Not that we’re halfway through May or anything like that. Here are April adventures, mostly in and around Vermont, with some excursion to CT and NY. (Hover over each photo for the caption.)
Many of us are familiar with the debates of new Walmart stores (other big box chains apply here, too) and the effects that such development and business will have on existing business and surrounding communities. And then there is the dollar store debate as well, such as the example in Chester, VT. Relatively new to the mainstream discussion are smaller versions of these big box stores. Previously, they’ve been smaller versions in order to fit into the urban markets, such as the Walmart Neighborhood Market and the Walmart Express. A bit of information about the two from a USA Today article:
In the U.S., Simon said, Wal-Mart’s small stores, which range from 10,000 square feet to about 55,000 square feet, compete well with a broad variety of merchants.
Neighborhood Market store have generated a 5% increase in revenue at stores open at least a year for the first half of this year. That’s more than double the growth rate of the Wal-Mart’s average store.
Express stores are less than one-tenth the size of Wal-Mart supercenters and offer groceries, general merchandise like tools, and pharmacies. Neighborhood Markets are more than twice the size of Express stores and offer perishable food, household supplies and beauty aids as well as a pharmacy.
According to another article, 40% of new Walmart openings will be these smaller scale stores.
Clearly, these Walmart Express stores sound like many dollar stores and chain pharmacies. Is this just another name to the mix of such stores? Or is this something new to which community planners, preservationists, citizens, etc. should pay attention on a different level?
Will these stores be considered for historic downtown locations, rather than sprawl? The store in the image above demonstrates that some are a part of the chain store sprawl. And design review doesn’t seem to be in effect in that example. If a Walmart Express (or any similar store) were willing to fit into an existing building block, would you be more favorable to it than if it were simply sprawl? Or do you think that would simply be empowering these big box chains, creating a monopoly, and hurting Main Street and small business owners?
What would you do in your community?
Proctor, Vermont is home to the marble bridge, a structure built in 1915 of reinforced concrete and marble. The bridge stands as a memorial to Fletcher D. Proctor, given by his mother Emily Dutton Proctor. This marble bridge replaced three previous covered bridges that spanned the Otter Creek. Located in Proctor is the Vermont Marble Company (owned by the Proctor family; this was a company town). Read a detailed history of the bridge here. The bridge was rehabilitated in 2002 by the Vermont Agency of Transportation.
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.
T is for Trees
When talking historic preservation, the instinct is to think of buildings and architectural styles, even though we know by now that preservation goes far beyond architecture. And the built environment encompasses streets, buildings, landscape, objects and unique characteristics of its setting. Aside from the benefit of providing oxygen to us, trees play an important role in historic properties. Often trees are contributing elements to the historic significance of resources.
Trees vary from region to region. A sugar maple in Vermont, a palm tree in Florida, a long leaf pine in North Carolina – trees aid in creating the setting. They provide a human scale, as well as a connection between the natural and built environment. Historic neighborhoods and towns often have tree lined streets, filled with trees that have matured. Historic farmsteads can have trees 100+ years old, planted when the house was built to mark time or provide wind protection. Newer properties and developments have smaller trees, planted with the intention that they will grow large and provide foliage and protection from the elements.
When streets lack trees it can be for a few reasons. Some species of trees suffered blights, wiping out entire cities of trees. The Dutch Elm disease struck the United States as early as the 1930s. Over the course of a few decades, American towns and cities lost their beautiful Elm trees. Historic photographs of a town might show beautiful tree lined streets, whereas today there might be very few trees on those same streets. In other cases, trees have been removed for construction reasons, whether road widening, sidewalks, parking lots, demolition, etc. Fortunately, trees are earning more respect as contributing to historic districts and properties.
Take note of the trees where you are. Streets look wider without trees, but perhaps the openness is less inviting. Trees provide shadows and tell nature’s story as the seasons change. Without so many trees (and other plants/bushes) would the seasons mean as much? (Certainly, my excitement for warm weather would not nearly be as great as it is!) Can you imagine your favorite street, campus, or park without its trees? Next time you’re describing a historic resource, a house or a district, pay additional attention to the trees. Chances are that they contribute to its setting and historic integrity.
Historic preservation is part of all sorts of projects, especially sidewalk construction (or reconstruction) in historic villages. Sidewalks encounter contributing features such as walkways, hitching posts, markers, landscaping, fences, and trees, as seen above. This photo shows sidewalk construction ongoing and tree protection barriers in place. Note the tight squeeze of the sidewalk between the trees and the historic properties.
Do you like bridges? Summertime? Travel? New places? State fairs? Cornfields? Tours? Scholarly papers? Meeting new people with similar interests? If so, consider attending the 5th Annual Historic Bridge Conference, held August 9th – 12th, 2013 in Iowa. It will be the perfect combination of all of the above, and then some. Here is some conference information, provided by Jason Smith of The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.
