Reclaim the Streets for Summer

We’ve talked about parklets previously, and you’ve probably seen them in one form or another, as they are popping up more and more. (Learn about parklets in this post, and check out Montreal examples here.) Technically, parklets are for the public – literally, mini resting areas/green spaces that borrow the street for people instead of cars and are free to the public. However,  restaurants create their own versions of parklets in the form of outdoor seating in parking spaces – usually on wood decks at curb height. On my last visit to Montreal I noticed another one, seen below.

See the parklet across the street?

And diagonally across from the restaurant seating, I found an actual parklet. This one was quite simple: benches and planters. This set up gives people a spot to sit and gaze at the architecture, allows for more pedestrian use of the sidewalk, cafe space, and creates a more park like setting on this historic street. What do you think?

A parklet in Old Montreal.

Parklets and outdoor seating areas are reclaiming* the streets for pedestrians, which make summer even more fun (especially for those of us with long, cold winters). Choosing to cater to people rather than automobiles is an important aspect of placemaking, and it can make a big difference a city’s vitality. Seen any lately? If you have, I’d love to see them. Use #presinpink on social media (Twitter, Instagram) to share!

*Reclaiming not to be confused with road construction reclamation. Just a transportation joke for you. haha. ;)

Church Turned Condos in Toronto

Large churches struggle to find alternative uses once they no longer serve as houses of worship. Whether located in a small town or a large city, too many churches sit empty and abandoned. Once in a while you’ll come across a success story. This church in Toronto has been converted into condos. Take a look at the photos and let me know what you think.

The Victoria Presbyterian Church converted to condos.

The Victoria Presbyterian Church converted to condos.

Only being able to see these from the outside you can see that floors have been added. The balconies are clear glass. The original windows have been removed, but the fenestration remains.

Only being able to see these from the outside you can see that floors have been added. The balconies are clear glass. The original windows have been removed, but the fenestration remains.

Another view of the church, now condos.

Another view of the church, now condos.

A bit about the Victoria Lofts:

Converted from a turn-of-the-century church into 38 gorgeous units, this building is beautiful, rooted in history, and ideally located.  Boasting soaring ceilings and gorgeous architecture including a dramatic sloping roof, a copper-trimmed steeple, romanesque arches and curved brick columns, suites range from 600 to 1800 square feet over one or two storeys.  Originally the West Toronto Presbyterian Church, this stunning building has been a vital part of the Junction neighbourhood since 1885, when it first opened its doors.  Renamed the Victoria Presbyterian Church to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897, this structure is one of several historic buildings in the area.  Located near the West Toronto Rail Path, a multi-use 4km path that links several Toronto neighbourhoods, the Junction is well-connected and a haven for any one seeking to reduce their carbon-footprint.  Spend an afternoon checking out the Junction Arts Festival, a neighbourhood display of music, dance and visual art, or take a fifteen-minute stroll south to High Park.

Apparently, converting churches into lofts is a thing in Toronto. Check out this post and this post. Do you want to live in a church? What do you think? A good idea? I’d like to see the inside. But, from the outside it looks pretty good. The windows would be better intact, but perhaps that wouldn’t work for the residences. In that case, the structure remains as a landmark in the neighborhood and it is legible.

Do you have a church in your town that could serve as a residence?

“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?

Parklet Sighting in Montreal

What’s lovelier than sitting outside on a warm summer day for lunch or enjoying a drink and your company at the end of the day? Many restaurants, particularly in our cold northern climate, do not have permanent outdoor seating. Why? Because sitting outside is only a good idea for a few months out of the year. For the rest of the year the sidewalks and patios are cold, covered in snow and inhospitable. But, come summertime we want to take advantage of that nice weather and soak it in as much as we can.

Remember learning about parklets? It’s a conversion of parking space (temporary or permanent) into public space. Some are free for the public, outfitted with benches and plantings and designed to be meeting spaces for community members. Restaurants are catching on and creating outdoor dining areas from parking spaces – a twist on the “park” of parklets. While these are clearly affiliated with restaurants (meaning, not free for the public because you need to make a purchase), it’s still a great use of space to bring the community to the street.

These restaurants parklets are from Montreal, Quebec. While they vary in design and style, all are enclosed and encompass part of the sidewalk and parking spaces.

DSCN0444

A casual parklet with pink picnic tables.

This view shows the parklet platform half on the sidewalk, half in the street.

This view shows the parklet platform half on the sidewalk, half in the street.

Enclosed in, metal fence. Across the street is the Old Port of Montreal.

Enclosed in, metal fence. Across the street is the Old Port of Montreal.

Almost completely in the parking space, this parklet dresses up the scene with flower boxes and planting.

Almost completely in the parking space, this parklet dresses up the scene with flower boxes and planting. And check out the view across the street. Beautiful buildings!

