Buy Local Advertisements

Yesterday’s image, “You Can’t Buy Happiness, But You Can Buy Local and that’s Kind of the Same Thing,” was well liked, so I thought you might like additional graphics. Who doesn’t love a good design, right? These “Buy Local” advertisements have probably been floating around the internet for a while, but some are so creative and fu that they warrant sharing with as many people as possible. Does your town or city have a similar poster or logo?

via Seed Designs. Click for source and original.

Infographic by elocal.com. Click for source and original.

Buy Local First Utah. Click for source.

Brookhaven, MS. Click for original source and additional images.

Clinton County, OH. Click for source.

Marshfield, WI. Click for source.

A nice main street block with such potential! BUY LOCAL so this doesn’t happen to you. Click for source.

Infographic via Columnfive Media and Intuit and Mind Body Green. Click for source.

Clearly, this could go on forever. Point being, the next time you are looking for some local shopping inspiration, take a look at these images. Share them (with proper credit to their original sites, of course) and get out to support those local businesses in whatever way you can. Have an image to share? Send it along. Enjoy!

Why Local Matters

Shop Local. Eat Local. Buy Local. Think Local First. Live Local.

If you browse community related or preservation related news, you have probably noticed that the concept and implementation of a local economy based on local businesses is a popular topic. Local, in this sense, tends to mean small business as opposed to local franchise or a chain store that happens to be in your locale.

On Sunday May 13, 2012, the New York Times ran an article titled, “Vermont Towns Have an Image, and They Say Dollar Stores Aren’t Part of it.” The trigger for this article is the current struggle in Chester, Vermont, where a dollar store is proposed. The article is excellent and worthy of discussion, as this is an issue that needs to be in the mind of everyone. Many residents are opposed to the construction and introduction of a chain dollar store to Chester, one of the quintessential Vermont villages that relies on tourism. Chester includes two National Register historic districts, the Stone Village Historic District and the Chester Village Historic District.

From the New York Times article (see block quotes),

Almost two decades after the National Trust for Historic Preservation put the entire state of Vermont on its list of endangered sites, citing big-box developments as a threat to its signature greenness, towns like this one are now sizing up a new interloper: the chain dollar store.

“While Wal-Mart has managed to open only four stores in Vermont and Target still has none, more than two dozen Dollar General, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores have cropped up around the state. All three companies are thriving in the bad economy — between them, they have more than 20,000 outlets nationwide, selling everything from dog treats to stain remover and jeans to pool toys. Their spread through Vermont, with its famously strict land-use laws, has caught chain-store opponents off guard.”

Dollar stores are typically much smaller than the large big box stores that have been the typical threat. Land use regulations and zoning weren’t expecting a struggle, as the article states. Presumably, a relatively “small” store such as a dollar store would not be a problem. However, the square footage of these stores can overtake the total square footage of retail of adjacent or nearby businesses. Dollar stores have the potential to sell very similar items to what is currently offered by those neighboring businesses.

“Most of the people in Chester now are people who have come from someplace else,” Mr. Cunningham said. “It’s like a lot of Vermont. Why come to a place like this only to have it turn into the kind of place you were trying to leave?”

An excellent question. People move to Vermont because it is such a unique place. Let’s try to keep it unique and special for generations to come. This doesn’t mean a moratorium on development; but, rather, smart development that agrees with the community’s wants, needs, and concerns.

Paul Bruhn, executive director of the Preservation Trust of Vermont, said opposition to dollar stores has sprung up in at least four other towns in the state. Mr. Bruhn’s group, which seeks to protect what it calls “the essential character of Vermont,” has been tracking the spread of dollar stores since 2010; it provides grant money to citizens’ groups that oppose them, including Mr. Cunningham’s.

“The dollar stores have proliferated in a way that seems a little extreme,” Mr. Bruhn said. “One of the things I think is crucial for Vermont, in terms of maintaining this very special brand that we have, is we don’t want to look like Anywhere, U.S.A. And homegrown businesses are a crucial piece of that.”