Each year since 2009, the Historic Bridge Weekend Conference has taken place in August or September, and each year, it has drawn in more people who are experts in historic bridges, preservation or history, as well as those who are either bridge enthusiasts or have a keen interest in how these vintage structures were built and how they played a role in American History.
This year’s Historic Bridge Weekend is coming to America’s heartland, the state of Iowa, where the history of transportation and infrastructure and the development of America as a whole go together like bread and butter. The Lincoln and Jefferson Highways meet in the state. Iowa was the first state to introduce the No Passing Zone signs. Kate Shelley made her heroic deed by stopping a passenger train from falling through a bridge washed away by flood waters.
And the bridges? Iowa takes pride in its bridge building. The first bridge designs, like the Marsh arch, the aluminum girder and the Thacher truss originated from Iowa. Numerous bowstring arches were built throughout the state. Many big-name bridge builders from Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania made their mark in Iowa, while the state had its own bridge building companies located in Clinton, Ottumwa and Des Moines, which dominated the American landscape during the first half of the 20th Century.
This year’s Historic Bridge Weekend will take place August 9th through the 12th and will focus on the eastern half of Iowa, where many historic bridges dating as far back as 1870 still exist today.
The agenda will include tours throughout the state, paper presentations, and a dinner each night. It sounds like a great weekend conference, and an excellent reason to tour America’s heartland. Bring your cameras and practice your photography as Jason Smith is working on The History of Truss Bridges in Iowa and welcoming contributions.
For those who are interested in participating in the dinner and presentations, please RSPV Jason D. Smith at the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles at: email@example.com or JDSmith77@gmx.net by no later than 15 July. Information on the bridge tours and the dinner and presentations will be provided through e-mail. Lodging and camping possibilities are available upon request.
Maybe some of you haven’t had the opportunity to attend a conference yet, or are hesitant to do so because you’re not a bridge expert, for example. Maybe you just like bridges. Don’t worry! Conferences are meant to be educational, and if you have an interest in the conference subject then you are sure to learn a lot and meet interesting people. Smaller conferences with tours and many opportunities for networking and conversing are very rewarding, much more than those conferences purely focused on paper presentations. So, if you’re considering this Historic Bridge Weekend, go for it! In addition, Iowa is a beautiful state. (And might I recommend a visit to Field of Dreams, in addition to all of those lovely bridges.)
Find the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles on Facebook, too.
If you’re attending, let me know! And remember, in the Preservation ABCs: B is for Bridge.
How often do you stroll around your neighborhood, whether suburban, small town, or urban, and take in the properties? If you live in the northeast, the forecast is perfect for strolling in this warm spring weather, so take advantage of it! (To those of you elsewhere, I wish you the same weather.)
You might recall posts how to read your environment, mostly streetscape and public space based. See the following:
- Street observations
- Parking lots and spaces
- Trash cans & recycling bins
- Sidewalks & Curbs
- Wayfinding signage
- Pedestrian malls
- Bad signage
But let’s step back from the street and onto the front lawns or climb the front stoop, or walk into a lobby. There is another obvious element for discussing our built environment: the buildings in which we live. Where you live likely gives you a default for the setting. For instance, Preservation in Pink often discusses smaller towns and villages, because most of the current inspiration is derived from Vermont. Yet, we all live in very different places: from rural settings to suburban settings to cities, or perhaps somewhere in between, or even a combination of sorts. And it is important to recognize and read these environments. Streets and street elements need context, just as buildings do. So, when you’re out and about, take a look around you. These aren’t technical questions; but, rather tips to help open your mind and learning how to look and read the environment. Practice often and soon this information will register automatically.
- What is the primary look of the residences in your neighborhood? Single homes? Duplexes (aka half houses or semi detached)? Are they multiple stories?
- Is there lawn space? How close are the buildings to the street? Is the green space landscaped?
- Where are the mailboxes?
- Are there fences?
- Where do the cars park?
- Where do the children play? (Lawns, streets, parks?)
- Do the streets form winding streets or a grid?
- Is the locale purely residential, or is commercial mixed in? Are the commercial and residential blocks different types?
- Does the neighborhood look to be the same age? Do the buildings seem to have different architectural styles, or do they look similar? Does the age indicate original construction — workers’ housing, post war, or does it appear to have developed organically over a century?
- Does it seem like people know their neighbors?
Aside from pure curiosity, why bother asking yourself these questions? You can tie this back to the idea that every place matters to someone or to a group of people. Understanding where you live or where others live and being able describe it accurately allows for discussion intangible and tangible elements.
What do you notice in your neighborhood?
It’s National Preservation Month! Hooray! Good stuff coming your way.