A closer view of the restaurant parklet. (Side note: In the life of a preservationist, I always feel like people think I'm taking photographs of them. Nope, sorry, just the environment!)

A closer view of the restaurant parklet. (Side note: In the life of a preservationist, I always feel like people think I’m taking photographs of them. Nope, sorry, just the environment!)

What do you think of restaurant parklets? Do you want to be eating next to traffic? It’s a great use of space if your town or city has narrow sidewalks, but maybe sipping your drink and enjoying your meal is more difficult if a car is idling in traffic next to you. Yay or nay? Seen any in your neighborhood? Would you prefer a parklet for a restaurant or free for public use?

Abandoned Vermont: Highgate Falls Church

It’s a good time to address underused churches in Vermont. The Vermont Historic Preservation & Downtown Conference features a work day at Christ Church on Thursday May 1, 2014. Too many of our churches sit empty with small, shrinking congregations, extremely limited (or no) funding, and an uncertain fate. The case of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Highgate, VT is one of the many that is not abandoned, but is underused. It is used seasonally for weddings. Members of the church currently attend services in nearby Swanton, VT. Currently this church appears to be in good condition.

The Preservation Trust of Vermont works with Partners for Sacred Spaces and the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation to host retreats that will aid organizations in developing uses for their churches. (This year’s is May 15-16 at the Grand Isle Lake House in Grand Isle, VT.)

Constructed in 1834.

Constructed in 1834.

Located in Highgate Falls, VT.

Located in Highgate Falls, VT.

The rear of the church.

The rear of the church.

You can see clear through the window across the church. Is anything more lovely than a historic window?

You can see clear through the window across the church. Is anything more lovely than a historic window?

Beautiful windows.

Beautiful windows.

The sign on the front of the church.

The sign on the front of the church.

This odd photo - pardon the blurry foreground, blame the iphone - shows the interior of the church. That is as much as I could see inside.

This odd photo – pardon the blurry foreground, blame the iphone – shows the interior of the church. That’s as much as I could see inside.

What a beauty. This church is located down the road from Highgate Manor and the Highgate Falls Lenticular truss. Read more about Highgate, a small town in Franklin County, northwestern Vermont.

 

Register for the 20th Annual Vermont Preservation Conference

islandpond

Registration is open for Vermont’s 20th Annual Historic Preservation & Downtown Conference, to be held in Island Pond on Friday May 2, 2014.

Highlights of this year’s conference include (see the full program here):

  • Hands on Hammers work day at Christ Church in Island Pond on Thursday May 1. Come volunteer, lend a hand, and help us get this 1875 Gothic style church on the mend.
  • Keynote Speaker Nancy Boone, Federal Preservation Officer, HUD
  • Preservation Awards
  • Four concurrent afternoon session tracks, two of which feature 30 min “TED” style talks about historic preservation, architecture (porches, railroad depots, modern architecture, Vermont architecture), community, funding, history, folklore, and more. The other two tracks offer guided tour of the National Fish & Wildlife Refuge or Brighton State Park Mid-Century Modern Architecture.
  • Closing reception.

Hope to see you there. The presentations will be great, and the shorter tracks will allow you to learn more, hear more and not feel fidgety sitting for a 75 minute presentation. (I’ll be presenting about Vermont’s railroad depots with one of my colleagues.)

Island Pond is a unique town in the Northeast Kingdom. Come see! And pack your snow shoes. (It’ll be May in Vermont, after all. Oh wait, it could be sunny and warm. You never know!)

Vermont Preservation Awards 2014

The 2014 Vermont Historic Preservation & Downtown Conference will be held on Friday May 2 in Island Pond. Part of the conference includes the Preservation Awards. Know of a good preservation project in Vermont? Now is the chance to highlight it. Read on for more information from the Preservation Trust of Vermont. 

PRESERVATION TRUST OF VERMONT NOW ACCEPTING NOMINATIONS FOR 2014 PRESERVATION AWARDS

Burlington, February 12, 2014 — The Preservation Trust of Vermont is now accepting nominations for the 2014 Preservation Awards.

Since 1982, The Preservation Trust of Vermont has recognized outstanding contributions in the field of historic preservation. Awards are presented to the individuals and organizations that have made special contributions in preserving Vermont’s historic architecture. Examples include the preservation or adaptive use of an historic property; educational and public information materials and programs; building trades and professional training; programming at historic properties; financial support; and special encouragement and leadership in the preservation field.

Nomination materials can be found on the Trust’s website [click here]. The deadline for submissions is March 4. Awards will be presented at the Preservation Trust of Vermont’s annual conference on May 2, 2014 in Island Pond, Vermont.

