Historic Preservation and Downtown Conference

Mark your calendars. Friday June 8, 2012 is the 18th Annual Historic Preservation & Downtown Conference in Wilmington, Vermont; the theme is Resiliency.

From the conference organizers: “A year later, the 18th annual Historic Preservation and Downtown Conference honors the spirit of resiliency in the people and places of Vermont. We recognize community organization and altruism and explore the ingenuity of historic adaptation to help downtowns survive. We also celebrate community and heroes as we pay tribute to this year’s Preservation Award winners in Wilmington’s Memorial Hall.”

Join historic preservationists, downtown managers, community members, historians, students, professionals, grassroots organizations, guests and more for a day of interesting sessions and an afternoon of bowling and miniature golf. See the full agenda here.

This is the perfect day of interdisciplinary conversation for anyone who is interested in his/her built environment, heritage, historic places and the health of a community.

And, I’m flattered to announce that Preservation in Pink has a session at the conference. Using the Preservation in Pink themes and mission, I will be presenting historic preservation in a fun, personal manner, showing the audience how the field relates to all aspects of life. In other words, Preservation in Pink leaves the internet for day to take the stage in Wilmington. Join me for preservation conversation, coffee, tangential tales and flamingos. I’m honored to present Preservation in Pink in an off-blog format (or newsletter) for the first time. If you’ll be in Wilmington, come say hello!

The conference is extremely affordable ($35 for non-Wilmington residents) and there is a variety of options for lodging and dining. Wilmington was one of the most devastated towns (in Vermont) by Tropical Storm Irene. The community has worked hard at recovery, and your support would be much appreciated.

Click here to register.

This is the Vermont statewide conference hosted and organized by the Preservation Trust of Vermont, The Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, the Vermont Downtown Program and the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development.


Historic Charlotte Amalia

In order to bring some bright colors to this rainy Friday in New England (in Vermont at least – where did last week’s weather go?), let’s take another jaunt to St. Thomas, USVI. Originally named Charlotte Amalia, a map misspelling changed the name to Charlotte Amalie upon U.S. acquisition. Charlotte Amalia was the first settlement on St. Thomas, established in 1672 by Danish settlers. In its early years, it was a haven for pirates. The Charlotte Amalia Historic District includes government, civic and residential buildings. Learn more about the USVI historic sites on the NPS travel site (the website is dated, but the information is good).

While stunning and colorful, I found the beauty of the buildings to be marred by the numerous utility lines and poles, modern street lights and the asphalt streets. Many of these modern amenities were likely added in the last few decades, when tourism increased exponentially. I hope that future improvements take into account the historic context of the district and the visual effects of existing infrastructure. With that said, the district is fascinating; partially because was an entirely new landscape to me. These photographs are an eclectic mix from our stroll through the historic district.

Red metal and tile roofs define the view in Charlotte Amalie; what a striking complement to the blue sky and green leaves everywhere.

The colors of buildings along the streets are so vibrant!

Many of the historic buildings have tall windows with functioning shutters, which would have been designed to control the temperature and air movement throughout the day and seasons.

The buildings in the shopping district have doors such as those above, which open wide for business hours but are locked with latches and bolts at the end of the day. It makes for a much more interesting and appropriate streetscape than standard doors.

Wood doors and cast iron balconets are a common sight.

An alley "restored" in the 1970s; many alleys lead to additional small stores. Charlotte Amalie is known in the USVI for its shopping district.

Above the main streets, the streets are steep and hilly, as seen in this photograph. the asphalt pavement meets the building edge or meets the concrete gutters on the side of the street. The open gutters function as above ground rain and runoff drains. You can see on the left that some buildings build over the drains, creating small culverts.

The Frederick Lutheran Church.

The United States Post Office.

The 99 Steps located on Government Hill. The Danes built these "streets" up the steep hills in the form of stairs, using brick ballast from the ships. Some portions of the steps have been rebuilt and covered with concrete. There are also more than 99 steps.

Looking down the 99 steps.

The view from the top of the hill at Blackbeard's Castle.

These photographs are mostly without pedestrians because we were strolling around on a Sunday, which is not a cruise ship day, and therefore much of the island is closed. While it limited where we could venture inside, it made for easy sight-seeing.

Other USVI posts: Preservation Photos #122. Annaberg Sugar Mill. Preservation Photos #121. Home Sweet Home. Historic Sites on the Reef Bay Trail. Reef Bay Sugar Mill.

Love Your Landmarks

Photographs, historic landmarks, a contest, springtime — there is so much to love about the National Historic Landmark Program Photography Contest. How to enter? Check out the rules on the NHL website. In brief: You can enter up to 10 photos per person, but one per landmark. Upload your photos to the Flickr group. And swing by the NHL Facebook page to get more information and news about the sites.  Want to know more about the NHL program? Check out this tutorial.  See last year’s winners; gorgeous!

