermont this September? I’ll be there, helping out with the Saturday Burlington tour.

Looking for a job? Many have been appearing on PreserveNet lately, many more than earlier in the summer.

Is anyone taking the Ivy Tech (Madison, IN) online course: Introduction to Historic Preservation? I’d be interested to hear about your experiences.

Any starting your undergrad major or graduate degree in preservation? Please share!

Happy weekend; hope the last one of August treats you well! Get out and about while it’s still warm and sunny!

What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs

PRESS RELEASE*

Oakland CA, 15 April 2010 — The Center for the Living City and New Village Press have partnered to publish a compendium of original essays that carries forward the late Jane Jacobs’ passion for urban activism and democratic participation. What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs looks with keen eyes at the present and the future of our communities through the unique views and insights of more than thirty respected activists, scholars, economists, planners, and public figures around the world whose work has been inspired by Jacobs.

Urbanist-activist Jane Jacobs is best known for her seminal work The Death and Life of Great American Cities, published in 1961. By contrasting the master plans of developers and policymakers of her time with her observations of the lively, self-organized nature of city life, Jacobs revolutionized the discipline of urban planning and expanded the boundaries of community participation.

The contributing authors of What We See further Jacobs’ genius of everyday wisdom through their own creative and diverse visions of socially just, environmentally sound, and economically prosperous communities. In addition to its 33 essays, the book includes a study guide to promote critical debate and a shared understanding of the challenges and possibilities of creating change in our communities.

What We See has been supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, which also funded Jane Jacobs in writing The Death and Life of Great American Cities fifty years ago. Additional funders of What We See include Furthermore: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund, The Nathan Cummings Foundation, The Zeidler Family, Greg O’Connell, Martha Jean Shuttleworth, and The Newburgh Institute.

REVIEW*

Planners, preservationists, and the like inherently know that Jane Jacobs’ lessons and theories written in The Death and Life of Great American Cities have been true and relevant to all people and cities since before she put words to paper and will continue to be applicable to our modern era and beyond. However, Death and Life is not Jacobs’ only work and it is not a book that everyone will voluntarily choose to read; as essential and thrilling as it is, it can be dense.

The contributors to What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs translates these lessons from Jane Jacobs in manners that will appeal to planners, academics, scholars of Jane, or those who have heard in passing. What We See is about opening our eyes as communities. (Appropriately, the introduction is titled, “Eyes Wide Open.”) The book is part tribute to Jane Jacobs, but more importantly it is meant to keep her lessons current and to bring them to new levels, across all disciplines.

While the range from planner to any community member is a wide group of readers, the reach is possible because of the organization of the book: six sections with an average of five essays that vary in tone and writing style. These essays are written by renowned professionals in their respective fields, some who knew Jane, some who met her once, and some who have simply been influenced by her work. Some of these essays are written in the first person point-of-view, which seems more approachable to those new to Jane. Others are more philosophical and probably more appealing to students of planning. The editors have taken great care to properly group the essays and bring the reader through each section; however, this is not to say that a reader must read the sections in order. When in doubt of the section’s overall theme, the reader can easily refer back to the introduction, in which the sections are explained beyond their titles.

A disclaimer to readers is that What We See can be dense at times; it is not the type of book you want to read right after final exams end. However, a topic of such magnitude and influence warrants thorough discussion from all angles. True to the book’s function, there is a study guide at the end of the book, meant for communities, classrooms, any group interested. There are questions for every essay, but they do not necessarily only apply to that essay or chapter. In other words, some questions would suffice for conversation starters, even outside the context of the book. What We See may not have been the quickest read, but it did turn the gears of my brain and introduce new perspectives. As always, the parallels between historic preservation are amazing, yet not surprising. Anyone interested in quality of life and how communities function, will benefit from reading and discussing What We See. So get comfortable, get into a planning and community mood, and get ready to think and learn from and see how others learn from one of the greatest urbanists and activists of the modern age. Whether you read one essay or one section at a time or read the entire book from cover to cover, the chapters are thought-provoking and well worth the read.

To read more the book, visit the What We See website. To read more about Jane Jacobs read a mini-biography of Jane on the Project for Public Spaces. Buy the book here.

* The press release is from the New Village Press website, while the review is written by Kaitlin O’Shea.

Mississippi Gulf Coast Architecture

Introducing a new guest blogger! Janice Medina is currently an Adjunct Instructor at the University of Southern Mississippi Interior Design Program where she teaches Interior Design I, Portfolio Development, and Visual Communications in Interior Design. Janice earned her M.S. in Building Conservation from Rensselear Polytechnic Institute (Albany, NY) in 2008 and a B.F.A in Interior Design from Syracuse University in 2006. Since relocating to Biloxi, MS, Janice has worked and volunteered with the preservation community. In summer 2010, Janice worked as an intern for the US National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) in Falmouth, Jamaica. To read more about Janice and her experiences visit her website [janicemedina.net].