Award winners from 2013 and 2012 include: The Vermont Agency of Transportation for the Checkered House Bridge Project; Housing Vermont and Springfield Housing Unlimited for The Ellis Block, Springfield, Vermont; Larry & Lise Hamel for The Hardwick Inn, Hardwick, Vermont; the Town of Bristol for Holley Hall, Bristol, VT; the Putney Historical Society, Lyssa Papazian, Jeff Shumlin and Ming Chou for the Putney General Store Project; Birgit Deeds of Shelburne Farms, Patricia O’Donnell of Heritage Landscapes and Doug Porter of Porter and Associates for the Shelburne Farms Formal Garden Restoration Project; the Town Hall Theater, Inc. for the Town Hall Theater, Middlebury, VT; David Clem for the Wilder Center, Wilder, VT; Mimi Baird of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation, Plymouth Notch, VT; and the Friends of the Valley Foundation, the Wilmington Vermont Fund, FloodStock, the Deerfield Valley Rotary, Wilmington Vermont Flood Relief Fund, and Lisa Sullivan and Philip Taylor of Bartelby’s Books, Wilmington, VT.

The Preservation Trust of Vermont is a nonprofit organization founded in 1980 to assist communities and individuals in the ongoing effort to preserve and use Vermont’s rich collection of historic and architectural resources.

For more information, please contact Paul Bruhn, Executive Director, Preservation Trust of Vermont, 104 Church Street, Burlington, VT  05401, (802) 658-6647Paul@ptvermont.org or visit www.ptvermont.org.

Here is a video of the Shelburne Farms Formal Garden Restoration – a 2012 award recipient.

Where Do You Find Local Deals?

Groupon, Deal Chicken, Amazon Local — you’ve all heard of these, and more, I’m sure. These sites offer discounts on travel, restaurants, outings, shopping, and stuff. Do you have something else where you live?

In Vermont there is a new site called “Localvore Today,” which features local Vermont businesses. The goal is to encourage Vermonters to shop/dine/visit local businesses in order to improve the local economy and support local business. Sometimes local shopping is more expensive than chain-shopping (in the short-term, perhaps not the long-term) so Localvore Today gives anyone the opportunity to experience the local businesses at a great deal. Often the deals include pay $5 for a $10 voucher at a restaurant, or 50% off a fitness/wellness class. I purchased three group exercise classes for $22 instead of $45.

Buy Local Vermont - great deals!

Buy Local Vermont – great deals!

Another option for local deals is to purchase the Buy Local book from Local First Vermont. This book costs $15 and includes great coupons to businesses throughout Vermont (mostly northern Vermont). Deals are as good as spend $5 at Speeder & Earl’s (coffee), get $5 off. Or buy one burrito, get one free. Deals are also on ski rentals, kayak rentals, pet food, oil changes, gifts, restaurants, etc. It is a great resource for discounts, outing ideas, and more. You can easily earn back the $15 cost. (Luck me, I won mine at a Yankee Swap this year. It is a good reminder to buy one next year.)

Now I’m curious. Where do you live and how do you find your local deals? Is there an equivalent Localvore site or Buy Local book? Please share, and I”ll update this post to include other areas.

Thoughts about Home: Part One

Home is our common thread and universal conversation. Talk to a neighbor, stranger, fellow traveler halfway across the world and ask about that person’s home. Where is it? What is it like? Not everyone will have the same answers, but we innately understand each other. (And it’s a more interesting conversation than the weather.) Over the past few weeks, readers have answered questions about home and shared their stories about where they live now, what they love, and what home means to them. The conversation began with this post and this post, and continues here. Part One (today’s post) will discuss “What is Home.” Part Two will discuss the physical elements and making a residence a home. Part Three will discuss our expectations. 

Part One: What and Where is Home?

It takes me a long time before someplace becomes “home” to me.  For much of my adult life, when I said “home” I referred to my parents’ house. I never felt settled anywhere else or felt like I belonged anywhere else. Virginia was college. Nebraska was one summer. North Carolina was three years, but I knew it was temporary. I lived, wrote, ran, worked in preservation and made a few friends, but I always felt as though there was a new place to go. I had a gypsy soul. Where was I going to find another home, and what exactly did I want? I didn’t have answers. I called this form of wanderlust “geographic commitment phobia.”

Over four years ago, I moved to Vermont. Immediately, I was content to stay for a long while, which was a pleasant, unexpected surprise. However, “home” still didn’t seem like an appropriate description for Vermont. It didn’t matter that I registered my car here, attended school, voted, lived and worked in Vermont, and absolutely loved the state – it wasn’t yet home.  The feeling of home took a long time. In fact, it took about four years with many twists, turns, and moves. What happened? Finally, I discovered where I wanted to be and found a great community of friends. To me, that’s what home is after your childhood home: loving where you live (meaning your city/town and your residence) and having friends to share it with. That must sound obvious to many, but it can take a while to get it right – to find that happy, comforting place (other than your childhood house).

