Reading List: Historic Preservation & the Built Environment

Large, mature trees contribute to the historic streetscape and historic properties.

Thank you to the Wilmington Library for having me as part of their summer lecture series. I thoroughly enjoyed talking about historic preservation and the built environment with community members and visitors. As promised, here is a reading list of related books:

  • Outside Lies Magic by John R. Stilgoe
  • The Motel in America by John A. Jakle and Keith A. Sculle
  • The Gas Station in America by John A. Jakle and Keith A. Sculle
  • Diners, Bowling Alleys, And Trailer Parks: Chasing The American Dream In The Postwar Consumer Culture by Andrew Hurley
  • Blue Highways: A Journey into America by William Least Heat Moon
  • Main Street to Miracle Mile by Chester Liebs
  • Once Upon a Playground: A Celebration of Classic American Playgrounds, 1920-1975 by Brenda Biondo
  • A Field Guide to American Houses (Revised): The Definitive Guide to Identifying and Understanding America’s Domestic Architecture by Virginia Savage McAlester

Have any suggestions of your own? Add them in the comments. Happy reading (don’t forget your coffee). Cheers!


Good Reasons to Look Up: Burlington Sign Tour

Do you stroll around, always looking up? If you’re preservationist, you probably do. If you haven’t thought to look up at buildings and ceilings and cornices, give it a try. You never know what you might discover in your own town. It’s like playing tourist where you live.

Not sure where to start? Check out this Seven Days video  about Burlington signs, featuring two of my fellow UVM alums, Devin Colman and Britta Fenniman Tonn who wander around Burlington reading history through signs.


Reading List 2016

What are you reading in 2016? I have four definites on my list, three of which have been on my to read list for years. This is the year I read them. Why? My reasons are below.

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books of all time, and my mom gifted this to me for Christmas. A novel is a good place to start.

Roads to Quoz by William Least Heat Moon. Blue Highways is another one of my all-time favorites, and my sister Sarah gave this to me years ago. A good Americana-road tripping book is always a good idea.

A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia Savage McAlester. The update of the essential historic preservation/architectural history classic. I could use a refresher in architectural history and some new lessons on the suburban development.

The Great Bridge by David McCullough is about the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. I started this book about 3.5 years ago and never continued despite the fact that I know it will be great and it’s been recommended to me over and over. Time to focus and read.

I’d love to know your planned reads. For fun? For school? For career development?

(Proper credit: post inspired by Bernice’s post. Thanks for the idea!) 

Alleys of Old Quebec City

Earlier this week, we rambled down streets of Old Quebec City and noted the cleanliness of each, as well as the architectural beauty. Those same qualities carry into the alleys of Quebec City. Neat as a pin, filled with art or interesting fire escapes, these are not typical alleys squeezed between blocks or buildings. Take a look:

A stone walkway, red staircase, and a light: quite welcoming for an alley.

A stone walkway, red staircase, and a light: quite welcoming for an alley.

Sort of an alley, sort of a street. Closed doors, lots of awnings – it was hard to tell what purpose this served, when looking at it at night.

That same alley in the day. An artists' alley, which explains all of the awnings.

That same alley in the day. An artists’ alley, which explains all of the awnings.

An alley filled with sculpture and a shiny metal fire escape.

Looking up in that same alley. The sculpture connects to the building and continues up. Look up!

I wouldn’t hang out in alleys (by choice or on a regular basis), but these Old Quebec City alleys filled with art are inviting people into them. What do you think?

Vermont’s Sculpture on the Highway

Yesterday’s photo of concrete sculpture was not a crowd favorite, and it’s understandable. Concrete blocks? So exciting. With just a glance, there isn’t much to it, particularly in a cloudy season with no snow or leaves. Perhaps taking this interstate sculpture in greater context will make this sculpture more interesting. Yes, there are more concrete sculptures at rest areas on Vermont’s interstates. There are marble sculptures, too. Read on to learn about Vermont’s interstate art.

An art collection, known as “Sculpture on the Highway,” was developed in the late 1960s/early 1970s. There are eighteen concrete and marble sculptures located at rest areas and pull offs on Interstate 91 and 89, stretching from the Massachusetts border to the Canadian border. The intent was to create one (very long, linear) sculpture park. These sculptures were commissioned as a result of Vermont’s sculpture symposia, an American response to an international phenomena of the 1960s goals of fostering peaceful artistic dialogue. The efforts were funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Vermont Arts Council, and organized by Paul Aschenbach, a University of Vermont Sculpture professor. Aschenbach brought in talented sculptors from all over the world. The marble was donated by the Vermont Marble Company and the concrete donated by the S.T. Griswold Concrete Company.

