Midnight Pumpkins

It might as well be midnight, as we are the people who carve pumpkins on Halloween night rather than for Halloween night. Still festive, though.


Haunted house pumpkin!

My artistic skills are nonexistent, so this is my best attempt at carving a house without a pumpkin carving knife. The style of this house? Vernacular, of course! I don’t think the house is any better than my flamingo jack-o-lantern from 2008.


Miss Bizzy Bee in pumpkin form!

Vinny, however, has skills that make mine look pathetic. He carved Izzy, whom you’ve met many times here on PiP. While Vinny was carving, Izzy sat on the chair to watch and pose. No joke!


Izzy is bigger than the house!

Now, I realized after the fact that my pumpkin looks like the house is on fire. That is not what I was going for; I intended a spooky, crooked house. Better luck next year?

Hope you had a happy Halloween!


Job Hunting Advice at HISTPRES

You have probably seen the revamped HISTPRES site by now. Meagan and Laura have done an excellent job putting together their new site, expanding it beyond job postings. Now the site includes resources, events, blog posts and more.

Head over there today to read a guest post, written by me, in regards to job and internship hunting and the benefits of doing so.

Thanks to Meagan and Laura for the opportunity to contribute!

P.S. The spooky looking picture that appears on the featured post section of the main page is quite appropriate for today. It is me conducting an interview at the Squirrel Cage Jail in Council Bluffs, IA, way back in summer 2006 when I internes with NCPE/NPS in Omaha, NE.

Happy Halloween!

How about a pumpkin, a historic building and a historic barber shop in Brandon, VT?

Brandon, VT. The barber shop is on the right and has been in operation for 50+ years. It looks it, too, with original awnings, chairs, mirrors, sinks and other fixtures.

Have a great day, candy corn, pumpkin carving and all.

For years I’ve had people telling me to dress up as a flamingo. I have yet to do so. Maybe another year.  If any of you readers are dressed as a flamingo, please please send me a picture. Happy Halloween!

Preservation & Engineering

How many preservationists out there have an engineering background? How many engineers have a preservation background? Not many, to my knowledge.

These fields seem so opposite, yet how can we rehabilitate structures without a sense of engineering? Ideas can only do so much before they need to be implemented. When preservationists and engineers understand each other – at least a bit – projects have a greater rate of success for all.

Pin truss bridge in West Woodstock, Vermont.

Although I am unassumingly capable of calculus, and I have taken physics, I have never taken an engineering course. Lately I’ve been thinking it would be a good idea. But there are so many fields within engineering. Something that would benefit me in the transportation world would be my best bet. It is amazing what engineers can do and just how involved they are in every project. From road reconstruction to bridge building to historic bridge rehabilitation, it is fascinating.

Are any of you readers engineers? Where should I start? I don’t foresee earning a degree in engineering, but I’d like to take a class or two. Is there an engineering 101 class? What about classes geared towards building lovers like myself? Maybe something from UVM’s Civil Engineering program? Any advice?

Vilas Bridge

View of the Vilas Bridge from Bellows Falls, VT.

The Vilas Bridge connects Bellows Falls, VT to Walpole, NH. It is an open spandrel concrete arch bridge constructed in 1930. The Vilas Bridge has been closed since 2009 due to deterioration of the reinforced concrete deck. The bridge is jointly owned by the New Hampshire Department of Transporation and the Vermont Agency of Transportation, however, NHDOT owns 93% of the bridge and VTrans owns only 7%, making NHDOT the lead agency. The Vilas Bridge is not scheduled for rehabilitation until 2015.

Looking to Walpole, NH.

View to the center of the bridge.

Closer view of the open spandrel arch.

So intimidating.

My love for concrete bridges is well documented, but I had never seen the Vilas Bridge before. How sad to only visit it when it’s long closed and deteriorating. Check out the features of this bridge:

The curved concrete rail.

Bridge plaques, probably with the date, have since been removed.

Cast urn balustrade.

The Vilas Bridge and the adjacent stone arch railroad bridge appear to meet each other in New Hampshire.

I cannot find much written about the Vilas Bridge, but it is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. News articles here and there question the timeline for rehabilitation and wonder about the fate of the bridge. Hopefully it will be rehabilitated before the deterioration becomes so great that the cost of rehabilitation is not feasible and prudent. Do you live in New Hampshire? Contact your NHDOT to ask questions about the bridge and urge the rehabilitation.

