Building Aesthetics: Air Conditioners

I’m not one for air conditioning. It’s too strong and too cold in stores, restaurants, movie theaters and office buildings. I feel like I’m missing out on the summer season and living in a fake climate. Windows and breezes; that’s what I like. And that is how many historic houses were built: to take advantage of cross breezes. Historic houses certainly were not designed with central air conditioning in mind, and window units prevent the function of windows.

There are few things that can ruin a historic house like a window unit air conditioner, don’t you think?

See the air conditioner on the third floor. An example from Shelburne, VT.

Of course, the arguments and reasoning for air conditioners are many. I have lived in the south – the North Carolina Sandhills – so I understand heat and humidity for months out of the year. Working in an office without air conditioning would have been miserable. Then again, the office wasn’t designed for air circulation and cross ventilation.  Now I find myself shocked at the number of air conditioners in Vermont. It’s really not that hot here, and our summer days are so few. I can’t understand why people wouldn’t want a summer breeze blowing through their houses. To each his own?

Should we start designing buildings to work with nature once again? Then we’d spend less money on electricity. Just a thought.

In the meantime, take note of the air conditioning units on buildings that you pass. Where you would put them instead? Or, would you choose a window or wall unit rather than altering the interior to fit central air? Has anyone come across this problem? What does an AC unit do to the architectural integrity of a building?

Does anyone else feel this way? Or would you rather just have air conditioning and take it as a necessary item in today’s world?

Baby Ducks

They’re not baby flamingos; but, still incredibly adorable. Unknown to some, I have a deep love for ducks, including The Big Duck of Long Island.

Learning to swim. Ten days old.

Naptime after swimming and bug hunting in the yard.

Happy Monday!

Abandoned Vermont: Hogback Mountain Ski Area

On Route 9 - Abandoned Hogback Ski Area.

If you drive on Vermont Route 9 (aka the Molly Stark Byway), from Brattleboro to Bennington, you’ll pass through Marlboro, VT. Along the side of the road we came across a building that said “Hogback Ski Area.”  Sitting next to the building are some remains of the lift line machinery. The picture isn’t great due to sunlight and the fact that I took the picture within the highway right-of-way. You can see historic images on the UVM Landscape Change site – type in “Hogback Mountain Ski” if the link doesn’t work.

Hogback Ski Area.

Not being a skier, I knew nothing of Hogback Mountain. But, I was able to find some history of the ski area: it operated from 1946 – 1986, closing due to rising operating and insurance costs. Read more of the history here. Recently the Hogback Mountain Conservation Association has secured the 591 acre parcel as a conservation area. A permanent conservation easement is held by the Vermont Land Trust and Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.

Just east of this building is the 100 mile view restaurant (though it appeared closed when we drove by) and a rest stop/gift shop/scenic turnout. The views are certainly worth a stop.

Heading towards the 100 mile view restaurant and scenic overlook (eastbound). You can see the restaurant sign in the trees if you look closely. The wood sign (in front of the red building) mentions ski trails.

If you have more information, stories, or better photographs of this site, please let me know!

Building a Preservation Ethic for the Future

By Kate Scott

This spring I had the opportunity to attend several meetings aimed at improving preservation across Minnesota. Our state historic preservation office (SHPO) was reviewing their comprehensive plan, tracking progress, and creating new goals. In an effort to make the preservation plan truly applicable to all Minnesotans, the SHPO traveled throughout the state to gather resident input. From citizens in different regions, with varying background and interests, I was surprised to hear one common concern resounding statewide.

Minnesotans find it difficult to achieve cooperative, successful historic preservation in our state. They feel this is so because a strong preservation ethic does not exist. As preservationists we often see this; it is hard to get people on board with preservation. Much of our time is spend touting the many merits of preservation: it’s an economic development tool, a sustainable building practice, a way to create a sense of place and community. Typically I think people don’t get preservation because we live in a tear-down society, because in our vernacular old means obsolete. And while this may be true, the people of Minnesota see another reason for the absence of a preservation ethic.

We lack a strong preservation ethic, they say, because local history is not being taught in our schools. And without an appreciation for history, we cannot expect a desire to preserve our historic sites.

In Minnesota, where our SHPO is housed in the same offices as the state historical society (which is true of many states including Iowa, Wisconsin, Montana, and Colorado), this apparent disconnect between history and historic preservation is unexpected.

What can we do as preservationists to close this gap? Building relationships with state and local historical societies is one way. Another possibility is for statewide preservation groups to include educational development programs in their mission. In the present day of strict spending we can make the most of free and low-cost e-tools to distribute puzzles, games, and other kid-friendly history information. If we can get children interested and engaged in their local history, they will likely form attachments to significant sites and become the grass-roots activists that preservation relies on.

One of the biggest hurdles we face as preservationists is that much of our work is responsive. We react when important sites are threatened by development, neglect, and demolition. To be proactive on educational preservation programs for children could make our job much easier. Think of it as building an army for preservation (I’m not a fan of the militant analogy, but it fits). How great would it be if for every developer, every city official, every neighbor, preservation was the first choice?

It might sound like a long shot, but if we teach local history and historic preservation early we can get there. Just think – to be a preservationist and be in the majority!

Preservation Photos #91

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Sign on Church Street in Burlington, VT. This historic facade covers a Federal style building beneath. How do you choose between two?

(Photo taken with my phone at dusk.)

Happy Fourth of July!

Celebrate independence! Photo by Erin O'Shea.

However you spend today, be grateful for those who have fought for our independence, over and over. If you live in the United States of America, know how lucky you are and show some American pride today. There is no better place to be – land of the free, home of the brave. Happy Fourth of July!

Preservation Photos #90

Chelsea Royal Diner on Route 9 in Brattleboro, VT: where many of the flamingo girls stopped for a meal. Vinny and I enjoyed ice cream at the attached ice cream stand. Recommended!

Classic roadside sign, but we didn’t see it at night so I don’t know if the neon still functions. Anyone?