Searching for a good preservation related podcast?

Need a preservation podcast? It took me a long time to get into podcasts. I’m the type of person who likes to have music playing all of the time, but podcasts to which I needed to pay attention were never quite my thing. However, after getting addicted to Serial podcast (Season 1) for my commute, I’ve been on the hunt for others that hold my attention.

I’ll browse Fresh Air, On Point and Vermont Edition to catch up on the news or hear new stories. I love Dear Sugar and Modern Love, and look forward to the new episodes every week. Yet, I was still looking for something preservation related or planning related. With a call to Twitter friends, @smithpres said 99% invisible is 100% awesome. She was right.

99% Invisible discusses the unnoticed architecture and design of the world that most of us do not stop to consider. Each episode has a unique topic and ranges from 15 min to 30+ minutes. You can scroll through the feed and listen to whateer catches your eye; no need to listen to them in order. There are so many fascinating episodes! I want to share so many new things with you! But, rather than reiterate what the podcast has to say, you should just listen to these episodes:

Episode 202: Mojave Phone Booth. There was a phone in the middle of the desert, miles away from pavement and towns.

Episode 200: Miss Manhattan. One woman was the model for so many of the statues in New York City.

Episode 188: Fountain Drinks. Did you know water fountains originated for public health reasons?

Episode 162: The Winchester Mystery House. It’s still a sad story, but not exactly what you think.

Episode 154: PDX Carpet. How the decades old carpet became a thing and became so loved.

Episode 93: Revolving Doors. The reason for the invention is hilarious.

Episode 75: Secret Staircases. What, there is more in LA than just freeways?

And there are so many more! Architecture, the built environment, random objects. I am obsessed. It’s like sitting in on my favorite class (Bob McCullough’s History on the Land at UVM) whenever I want.

Let me know which episode is your favorite, and of any other podcasts!


Philly Forum 2014


This week Philadelphia welcomes Forum 2014: A Keystone Connection, the Statewide Conference on Heritage / Byways to the Past. The 2014 conference is a partnership between the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions, Preservation Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

Transportation, historic preservation, history, technology – this conference looks like it’s going to be great. Tickets sold out! Will you be there? I’ll be presenting on Thursday July 17 as part of the session, Crossing into History: Compatible Bridge Design in Historic Districts. Here’s the panel summary and speakers:

Bridges are not always mere conduits for transportation, but can play important roles in shaping, or affecting, the identity of a place.  While some bridges are small and unnoticeable, others are visual representations of a particular period in time and important elements of historic settings.  What happens when a bridge in an historic setting cannot be rehabilitated?   How do you design a new bridge that is compatible with the setting but does not end up looking historicized?  Is it better to design a bridge that is modern and does not attempt to imitate history or is it possible to develop compatible new designs that reflect their setting.  This session will explore these issues and offer insight into appropriate context sensitive design.


  • Monica Harrower, Cultural Resources Professional, PennDOT District 6-0


  • Michael Cuddy, Principal, TranSystems
  • Mary McCahon, Senior Historian, TranSystems
  • Barbara Shaffer, Planning and Environmental Specialist, Federal Highway Administration
  • Dain Gattin, Chief Engineer, Philadelphia Streets Department
  • Emanuel Kelly, FAIA, Philadelphia Art Commission
  • Kaitlin O’Shea, Historic Preservation Specialist, Vermont Agency of Transportation

Join us to learn about historic bridges, replacement projects, and historic districts!

Preservation Inspiration: TED Talks

Inspiring thoughts, compelling stories, and a strong voice, all in 20 minutes or less. That’s a TED talk, which are growing in popularity. Not surprisingly, some of these have preservation origins or connections. For your Monday, here are some TED talks worth listening to and sharing.

Do you have any others? What’s your Monday inspiration?

Preservation on the Ground: Woodbury’s Armory in Burlington, VT

A historic building that sits empty for ten years is not an untold story in preservation, even if it appears to be in a prime location. The brick armory on Main Street in Burlington, VT sat empty since 2003, leaving passersby to wonder about its fate. What they did not know: this story is different. 

The Armory in its day as Hunt's Mill & Mining. Photo source: Housing Vermont. Click for link.

The Armory in its day as R.W. Hunt Mill & Mining Company. Photo source: Housing Vermont. Click for link.

