Flooding & Hurricane Irene

No lengthy post today or anything like that, just a note:

Preservation in Pink may be quiet this week. The entire State of Vermont has been devastated by Hurricane Irene. Our town flooded and our basement flooded completely, so Vinny and I are dealing with the cleanup and the phone calls, etc. We are grateful for everyone’s concerns and the help of many friends here in Vermont. Flood cleanup is messy. River water is muddy and silt and gross. I have never been so dirty as I was yesterday after beginning flood cleanup yesterday. Everyone was covered in mud.

It’s devastating and heartbreaking to hear of the widespread damage everywhere. For us, it puts everything in perspective and we offer our prayers and thoughts to those who are worse off than we are. We are safe, as are the cats. Thank goodness for friends to take us and the cats in for food, showers, electricity and encouraging words.

Now, if anyone has recommendations on post flooding, I’d be grateful to hear them. Obviously, don’t turn on the electricity and what not – but cleanup suggestions or issues to look for with houses – that would be helpful. Water came in through a basement window and from beneath the concrete basement foundation and floor. Our biggest concern is structural damage.

Thanks for your good thoughts and advice, in advance.


Raising the Arch

Today is the day. The arch has floated down the lake to the piers and today it will br lifted. What an exciting day for the project and the region!

Pardon the cell phone pictures for today; I will have better images to share.


Concrete Bridges

Consider it Bridge Week or Bridge Days, as the Lake Champlain Bridge center span is set for floating and lifting any day now.

Hardly any structure proves to be permanent; very few materials hold up for eternity. Concrete is a particularly troublesome material to many because moisture and salt and lack of maintenance equal a recipe for structural failure. Yes, I am referencing the 1929 Lake Champlain Bridge; but I am also thinking about the small concrete bridges across the nation. These bridges have concrete decks and concrete piers and railings, and we are losing them at an exponential rate.

Ripton, VT

Often, these small bridges face the fate of poor hydraulics or structural and geometric inadequacies; simply put, they do not meet AASHTO standards and any projects that rehab these bridges are required to bring them up to federal standards and code.  But because these bridges were so ubiquitous in the middle decades of the 20th century, they are hardly significant, according to many. Some are significant for technology or design or engineering, but mostly they come across as yesterday’s steel girder, single span (i.e. boring) bridges. Furthermore, repairs to these bridges have destroyed their integrity, and with that, any eligibility for significance.

Albany, VT

However, I have recently found myself disheartened by the fate of these bridges; I love small concrete bridges with decorative concrete piers and interesting railings. Whenever I cross a new 3 bar aluminum (or worse! steel w-beam type) bridge, I wonder what it has replaced and when. Alignments have likely been straightened and a bridge with character destroyed. (Go ahead, call me a transportation preservation nerd; blame it on the day job).

Sheldon, VT

Covered bridges are adored and respected. Metal truss bridges are heading in that direction. But, concrete bridges that aren’t elaborate concrete arch bridges are often overlooked.  I’m working on understanding the context and significance of small concrete bridges so I can either a) come to terms with the fate of such bridges or b) convince others of their importance. That doesn’t mean that I am the only one who thinks about concrete bridges, but I am looking for others who would like to talk about them. We can’t save everything in preservation, nor should we, but as time passes we need to reevaluate what is important, what is diminishing, what has been insignificant, and figure out what to do with these resources.  How are they treated differently if they are out on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere v. in a historic district. (Okay, that’s probably an easy answer, but what if the concrete is indicative of the landscape and a certain era of road travel?)

Wheelock, VT

What are your thoughts on small concrete bridges? For now, I’m still pondering and gathering any historical context I can find.




Preservation Photos #97

The (new) Lake Champlain Bridge is getting closer and closer to completion. The middle span, the arch, will be floated and raised by the end of August, according to the NYSDOT press release. In this picture, New York is on the left, Vermont is on the right, and the Adirondack Mountains are in the background. Beautiful!

(Picture taken with my phone, but you can still click for better details.)

Monday Links for Dad

First of all, Happy Birthday Dad! You’re probably not reading this, but I love you anyway. =)  If you happen to see, say if Mom directs you to it, here are some fun links I thought you’d like for the World’s Fair. Next time I’m home, I am going to ask if you have any memorabilia.