Today some of these sculptures are located in rest areas or pull offs that have since been closed due to budget restraints. However, you can see many of them  (though you might have to look closely – the Georgia sculpture is set behind the parking lot, not a place you’d immediately notice). In 2013, the Vermont Agency of Transportation relocated a 1968 marble sculpture by Viktor Rogy from the original Guilford rest area to the new Guilford rest area off I-91 northbound. While it is in a new setting, the (now cleaned) marble sculpture can once again be viewed by the traveling public in a similar environment.

The Viktor Rogy 1968 marble sculpture in the old Guilford rest stop, prior to relocation and cleaning.

The Viktor Rogy 1968 marble sculpture in the old Guilford rest stop, prior to relocation and cleaning.

A bit more interesting than just one concrete sculpture, yes? Want more information? See these links:

“It’s a Wonderful Life” Radio Play

Merry Christmas! What holiday traditions have you been doing? Are you starting new traditions? One of my favorite new traditions is to see the “It’s a Wonderful Life” Live Radio Play. The Lost Nation Theater in Montpelier, VT has two shows every year, and this year the Champlain College Theater performed the play in Burlington. Written by Joe Landry, the play adapts the movie to a 1940s live radio play.

live radio play

There are five cast members who read for multiple characters. As an audience member you see the characters read from their scripts at the microphone and then turn around to be another character. You see the sound effects being created off to the side and the stage manager holds signs for “applause” and “on air.” The characters also sing commercial jingles during the play break.

For those who did not grow up listening to radio plays, it’s fascinating. And for those who did, it’s a nostalgic trip. TIf you love the movie, you’ll love the play. (I cried at the same exact point in the play as in the movie.) This year I attended with some friends who had never seen the movie, but also loved the radio play. It’s definitely a crowd pleaser and worth your time.

Looking for a performance near you? Check the listings. Though I see Lost Nation Theater is not listed, yet it’s always performed. So ask around if you’re not sure. Have you seen it? Will you?

[Book Signing] Vermont Beer: A History of a Brewing Revolution

Vermont is known for its craft breweries, in addition to our foliage, cheese, ice cream, skiing, and maple syrup. Tonight at Phoenix Books in Burlington, VT, come join the authors, Adam Krakowski & Kurt Staudter, of Vermont Beer: A History of a Brewing Revolution for a discussion of the book and a book signing. (Then go find a good pint around the corner!) It’s sure to be a good event. Adam is a good friend and a fellow UVM HP alum, and is absolutely passionate about his studies and his beer. Knowing the hard work he put into this book, I’m excited to see it presented. Way to go, Adam and Kurt!

beercoverSome information about the authors & the book:


Adam Krakowski is a decorative and fine arts conservator based in Quechee, Vermont. He holds a BA in art history with a minor in museum studies and a MS in historic preservation from the University of Vermont. He has worked at museums, historical societies, art galleries and restoration firms all over New York and New England. He was the recipient of the 2010 Weston Cate Jr. Research Fellowship from the Vermont Historical Society for his project A Bitter Past: Hop Farming in Nineteenth-Century Vermont.

Kurt Staudter is the executive director of the Vermont Brewers Association, which represents all the breweries in the state. He is also the Vermont columnist for the Yankee Brew News and has written about beer and politics in the Vermont Standard and Vermont Magazine. He learned about beer at a very early age (perhaps a little too early by today’s standards) from his first-generation German American father, who made sure that his love for good food, great beer and family were passed on to the next generation. Along with his wife, Patti, he runs the trade association for the Vermont brewers from Springfield, Vermont.

ABOUT THE BOOK: Vermonters love all things local, so it is no surprise that the Green Mountain State has had a thriving craft beer scene for more than twenty years. Early Vermont brewers, though, faced many obstacles in bringing their beer to the thirsty masses, including a state-imposed prohibition beginning in 1852. Conditions remained unfavorable until Greg Noonan championed brewing legislation that opened the door for breweries and brewpubs in the 1980s. About the same time, beloved Catamount also began brewing, and Vermont’s craft beer scene exploded. Years ahead of the rest of the country, local favorites like Hill Farmstead, Long Trail and Rock Art Brewing have provided world-class beers to grateful patrons. From small upstarts to well-recognized national brands like Magic Hat and Harpoon, Vermont boasts more breweries per capita than any other state in the country. With brewer interviews and historic recipes included here, discover the sudsy story of beer in Vermont.

Hope to see you there!