Setting the Stage: Woodbury’s Armory

Urban Woodbury built the Armory in 1904 and leased the space to the National Guard. In its storied history, the Armory has served as a car dealership, R.W. Hunt Mill & Mining Company, Sha-Na-Na’s Night Club, and as office space. Circa 2000, a popular local music venue was looking to buy the space, but couldn’t decipher logistics with the City of Burlington. Fire struck in 2003, leaving the building unoccupied and seemingly forgotten after 100 years of use.

Enter Redstone

Who would want a burned-out, muddled, old building? Most would shy away. Fortunately, not Redstone, a company well known and respected for its historic preservation and rehabilitation of Vermont buildings such as the Chace Mill in Winooski and the Maltex Building in Burlington’s South End. After the fire, Redstone purchased and mothballed the building, and began working on the dilemma of the Armory’s next chapter. Erik Hoekstra, manager of the project, met with me on a surprisingly warm January afternoon for a tour of the building and project talk.

View from the corner of Main Street and Pine Street.

View from the corner of Main Street and Pine Street.

The Big (Block) Picture

The real story is that the building was never forgotten. Like its past, the future of Woodbury’s Armory is part of a bigger picture: the redevelopment of the Main-Pine-King-St. Paul block in the City of Burlington. The block includes TD Bank, Hinds Lofts, a mixed use block (King Street Housing), and a handful of private residences.

The Armory is located at the corner of Main Street and Pine Street. Note its location between the waterfront and Church Street.

The Armory is located at the corner of Main Street and Pine Street. Note its location between the waterfront and Church Street.

In addition to being a part of this block redevelopment, the Armory stands as an important link between Burlington’s successful Church Street pedestrian mall and the popular Lake Champlain Waterfront.

Landscaping plan-2 copy2

A landscaping plan, courtesy of Redstone, edited by author. Main Street is at the top of the image.

As Hoekstra and Redstone worked to develop a successful plan, the company invested in new windows, new stone sills, brick repointing and a new roof in 2007 for the Armory.  Not forgotten, but rather, the building was waiting for a sound, successful plan to germinate. According to Hoekstra, parking and finances were great challenges of this project. Parking is at a premium in the City of Burlington, and a building like the Armory didn’t come with parking. Working with property acquired from TD Bank, Redstone was able redesign the remaining open block space – then a surface parking lot – and provide enough parking.  In terms of finances, the Armory could not succeed alone as standalone project. It had to be bigger. It needed the entire block.   In the end, there are many funding partners and sources including Vermont State Tax Credits and New Market Tax Credits.

The first floor of the Armory shows where a pool will be located and where the floor above had to be removed.

The first floor of the Armory shows where a pool will be located and where the floor above had to be removed.

The Plan

As of February 2014, construction is well underway at the Armory. The Main-Pine-King-St. Paul block will soon be home to a new hotel, parking garage, and retail space. Woodbury’s Armory, on the Main Street/Pine Street corner will serve as the hotel lobby for the Hilton Garden Inn. The first floor of the Armory will house the hotel pool and retail space, hopefully a restaurant to add to Burlington’s eclectic mix of eateries. To the south and extending east from Armory will be an addition to house the 2 story parking garage with 4 floors of hotel rooms above. Sensitive to streetscape and the historic context, the garage/hotel addition will have different height elevation on St. Paul Street and Pine Street. Guests will access the lobby from the porte-cochère off Main Street.

The King Street and Main Street elevations of the project. Photo courtesy of Redstone.

The King Street and Main Street elevations of the project. Photo courtesy of Redstone.

St. Paul Street and Pine Street elevations. Courtesy of Redstone.

St. Paul Street and Pine Street elevations. Courtesy of Redstone.

Preservationists might ask why a chain hotel? Hoekstra said that although Redstone hoped for a boutique hotel, banks were only agreeable to funding an established, large business with a loyal customer base. The Hilton Garden Inn will be operated under a franchise agreement with Hilton, but will be locally owned by Redstone and partners.  Hilton has been amenable in terms of designing a unique space and incorporating the Armory’s historic features into the rehabilitation. The 139 room hotel is set to open by the end of 2014.

The Armory under construction, February 2014.

The Armory under construction, February 2014.

Why the Armory & Historic Preservation?

As Erik Hoekstra stated, Redstone prefers preservation and rehabilitation projects because of the challenge and commitment to the community. Sprawl development does not give that same satisfaction of project completion. Urban infill, smart growth, and redevelopment make the job more interesting.

One of the best finds of the restoration was uncovering the Armory carved into the granite lintel.

One of the best finds of the restoration was uncovering the Armory carved into the granite lintel.