My dad loves the 1964 New York World’s Fair; he spent many childhood days there (he grew up in Forest Hills Gardens, Queens).

Here are some links about the 1964 Fair:

Expo Museum

An awesome photo set on Flickr

Walt Disney also had a hand in the New York Fair

A great Images of America book about the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair

Read a brief history of the fair on the Gotham Center blog

The World’s Fair Carousel

Photo spread from 1965 National Geographic magazine.

And of course, you can always search YouTube for videos about the fair.

Happy Monday! Happy Birthday Dad! Happy Fair-Going everyone.

Abandoned Vermont: Charleston Schoolhouse

Schoolhouses seemed to be some of the most common abandoned buildings in rural areas and villages. Here is one near Charleston, VT.

The general form and the span of windows are two easy elements for how I immediately spot schoolhouses.

The rear addition - a covered walkway to the outhouse?

Another view.

The stone foundation, granite sill and clapboard siding.

U.S. Post Offices

Ripton, VT post office inside the general store.

The press is abuzz with articles about the government’s potential plans to shut down the smaller, less profitable, less used post offices across the country. There have been articles featured in papers from The New York Times to every local paper and news channel and NPR. Even Vermont’s generally anti-anything-preservation-related newspaper, Seven Days, featured a recent article about a small town post office. For a quick news story, check out ABC news and read or listen to the brief. Is your post office on this list? Look it up.

The overview of the news? The US Postal Service is facing $7 billion in debt this year, and predict exponential amounts of debt within the next decade. The Postal Service is considering closing almost 3,700 post offices (mostly in rural areas), ending Saturday delivery, raising stamp prices and changing healthcare benefits for employees.

If these post offices do close, some small communities will no longer have a civic or casual meeting place. Rural areas are difficult to understand if you live elsewhere, but often the post offices serve an important purpose. Residents worry that they will just disappear without a post office and will be metaphorically annexed or forgotten.

Bottom line: the government thinks it is a good idea. The people who will be losing their post offices think it’s a bad idea. For those of you not affected: do you care? What do you think?

Is consolidating post offices a good idea? Or is it one of those ideas like shutting down neighborhood schools and consolidating them into larger schools? In my opinion, it’s like the latter idea. It seems to me that finding a community gets harder and harder in this age, and erasing something that creates and enables community is not a good idea. Find a better way to solve the post office deficit. Perhaps not sending the junk mail telling me that I can buy stamps online will help. Just a thought.

While on the subject of post offices, does anyone else think that most of them are in hideous buildings: strip malls or vinyl sided, just-plain-ugly buildings? No wonder why no one wants to use a post office!? I love when I can walk into a post office in a historic building – that is the experience people need in order to appreciate the post office.

If writing one real letter per month would help to save the small post offices, would you do it? I love writing and receiving real letters. Granted, I love email, blogs and the internet, but something about a letter or a postcard is so much more thoughtful. Would you ever write a sincere thank you note via email? Just curious.

In a restaurant in Bethel, VT.

What do you think? Are post offices vital to communities? Is your post office vital to you and your community? What about Saturday delivery? (I’d rather keep Saturday delivery and get rid of Monday or Wednesday if we had to. You?) I consider this a preservation issue, how about you?

Flamingos with a View

The flamingos have finally moved outside, rather than living in a metal bucket in our living room or kitchen.

Hope your weekend has been swell!

Buildings as Artifacts

I spent a couple of days in Concord, NH this week and had a chance to explore downtown during a run. Concord appeared to be a mix of historic buildings, infill buildings, new buildings (that have replaced demolished older buildings) and interesting neighborhoods. Concord is the capital of New Hampshire and the state house has a gold dome (as many capital buildings do). Surrounding the capital are beautiful historic, civic buildings such as the post office, library and historical society. The  New Hampshire Historical Society Library building was my favorite, partially because of the banner at the entrance (see below).





Icons of History: Objects that Define New Hampshire. The banner matches the building and to me said, the buildings are our artifacts, just as important as any material culture items. And I thought back to saving the world, saving the buildings.  We need our buildings to remember and to tell our story and history. Brilliant banner.