Digital Calendars and Paper Planners

For all of my school years, from middle school to graduate school, I kept meticulous planners that were color coded for exams, assignments, track meets, newspaper deadlines, club meetings, birthdays and more. I religiously wrote my homework each day next to the class name/number in the daily/weekly pages and organized those important dates in the monthly calendar pages. My best friend (hi Landau!) did the same thing. And we’ve kept these planners after all these years. Ah, the memories. Surely, we cannot be the only two organizational dorks out there. Confess? Who else needed planners to survive and loved his/her planners?  Choosing a new planner each year was an important new school year decision. And then decorated the planners — usually with a fun magazine ad and clear mailing tape. The few times I left my planner in the locker room or a classroom, I felt so lost without it! Planners were no joke.

Despite my love for this planning system, in the years between college and graduate school, I did not need such an intensive record keeping/organizational system. Even though my job had many dates to remember and I had other commitments, it was easier and less hectic than my school days. A monthly planner would suffice; those daily/weekly pages were looking empty and lonely. It was difficult to find a calendar system that suited me. Call me crazy or OCD, but this bothered me. After all, my planners were almost works of art, choreographed  with colors and now full of nostalgia. When I look back at those planners, I often wonder how I managed to do everything on there. They seemed so superior to my current planners that represented a less hectic life.

Needing to use a familiar planner once graduate school began gave me more joy than it would should have warranted. However, once I completed school, I found myself in the same predicament. What kind of planner would work for me?

For work I need to keep track of which projects I work on each day or which meetings I attend, etc. My solution has been to use a blank notebook and start  a new page each day to take notes and record my daily work activities. I use a book until it’s full and then choose another small book. It’s my own daily record, but not a calendar, I guess. I use my outlook calendar to keep track of meeting dates and now add them into the trusty iPhone as well.  However, it’s just not as satisfying as my old planners.

Recently, I’ve been pining for my hard copy planners. They are such complete records. I’m tempted to start using a daily/weekly/monthly planner again. The only thing stopping me is that I might not have enough space for each day. I like to keep my notes with the corresponding day.

Maybe this doesn’t seem like such a dilemma to anyone else.  Maybe it’s more information that you can care to know about me. However, it brings up a choice between the digital world — so much of what I do and how I communicate is digital — and the trusted, lovely hard copy records. And you probably know how much preservationists value documentation. My phone is more likely with me than a book (generally speaking) and the calendar can be shared easily. It’s convenient and yes, still a novelty sometimes. But what is more likely to be around in a few years – my electronic calendars or my planner books? Obviously, the books. Is it strange to choose a calendar/planner system in the present based on what I might want to keep in the future? Again, preservationist = documentation. I think I might have to custom make a planner that works for me. Maybe I’ll solve this dilemma in time for 2013.

Who has converted from hard copy planners to electronic means? Who else is this obsessed (or more) with planners and calendars? Do you pine for hard copy planners like you pine for snail mail rather than email? How have you adjusted from school to work, from hard copies to electronic calendars? What do you think is better for documentation and posterity?

The Importance of Wayfinding Signage, Gateways and Banners

Signs. Think about it. What would we do without signs? Crosswalks, road junctions, parking, street names — signs are a critical element in our lives. When they are well done, we take them for granted because they help to make our travels stress free and seamless. When they are poorly planned, it’s all we can talk about. A welcome gateway to a town and an easy way to navigate – for residents and tourists – is an important part of downtown revitalization.

Since moving to a new town and doing my best to locate all of the trails and find the best places to shop/eat, the shortcuts and the town events, I’ve realized the importance of actively promoting your own town, to its residents and to tourists. For those of us without school age children or an existing network of friends where we live, it is very hard to be in the loop. My town does not do the greatest job of publicizing events or identifying and locating its resources/activities to those not in the know. We do not have a true welcome center or a coherent signage system, despite the fact that we are in the middle of ski country. As a new resident in town, I think one of the most helpful resources would be a “you are here” map and a good town website. If only all towns could have smart phone apps like the big cities do?! (I’m kidding, sort of.)