Hoekstra credits his interest in historic buildings and development to growing up in several historic houses, including a Sears Roebuck Catalog house in LaGrange, IL. Hoekstra studied real estate and finance and worked in New York City before coming to Vermont in 2001 to work with Housing Vermont and later Redstone. He studied Real Estate Development in the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

Interested in Hoekstra’s line of work? He advises that there are many roads to working in development and historic preservation. Some include working in construction, property management, finance or a non-profit organization like Housing Vermont. Hoekstra says that no matter the type of company, the process is still the same: Design, permit, finance, legal, construction.

When asked about his favorite part of this project, Hoekstra said that it’s seeing all of the puzzle pieces fit together. And that is always a preservation success story.

A view looking north on Pine Street.

A view looking north on Pine Street.

Preservation is…

Preservation is Sexy. Yes, you read it here. Actually, Bernice Radle of Buffalo’s Young Preservationists proclaimed it first during her TED talk. You go girl!

Photo courtesy of Bernice Radle.

Photo courtesy of Bernice Radle.

What does it mean? It’s exciting. It’s enticing. It’s smart. It’s forward-thinking. It’s loving. It’s caring. It’s sensitive. It’s beautiful. Preservation is the best. It’s everything, and cares about everyone and the built environment. Share your love of preservation. What would you say?

Preservation ABCs: Z is for Zoning

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.


Z is for Zoning

Alexandria, VA zoning. Click image and zoom in to read the map.

Zoning is a land use control and planning tool that dictates the types of buildings and their uses for a defined area. Elements under zoning control can include setback, height, density, appearance, parking, etc). There are pros and cons to zoning, as well as different types. All of this could be an entire book or an entire class, so let’s go over just a few pieces. 

A (Very Brief) History: In the late 19th century and early 20th century, American cities passed laws that governed aspects such as height and use of buildings. New York City adopted the first citywide zoning ordinance that identified residential, commercial, and unrestricted areas. The basic form for zoning began with the Standard State Zoning Enabling Act (1924/6) and the Standard City Planning Enabling Act (1926/8), both published by the U.S. Department of Commerce.  In 1926, the Supreme Court upheld that zoning was constitutional in the case Village of Euclid, Ohio v. Ambler Realty Company (272 U.S. 365). Here the village prohibited industrial development that could change the character of the village. The parcel of land had already been divided into parcels of land with height and density requirements, which is why industry could not be developed.

There is more than one type of zoning, and how zoning is applied varies across the United States and the world. The important point to know is this: Zoning and historic preservation can be good friends or foes.

How are they linked? A zoning plan divides an areas into different sections/zones. A zoning overlay is often a historic preservation district overlay that can cover more than one zone. In other words, the residential, commercial, and  industrial zones might all have some parts in the historic district, which is the historic preservation overlay.

How can they be friends or foes? Zoning can help historic preservation by aiding in controlling and directing growth to the appropriate areas. This has the benefit of protecting density and character of an area. Consider the Urban Growth Boundary of Portland, OR. However, zoning and preservation can interfere with one another. Zoning might restrict the rehabilitation of a building. In that case, zoning would need to be revisited for revisions or amendments or a special permit (conditional use) requested.

A lack of zoning will can harm historic preservation. Perhaps the National Register Historic District has not been expanded, therefore the historic district overlay not expanded. (Districts that were listed decades ago are often smaller than districts we would list today.) Inappropriate development could be  a threat because retail/commercial could be allowed in an area where it shouldn’t be. Consider a Dollar General built within an eligible historic district, simply because zoning has not been revisited in decades.

Despite changes that might be required, having a zoning ordinance is a better place to start than no zoning ordinance. If your community does not have zoning, it is a necessity. It is easier and better to be proactive than reactive. Check your town’s zoning districts, historic districts, and ask preservationists (check with your State Historic Preservation Office) if the districts could be increased). And preservation planners, feel free to add advice in the comments.

An excellent, easy-to-understand booklet from the NPS about Historic Preservation and Zoning. Alexandria, VA map found here.


And just like that, we’ve made it all the way from A to Z. Thanks for following along with this series. If there are letters that you would change, please share. 

Preservation Music Video: The National Register Rap

Somehow I missed this floating through the waves of the internet in recent weeks, but it is still worth sharing. And if you haven’t seen it, make sure you check it out.