Phoenix Books, 191 Bank Street, Burlington, VT @ 7pm

A Visit to Wilmington

If you’re a preservationist in Vermont, you know Wilmington for the 2012 Historic Preservation and Downtown conference and the 2011 flooding of Tropical Storm Irene, among other reasons. If you’re an out-of-stater, you probably know Wilmington as a ski town; Mount Snow is just up the road. And maybe you’ve all heard about Dot’s Restaurant (The NY Times reported on its reopening last December). Wilmington is a beautiful small town in southern Vermont with a good stock of architecture, amenities for visitors and pleasant streets. Take a look (side note: click on the photographs to enlarge, and see them with better clarity). 

Wilmington is currently filled with giant chairs.

Wilmington is currently filled with giant chairs.

Ascending front gables on South Main Street.

Ascending front gables on South Main Street.

The 1898 Crafts Inn.

The 1898 Crafts Inn.

Route 9 & Route 100. Check out those brackets!

Route 9 & Route 100. Check out those brackets!

This building is undergoing renovations (still, post flood). It is the 1930 Parmalee & Howe Drugstore.

This building is undergoing renovations (still, post flood). It is the 1930 Parmalee & Howe Drugstore.

The intersection of Route 9 and Route 100 features a beautiful pocket park.

The intersection of Route 9 and Route 100 features a beautiful pocket park.

Looking for more history? Read the entire National Register nomination here. It’s now available online thanks to the massive digitization effort by Vermont Division for Historic Preservation (our SHPO office). And it’s almost leaf peeping season, followed by ski season. Enjoy Vermont if you’re coming for a visit!

A Visit to the Long Island Museum: Coney Island and Jones Beach

The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook, NY is a place that most Long Island schoolchildren visit and probably know as “The Carriage Museum” or “The Stony Brook Museums.” The museum grounds have a schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, and other historic buildings that you can explore. The carriage museum is home to thousands of carriages. And the art museum hosts the rotating exhibits. Previously, I wrote about my visit to the exhibit “America’s Kitchens.”

This season (June 14-December 29) the featured exhibit was, “Coney Island and Jones Beach: Empires by the Sea.” The south shore of Long Island, Jones Beach included, is near and dear to my heart and Coney Island is on my list of places to visit, so my family headed to the museum for an educational afternoon. Unfortunately, copyright rules prohibited any photography. The following quotes are from the exhibit and the Long Island Museum exhibit page.

“If Paris is France, then Coney Island, between June and September, is the world.
George Tilyou, owner of Steeplechase Park, 1886

“You may cross the world and find no resort to compare with Jones Beach.  No other beach or playground offers so much for so little…”
Meyer Berger, writer for the New York Times, 1947

The two exhibits worked their way in opposite directions of the museum gallery, meeting in the middle. Visitors were able to choose how to begin. Historic photographs and maps, antique objects, archival video footage, and well written text carried you from the beginning of both places to the present. Highlights included vintage lifeguard uniforms, an oral history interview (video) with a man who had been a lifeguard for 60+ summers, Coney Island signage, and video of the crazy amusement rides. (Read: I wish the steeplechase ride still existed.)  Did you see the photo post of the parachute drop? It is the only structure remaining from Steeplechase Park and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Steeplechase at Coney Island. Source HABS via wikipedia. Click for link.

The Steeplechase at Coney Island. Source HABS via wikipedia. Click for link.

Coney Island has a long, winding, interesting history of politics, transportation, amusement, culture, and it’s ever changing story of use, multiple parks and reputation. Have you been? I also want to ride the Cyclone, a 1927 historic wooden roller coaster that scares the living daylights out of most people.

Need some more information about Coney Island? Check out Coney Island History and the Coney Island History Project. And here’s a good post from a Brooklyn blogger.

As for Jones Beach: it is a New York State Park that opened in 1929. At 2,400 acres, it was the first public park of its kind, almost resort like for anyone. The park opened with swimming pools, art deco bathhouses, an amphitheater, sports fields, a two-mile boardwalk – all open to the public. If you’re driving on Ocean Parkway, you know Jones Beach by the pencil shaped water tower.  In 2012, the Cultural Landscape Foundation declared the park at risk on its annual “Landslide” list due to lack of funding and a lack of comprehensive planning. The park is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

This rotating exhibit space at the Long Island Museum always puts on an enjoyable, educational show. I enjoyed learning more about Long Island, though now it has me wishing for those warm summer amusement months.

Have you been to your local museum lately? Have you learned anything new about your hometown or region?

Preservation Photos #197

A preservation win! Aluminum siding removed, clapboard exposed. Ah, that looks so much better. Check out that potential. Good job, Burlington.

A preservation win! Aluminum siding removed (almost all the way), clapboard exposed. Ah, that looks so much better. Check out that potential, original windows behind those storms, too. Good job, Burlington.