Vilas Bridge under construction. Image courtesy of UVM Landscape Change. Click for source and details.

Losing another spectacular bridge in Bellows Falls and Walpole would be a crying shame. The first bridge lost was a three-pinned steel through arch. It was closed in 1971 and dismantled in 1982. Now in its place sits a 4 span steel girder (i.e. boring highway bridge) in its place. The HAER documentation states that its significance was:

When built, the bridge was the longest single span highway bridge in the U.S. and is was among the largest three-hinged arch bridges in the world. The structure has also played an important role in socio-economic development of the Bellows Falls and North Walpole.

Bellows Falls Arch Bridge. Image credit: HAER. Click for source.

Moral of the story? Love your bridges. Save your bridges.

Keyboard Preservationists

What did you think of when you read the title, “Keyboard Preservationists”? Does it sound descriptive or enigmatic? Maybe both?

In last week’s post, “Hey Buffalo, Wish I Were There,” I mentioned that the National Trust seems to be friendlier to young preservationists than when I was in college. However, since I’m no longer in college, my opinion could be skewed. Following that post, reader Mark left a comment that included this:

Today I see a proliferation of young people getting involved in preservation and I see an explosion stuff on the internet relating to built heritage and preservation. The young´ens seem to be taking to the net to show their enthusiasm and involvement, which is great because they´re getting the message out. All of this poses another question though: do we have too many keyboard preservationists, and not enough people with hammers in their hands?

The term – a new one to me – “keyboard preservationists” immediately grabbed my attention. In other words, do we have too many people talking preservation related topics and not enough doing on the ground work? Or do we have too many doing the softer side of preservation and not the actual craftsman related trades to preservation. I’m not sure which question Mark meant; our conversation continues in the comments. For the sake of discussion, let’s assume the first.

Initially, “keyboard preservationist” implies the younger crowd – those with blogs, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, Linked-In, etc.; however, we all know that more than just the younger generation of preservationists is enamored by (or addicted to) the digital age.  While the majority are likely the younger crowd, let’s not assume that is the case.

Now, let’s consider “keyboard preservationists” in the sense that there is too much talk. Are you talking the talk, but not walking the walk? Do you live as a preservationist? Everyone has different priorities and theories about preservation, but for what you believe in and attempt to teach others, do you follow your own advice and knowledge? As an example, if you encourage local shopping and community involvement, do you shop at locally owned businesses and partake in town events? Do you attend zoning meetings or design review board meetings? Or do you bypass the smaller stores and head to the big box stores and elsewhere, and hear about development plans after the fact.

Do you read the preservation news and sign the petitions to protect preservation funding and show support for buildings at risk? Or do you glance over it and only pass it on, or not? Do you live in a new house rather than an old or historic house?

No one is perfect, preservationist or not. I’m not saying my preservation life is a perfect example, either. But, if we all have compromises that we make and rationalizations that we tell ourselves, perhaps it is time to reevaluate. Can we put in that extra effort to change our shopping patterns? Can we be more involved in the development and events of town planning, etc?  Can we contact lawmakers to make a difference? Can we talk to our fellow citizens and explain preservation?

Our talk needs to happen beyond the internet. Face to face explanation about historic preservation is the best form of advocacy. Our examples and our lives should be reflections of what we speak and believe about preservation. This seems like an appropriate time to recall my favorite inspirational quote by Margaret Mead:

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

So, what do you think? Do you ever find yourself a “keyboard preservationist”? Let’s share some faults and advice – leave a comment or send me an email and I’ll post them if I have enough. Think it over and send it along. (I’ll leave you anonymous if you’re too shy!) I’ll share some of my own as well.

Preservation Photos #105

A temporary bridge installed over an art deco style concrete bridge. The temporary roadway was raised above the existing road. Breaks the part of heart that loves little concrete bridges.

Cold Weather Coming! Insulation!?

Who else is getting chilly in the Northeast? Maybe it’s chilly in the Midwest, too? And the Northwest? Certainly you southerners are still enjoying the summer sun’s warm rays with a few lovely, blustery fall days. My memory could be skewed, but I am fairly certain that October was still very warm in the North Carolina Sandhills.