The current HISP405 students in the Historic Preservation Program at the University of Mary Washington composed and created a music video for their final project. Their professor, Andi Smith (a fellow UVM HP alum), shared the project on her blog. Andi writes this:

It’s no secret that HISP405, the preservation capstone course, is a beast. We cover Cultural Resource Surveys, preservation planning issues, and then top it all off with theNational Register. To lighten the mood a little after what is always a very tough semester, I encourage students to make their final presentation a humorous one. They get points for content, of course, but also for making me and their classmates laugh. In past years, I’ve had pretty much everything: gameshows, poems, fairy tales, props, costumes, accents, you name it. Videos, too. One particular video made it big (or at least big for preservation) on the internet yesterday. Here it is:

Awesome job, Mary Washington. You guys are on to something! You make me proud. And thank you for including Prof. Gary Stanton. Made my day! (If you know of other preservation music videos in existence, please share.)

Young or Not? A Round-Up.

Wow, the response to the post, “The Young Preservationists and The Not-Young Preservationists?” was overwhelming in the best way. For everyone who shared or commented, thank you. If you had time to browse the comments, you’ll see that many of you had much to say.

What is the general conclusion? Most of you agree that “a preservationist is a preservationist.” The term “young preservationists” is often a way to give the newbies some solid ground in the professional world, a chance to network and meet like-minded people.

However, the connotation of young is young-in-age as opposed to new-in-career, and it gets confusing. “Young” might mean inexperienced, which can be misleading or it can mean “full of energy” which more seasoned professionals might take some offense to. The connotations of “young” leave out those who have chosen preservation as a second career and are older than the 22 year olds just out of college. And what is the cutoff for “young” and “not-young”? There didn’t seem to be a consensus. Rather, it’s just a feeling. What’s the answer? “Emerging professionals” seems to fit the bill. Or, a group in Cincinnati avoids age all together and formed a group called “The Preservation Collective.”

Preservation is a field that requires a united front, so let’s keep it that way. Avoid “young,” go with something more fitting such as “emerging professionals” and be glad for seasoned professionals. Together we are formidable opponents working to improve the quality of life through the appreciation of our heritage.

Thank you to everyone who commented. Please feel free to keep this conversation going; it’s fascinating.

The Young Preservationists & the Not-Young Preservationists?

The frequency of the term “young preservationists” has increased over the past few years. On one hand, it’s great. It means more people are getting involved in preservation at a younger age and making a difference. Typically “young preservationist” refers to (a) kids in grade school, or (b) college students, or (c) those who have recently graduated college and are working in the preservation field.

There are groups across the country who call themselves the “young preservationists.” Most major cities have such a group. Even Burlington, VT has one, which was recently started by current UVM graduate students. Who can join a “young preservationist” group? It depends. Some say under 40, some say “young at heart.” So what happens when you’re over 40? You get kicked out? You cannot be a part of that group anymore?

“Young preservationist” means that more experienced professionals are giving the newbies credit. The National Trust is giving more attention to college students (and younger) than ever before. As a student attending NTHP conferences in 2004 & 2005, I always felt as though the conference didn’t make enough of an effort to be inclusive of students. That has changed, thankfully. So this attention to “young preservationists” is a good thing.

On the other hand…does there have to be such a divide? Are we really groups of “young preservationists” and by default, “not-young preservationists”? Is yet another label and division necessary? (Before we go any further, let me clarify, that this is not a getting older crisis I’m having, nor fear of getting older. I’ll still fit in the “young” category for a long while.)

Reasons for a distinction, that I’ve heard, are usually along the lines of proving that preservationists are not blue-haired ladies in tennis shoes anymore trying to save another building. Preservation is so much more! And, I agree. Preservation IS so much more. But it’s the entire field that’s changing. And it’s not because of someone’s age. People from all ages can attend college, graduate school, join an advocacy group or take on a new preservation job. Perhaps there is some confusion. Does “young preservationist” mean young in age,  young at heart, or young by professional years?

Is there an alternative to “young” branding? Do we need to bring age into this at all? Why do we keep bringing up the blue haired ladies in tennis shoes? Can we just move on? Or do we preservationists actually have to keep fighting it? Perhaps it depends on where you live and work.

I’d love a discussion about this. No matter what your age, how do you feel about “young preservationists” and then the not-young preservationists?

PresConf Recap: Education Sessions

Gather thousands of preservationists together and there is a lot to talk about, which is more than buildings. Sessions discussed historic sites, publicity, economic revitalization, energy efficiency, social media, the 50 year “rule”, diversity, new ideas for building uses, community advocacy, bridge rehabilitation, federal laws (NEPA & NHPA), and much more. While it’s great to have so many choices for which sessions to attend, my complaint is that there are too many options. Having to choose from one of five or more at one time makes me feel like I’m missing out on important education opportunities. Of course that tends to sound like a “first world problem” but I’m letting you know how busy a National Trust conference can be.

