Richmond Checkered House Bridge Opening

On a sunny, warm spring morning, Tuesday May 28, 2013, the Richmond Checkered House Bridge opened to traffic. This 1929 Pennsylvania truss bridge was the first ever widened truss bridge in the country – an incredible feat to maintain historic integrity and to keep this bridge in the transportation network. You can see in the photographs where the bridge has been widened by 10′; this design was chosen so the new can be distinguished from the original.

The ceremony was open to the public and well attended by State officials, those involved with bridge project (engineers, contractors, project managers, historic preservationists), and many community member. Governor Shumlin gave a short speech as well.

In true Vermont bridge opening style, antique cars were the first to drive over after the ribbon cutting. And an antique bicycle joined in the fun. Take a look at some photographs from the opening. Next time you are in Richmond, be sure to drive over our historic rehabilitated truss. It’s a beauty!





Preservation Photos #183

The Octagon School of East Bethel, VT built in 1842.

The Octagon School of East Bethel, VT built in 1842.

A known site in East Bethel, this octagon school is one of a kind. The design was supposed to allow for greater space in a one-room schoolhouse. It has a few additions, but you can clearly see the octagon shape in this image, along with original windows and screens. Peak into the windows and you’ll see a blackboard. Today the building is a library and community center. For a brief history on East Bethel, read this.

Memorial Day

To everyone who has served the United State Military in some capacity: thank you. Thank you for our freedom and liberty, and for keeping us safe in the United States of America. Some Memorial Day history (which began as Decoration Day).  This marble memorial in Proctor, Vermont is a beautiful tribute to those who fought for us.

Proctor, VT

Proctor, VT

Proctor, VT

Proctor, VT: “Dedicated to those who served our country in time of conflict.”

2012 PiP: Memorial Day (Calverton National Cemetery).

Flamingo Club

You know I’m not kidding when I tell you that this was a birthday present and I love it. And it reminds me of an early flamingo trip to South Beach, Miami, FL.


Art Deco + flamingos = a good time


Obviously, we flamingos would stay here.


Concrete, movie posters, details, details!!


I love the flat roof architectural detail.


love flamingos.

A welcome addition to any home. Thanks, Mom & Dad! {Everyone feeds the flamingo addition. Further recent proof here: Flamingo Valentine, Mr. Stilts & card, pasta & plates.)

A Replacement Bridge

Sometimes in transportation, our bridges cannot be saved (which can only be said after a Section 4(f) evaluation). Reasons often relate to safety or structural deficiency or loss of integrity, among other items. It’s a complex law and evaluation. Large bridges like the Champlain Bridge are rare projects; often bridge projects are much smaller.

Remember the Newfane Bridge?

The 1945 Newfane Bridge.

Recently I drove through Newfane and saw its replacement. It was a historic bridge located within a historic district. To the public this means that a bridge replacement (if determined to be the only feasible and prudent alternative) will be a context sensitive solution; i.e., compatible with its surroundings.

Looking east. May 2013.

Looking east. May 2013.

Looking to the west. May 2013.

Looking to the west. May 2013.

The approach rail.

The approach rail.

The railing, endwall, and approach rail.

The railing, endwall, and approach rail.

The endwall with guardrail inset.

The endwall with guardrail inset.

Side view of the bridge girder and railing.

Side view of the bridge girder and railing.

New bridges will not look like the old bridges due to engineering designs, traffic safety, modern vehicles, modern materials, etc. How do you, as a historic preservationist, or a community member feel about historic bridge replacement?

Additions: Entrances

Buildings change over time, whether in appearance or function and one often affects the other. Sometimes changes are for access, protection from the elements, modernization, energy efficiency or maybe someone just wanted a change. Consider these entrance alterations as examples. Some entrances are seasonal, but others are meant to stay.

Burlington, VT

Burlington, VT

This example is shows the entrance to a restaurant (not shown in the photo is a small (obviously fake) chimney on the longer slope of the roofline of the entrance – like a cottage style). The building itself is the Hotel Vermont – historic image below.

Source: Boston Public Library.

Source: Boston Public Library.

As you can see, the entrance doesn’t exactly match the building. But it is located on the side, and not the front. What do you think?

Next, consider this shed roof front entrance addition in Johnson, VT. This entrance is likely for weather protection, and it appears that there was some attempt to blend it to the building. But the red clapboard, the shed roof, the obvious white gutter (which is only pouring water directly to the foundation), and the vinyl door… well, it leaves much to be desired. The historic integrity of this facade is obscured, as well as the streetscape.


Johnson, VT – located on the main thoroughfare

Both of these examples are obvious additions. Do you find one more obtrusive than the other? In terms of streetscape and architectural integrity, I’d say the Johnson example is incompatible whereas the Burlington example is acceptable. Often this determination is dependent on which facade has the addition.

What do you think? And for either one, how would you improve it?

Preservation Photos #182


The Vermont State House with its gardens in full bloom. How lucky it feels to see this building every day and observe it with the changing seasons.

