Preservation Photos #117

A clock in historic downtown Springfield, VT.

Yes, this clock still functioned. Anyone have a guess to its age?

Livability Essentials: Sidewalks

I love sidewalks. Seriously. Sidewalks create connectivity in neighborhoods and towns, which increases the livability and quality of life for the community members. Why? Children can walk on the sidewalks, safe out of the traveled lanes of traffic. Pedestrians, runners, dog walkers and everyone else can stroll or dash through town without having to constantly worry about a car swerving into the shoulder or a car door opening.

Sidewalk in Jamaica, VT.

The visual connectivity of sidewalks is important, as much as the functional aspects. Sidewalks are a transition zone between private property and the public road; within this transition zone, people can stop and talk if they’d like. It is almost like the “third place” – a meeting place – (almost) in the street. Sidewalks create neater looking neighborhoods and in general, aesthetically pleasing corridors improve sense of place and quality of life. Additionally, sidewalks signal a residential setting, which then causes slower traffic; sidewalks can be traffic calming devices.

However, many rural towns do not have sidewalks. In some areas, they are not feasible because the cost would be too great for construction and maintenance, simply due to the distance that would necessary. In such cases, people are lucky if the road shoulders are wide enough for safe cycling, walking and running. Unfortunately there are many state highways and roads in Vermont that are very narrow and, although, they are bike routes, they are not safe for the beginning cyclist or children. There are “share the road” programs, but if you’ve ever had to pass a cyclist on the road and have encountered oncoming traffic, you know how dangerous these instances can be. Wider shoulders or separate bike lanes would be a much better solution.

At the very least, village centers should have formal, concrete sidewalks rather than gravel shoulder/path combinations. I feel safer on a sidewalk as a runner and as a pedestrian; I imagine parents want their children on sidewalks as they wander to and from school and other activities.

Long story short; in general, when in a residential setting, sidewalks are appropriate and improve the quality of life and the walkability/mobility through town (historic district or not). When are they not appropriate? When the population of an area is dispersed and sidewalks would not connect logical places. In those situations, it is time to consider safer pedestrian and cyclist transit lanes.

What are your thoughts on sidewalks? Love? Impartial? Unnecessary? Vital?

Roof over a Roof

Moisture can cause snowballing, extremely expensive damage in any buildings. A leaky roof can turn into the root of all moisture problems. So, what to do when you’re in a pinch and need a creative solution for your roof. Check out this house in Addison County, Vermont.

A new metal roof on this old house -- but why does it look a bit off?

At first glance it looks at though this house simply has a new roof, right? But something looks out of the ordinary. If you zoom into the picture, you gain a better vantage point.

A roof over a roof?

And it looks as though a roof structure (more like a cover, if you will) is resting on the house’s actual, likely failed, roof below it. Interesting! The disclaimer is that I took this picture from the road, so I cannot confirm my guess. Regardless, it seems like an excellent temporary solution! It is sturdier than a tarp, that’s for sure. Anyone agree?

Anatomy of Preservation Guilt: HGTV

I have two confessions.

(1) I get sucked into HGTV. It’s terrible. Usually it’s “House Hunters” or “Property Virgins” or some remodeling show such as “Love It or List It” or “Property Brothers.” This particular selection of shows is probably more related to when I watch HGTV than choosing specific shows.

(2) Normally, every show that I watch on HGTV drives me crazy. Yet, I still watch. My mom and I enjoy yelling at the TV, just as my father enjoys yelling at the NY Jets on Sundays.

Now, what annoys me about these shows? A short rant, if you will. Consider yourself spared from the long rant.

(1) Buyers are always looking for “charm” and “character.” So they start by saying that they want a “historic house” but then buyers shudder at any sign of needed maintenance. More often than not, buyers shy away from old windows and only look to beautiful wood floors. What they want is a Pottery Barn house that evokes the cleanest sense of history, with none of the quirks and small bathrooms and closets of older homes.

(2) The shows’ hosts & contractors knock down plaster walls and add double doors in place of windows, completely changing the facade. Windows are so often replaced.