Each session is worthy of discussion, but for this overview I’ll note some of my biggest takeaways (ideas and/or food for thought) and go into greater detail in subsequent posts. You can also find recaps from the Preservation Leadership Forum blog for the whole conference and daily recaps.

Held in the Madame Walker Theater.

Held in the Madame Walker Theater.

Conversation Starter: Diversity in Preservation: Rethinking Standards and Practices

A conversation starter worked like this: a panel provided the background information and set the stage for discussion on the topic. Audience members wrote questions on index cards and the moderator selected questions for the panel to answer. This panel discussed how preservation is building focused; preservationists speak the language of buildings. Yet, how does that impact important places that do not have significant buildings anymore (perhaps they are lost or have lost historic integrity)? Is there a way to make ordinary buildings significant? It’s the discussion of authenticity v. integrity. How much of a role does association play? Is the National Register effective in preserving our significant places? Where are we moving in the future? Are we changing standards or practices, both or none?

As you can surmise, this was a great panel for getting your preservation theory & practices brain working overtime. Rather than being told what to think, the audience participated in the conversation, making the session feel like a good class in school when we’d all sit around and talk theory.

New Media, New Audiences: Case Studies in Social Media

The much anticipated social media panel (one of the panels) with Kayla, Dana, Michelle, and Meagan. Each of us discussed how we use social for preservation work, individually and for our organizations and advocacy. Following the brief presentations, the audience divided into groups of five. We answered questions about social media, helped people work through their challenges and consider what might work for their needs. Each group was different, and all sounded like they went over well. At the end of the group breakout session, everyone wrote their lessons learned on 8×11 analog Twitter cards to tape on the wall sharing what they learned or another thought from the session.

Why is social media at a preservation conference? Simply stated, social media is not only for our personal lives. It can help our organizations be included in conversations throughout communities and across the country. It builds relationships and increases networks in a more genuine way than some might expect from social media. (After all, we preservationists love authenticity, so we’re going to be ourselves, right?) Our goal was to show that social media (whether blogging, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) can help to share powerful messages and create support for preservation causes. And it’s not just for the younger generations, nor do you have to use all of the social media avenues. It’s also fun. In other words, go ahead, jump on the preservation + social media bandwagon. You’ll be glad you did.

Our analog Twitter wall!

Our analog Twitter wall!

Seaside as A Historic District: Evaluating the Significance of New Urbanism Developments

Another one of my favorite sessions, hearkening to the day of Mary Washington where we were fascinated by New Urbanism developments (because some, quite frankly, were creepy, whereas others seemed like good places to live. Though we were unable to decide if preservationists could live in new developments, however well designed, because of all of the historic homes and communities out there). This session presented examples of planned communities throughout American history (think Radburn, NJ, all the Levittowns, the Greenbelt communities) and then discussed new communities (new urbanism) such as Seaside, FL and Reston, VA. What is the correlation between new urbanism and historic preservation? Are these new communities too Disney-like or gentrified? And the discussion led back to our favorite terms of significance and authenticity. The best thought to share: New urbanism is learning to build new cities in the fashion of successful old cities (i.e. old urbanism?), which have survived because of historic preservation. Perhaps the two fields: historic preservation and urban planning have more in common than previously thought.

Spans to Somewhere: Creative Outcomes for Large Transportation Projects in Historic Settings

A big transportation project is near and dear to my heart due to my days with the Lake Champlain Bridge. Unfortunately many of our larger historic bridges are at risk for demolition because they no longer meet the service levels or have suffered deterioration. This session discussed the Milton-Madison Bridge as well as the Louisville, KY bridge projects and how the communities worked to mitigate the loss of their bridge. While the regulatory world (Section 106 & Section 4(f)) isn’t often discussed in National Trust sessions, it is important to remember that the laws do play a role in everyone’s lives. And community input is an important part of these regulations. Citizens (stakeholders) can help to direct the outcome of a project, when working with the decision makers. The outcome can include rehabilitation, or it can include mitigation (a unique bridge design, historic research or documentation, interpretive panels, preservation planning, etc.)


Those are just a few of the sessions and a few thoughts – hopefully some to get your preservation brain intrigued. If you attended the conference, what were some of your favorite sessions?