The spread of dollar stores has come during a period of decline of the general store, a Vermont institution that in many towns served as a meeting place and all-purpose emporium. This week, the Barnard General Store, not far from Chester, closed after 180 years. Its owners cited the twin blows of Tropical Storm Irene, which badly flooded parts of the state last summer, and a nearly snowless winter that kept skiers away.

In this article, Mr. Bruhn’s quote about not looking like Anywhere, USA and homegrown businesses effectively sum up the ongoing battles with corporate development throughout Vermont. Simply put, a place becomes Anywhere, USA when its buildings no longer reflect regional traditions and architecture, and when you can walk into a business and there is not an identity. A chain store may alter the layout and carry some regional varieties, but for the most part, if you enter a chain drug store, for example, anywhere in this country, it’s the same thing, whether you are in Florida or Wyoming. Although the article discusses Vermont as a whole (because it is an issue looked at statewide), there are threats to prosperous or recovering downtowns all across the country, from chain stores to poor development to sprawl. What do you notice in your community?

Why do some communities and some people fight so hard against chain retailers? Because a functioning, healthy downtown filled with locally owned businesses is not the norm in most places, and is at risk is most places where it does exist. Vermont is not a place that can be taken for granted. Living locally – meaning shopping, eating and spending locally – is not easy in every part of our country. I say this from experience, having lived in five different states. But, it is easier in Vermont than anywhere else that I’ve lived. Why? Because it’s a mindset of many. It’s common. Of course, not every item you need can be purchased locally, but with just a bit of additional thought, you can do pretty well in supporting your local economy. For those of us lucky enough to live in places like this Vermont, we be good stewards. Living locally will improve your quality of life because it keeps money in your community, which improves the entire community.

How good are your local shopping habits? Can you do better? What is difficult about where you live? What do you think is the biggest issue facing your community? Does shopping local make you happy?

Preservation Photos #131

Sudbury, VT Meeting House / Sudbury Congregational Church was constructed in 1807 by Charles G. Stewart.

Read the brief history.

My Mom

Happy Mother’s Day (yesterday) Mommy! And Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mothers out there. I hope your day was sunny and relaxing and spent how you chose.

20120514-015826.jpg

Tulips and a flowering apple tree at Chimney Point State Historic Site.

My mom has been my preservation influence from the beginning, long before she or I had heard the term “historic preservation.” On family outings, Mom could tell us the stories of buildings, farms, and roads across Long Island. She always has memories to associate with places that we’d see, because she grew up where my sisters and I were growing up. My mom always liked to talk to people and visit historic sites, stop and look at farms, get out and about and go exploring. Mom, your continuing enthusiasm for everything – including what I do – is always an inspiration to me. There are so many days that I wish I could bring you to work with me because I know you’d enjoy my day, too. Thank you for everything. You’re the best and I’m so happy that you’re my mom.

Mom, in case you have forgotten, I wrote this post about you a few years back.

Spring Home Maintenance: 10 Tasks

Maintenance is Preservation. Preservation is Maintenance. 

Often the old & historic building stock falls into disrepair because of neglect over the years. Minor problems become major expenses, which homeowners cannot afford. It is an unfortunate situation, because many of these problems could have been prevented with routine maintenance. Yearly maintenance is preventative maintenance and will prolong the health of your building and save you money in the long run. The tasks listed below may be obvious to you, but a reminder is sometimes helpful to all.

(1) Clear brush and leaves away from the foundation.

(2) Make the sure the grading of the ground abutting the building feeds water away from the foundation.

(3) Clean out the gutters.

(4) General cleaning or washing of a building is a good idea to, from windows to siding to porches (just don’t power wash anything!)

(5) Check the window casing/frames for cracks, deterioration — e.g. cracked or peeling paint, water stains. Stick a pocket knife or similar object into the wood to test for quality. If it goes in easily, more than you would expect, the wood will need to be repaired or replaced soon. A fresh coat of paint can protect your window sills and window frames.

(6) Open your windows to get good air flow throughout the building. Fresh air can do wonders for a building.

(7) Check the roof flashing, shingles (be safe or hire someone qualified!). Make sure it is there are no leaks or dirt accumulation.