Why enter? Here are five reasons.

(1) Most of us are snap happy with our digital cameras. Thank goodness for digital, yes? While we may take longer to print our photographs, if we ever do, at least we can experiment with the camera until we take the “perfect” shot. But, with these digital cameras, do you take the time to practice getting a good shot or are we all just clicking away on the cameras? Now is your chance to have a subject, an assignment, a goal and a deadline. Maybe you can learn a few new camera tricks and functions.

(2) Maybe after all that practicing, you’ll win. Then your winning photograph will be featured in the NHL calendar, which you can download for free. Who doesn’t love to win a contest?

(3) Our National Historic Landmarks are the most significant properties in the United States, meaning they are the most significant to our collective heritage, and are important to all of us. Understanding our history is important.

(4) The National Park Service is always in need of support, so get out there and show the federal government and decision makers just how important the NPS and landmarks are to you.

(5) It’s a great reason to get outside in the springtime, alone or with family and friends. You could even take a road trip to 10 NHLs if you’re really in need of an excuse to get away.

There are approximately 2,500 NHLs. Need to find one near you? Check here. Have fun! You have until June 13, 2012.

Thanks to Sabra for sending along the flyer and head’s up about the contest beginning. 

Freshly Pressed!

If you are a reader and/or user of wordpress.com blogs, you might know that the main page features a collection of blogs each day in a section known as “Freshly Pressed.” I’ll admit that I wondered from time to time if PiP would ever be on that page. To my surprise, Preservation in Pink was chosen as one of the freshly pressed blogs for April 25, 2012, with the post “Measuring Sense of Place” highlighted.

I’m flattered and honored for Preservation in Pink to be chosen;  this is an important milestone for PiP. Thank you new visitors and readers who took some time to browse through the archives or to comment on the Measuring Sense of Place post. The comments on the post are from around the world and it is exciting to read what people believe and how they define or questions sense of place. If you’re curious, now would be the time to jump into the conversation.

One of the best things about blogging is learning from others and discovering new blogs. It’s interesting and an education to converse about a subject with people from different professions and areas of study, and still understand what each other means. In other words, it’s a good reminder as to how small the world is and how much we are all intertwined.

I hope that you’ll find reason to return to Preservation in Pink, whether because you love preservation, community discussions, flamingos, roadside America, coffee, history, historic architecture, transportation, or anything that connects to/from preservation.

Check back later today for new posts.

Grandma’s Pyrex Mixing Bowls

Think of one small object in your house to which you are emotionally attached, something that you love for some intangible reason, something that would seem not valuable and ordinary to most any one else. Can you identify and describe why that object is important to you? Why did you save it in the first place, and what keeps you from tossing it with the next yard sale or round of spring cleaning? If you are like me, you have many objects that fall into that category.

I’m not a packrat. I don’t like clutter or a messy house and I have periodic cleaning, recycling, give-away episodes; but, I’ll just say it: I like my stuff. Of course, by “stuff” I refer to sentimental objects, furniture hand-me-downs from family members, picture frames, books, blankets, dinnerware. I could never be someone who lives in a minimalist or tiny house with barely any belongings to her name. These objects – this stuff – holds memories and plays a role in making a house a home. I’m a sentimental fool when it comes to random objects, particularly those given to me by grandparents.


Grandma's three Pyrex bowls passed on to me.

My grandmother was not so much a fan of stuff, sentimental or otherwise, and she saved little. She never stopped moving forward, but occasionally I’d be lucky enough to hear a memory. I could never completely understand her logic for saving what she did, but with the stories I knew, I could piece together the objects around the house. I know that what I have of my grandmother’s was significant to her, even if I don’t know the reason. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have kept it. What I have of my grandmother’s is important to me. I can feel a connection to those family heirlooms that I love, especially those that I can incorporate into in my everyday life and my home.

Cooking is not my forte, but I do love to bake and experiment with baking (within reason). Kitchenware has always been a favorite household category of mine, particularly mixing bowls. Needless to say, when my mom gave me three Pyrex mixing bowls from Grandma’s house, I was thrilled. These three bowls are in great condition and feel worn, loved and used from decades of baking. Oddly enough, I can’t remember Grandma using these bowls when I was around, but she loved baking oatmeal raisin cookies for me when I was in college. Who wouldn’t love to receive a tin of homemade cookies from Grandma? Delicious. Maybe she didn’t use these bowls to make the cookies for me, but I have a hunch that at some point, they held cookie dough.


