Preservation Photos #51

Interior of the 1917 Green Mountain Power Plant No. 19 in Essex Junction, VT.

Photo taken a day of tour with the Society for Industrial Archaeology (story to follow!)

Burned Out Log Cabin

Photograph courtesy of Maria Burkett.

Photograph courtesy of Maria Burkett.

Photograph courtesy of Maria Burkett.

Ah, the perks of friends who have lots of fieldwork and survey assignments are evident when I receive intriguing photographs in my email.

These photos were taken recently in Belmont County, Ohio, which was one of the first areas to be settled legally by people in the Northwest Territory. Maria writes that it was just outside of her survey area, so she does not know more about it, other than it may be as early as the 1790s. Thanks for sharing, Maria!

Anyone else have some information? Any log cabin experts out there?

Quinlan Covered Bridge

What is more fun that coming across a covered bridge on your way to work in the morning on a beautiful day?

This is the Quinlan Covered Bridge off Spear Street in East Charlotte, Chittenden County, Vermont.

It is a Burr truss bridge, ca. 1850. (Covered Bridges Info.) The information below is from the plaque on the bridge.

S of East Charlotte over Lewis Creek, East Charlotte, Vermont USA. “The Quinlan Bridge, circa 1850, is 88 feet long and is of kingpost Burr Arch construction. The builder is unknown. Also called the “lower” bridge, it is downstream on Lewis Creek from the Seguin covered bridge. The Quinlan Bridge spans what was then the 1812 turnpike, part of which is now Spear Street.

The Sherman family owned surrounding land, and in 1830, built a sawmill just up the creek. The building burned down, but the area around the bridge continued to be a center of manufacturing, with a woodworking mill that made sash, doors and blinds, a nail-making shop, and a foundry where plow points, cultivator teeth and other farm implements were cast.

In the 1860s, Winfield J. Scott. a carpenter-joiner. operated a gristmill and butter tub factory nearby. Portions of the old mill dam can still be seen from Lewis Creek Road above the bridge. Later, John Quinlan, an immigrant from Ireland, ran the mill. In recent times, steel I-beams were inserted under the bridge as reinforcement for school buses. – Town of Charlotte”

Preservation Photos #50

One of the many beautiful, historic stained glass windows in the 1842 Centre Congregational Church in Brattleboro, VT.

Death of a Barn

By Nicholas Bogosian (author of the series,  A Life in the Trades)

Tim owns an old barn near Fairpoint, Ohio. We tried reaching each other by phone for two weeks. I was needing some old rotten timbers for a wood conservation project in my advanced materials science class. Tim said he had some lying in a stack.

Dirt road after dirt road brought me closer. My cell phone rang. “Hey, this is Tim – wondering if we could plan a different time. I need to talk to some guy about my bulls. Have you already left?” I had. “Yeah – I’m almost there.” “Well, I can show you where the barn is real quick and come back.”

It’s amazing I found his house: “…a gray farmhouse on the left.” I swerved quick to the left when he waved to me from his silver SUV. Two dogs approached my car – a big yellow lab and a tiny black chihuahua with a pink cast for a leg. I quickly grabbed my gloves, my camera, my moisture meter, and my tape recorder. I got into his car. “The barn’s probably a hundred years old. I really wanted to preserve it.” “So what’s wrong with the timbers? Insects? Rot?” “I’m not sure. They’re laying in a stack. You can dig out what you need.”

We pulled up a steep hill. He paused and pointed off to the right to a wall of thick trees: “It’s right through there. I’ll be back in a half hour.” I got out of the car. I was expecting some expansive hill with an aged barn sitting neatly at its top. Nevertheless, I began walking through the high grass. Slowly, pieces of sun-damaged timbers started showing up, strewn on the ground around me. I finally got past the trees and saw the barn.

Photo by Nicholas Bogosian.

I was not expecting for the stack of timbers to be so large or for the barn to be non-existent. Initially, despite his helping me, I was a little aggravated that Tim hadn’t once mentioned that the barn had fallen down and that this was the “stack” that I was to find my experimental pieces. Green vining plants had overgrown the stack, trees were sprouting through summer beams, spiders had webbed homes in knee braces, hand-wrought nails were breaking off beams like chalk as I stepped over them.