(8) Have your chimney inspected if you haven’t already. For example, our chimney was unlined when bought our house, so we had to have a liner installed (otherwise it can be a fire hazard).

(9) Check for water damage inside and outside. Be sure to check in the attic and basement spaces. The best time to look for leaks is when it’s raining.

(10) Check your smoke alarms and all of your building systems. Check your attic insulation. Get in all of those places that you avoid in colder weather. Investigate your walls for cracks – and the foundation. Crawl under the porch. Basically, get to know your building.

This list is what I would do for my house, so there are likely other tasks to add for your own building. What else do you recommend?  Good weather is coming this weekend (finally!), so it is a good time to take care of some home maintenance tasks. Have fun! Remember, maintenance = preservation = building love.

Build a Playhouse!

Yesterday we talked about a dream house from a child’s perspective along with children’s impressions on the built environment. To follow up on that topic, I wanted to share a few pages from a book I found last summer in an antique shop in Barton, Vermont. It caught my eye because of my ongoing interest in playgrounds.

The cover of the Children’s Playhouse booklet from The Home Workshop Library, published 1950 by the General Publishing Company, Inc.

The Home Workshop Library was a series of books for the industrious DIY-ers in the post World War II era, that reprinted articles from Popular Homecraft magazine.

Inside cover.

“A playhouse is in the largest sense, a child’s castle. It is also a safe haven for young energy and a storage place for a child’s priceless treasures.”

Table and contents and the first design.

Ranging from playhouses to playground equipment to bunk beds to playhouses, the pages are filled with plans and specifications and equipment needed.

page 6 and 7 – directions for the playhouse

Pages 8-9: info about construction and post foundations.

“A Wee House for Wee People”

Who wants an elephant slide?

I think I will build a playhouse in my backyard (someday). Anyone else? Have you used old plans to design a structure, whether a slide or a house? The Home Workshop Library also includes household furniture. Anyone have a copy or something similar?

Your Dream House (As a Kid)

If you love houses, you probably have a “dream house” or at least elements of a dream house, compiled in a scrapbook, random folder, dog-eared pages in a stack of magazines, or perhaps on the enormously popular Pinterest. Maybe you live in your dream house. But, take a step back. What would five-year-old you or ten-year-old you say when asked about a dream house? Was it based on a book, on some enormous sitcom house (really, why did they always have two staircases?), or something entirely unique.

My sisters and I spent a lot of time playing in our large maple tree because it had just enough good “sitting spots” – as we called them – for all four of us. We never had a tree house, but we had a little playhouse in the backyard that Dad built. And if you asked us, the Swiss Family Robinson House, like the one in Disney World, would have made a fun house for us. We’d dream up crazy things like a backyard full of playground tunnels and trampolines and zip lines. What more could a kid want? Or maybe a big farmhouse with a large wraparound porch overlooking fields and meadows would have suited us. We loved to play and run outside.

Why do I ask? I love a stroll down memory lane, and while nostalgia always joins in, distorting some of those memories, I think it is important to remember what you dreamt about as a kid and what was important at various ages and phases in life. Think about it: we talk about sense of place as adults. We discuss our built environment, the intangible aspects and how to improve our quality of life. But, if you aren’t a parent or don’t have young kids involved in your life, how often do you think about sense of place and the environment from their point of view? Of course, all generations are considered in our environment, but I would guess that adults might not be able to articulate everything that children think is important.

Do you have kids? Ask them about their environment, the buildings, the landscape – what they like, what they see, what they don’t like. And if you don’t have kids, do your best to remember what you thought was ideal as a child. It will help us make our environments and community more meaningful to all.

Preservation Photos #130

The Joslin Memorial Library in Waitsfield, Vermont. This library was built in 1913, with about $21,000 donated by George A. Joslin, a Waitsfield resident.

Street Observations: 10 Questions

Sunshine, flowers, spring foliage, light rain, no more snow, more daylight hours – what more could you want? While some people love cold weather (skiers, for example), eventually, we all are craving sunshine and warmth. The streets are filled with bicyclists, walkers, runners, kids, adults, and everyone is happy in the sun.  Here in Vermont, March and April are not always the prettiest of months (some call it stick season, some call it mud season…there is a lot of brown), so we eagerly await the springtime foliage and warmer days. If you live further south, you’ve been out and about for months in warmth, I know.