Sitting pretty on my (non-functioning) ca. 1930 Hardwick stove.

There is something about Pyrex that makes me happy while I’m baking.
Did you know that Pyrex is in vogue? Before researching the date on these bowls, I had no idea how much people love Pyrex. There are entire websites dedicated to the patterns, dates, collections, buying and selling of Pyrex bowls. Based on my research, these bowls are 1940s Pyrex mixing bowls, noted as from the solid color set. However, I have a feeling that the bowls are mismatched from more than one set.

If they are from the 1940s, perhaps these bowls were a wedding shower gift to my grandmother or something she purchased as a newlywed. That is my guess as to why she saved them.


An alternative view of their shape.

I prefer to use a wooden spoon with my Pyrex bowls. As I bake, I remember Grandma fondly. These Pyrex bowls are comforting to me. Grandma kept these for a reason, and I intend to keep them and bake with them for as long as I am able – perhaps with my own grandchildren someday.

For what reasons do you save stuff? What inconsequential objects do you love?

Preservation Photos #128

The beautiful, restored Wilder Center (former Congregational Church, constructed 1890) in Wilder, VT.

For the story of the community supported 2009 Wilder Center restoration, read the history and watch the slideshow.

Historic Preservation 1974 and 1977

Years ago, while browsing in a used bookstore in Pinehurst, North Carolina, I came across a thin publication titled Historic Preservation, dated April-June 1977. Sure enough, I had stumbled upon an early edition of Preservation Magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The magazine had cardstock covers and inside pages that were filled with three column text and color photographs mixed in with black and white images.

The covers of the April - June 1977(left) and July-September 1974 (right) issues of Historic Preservation, published quarterly by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Shortly after finding this 1977 edition, I found a 1974 edition in another bookstore, whose name and location have since escaped me. I haven’t found one since then, but after all these years it seemed like a good time to finally read through them. And in doing so, I was reminded of a valuable lesson.

Inside cover of the 1974 issue. Click for a larger view.

Inside cover of the 1977 issue. Click for a larger view.

Since scanning entire issues seems silly, I’ll share a few of the article highlights with you.

In the 1974 issue, the magazine opens with a piece titled “The More Things Change.” It begins like this:

Preservationists spend a good share of time trying to explain their point of view, not to mention defending it. Saving old things can appear to be a lackluster occupation in and of itself. What makes it seem even more dull is the inadequacy of the explanation most of us are able to produce. The building is architecturally significant. It is 100 years old. George Washington slept here. We are often better able to articulate why something should not be lost than why it should be saved. Perhaps this because what makes a historic building or object important is an abstract quality. It derives from the point expressed by a French adage, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” — “the more things change, they more they stay the same.” When we preserve, restore or illuminate historic buildings, objects or events we have the opportunity to better understand their significance in the context of their own time and to better understand our own time with the perspective afforded by knowledge of the past.

Interesting, yes? As I read that paragraph I was thinking that we since have moved on from the idea of a lackluster occupation, as we all know preservation is more than saving old buildings. To my surprise, this particular issue hinted at the other definitions and applications of preservation: how to adapt buildings to modern uses such as school buildings, for example, and how to solve the problems of abandoned buildings in our cities facing decreasing populations.

The article I liked the most was, “The Short Lived Phenomenon of Railroad Station-hotels,” by Diane Newell. It provided a good overview of railroad hotels; Newell explains their brief existence on the development of rail sophistication, in terms of rail networks and passenger comfort. These hotels were constructed primarily 1850-1880, when railcars were coach and without sleeping quarters or dining options. While these buildings are rare and exceptional to us now, when built they were simply products of the rail company engineers and draftsmen, not leading architects. Few survive today.

The 1977 issue had interesting articles as well. In “The Nonfiction World of Writers,” Stephanie Kraft writes, “Writers are a nostalgic lot. They are apt to have intense feelings about place in general and early homes in particular.” The article references the homes of Willa Cather, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, and others while discussing the factors of preservation success of particular literary authors’ homes.

“How to Publish the News” by Geoffrey C. Upward, begins with, “Historic preservationists need good communication skills for success. Finding supporters, keeping them informed and interested, providing education and strong defense of an area’s built heritage all call for effective communication.” The article goes on to discuss the importance of newsletters, as the most effective form of communication and evaluates tone, layout, size and the quality of the printer. While dated in its exact form, it is easy to recognize how this article could be updated to today’s social media world.

“Churches in the Woods” by Mary I. Cuffe analyzes the current movement of rural church preservation, these small, sparse buildings in rural America and their fate in parallel with the collapse of many communities across the country. “Whether interest in reviving rural churches throughout the country is lasting or merely passing romanticism is yet to be seen. Whatever their place in the future, the churches that still stand should be maintained as important components of American heritage. The construction was simple, but the foundation profound – when folks built their church they meant to stay.” This reminds me of the current discussion of redundant churches.