The State House in the summer and winter.

Society for Industrial Archeology 2013


Click for more information.

The Society for Industrial Archeology is a diverse group of members, interested in industrial heritage, manufacturing, the built environment, bridges, transportation and more. In its own words:

The Society for Industrial Archeology was formed in 1971 to promote the study, appreciation, and preservation of the physical survivals of our industrial and technological past. The word “archeology” underscores the society’s principal concern with the physical evidence of industry and technology-the study, interpretation, and preservation of historically significant sites, structures, buildings, artifacts, industrial processes, bridges, railroads, canals, landscapes, and communities.

Each year the SIA meets for an annual meeting, field sessions and paper sessions. I had the privilege to attend the SIA 2010 in Colorado Springs. Read Parts One, Two, Three, Four. This year the SIA is meeting in Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN. After a few years hiatus, I’m excited to be attending the conference and honored to be presenting about a topic dear to my heart and my preservation interests: The Giant Stride.

My research on the giant stride started as a paper in my graduate school class titled “History on the Land” taught by Bob McCullough (one of the best classes of my entire education). This is a playground apparatus that you will seldom find on playgrounds now due to safety regulations. However, if I found one I’d give it a try!

Another Giant Stride - at a playground in New York City, ca. 1910-1915. Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division (click).

Giant Stride – at a playground in New York City, ca. 1910-1915. Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division (click).

As you can read in the abstract booklet, my presentation is as follows:


The American playground movement of the early twentieth century focused on the health, social habits, and organic strength of children, manifesting itself in the tall, challenging playground equipment comprised of gymnasiums, ladders, poles, merry-go-rounds, swings and including one particular apparatus referred to as the “giant stride.” Best described as a tall pole with a rotating cap from which long ropes hung, children held on to the ropes and ran in circles around the pole fast enough for their feet to leave the ground as if they were flying. Like the other apparatus elements, the giant stride required strength and would look quite unfamiliar on today’s playgrounds. The giant stride stands as a good example of the collaboration between manufacturing advances, social and health trends of the early twentieth century, and do-it-yourself imitations: all contributing to the shared history of technology and resourcefulness.

Despite the popularity of the giant stride, it faded from the playground scene due to safety regulations; few remain in existence today.  The giant stride experienced its greatest evolution and popularity in the first decades of the twentieth century.  Though its origins remain uncertain, primitive versions appear in publications from late nineteenth century England. In the United States, its ubiquitous use on playgrounds is well documented in 1909-1929 issues of the periodical, The Playground, and its development thoroughly illustrated by United States Patents from 1904-1928.

Advances to the giant stride followed two patterns: manufactured and homemade. Manufacturers focused on function of the apparatus, specifically the revolving head or cap, the ropes or ladders (i.e. handles), and promoted the hot drip galvanized steel used in the equipment. More than one company manufactured the giant stride and variations of it. Companies include the Medart Manufacturing Company, Giant Manufacturing Company and the National Playground Apparatus Corporation, among others.  While manufacturing advances continued to improve the giant stride, not everyone could afford the steel apparatus. To remedy that factor, people employed their own creativity and constructed homemade giant strides using materials such as wood poles, wagon wheels and rope.

This presentation will include a discussion of the giant stride’s development within the social and industrial context, complemented with historic images, advertisements, patents and present day photographs.

Aside from being excited for my own paper, the panelists on all sessions have many familiar and respected names, including some people I’ve only had the opportunity to converse with via social media such as Raina Regan. A few days of preservation related chatter, exploration and new and old faces – what a time we’ll have! And although I’ve been to Minneapolis briefly in 2009, it was only a few hours, I’m looking forward to exploring the city more. And maybe it will be sunny this time.

If you’re going, let me know. I’d love to meet fellow preservationists. See you all soon – next week!

Swinging Saturday

Doesn’t everybody love swings, young and old alike? As long as I live, I’ll swing on the swings. My sisters will be sure to join.


A tall steel structure is perfect for swinging high. Pump those legs!

This swing set below is definitely an older model. Based on the size of it, it seems like it was always meant for young children.


Other than this swing set, I haven’t seen an apparatus with construction: the top bar and additional diagonals to the side crossbar. Have you?



homemade or manufactured? 


A close-up of the connection on this apparatus. Look closely and you can see remnants of the green paint.

Are you out swinging in the sunshine? See any old playgrounds? Send some photographs my way, please! More playground posts on PiP.

Abandoned Vermont: Bloomfield Church

Bloomfield, VT is a small crossroads on the Connecticut River. Across the bridge is Stratford, NH. The general store is closed and not many houses populate this town. This church sits next to the town offices, the former school. Based on the piles of boxes in the windows, the church is abandoned or sorely neglected and used for storage. This poor thing has seen better days (note the missing steeple). The neighbors’ stuff is piled in the rear and on one side of the building, so I didn’t snap photos of all elevations.











Churches seem to be common abandoned or neglected buildings. What can we do about these? Another topic for another time, perhaps.