Photo by Nicholas Bogosian.

I looked to my left and saw a tall wall of stacked limestone creating a shoring wall to a plateau of trees. A massive joist had fallen from its ledge within the wall. It was hard to make sense of anything. The debris was so confusing, I would never be able to salvage anything quickly. I continued walking across beams like a high-wire walker looking down to the crawl space beneath me. The slate roof had fallen. It had all fallen. The pieces were scattered like the bottom of a creek bed. They snapped beneath my careful steps.

Photo by Nicholas Bogosian.

I kept waiting for Tim’s arrival – suddenly appearing behind a camouflage of trees. Everything became still. It all felt very quiet except for the bird that occasionally greeted me with an enthusiastic, “Hey!”

I realized I had never seen anything like this before. I remembered Dave’s lectures in our Theory of Structures class and the simple truth that all acts of building are in opposition to nature. We store its members with potential energy when we hew down the logs, when we hoist the timbers, when we hammer the treenail into the joint. But nature works from day one to bring it down.

Photo by Nicholas Bogosian.

And so there I was in the middle of nowhere standing on top of the last remnants of what used to be something. Nature had not depleted the barn of its energy. It still held the memory of before. It was as if the whole thing would have picked itself back up again if it could. But that was not going to happen, and I was not particularly hopeful of it either. Despite the confusion of letting an old barn (more like 160-years-old) get to a state where it could topple over, I was happy that I got to witness its burying grounds, to stand on its beams and feel the rush of memory – that distant memory of peeking inside old abandoned homes as a kid, that respectful hush that falls over us, and the uneasiness of our intrusion.

Preservation Photos #49

Interior view from the balcony at Old West Church in Calais, VT. July 2010.

“Remove Not The Ancient Landmark Which Thy Fathers Have Set.”

a new mantra, perhaps?


Tennis in New York, Larger-than-life Texas, Roadside Utah, Missouri Preservation & Vermont Outhouses

Happy Monday! Here are some interesting links and stories I came across over the weekend (with a super-long post title to attract your attention).  Enjoy!

A New York Times article on September 11, 2010, featured an article about “Long Past the Last Match Point, Debating What’s Next at Forest Hills.” The gist of it: In Forest Hills Gardens, Queens, NY, the West Side Tennis Club owns the historic West Side Tennis Stadium, constructed in 1923, which was host to the US Open and many significant events in tennis history. A tennis match has not been played at the stadium in years and the wooden benches and concrete structure are suffering from neglect and deterioration. The club, operating at a loss for many years, does not know what to do with the stadium, which is small for today’s standards. Even if money can be raised for restoration, the West Side Tennis Club is in need of a creative solution. Thoughts? {Picture below shows the Tennis Stadium in 1960. Source: the NY Times, September 11, 2010, by Patrick A. Burns. Click photo for original source.}

Need some fun places to visit? Check out 10 Endangered American Tourist Attractions Worth Saving (with pictures!) on the blog, Searching for Authenticity, based on an article in Spring 2010 Society for Commercial Archaeology newsletter (and reproduced on the SCA blog). I want to visit Tex Randall in Canyon, TX.

Tex Randall. Photo source: RoadsideAmerica.com. Click for source.

Check out this awesome blog by Steven Cornell, Utah-rchitecture, dedicated to the past, present, and future architecture of Utah. It began in January 2010 and features only a few posts per month, but all seem well-written, well researched, and very interesting! The most recent post discusses the The Birth of Utah’s Automobile Tourism — lots of motel postcards & images included.

Another blog I just found is by Preservation Research Office, a project based collaborative research organization based in St. Louis, MO.  The blog, Ecology of Absence, seeks to be,

“… a voice for historic preservation and a chronicle of architectural change in the St. Louis region… The major theme of the blog is historic architecture and the primary goal is to build awareness of that architecture and interest in preserving it. The editorial approach is to “strike the roots” and look beyond threatened buildings at the larger forces that create, change and often destroy the built environment of the city. Public policy is a key part of the analysis. Consequently, the blog focuses on changes in the built environment that come about as St. Louis attempts to stem the deindustrialization, depopulation, shrinking public services and loss of architectural fabric that define the modern American urban condition.”

Roadside, real estate, policy – good stuff. Check it out!