Aside from access to information, an important element for towns and cities is the gateway. What is the first impression that tourists will have when entering the town? Or, how will residents feel when returning home? People need to feel welcome and should be directed where to go for information or how to get to the business district, where to park, how to find the baseball field, post office or library, etc. And a “You are Here” sign at a critical crossroads or center of town could do wonders. Such a sign that features a circle to represent a 5 or 10 minute walking distance could be a good idea as well.

Downtown signage is a hot topic in communities, currently, in the United States and in Europe. (Check out Legible London and the article in Slate magazine.) The goal of uniform and complementary signs throughout a town/city will hopefully help to create a positive subconscious feeling for tourists and residents. In a way, it shows community pride in addition to providing an easy visitor experience. People are more likely to return if they have felt comfortable and not stressed when visiting. Right? An effective signage and wayfinding system is an art form – almost – or at least requires forethought and planning. The Project for Public Spaces provides information about how to create that effective system.

Living in and visiting small towns who survive partially based on tourism (actually much of Vermont’s economy is fueled by the tourism industry – come visit!) has opened my eyes and perhaps changed my mind about signage and even banners. A well planned wayfinding system has the power to change a visitor’s experience and to help the town succeed.

It is now that I have to retract my distaste for banners. I first wrote about them in 2008 when I lived in Southern Pines, because I felt that in this town they were not shared throughout the town and left out businesses. That, and they actually said the word “charm” on them. Okay, I still agree with myself on those facts. However, I think the use of banners can be effective and do provide a helpful guide for travelers. For a town who is working to establish a gateway and main street feeling, banners are a good step forward.

Historic downtown banners in Southern Pines, North Carolina (2008).

So the next time you are traveling in a new place or where you live, take note of the signage. What sort of system does your town have? What do you think about signage? How about banners? If you could offer a fresh opinion, what would you change?

Flamingo Valentine

20120213-233147.jpg

The Preservation in Pink flamingos send you love, preservation, pink, sweets & happiness today. Enjoy it with some coffee and chocolate or your favorite decadent treat. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Preservation Photos #119

Planning a late winter/early spring vacation? Here's a shot from the flamingo spring break trip to Miami, FL in 2006. Lovely streetscapes, art deco hotels, beach front -- lovely! (However, 6 years after not labeling this photograph, I cannot remember which street this is or what the circumstance of this picture was. Anybody have an idea?)

Changing the Use of Resources

Waterfront is usually an asset, yes? Property with water views and especially water frontage costs more than property a few blocks away. Yet, one thing I’ve noticed while living in Vermont is that few towns take advantage of their waterfront, which is most often riverfront. The river is in the background, but the town center seldom focuses on the water course. (Disclaimer: I have not been to every Vermont town, this is based only on my observations so far.) The exception is, of course, Burlington, whose waterfront (lake front) is a huge asset and draw to the city. The bike path, the lake access and waterfront park are some of the best reasons for living in Burlington.

Now, consider Montpelier, the capital city of Vermont. First of all, the face of the city from US Route 2 is far from appealing. While you can see the gold dome of the capital building and the Taylor Street metal truss bridge, the view is otherwise a few gas stations and the run down US Route 2 as it passes on to Berlin/Barre and beyond. Yet, if you drive by and skip turning onto Baldwin Street and State Street, you’ll miss the vibrant downtown, beautiful buildings and one of the prettiest cities in Vermont.  Between US Route 2 and State Street is the Winooski River. You can really only enjoy the river from a few spots in town: a restaurant or two and the bridges crossing back to US Route 2.

Many small towns and villages developed around the rivers and water bodies for obvious reasons: use of the resource for water, transportation, flat and fertile agricultural lands. Backyards and the backs of buildings face the river rather than Main Street. There are few places to sit at a restaurant and gaze at the rivers. I think of the extreme – the Riverwalk in San Antonio, TX – and wonder why Vermont towns are not vibrant river fronts. Perhaps it is because rivers were used for industry and business. And because they frequently flood. There may be research on Vermont development along and the use of water courses; but in this post, I’m just pondering.

For starters, let’s compare today’s resources v. historical resources. We no longer use our waterways for transportation and industry (well, it is certainly not the majority). Currently our culture values water mostly for recreation, tourism and associated quality of life. We cannot change our historical development patterns. Instead, we need to adapt our communities and incorporate the natural resources into modern planning and use. River fronts currently serve for community recreation paths and parks. In some instances it would make sense to improve or create paths along the river. As this summer taught us once again, building on the water isn’t always a good idea and protection from flooding requires intensive planning. Are we afraid of our rivers? I hope not. Sure, they are unpredictable, but living near a waterway keeps me from feeling landlocked.