Mary (from NYC) writes that she had trouble feeling at home while living in the Panama Canal Zone. “The home of my childhood and young adulthood was the midwest. And then. . . at the age of 34 my husband and I accepted teaching positions in the Panama Canal Zone, where we stayed until we retired. Many “Zonians” felt that Panama was home, but I never did. Frequently I would ask myself, “What am I doing here?” It was, of course, a foreign environment–although the Canal Zone itself was all American. Still we were surrounded by a foreign culture and that is an easy explanation, I suppose, of why I never felt “at home.” Actually, I believe it was more the weather, the vegetation, the lack of seasons. I could never get used to a place where birds were green. Now I am back in the States–in New York City, which is a far cry from my midwestern roots, in many respects, but I feel quite at home.”

Not all feel the same. Some of you are lucky and feel at home immediately. Dave W (from NYC) phrased it nicely: “We’ve always adhered to the philosophy of “home is where the hearth is.” I guess we’re somewhat nomadic, never afraid to try living in a new place (though New York City is very hard to leave, with its endless things to do). We’ve always felt at home as soon as we’ve settled in a bit, cooked a meal, and slept comfortably. Whether in the mountains of Germany, working-class London, or New York City, we’ve always felt “at home” right away, wherever we lived.”

Interestingly, the varied responses all referenced home without outwardly defining it. It’s something we don’t have to specifically describe to know what someone means. (OR, you’re all excellent students and only answered the exact questions you were asked! I did not ask how you define home. Please do so in the comments if you’re so inclined.)

Based on your answers: home is where you live, where you work, where you shop, where you enjoy being. Jenny (Vermont) defines home as where her family is. Jane (Vermont) wrote that she does all of these things (live, work, sleep, play, socialize, etc.) here, and that makes it home.

Home is so many things: a particular landscape, the built environment, a feeling, who you’re with and where you feel a connection. Home is where you live your life and it is a place that defines you for a critical chapter of your life. There is not one answer suited for everyone, and there is no right or wrong explanation. It’s nice to know that different places are home to different people, because each place will be important to someone (“this place matters”).

Stay tuned for Thoughts about Home: Part Two, which will share more readers’ thoughts on how to make a place home (what changes do we make, what matters to us).

Black Friday, Flannel Friday & Small Business Saturday

The term “Black Friday” did not originate in reference to the consumer madness following Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Historically, “Black Friday” refers to September 24, 1869, the day when the gold market crashed at the hand of Ulysses S. Grant. To his credit, he was attempting to improve the economy, but it didn’t go as planned.

“Black Friday” as a shopping day originated in the 1960s, when Philadelphia reporters described the rush of people at the stores on the day after Thanksgiving. However, even before the 1960s, this day was important to the retail industry and Christmas shoppers. According to Time magazine (A Brief History of Black Friday):

As early as the 19th century, shoppers have viewed Thanksgiving as the traditional start to the holiday shopping season, an occasion marked by celebrations and sales. Department stores in particular locked onto this marketing notion, hosting parades to launch the start of the first wave of Christmas advertisements, chief among them, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, running in New York City since 1924. The holiday spree became so important to retailers that during the Great Depression, they appealed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 to move Thanksgiving up in order to stretch out the holiday shopping season. Roosevelt obliged, moving Thanksgiving one week earlier, but didn’t announce the change until October. As a result, Americans had two Thanksgivings that year — Roosevelt’s, derisively dubbed “Franksgiving,” and the original. Because the switchover was handled so poorly, few observed it, and the change resulted in little economic boost.

Do you shop on Black Friday? Shopping is tempting sometimes because it’s easy to get caught up in the advertising. However, it’s also chaos and according to this Atlantic article, only a few items are actually the best deal. Shoppers beware! But, really, if you choose to shop on Black Friday, that’s fine. Still, can we all agree that it’s just not fair for stores to open on Thanksgiving Day when they are kicking off Black Friday? We spend all day and weeks prior telling the internet for what we are thankful and then we head out to the stores immediately after we finish the turkey and pie? It seems a bit off-kilter.

As an alternative to Black Friday, some towns and cities like Montpelier, VT have Flannel Friday which encourages shoppers to wear flannel and shop at local businesses. If you wear flannel, you get a discount. In other places it’s called “Plaid Friday.” (Vermont likes to be different, of course!)

Saturday November 30, 2013 is Small Business Saturday, an initiative led by American Express to encourage people to shop at local businesses. Merchants, if you’re an American Express member, you’re set. Customers, if you enroll your card and then spend $10 using your American Express card, you can get $10 back from American Express. Check out the full details here and then sign up here!

Shop Small on Small Business Saturday!

Shop Small on Small Business Saturday!

Will you shop? What is your preferred day? What is your favorite local store? Share any good links below.