While the Trust has changed over the years, these articles strike me as surprisingly contemporary. You might expect a Historic Preservation magazine from the 1970s to be out of date, discussing topics that are no longer priorities or no longer current practices in the preservation field, but the articles mentioned above were comforting to me. Why? While reading through the magazine issues, I felt that preservationists have been doing a good job all along, with honorable intentions, pondering how society feels about categories of buildings, how to reach the non-preservationists, and communicating the importance of our history through sites and structures. The proper methods of interpretation and the best use for our built environment has long been on our minds. And subconsciously, I knew all that already. Of course the field of historic preservation has always been optimistic and well-intended, as I believe it to be today. But, it’s nice to be reminded.

Those of you who have been in preservation for decades probably know all that already, too. You may smile at my naiveté, and that’s okay. You have my admiration. To those of us who do not have those decades in our heads, it is important to remember that the field has evolved, but it also came from someplace good. How else would we have come this far? And because of that, it is important to learn from our colleagues, professors, mentors, old magazines, etc. We may have the digital world to our advantage and we may be helping to bring preservation to new levels, but that is exactly what our preservation elders have done, too. Preservation is continuously advancing, improving, evolving and believing. So I say thank you to those who have done so before the newest generation of professionals and college students; you are an inspiration.

Abandoned Vermont: Weathersfield House

This house is located in Weathersfield and is a curious case. I don’t know the story of this house but surrounding properties are in good condition and inhabited. This house appears to have been lived in within the past few years. When I see a house like this, I generally assume that the owners could not longer afford the upkeep and just left or an older person passed away and the family does not know what to do with the property.

As seen from the road. It is quite the large house.

The front entrance. Note the door surround with sidelights and a transom, weathered clapboards, wood windows beneath the aluminum storms, brick foundation and stone steps.

Peeking through the sidelights shows the worn staircase, banister and decorative newel post, wallpapered walls at the landing, and a light fixture in the top left of this image.

This is an interesting house, as all of the windows appear to be recently painted and well maintained, as if the house were recently occupied.

The gutters and drains remain attached.

The side of the house looking to the rear shows a less maintained facade. A wing has been removed and the ell in the forefront shows signs of deterioration.

Barns adjacent to the house that are occupied and maintained.

The rear of the house with the same well maintained windows (for the most part) and the deteriorating ell (look to the left).

Would anyone like to guess a date of construction? How about the architectural style?  Update: My quick guesses were a bit off. See Ann’s comment below for the history and construction date. And note that the house is in foreclosure (therefore, in need of an owner!).

Architectural Survey Photography Tip

Early spring is the perfect time for architectural survey photography work. Before the leaves grow and the flowers appear, but after the snow has melted away, you will be able to capture the best shots of buildings. Take a look at this church in Waitsfield, Vermont as an example.

The United Church of Christ in Waitsfield, VT. April 2012. Note that this picture was not taken for documentation purposes; this is not a photograph that would satisfy NR or HABS standards (partially because it's a bit crooked), but I still like the image.

Summer is beautiful in Vermont, but the trees will obscure the church steeple in a few weeks. I don’t know about you, but I love looking in between the tree branches to the buildings. It makes looking up at rooftops even more interesting.

This is just an iPhone photo, but you can see how the tree does not block your view of the building. March 2012.

In other words, take your cameras outside to capture springtime views. While it’s more fun to stroll around with a camera in June and July (depending on where you live), you’ll be more pleased with your early spring photographs. You’ll thank yourself later, when you’re attempting to write an architectural description from photographs or remembering the top half of a building.

Anyone else have a great tip for survey photography?

Preservation Grammar: An Historic or A Historic?

In elementary school, most of us learned that it is proper to use “an” before a word that begins in a vowel. Otherwise, use “a”. However, the English language has exceptions to every rule. This is no different. For example, “an hour” is proper as opposed to “a hour”. So why do we come across “an historic” when historic begins with “h”? Don’t we all pronounce the “h” in historic? Sort of. “H” is a weak consonant and pronounced differently across the world, which affects our choice of indefinite article (a or an).

Is there an answer? Yes. Historic is correctly pronounced with the “h” and therefore requires “a” before it. So, the correct pairing of words is “a historic.”

Trusted sources include Grammar Girl, the Oxford Dictionaries, and The Slot. How do you feel about an historic v. a historic? Any other grammatical pet peeves?

Previous Preservation Grammar posts: Affect v. Effect and Historic v. Historical.