Abandoned Vermont: Chester Depot Inn

In the picturesque town of Chester, this former inn sits filled neglected and seemingly filled to the brim with forgotten belongings. Constructed in 1810, additions are visible in the building’s massing. Note the two end chimneys, which are currently not “end” chimneys (meaning as it sounds, at the end of a structure, as opposed to in the center, for example). The gable front section on the right is a later addition, as is the one (or two maybe) sections on the right – being the garage bays and the three bays to the right of that.

Chester, VT

The most impressive scenes of this building are of the front entrance and its details.

Front entrance. Some of the glass in the fanlight is broken, but it’s no less impressive.

Leaded fanlight, with wood quoins around the door to give the impression of masonry.

Door detail – wood panels slotted into the rails.

Door detail.

Building debris located to the left of the house.

Rear porch.

Windows resting on the back porch.

Rear of the house, the gable front addition, overtaken with foliage.

Sunlight on the side elevation offers a glimpse to the happier days of this property.

Anyone know any more about this house?

Preservation Pop Quiz

What is your guess as to the object featured in this image (taken from a car window)? Bonus points if anyone in Vermont can identify its location.

20120927-083258.jpg

Preservation ABCs: C is for Ceiling

Preservation ABCs is a series that will work its way from A to Z, bringing words into conversation that are relevant to historic preservation, whether it’s an idea, feature or vocabulary term. The idea is to help you see preservation everywhere you look and wherever you go. Enjoy! See previous letters.

————————–

C is for Ceiling

ceiling.jpg

Do you look up when you walk into a new room? Does the ceiling affect your comfort level and the atmosphere?

Ceilings say a tremendous amount about a particular room. Often ceilings are neglected features of buildings,  covered by drop ceilings due to failed plaster or sound and energy efficiency. Buildings that have had continual use are often victims of lowered ceilings and blocked in windows for those same reasons. Have you seen rehabilitated buildings with drop ceilings? What a crushing disappointment it is to walk into a rehabilitated or renovated building, only to look up and see the skeletal network of acoustic tile or other drop ceilings.

When outside preservationists look up at buildings (c for cornice, as well) because we know interesting features exist beyond the ground floor. Just as it is important to protect and highlight the architectural details of a building facade, it should be as important to preserve the integrity of the building’s interior. And when a ceiling cannot be preserved or restored, it should be replaced in kind.

To make a difference in a room, ceilings do not have to be ornate like the murals in the US Capital, the Sistine Chapel or ornamental plasterwork found in Virginia plantation homes (e.g. Kenmore Plantation in Fredericksburg, VA).

Where are you sitting right now? Look up. What do you see? What does the ceiling bring to mind? What would you rather see? Do you think the ceiling matches the building? A sheetrock ceiling is likely more appealing than a styrofoam-esque drop ceiling. What do you think? Even some restaurant chains are attempting to create a more pleasing environment by choosing black ceiling tiles or utilities.

Next time you’re in a new place, look up and stare at the ceiling. A tin or plaster ceiling has more to tell about a building and creates a more interesting environment. Just as the windows and floors, ceilings are part of the building’s history, too. Ceiling height can indicate purpose and importance of a room or be indicative of climate.

What do you think about ceilings?

Strike!

Bowling conjurs images of shiny lanes, matching shirts, funky bowling shoes, contraptions that reset the pins, return the bowling balls, birthday parties, bowling leagues, bad food, Fred Flinstone, cheesy movie scenes … at least in my head. And something else that bowling brings to mind for me is roadside architecture, thanks to the giant bowling pin on the roof of Port Jeff Bowl. Not quite as exciting as the Long Island Duck, the bowling pin remains part of Long Island’s roadside architecture collection.

Port Jeff Bowl in Port Jefferson Station, NY.

Port Jeff Bowl. The pin doesn’t rotate or light up, it just stands on the building.

Port Jeff Bowl

Maybe some fellow Long Islanders can give me a hint as to the age of the building, bowling alley and the pin (Mom, any ideas?), but I have been unable to find any information so far. Anyone else know of a giant bowling pin?