Regardless of when this resurgence of green and spring is for you, it is an excellent time to take a look around your streets and your town and to really think about them.  Think about street that you like. Have you thought about why you like it? Could you describe it to someone? I’d bet that there are specific aspects of the street that help to shape why you like it over another.

For a fun mental exercise, below are 10 questions to ponder the next time you are out and about. Perhaps you think about these already or maybe it’s a new topic for you.

(1) What do your streets look like? Are they wide enough for two lanes of traffic and parking lanes? Are they narrow city alleys? Where do cars park: on grass, on gravel, formally, informally?

(2) Do your streets have sidewalks? Are the sidewalks level with the travel lane? Are they concrete or asphalt or brick?

(3) Do the sidewalks have distinct curbs? Or is it just a slab of concrete or poured asphalt with a nondescript edge?

(4) Do the streets have green strips? In other words, is there grass between the traveled lane and the sidewalk?

(5) Are the streets filled with trees or void of trees? What types of trees?

(6) Where are the power lines?  Overhead or buried?

(7) Where are the mailboxes? At the curb or on the house?

(8) What types of buildings are on the street? Is it commercial or residential or both? Can you name the architectural style? Are they one-story, two-story or more? Are they single family homes, duplexes, apartment buildings, row houses or something else?

(9) Is there street furniture such as benches and trash or recycle bins? 

(10) What do you think of this street? Is it pleasant? Loud? Quiet? Aesthetically pleasing? Ugly?

So, what else would you add? Did you discover anything new about your streets? Beware, you may never stop thinking about this now that you’ve noticed these nuances. But, that is a good thing! Understanding your environment aids in understanding your sense of place and in defining why you prefer one place over another.

Preservation Month: GSA Posters

Historic Preservation Month: it’s like a month long holiday. Sweet.

Holidays need decorations, so I searched around for some preservation posters to share. And I kept returning the GSA collection. The GSA is the U.S. General Services Administration. A brief history (from the GSA website):

GSA was established by President Harry Truman on July 1, 1949, to streamline the administrative work of the federal government. GSA consolidated the National Archives Establishment, the Federal Works Agency, and the Public Buildings Administration; the Bureau of Federal Supply and the Office of Contract Settlement; and the War Assets Administration into one federal agency tasked with administering supplies and providing workplaces for federal employees.

GSA’s original mission was to dispose of war surplus goods, manage and store government records, handle emergency preparedness, and stockpile strategic supplies for wartime. GSA also regulated the sale of various office supplies to federal agencies and managed some unusual operations, such as hemp plantations in South America.

Today, through its two largest offices – the Public Buildings Service and the Federal Acquisition Service – and various staff offices, GSA provides workspace to more than 1 million federal civilian workers, oversees the preservation of more than 480 historic buildings, facilitates the purchase of high-quality, low-cost goods and services from quality commercial vendors, and had about $39 billion in federal assets at the end of fiscal year 2010.

GSA Public Buildings Heritage Program has a collection of 100+ of its most significant buildings. You can download these posters in PDF and read the history about each building when you click on its link. Each building page is filled with images, significance, architectural descriptions and more. It is a terrific resource. They are beautiful posters. Back in 2004 at the National Trust Conference in Louisville, KY, the GSA was giving out many for free. I have a bunch, including this one framed. But browse in a variety of ways (including architectural style) and choose your favorite.

U.S. Pioneer Courthouse in Portland, Oregon. Click for history and source.

They are all beautiful buildings. Take a look at this Old Post Office and Courthouse in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Little Rock Post Office. Click for source and history.

And I’m going to have to refrain from posting too many (as a matter of practicality), but here are a few more.

Lafayette Square in Washington DC. Click for source and history.

The Richard Bolling Federal Building in Kansas City, Missouri. Click for source and history.

Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Sioux City, Iowa. Click for source and history.

Find one you need? Contact the Historic Buildings Program. Happy Preservation Month! Happy weekend!