Think about where you live. How are the towns laid out? What are the resources and does planning take advantage of it? How is it different today than historically? Would you rather live near a waterway or far away?

Overhills Revisited

Overhills will forever remain a beloved memory of mine and a peaceful bubble of a world in the rural sandhills of North Carolina. I may not have lived or visited Overhills during its life as an active hunting retreat or family retreat, but I had the honor and pleasure of working for the buildings and the people who inhabited and loved Overhills. There was  a point in time when I thought that there would never be a day when I did not think of Overhills; but, years have passed since my oral history work finished and it now seems like a dream, like another world. My thoughts on Overhills are spaced further apart, but no less meaningful. The place, the people, the project have helped to define who I am. (The oral history project report can be accessed and downloaded through Fort Bragg.)

Aside from the Overhills Oral History Project, the property was documented under the Historic American Landscape Survey for the Library of Congress as the Overhills Historic District. (Read the HALS report.)Many of the records have been digitized: photographs of Overhills, floor plans, landscape plans, historical research. Not everything is digitized yet, but it is enough to trigger memories as I browse through the collection. Take a look with me.

Nursery Road, one of the roads through Overhills. Photograph credit: HALS NC-3-26. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

Overhills approach road to the Hill. Photograph credit: HALS NC-3-15. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

Overhills polo barn. Photograph credit: HALS NC-3-16. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

Croatan, a house at Overhills. Photograph credit: HALS NC-3-8. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

These pictures remind me of the drive to and through Overhills, walking the grounds through the long leaf pines, exploring and attempting to learn as much as I could about the layout and landscape, piecing together historical research & oral history, visiting the houses and barns and imagining Overhills in its heyday.

Sadly, today, Overhills continues to deteriorate and/or suffers from vandalism. It pains me to hear of another building that has caught fire or to come across current Overhills pictures scattered across the internet that show the state of the place. It is incredibly sad, amplified by the fact that I know the stories and the history and the people of Overhills. Eventually, I’ll stop randomly searching for Overhills photos on search engines.

However, the HALS photographs and documents, in addition to the oral history project products, allow the good memories to stay with me. So I continue to look through the documentation. I don’t want to forget anything I know about Overhills. I’m sure my reaction time to specific questions – probably those found in the Overhills archives – is delayed from a few years ago, but that’s okay. I remember the bigger pictures. While my preference is preservation and rehabilitation instead of mitigation, I understand the importance and strength of proper and creative documentation because of this project. No matter which memory strikes me, I am reminded of the significant and unique story of Overhills, and how much I love(d) it.

—————-

Other posts about Overhills: 3 Hours in the Life of an Oral Historian. Carolina Day. Another Day in the Field. My Ode to Oral History. Overhills by Jeffrey D. Irwin & Kaitlin O’Shea. Oral History & Me? It’s Complicated. Overhills Book Release. Johnny. Those Unknown Photograph Subjects. Why They Don’t Let Me Outside. Time Travel Wish. Voice as a Powerful Primary Source.

Dwell Magazine: Rethinking Preservation

Dwell Magazine (a contemporary magazine devoted to modern design) currently has a digital issue entitled Rethinking Preservation. Be sure to read page 4, “Preservation Recommended.” Paired with this digital issue is a contest of the same name. Anyone was invited to submit a landmark worthy of preservation. All of the entries are now eligible for popular vote and then a panel of judges will select the top ten. Winners receive $10,000 for their chosen preservation organization and the “architectural do-gooder” receives a wine storage unit from the contest sponsor, Sub-Zero.

With that said, browse through the properties and cast your vote! It’s hard to choose. Just when I thought I could cast my vote, the properties continued to astound me. Such entertainment!

I can’t pick favorites, but here are ten of the many contenders. Keep in mind that the prize of $10,000 will not do much for many of these projects in comparison to the amount of work many need. However, that $10,000 can go a long way in helping a group to get off the ground (especially local community organizations), whether it’s completion of a National Register nomination or a conditions survey or bridging the gap for funds. Many of these projects are submitted by small community groups.  Take the time to read and vote. You’ll learn a lot.