Normally, I wouldn’t mind this chill, except right now we are lacking heat in our house. (Thanks again, Irene.) We’re working on it with insurance, so hopefully it will be warm again soon. Fortunately, as new homeowners, we have a never-ending list of projects to do, which means there is enough reason to move constantly and keep warm. My favorite task is painting. I love painting! We’ll talk paint colors again soon.

Before fun aesthetic matters like paint colors, let’s get back to insulation issues. I was relieved to hear that I am not crazy after my rant against spray foam insulation. See the comments by Maria and Henrietta.

As I’ve mentioned, this year’s winter will be for observing how our lack of insulation affects our 1928 house. The attic is insulated, so all will be okay this year. Next year we’ll decide what we’re missing. Between now and spring I would like to acquire more knowledge about insulation. Colleagues and friends know my stance on insulation (at least insulation in my house), and I’d like to have more credible answers – rather than just some knowledge combined with gut instincts – for when they ask me questions about their house. While I’ve never claimed to be an expert, people know that I care about historic structures. There is no use in caring and not applying preservation know-how or learning it.

Step One: Acquire References.

My list of references from reliable sources includes:

(1) Issues: Weatherization from the National Trust for Historic Preservation (with special note to insulation)

(2) Technical Preservation Services: Weather from the National Park Service

(3) Energy Costs in an Old House from Historic New England

(4) Q&A from Old House Online (Old House Journal)

(5) Q&A from Historic HomeWorks (John Leeke)

What have you found helpful? What can you add?

Step Two: Read & Comprehend. That is a project for winter.

As smaller measures this year, we’re making sure to close the storm windows and add insulated curtains. If necessary, maybe we’ll tackle weather stripping. However, I really do not expect the house to be especially cold. It’s a good house and I have faith in it.

Hey Buffalo, Wish I Were There!

This week is the annual National Trust for Historic Preservation conference in Buffalo, NY.

I haven’t been to a NTHP conference since 2005 in Louisville, KY and before that, 2004 in Portland, OR. These are large conferences with many events, lectures, field sessions and meetups to choose.  They were interesting when I was in college, but at that time, I always felt that the National Trust catered to more experienced professionals. As a college student and a newbie to the preservation world, I remember feeling out of place, despite my passion for preservation.

Over the last few years, I’ve noticed that the National Trust has been changing its attitude and encouraging the younger crowd of participants. Young professionals are all a-twitter at this conference (pun intended), and I would have loved to have met fellow preservationist, particularly those who I only know through the blogging world. Maybe next time?

Meagan at HISTPRES compiled her picks for young preservationists attending the conference. Twitter was filled with #presconf hash tags all day today, as was the young preservationist meetup.

So, now, I’m wondering — does the National Trust seem to be encouraging more “young” preservationists because I’m older (i.e. no longer a college kid) or because that is the trend. I’m thinking it’s the latter, but college kids, please correct me if I’m wrong.

Anyway, unable to attend? The Preservation Nation blog put together a list of highlights and links so we can follow along. Those of you attending, hope it’s a blast!

News: Preservation Funding at Risk

Extremely important news from the National Trust for Historic Preservation:

Dear Preservationist,

As early as today, the U.S. Senate could vote on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill. It is likely that a harmful amendment to this bill will be offered that would prohibit preservation-related activities under the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program – the single largest source of federal funding for historic preservation.

This change would be devastating to preservation projects that capitalize on existing historic resources to create jobs, improve the quality of life, and protect the environment. With the help of advocates like you, we overcame a similar threat to the program last month. Now we must rise to the challenge again to defend this important program.

The bill also carries damaging new language (Section 128) that would waive National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) review provisions designed to protect historic and cultural resources from disaster recovery projects. This measure is redundant and sets a harmful precedent of waiving the NHPA.

Please contact your U.S. Senators TODAY and ask them to vote NO on any amendment eliminating preservation-related transportation enhancements, and to OPPOSE Section 128 of the THUD appropriations bill.

Visit PreservationNation for more information on the importance of the Transportation Enhancements program to your state and the National Historic Preservation Act.

Thank you for standing up for historic preservation!

Your friends at the National Trust for Historic Preservation


Please take a minute to complete this form to have it automatically sent to your representatives. It barely takes any effort and could make all the difference in your community. As discussed on Preservation in Pink a few weeks ago, transportation enhancement grants are vital to historic preservation and to your town, state and our nation. Please don’t wait. Contact your senators today.