And lastly for today, how about designing outhouses? Believe it or not, people think about such things. The book, Outhouses by Famous Architects, proves such a statement (thanks Elyse!)  In Vermont, the Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association (VWMA) has invited Vermont architects and woodworkers to participate to design the “Green Mountain Comfort Station,” a wooden structure that will house a composting toilet to be used at outdoor recreation areas and state parks in Vermont {see article here}. The winner will be announced on September 25, 2010. Read more about the contest rules in the Burlington Free Press article from September 12, 2010, “Designers pit themselves against the old, standby trailside outhouse.”

How could you not love Vermont, I ask.

Proud to Be an American

When an American says that he loves his country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the prairies glistening in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great mountains, and the sea.  He means that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath of self-respect.  ~Adlai Stevenson

My Road to Preservation

Recently a reader asked me about the path that led me to historic preservation academically and professionally; how did I know that preservation was my calling? It’s an excellent question, I think. Typically, historic preservationist is not something you write for “When I grow up, I want to be _________.” Normally, it’s something more tangible to kids like a doctor, a teacher, a fireman, a baseball player, a singer, etc. While I do know a handful of people who declared “historic preservationist” early in their childhood or young adult life, I was not one of them by definition. So I thought for today I would share part of my path to preservation. Readers, please share your experiences in the comments or send a post to me.

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Throughout elementary school, middle school, and much of high school, I wanted to be a writer; writing was what I truly loved and I planned to study creative writing or journalism in college. United States History claimed a close second in terms of favorites to my poetry and journalism classes. Until junior year of high school, my vocabulary did not include “historic preservation,” and yet (as cliché as sounds), when my mom came across the term “historic preservation” and showed it to me, something clicked in my head. Although I really didn’t know what it meant, historic preservation just sounded perfect. As I learned more about the Mary Washington program, I knew preservation and I fit together. Suddenly my constant questions about the history of buildings and towns and roads that we passed on our travels made sense; I would be able to study, investigate, and write about history and communities.

So that’s the very short version as to how I found myself stepping into the field of historic preservation (I could delve into childhood memories, but I’ll save it for another time). I never looked back. Why did I stay? How did I know it was meant for me, or rather, I was meant for it? Most importantly, I always believe in the ethics and the potential of historic preservation. For me, preservation is a way of life, a way of thinking, a code of social ethics and responsibility; it is not just my profession or my academic background.

More specifically, I think I have stuck with preservation due to the variety and range of applicability to so many fields. I have found myself working in the restoration department at Kenmore Plantation, conducting a three-year oral history project of Overhills, and currently working in the regulatory world. All facets of preservation stem from the same core values and lessons of historic preservation, with an underlying goal of improving quality of life by incorporating the past into the present and the future. Just look at recent changes in the approach to studying and applying historic preservation: the environment and local economies are very important allies. And by protecting and caring for community, regional, and cultural resources, the emphasis can be traced to the desire to not create Anywhere, USA.

Historic preservation is never boring; it is a field of hard work, discipline, thoroughness, communication, compromise, and optimism with a dash of reality. It is a field that allows us to research, write, and communicate about the important places and events, and how to incorporate those tangible and intangible elements into our lives.

Not everyone thinks about preservation or understands its meaning or benefits, but (based on my own observations) people seem inherently happier when they experience a subconscious feeling of history. Maybe it’s the architecture scale and massing or maybe it’s a sense of belonging and comfort, knowing that their surroundings have been shared with so many generations and people. Whatever the reason, a subliminal connection to the past goes a long way. Yet, historic preservation is not here to stop progress or to recreate the past, but instead it means to shape a better, brighter future and to save us from our quick-paced, of-the-moment society (which is nothing new).

This is why I am a preservationist: because I care to think like this. There will always be people who dismiss historic preservation and cannot recognize the field’s good work, but that is alright. Not all of us crunch complicated mathematical equations or cook a gourmet meal or cure illnesses, but we are all connected and can benefit from one another in some way. Being a historic preservationist is my contribution to this world, no matter which avenue of preservation work I travel.

Now, readers, why are you preservationists? How did you decide on the field? Did you find preservation or did it find you? Please share for those readers who may not be so sure. Perhaps your answers are more specific than mine.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of My Road to Preservation — next time talking about going the route of graduate school.