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By Janice Medina

Given the recent Deepwater Horizon tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, this seems an appropriate time to write about some of the architectural gems of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. As a Yankee transplanted to the South, I have come to develop a deep appreciation for the culture and historic buildings near my new home in Biloxi, Mississippi.

The last home of the Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, is nearby and it’s a place that I love to visit with out-of-town guests. Beauvoir is a single-story raised cottage built of cypress and pine, and was completed in 1852. It was originally owned by a wealthy businessman, James Brown. The Davis family moved to Beauvoir in 1877.

Beauvoir. Photo by Janice Medina.

The complex includes two smaller cottages, one to the east and one to the west of the main house, as well as various outbuildings and a cemetery. The home was severely damaged during Hurricane Katrina, as were so many historic buildings along the coastline. On one visit we were informed that the supplier of the home’s historic slate roof was able to locate the original written order for the slate. Due to this extremely organized record keeping, the damaged slates were replaced with a product identical to the original.

With my background in interior design it is no surprise that my favorite features of Beauvoir are on the inside. The rooms have been painstakingly painted to match original design and colors. Doors are beautifully woodgrained and there are still some original glass panes in the triple-hung sash windows. I was lucky enough to visit one day while the ceilings were being painted and it was a pleasure to watch the conservationists at work.

Interior detail at Beauvoir. Photo by Janice Medina.

Offshore, a boat ride to Fort Massachusetts on West Ship Island makes for a great day trip. This fort, one of about 40 used during the Civil War, was operated by Union troops to block water access to New Orleans and Biloxi. The fort took about 6 years to build and as it passed through Northern and Southern hands, the source of building supplies changed. Light-colored southern brick stand out next to darker red brick transported from Maine.

Hurricane Katrina sheared ground cover off the top of the masonry walls, leaving the construction system exposed. This is an interesting view and one can easily see the inner fill of concrete mixed with seashells and broken bricks, no building material was wasted here. The island itself is a community treasure, with white sand beaches and clear waters. Until recently, that is.

Another structure that is a joy to visit is the newly restored Biloxi Lighthouse. The lighthouse was constructed in 1848 and was in use until it was decommissioned in 1967. Today, the City of Biloxi runs tours 3 times daily. Tours run in the morning only due to the fact that the glass-enclosed upper portion of the lighthouse can get uncomfortably hot as the sun rises.

Inside the lighthouse, a new coat of white paint is marked by measured lines in shades of blue. Each blue line indicates high water level during previous hurricanes. The highest mark belongs to Hurricane Katrina. The sweeping view of the beach is well worth the climb up the small spiral staircase.

Coming to know the Mississippi Gulf Coast and its people over the past two years has been a privilege. Hearing their stories of survival and seeing the effort they have put into rebuilding their communities is perhaps what makes this oil spill such a bitter pill to swallow. After all of those efforts, they are facing yet another hit to the local environment and tourism. If you have the chance to make a visit to the Gulf Coast, I encourage you to do so. You will find lovely people, beautiful buildings, and not to mention delicious food. Long live the Mississippi Gulf Coast!

The porch at Beauvoir. Photo by Janice Medina.

Grad School Semester Two

Well, semester two ended about three-and-one-half months ago, and I’ve yet to write about it. Was I that tired from the semester? Perhaps. Indulging in summer vacation and the freedom from homework and paper writing? Probably. Anyway, seeing as semester three begins in one week, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the previous one.

My classes included Preservation Law, Architectural Conservation I, History on the Land, and Historic Preservation Practice Methods. The semester proved to be challenging and extremely worthwhile. Whereas semester one was more of a review in terms of material and theory, semester two built on that work and delved into new lessons.

While I was familiar with preservation law, I had never studied Section 106 and Section 4(f) in-depth. The verdict? Thank goodness for preservation laws. We don’t necessarily think about these laws everyday, but these laws, however flawed, are the reason that we are able to do much of what we do in preservation. Preservation law was hard, but in an exhilarating manner.

Weekly lab studies and reports in Architectural Conservation addressed the problems of building materials and finishes (wood, concrete, paint, brick, plaster).  The biggest lesson: moisture is the cause of all problems in buildings. I’m kidding; sort of. (It’s actually moisture in the wrong places.)

A case study for architectural conservation.

History on the Land was my favorite class of all time, and one that I would recommend to anyone. Through readings and interesting class lectures, we discussed the built environment by way of parks, trails, town planning, buildings, streetcars, railroad corridors, canals, roads, neighborhoods, factories, bicycles, automobiles, and the development of roadside America. It was simply amazing and challenging in the way we took tests, wrote papers, and used information and resources. I enjoyed spending hours in the periodicals section of the library and analyzing patents for playground equipment.