{All images here are from the Dwell contest website. Click each one for the source.}

Grand Army of the Republic Arch in Superior, Wisconsin.

Fort Atkinson Club in Fort Atkinson, WI.

Biff's Coffee Shop in Oakland, CA.

Dallas High School, Dallas, TX.

1933 World's Fair House of Tomorrow.

Open Air Mail - Post Office in St. Petersburg, FL

Wayne Train Station in Wayen, IL.

Chase Stone Barn in Chase, WI.

Belleview Biltmore Hotel in Florida.

Her Majesty on Main Street, Vergennes, VT.

Forest Lodge -- Modern Architecture in Southern Arizona

Amazing, right? And that’s only 10. Check out the entire list.

——————

Now, aside from the contest itself – what do you think of the title, Rethinking Preservation? I’m not sure what I think about it. Initially, the title perplexed me. Are we talking about the term “preservation” or are we talking about the mission of preservation? Or was it something else? Is Dwell reconsidering preservation as a good lifestyle and a good use of buildings? In full disclosure, I am not a regular reader of Dwell, so I do not know the usual topics of conversation.

Based on the digital issue, Dwell seems to be rethinking preservation in terms of bringing historic or old homes back to life, particularly those from the mid 20th century. Score! More people on board with preservation.

Have fun voting and please, share your thoughts.

 

—– Thank you to Ann Cousins for suggesting this post.

Red & Green Richmond Truss

Perhaps a red and green bridge is more appropriate for Christmas than February but who doesn’t want to see a bridge that is currently two colors?

The Bridge Street truss bridge in Richmond, Vermont is currently half green & half red.

It is currently undergoing a rehabilitation project.

Red or green? Which do you think is the new color?

View looking away from Richmond Village.

Red is the new color of the bridge. It stirred quite the debate in Richmond.

Who likes a red truss bridge? I do! Or do you prefer green? How about half and half? It’ll be two colors for a while since painting in February isn’t ideal. In the meantime, it is a funny sight. Learn more about the project here.

Abandoned Vermont: Fair Haven Depot

Looking northeast on the tracks at the Fair Haven Depot.

A train depot is a type of structure that is easily recognizable by many people, partially because it is adjacent to railroad tracks and partially because of its form and massing. Tell tale features to look for include 1) a bay window or projection from the building that would offer a better line of sight, 2) a long, narrow building, usually with a gable  or hipped roof, 3) large freight doors on one end and pedestrian sized doors on another, and 4) infrastructure for signals on and near the building.

This depot in Fair Haven,VT was constructed c. 1890 in order to service the nearby slate quarries in addition to passenger traffic. It is a historically significant structure. The railroad owns the building and was an Amtrak stop (not station) until 2010, when Amtrak left Fair Haven in favor of Castleton, VT (located five miles east). Currently it sits abandoned and neglected. Well, I consider it abandoned because of the neglect. Officially, this building has an owner. The painted plywood windows and doors serve as a detraction from its neglect, but the building is suffering from masonry deterioration.

Quite the sunny, warm January day in Fair Haven.

Here you can see the bay window projection and freight doors at the end of the building. Also note the slate shingle detail in the gable above the bay projection and the beadboard beneath, used as siding.

The gable above the bay and the former location of the signal arms.

Extensive masonry deterioration on the south wall.

One of the largest piles of railroad ties that I have ever seen.

The gateway to the depot is a 1938 concrete bridge.

Aside from neglect, the good news is that the building appears secure (save for lots of critters). The bad news is that there are no plans by the railroad or by the town to do anything with the depot. (I could be mistaken, however, and I hope I am.) Train depots are iconic buildings that all people can connect to whether due to memories or movies or the lure of trains. If you have a train depot in your area, contact your local officials and potentially interested organizations – get your town geared up for a rehabilitation project! Need some success stories? Check out the Swanton Railroad Museum, the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Cafe or the South Londonderry Depot. Find others here.

Transportation related structures benefit immensely from the Transportation Enhancements Grants program, which is severely at risk right now. Please tell your legislators how important TEs are to your community. Remember this post? The Importance of Transportation Enhancement Grants to Historic Preservation.