Preservation ABCs: B is for Bridge

Preservation ABCs is a series that will work its way from A to Z, bringing words into conversation that are relevant to historic preservation, whether it’s an idea, feature or vocabulary term. The idea is to help you see preservation everywhere you look and wherever you go. Enjoy! See previous letters.

————————–

B is for Bridge

A historic plate girder bridge on an active rail line in Richford, VT. Historic bridges come in all shapes, sizes and structures.

A bridge carries a road, rail line or other traveled way over a watercourse, landform or even other thoroughfares. Most will think of our great bridges such as the Brooklyn Bridge, the San Francisco Bay Bridge, the Verazzano Bridge, the Lake Champlain Bridge, Scotland’s Fourth Rail Bridge, the London Bridge and other engineering marvels. But like that photograph above, a simple plate girder bridge on the rail line, small bridges play an important role in our history and landscape as well.

Bridges are constructed of wood, iron, steel, concrete or stone. The technology of bridge engineering is endless but a list of common types includes covered, wood truss, metal truss, concrete arch, masonry arch, girder, suspension, cable stay — you have probably heard many of these terms.

Although we could discuss bridge engineering and delve into types of trusses and structural systems, the better lesson of these Preservation ABCs is to understand why bridges are important on the landscape. If you’re not an engineer or a preservationist working in the transportation world, why do bridges matter to you? There are a few simple reasons to share.

First, bridges are part of our collective settlement patterns and how we move throughout the landscape, where we go, how we cross uneven landforms or waterbodies. Many bridges we can see on the landscape as we travel up hills, down hills or approach from the distance. Bridges signal a change in the ground beneath our feet and our vehicles. They allow us to read our environment.

Second, bridges are integral parts of our communities. While more than indications of a change in landscape, bridges serve as the gateways to communities, large or small. Bridges are visual structures just as buildings, which hold stories, memories, history and contribute to historic districts and settings. Even without understanding the engineering, it is feasible to read a bridge by its materials, design and railing ornamentation. This will place the bridge in a certain time period. For example, many truss bridges in Vermont were constructed following the 1927 flood, which destroyed hundreds of bridges. These are standing reminders of that period in history.

Third, the construction and engineering of bridges represents advances and lessons in our technology and the reach of our resources. Many early bridges, such as wood truss bridges in Vermont, were constructed by hand with local materials, based on the know-how of locals. Why? Because that is what was available. Iron could not be forged and shipped across colonial America. As technology changed, the industrial plants developed, the population and knowledge base grew, roads improved, ideas shared more easily, etc. every community had greater access to materials, experts, plans and technology.

There you have it: reading the environment, being an integral part of history and current communities, and telling the story of technology and innovation. The list could go on. Maybe you just like the aesthetics of bridges. That’s a good place to start, too.

These ideas and reasons for the importance of bridges are intertwined, but hopefully aid in appreciation as to why our historic bridges matter.

Preservation Success: Nikola Tesla Wardenclyffe Tower

Have you heard of Nikola Tesla? Shoreham, NY? The Wardenclyffe Tower? Stanford White? Wireless power transmission? Alternating current? You’ve heard of some of it anyway. Have you seen the movie, The Prestige? Ah-ha, good movie, yes? Each time you watch it, you’ll take note of more detail and clues. Have you heard of the website The Oatmeal? I promise, this is all connected.

Let’s start with Tesla. While we all know Thomas Edison for inventing electricity and the light bulb, there is actually a greater, more complicated back story (such is history, yes?). Nikola Tesla studied alternating current and worked for Thomas Edison. For an entertaining (language is not G rated, warning!) overview of Tesla’s accomplishments read this comic by the Oatmeal. For a more detailed account read this and this.  In short, Nikola Tesla was a brilliant man ahead of his time and wanted to create free electricity for everyone. How awesome would that have been.

Tesla’s Wardenclyffe Tower & Lab in Shoreham, NY, 1904. The lab was designed by architect Stanford White. Source: Wikipedia creative commons license.