The Narragansett Machine Company

Lastly, Preservation Practice Methods taught us how to write a National Register Nomination and a Rehabilitation Investment Tax Credit application, both of which have their own hurdles, but are essential skills for professional preservationists. Photography, building descriptions, creative solutions, and teamwork were important aspects of these projects.

The front entrance of the house from my NR nomination.

All in all, the semester couldn’t have been more exhausting, but it was fulfilling and made me a stronger preservationist. And of course, it was fun to end with a field trip and a paint party!

Paint party in Wheeler House!

Preservation in Pink colors. Decorative painting is not my skill, huh?

Vermont in Pictures

As I’ve proclaimed, I love Vermont.  For Part 2 of my love letter to the state, to show rather than tell, here is a collection of some of my favorite Vermont photographs that I’ve snapped throughout this past year. Enjoy this entirely subjective selection, much of which is landscaped focused.

Our drive up I-89, August 2009.

Lake Champlain, August 2009.

The Lake Champlain Bikepath, September 2009.

Charlotte, VT, October 2009.

Charlotte, VT, October 2009.

Windham County, October 2009.

Windham County, October 2009.

Overlooking Burlington and the Adirondacks at sunset in December 2009.

Overlooking Burlington and the Adirondacks at sunset in December 2009.

Snowfall at UVM in February 2010.

Lake Champlain sunset as seen from Burlington's Battery Park, March 2010.

The long awaited spring sky, April 2010.

Snow at the end of April 2010.

Playing by the river, May 2010.

The Lake Champlain Bikepath, June 2010.

Billings Farm in Woodstock, VT, June 2010.

On my drive to work in Addison County, June 2010.

Summer sky, July 2010.

Calais, VT, July 2010.

Calais, VT, July 2010.

Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks as seen from Chimney Point VT, July 2010.

Cottonwood on Lake Champlain, West Addison, VT, July 2010.

A Love Letter

Dear Vermont,

It’s been just over one year since I moved here. Last year when I arrived in the tiny apartment, my first thought upon seeing just how much room the contents of the car (not even the storage unit) occupied of the living room, was along the lines of oh my gosh; what did I do? But one week later accompanied by nonstop cleaning, painting, and organizing, and the apartment turned into an adorable home and so began life in Vermont.

Back in summer 2008, I visited Burlington on my to Thousand Island Park, and the total time here was less than 24 hours, but I loved it and sighed at the fact that I wasn’t planning to move to Vermont. Little did I know that less than one year later I’d be excitedly sporting a University of Vermont t-shirt as I trekked up north from the Carolinas. On the drive up in June 2009, I’ll never forget the striking beauty of the blue sky and the green mountains and the peaceful vibe I felt.

Much of time from September – May was spent only in Burlington, in my circle from the apartment to Wheeler House to the library to the gym and back. Occasionally class projects brought me to Montpelier and the barn census project offered a nice venture to Windham County. Running along beautiful Lake Champlain in all of the seasons fed my love of Vermont.  Other than those few places, I hadn’t been out much. I did know that I was very happy to be here; but, it wasn’t until June 2010 as I headed south on Route 12 to Woodstock that I realized my deep love for Vermont. I realized I was in love with you, Vermont. Of course, I’ve loved other states and want to visit them again (like South Dakota), but never have I felt so attached to a particular state in such a short period of time and truly wanted to live there. I love driving anywhere in the state (save for Burlington traffic congestion) and everywhere is beautiful. As I spend more and more time in Addison County for work, my adoration only grows. I think the view from Chimney Point Historic Site is one of the most beautiful that I’ve ever seen. I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of gazing at Vermont scenery.

Technically, I’ll never be a true Vermonter (that takes somewhere around seven generations), just a transplanted flatlander, but I don’t mind. I’m happy to have lived four states before Vermont. I have Vermont to thank for curing my geographic commitment phobia. You see, I never yearned to stay in one place for a long time; I always had my next move planned and my dreams of living way out in the cowboy west. However, now I’d be more than content to stay in Vermont for a very long time. The rolling hills, sparkling Lake Champlain, the blue skies and green mountains over the farms and villages, the landscaped has captured my heart. When I leave, even for a short while, I miss Vermont. There’s so much to see and I look forward to continued travels throughout the state. Vermont, you’re quirky and green and always a surprise, and I am proud to live here.

Thanks for a good first year, Vermont.

Love, Kaitlin

Preservation Photos #45

So, this house (somewhere around Hinesburg, VT) is not historic or even old, but it has most certainly been altered in an eclectic fashion. Shall we file this under the well-known “Yikes!” column? Or inspiration gone wrong? I don’t know about you, but I find it hideous, though I can’t look away! I actually turned around and stopped to take this photograph. Who can come up with a clever caption?