(3) Buyers are constantly buying houses that are way too big for them (a single person does not need even close to 2000 sq ft).

(4) The shows seldom say where they located! (At least the renovation shows do not).

So, why do I watch?

(1) I can’t help it.

(2) I like to see the transformations of houses, even if I do not agree with changes. But not all renovations are bad.

(3) Once in a while, I’ll pick up a useful home improvement tip.

(4) I like houses and neighborhoods and hearing another point of view.

A solution? Can someone please make a TV show about rehabilitation projects according to the Secretary of Interior’s Standards? What about people who want a historic home and appreciate a home that is listed on the National Register? If viewers want drama and controversy, we can find some.

What do you think?

Preservation Photos #116

Coal hoppers from the historic coal1953 fired generating plant, the Moran Plant, in Burlington, VT. Click for higher quality image.

Read more about the Moran Plant here and about the redevelopment plans here.

Meet Adelaide

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Miss Adelaide came with the name, Splits - she is a beanie baby, but since all of my flamingos are boys, it seemed time for a girl flamingo with a real name. I still love the others, don't worry.

Meet the newest member of the Preservation in Pink flamingo family, Miss Adelaide.

Forgetting the others? Check out the family portraits.

Mr. Stilts & Squawky (whose name comes from the imagined sound that flamingos make - squawk. Poor thing needs a better name. Ideas?

Pip, the first flamingo mascot.

 Disclaimer: I really haven’t named any of these flamingos, except Adelaide. Welcome to the flamingo family! 

Open Space is a Finite Resource

Open space is not a renewable resource. It is finite.

Open space in Vermont -- view from Mad River Glen in September 2010.

It seems like an obvious statement. Once open space is developed, it likely never will be returned to a natural state. Preservation, as a whole, understands this concept. Master plans often center growth in specific areas. Our National Parks, wildlife refuges, scenic areas, and similar conservation areas work to protect our invaluable, limited open space. Segments of land may be slated for development, but for future generations. After all, it is likely that our population continues to grow and land continues to be developed.

Will we ever run out of space? Hopefully not in our lifetime, right? But what about a few generations after us?

I heard this statement about open space at a workshop this week, the first of seven classes of Road Ecology training, The course is taught by Keeping Track, an organization that provides technical training to a variety of professionals and citizens in order to promote better knowledge of how to monitor, detect and record wildlife. The Vermont Agency of Transportation, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, and the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife  work together to coordinate this training and encourage their employees to take the class; it has been a great success.

The purpose of ecology training in relation to transportation brings us back to the fact that everything is connected. Transportation projects can impact the environment and the landscape in many ways, positive or negative, seen or unseen. When people beyond the biologists understand how intertwined the ecosystems are, it allows transportation staff to see projects differently and to develop creative, innovative solutions that allow our roads and transportation systems to be safe for humans and wildlife. In addition, those not in transportation can gain a better understanding of the safety and construction standards that must be met. Collaboration on site, like a planning charrette, brings out the most innovative solutions.

Day one was an introduction to reptiles, animals and wildlife tracking. While it is not historic preservation, it is a unique opportunity to learn more about how decisions are made beyond cultural resources. Designing a bridge or a roadway that is safe for wildlife has the potential to affect cultural resources, and vice versa.

Wildlife, open space, cultural resources, transportation — the connections are clear as a bell. Stay tuned throughout the next few months for course highlights and important lessons.

I am a Historic Preservationist.

I am a Historic Preservationist.

I love historic buildings, districts, landscapes, historic bridges, comprehensive planning,  sidewalks, rehabilitation, revitalization of downtown, small and local businesses, proper infill, kitschy roadside  Americana, blue highways, heritage tourism, National Parks, open space, maps, coffee and flamingos.

I will wade barefoot through flooded roads to get to the historic bridges.

I define myself as a historic preservationist and I’m proud of it. 

How do you define your profession?

Architectural Historian? Historian? Heritage preservationist? Heritage conservationist? Other?

And why?

Does it make a difference to you?

Please explain. I’m curious.