Next up, the Wardenclyffe Tower was part of Tesla’s lab in Shoreham, NY. The tower, never fully operational, was demolished in 1917, but a portion of it remains with the lab building. The property has been through many owners and has yet to be nominated to the National Register of Historic Places (because the property owner must approve the nomination) even though you could argue that this property is eligible for a National Historic Landmark nomination. This property was at risk for purchase and subsequent demolition, at a price tag of $1.7 million — not exactly pocket change for us preservationists.

The author of The Oatmeal began a campaign to raise $850,000 (which New York State would match) for the purchase price in order to turn the property into a museum and science center about Tesla and his work. So far the campaign has raised over $1 million. And there are still 10 days remaining to raise even more money, in order to garner funds for the museum development. The $1.7 million is only the property purchase price.  Follow the Tesla Science Center on Twitter or find more information on the website. See this album of recent site visit photos.

So you see the success. The Oatmeal helped the fundraising go viral, perhaps to people who never knew about Tesla and to people who aren’t necessarily preservationists. Everyone can appreciate at least a small piece of this story: history, technology, innovation, architecture mixed with historic preservation, our modern information age, community (of all types) efforts, enthusiasm and the idea that you have to start somewhere in order to succeed. To The Oatmeal and all who donated and spread the word: congratulations! Once again, historic preservation is an overarching field that affects all of us in positive ways. Three cheers for everyone.

As for The Prestige. You should watch it and you’ll appreciate Nikola Tesla more than you thought.

Preservation ABCs: A is for Alley

Preservation ABCs is a series that will work its way from A to Z, bringing words into conversation that are relevant to historic preservation, whether it’s an idea, feature or vocabulary term. The idea is to help you see preservation everywhere you look and wherever you go. Enjoy! 

————————–

A is for ALLEY

Elfreth’s Alley, Philadelphia, PA. Photo source: Library of Congress. “GENERAL VIEW OF NORTH (LEFT) AND SOUTH SIDES OF THE ALLEY, LOOKING EAST” Click to go to original digital source.

What is an alley? An alley is a small, narrow street between or behind buildings, mostly in urban settings. Some alleys are for pedestrians only, some are for automobiles to access garages. What does an alley have to do with historic preservation? Alleyways are part of our planning and development history, giving us clues to how people traversed cities and used space. Also, think of it this way: as a culture, we are more likely to spruce front yards, building facades and the most publicly visible spaces that we inhabit. Alleys have the potential to show what the building looked like prior to improvements or stylized additions. 

Alleys are also working corridors. Often these narrow spaces between and behind buildings exist for services (trash collection, deliveries, vehicle parking) and are less traveled than the sidewalks on the streetscape. Because they are less traveled, alleys hold mystery.

Want to visit an alley? Elfreth’s Alley in Philadelphia, PA is a National Historic Landmark.

Preservation ABCs

A new school year has begun, and we’ve talked about preservation inspiration. Whether in school or not, we are constant preservation scholars learning how to read buildings, interpret regulations, apply tax credits, convey the preservation mission and many other tasks on a daily basis. Look at yourself one year ago – what new bits of information do you know? What connections to other fields do you see now that you haven’t seen before? What was your greatest work accomplishment in these past 12 months? Give yourself some credit and a pat on the back. Be proud and use that knowledge to continue doing your best. And now think about what you want to learn this year. What book do you want to read?

A couple of other preservation based blogs have good preservation education series if you want to learn a snippet at a time. Preservation in Mississippi (It Ain’t All Moonlight and Magnolias) has an “Architectural Word of the Week” series. Historic Indianapolis features a “Building Language” series. Check out their posts to improve your architectural vocabulary and understanding. For a good overview of terms, read the Historic Preservation Abbreviations You Should Know on HistPres.

Taking a cue from these great ideas, Preservation in Pink will begin featuring the ABCs of Historic Preservation, from A to Z, addressing the wide reach of historic preservation. We’ll start with A and work our way through the alphabet. If you have any ideas, send them along. Look for “A” later today. And follow the Preservation ABCs category for this series.

The Pierce School in Lunenburg, Vermont.