Social Media in the Modern Age of Preservation

Social media. Let’s talk about it. Are you into it for personal reasons? Professional reasons? Documentation reasons or disappearing conversations?

My, how different it is today than the days of AOL Instant Messenger (“AIM”) and Myspace. Who in the 20s-30s age range does not have fond memories of IM’ing your friends and your crush to all hours of the night and creating the perfect away message?

I love social media, to a certain extent. Sometimes it feels frivolous and ridiculous, but so be it. There are benefits, too. I love blogs and Instagram and Twitter, but gave up Facebook years ago and don’t care to learn Snapchat. To each her own, right? Social media has helped to grow my professional career within preservation as well as my preservation friendships and passion.

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Instagram is my favorite.

Because preservation is a lifestyle, so to speak, our personal lives and our “personal brands” often include our professional life. How do you handle that on social media? I’m interested to know as to what you decide to share on your public social media accounts?

Preservation in Pink, the blog, has always been visible to the public, sometimes with more personal details than other times, but nothing that I would feel weird about if my employer read, for example. (Actually, my firm is very supportive of my outside-of-work preservation endeavors, for which I’m grateful.) Twitter @presinpink often gets my personal opinions (re: politics and policies) and the other sides of me (USA Skeleton, running, gymnastics fan, #btv topics), and Instagram for @presinpink is pure preservation (okay, sometimes the cats pop in to say hello).

However, I’m a documentation addict, so I use a private Instagram account to document my personal life (and then send it to Chatbooks for automatic photo albums. I love them.) Snapchat doesn’t seem to make sense to me, or Instagram stories. Why would want your pictures to disappear?! asks the preservationist. Someone explain this to me.

Preservationists and non-preservationists, do you use social media apps for professional or personal reasons? Do you use it for documentation? How do you decide what to put on which platform? Do you think preservation is one of those fields that warrants blurring the line between personal and professional?

Some days I have awesome field adventures. Other days, I’m stuck behind a desk. Preservation is often a lot of report writing and paper work!

And, a general social media warning, because it seems to me that combination professional and personal accounts are becoming more common: comparison is the thief of joy. Everyone has good and bad professional days: days stuck under paperwork and those in the field. We all have normal, rainy weekends and beautiful “instagrammable” vacations at some point. We all have successes, failures, struggles, and happiness. Just keep doing what you’re doing.

(Okay, off my soap box of social media. Please, chime in!)

Seasonal Buildings: Union Church in New Haven Mills

White, gable-roofed churches with tall steeples are anchors in Vermont’s villages, historically and visually. Small towns often have more than one church, speaking to a time when people attended churches and community meetings in greater numbers. In modern day Vermont, these large buildings remain in the same small villages, whose populations and budgets are fading. As you can see in Abandoned Vermont posts, some are empty, and others are used only seasonally:

Seasonal churches are used in the summer when the building does not need to be heated and lack of electricity, perhaps, is not a hindrance to use. Buildings closed up for the winters are not uncommon in the colder climates; many summer camps and cottages are winterized and sit alone for the winter months.

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Union Church of New Haven Mills, VT, built 1851.

Union Church in New Haven Mills, VT is one of the seasonal churches. For decades it was used once per summer month for a church service, and the occasional special event.

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View through the window. Front entrance to the right.

Union Church was constructed in 1851 as a church and meeting house to accommodate the growing community of New Haven Mills. Local craftsman Eastman Case constructed the building; his study of Asher Benjamin is evident in his design. Union Church is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a well-preserved example of a wood frame Greek Revival style church with features that including the temple-front gable entrance, corner pilaster, full entablature and pediments, oversized windows, and interior details. The Queen Anne style belfry was added ca. 1880.

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Greek Revival details.

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Interior details: pews, plaster, tin ceiling.

The 20th century brought floods and fire to the community, which led to the demise of the town and its lumber industry. The church sat empty throughout the 1930s, until Burt Rolfe, a Middlebury College student, took on the role of caretaker and preacher. Mr. Rolfe died in World War II. Neighbors, Langdon and Colleen Smith began taking care of the building and holding one monthly summer service for the next 40 years. When the Smiths died, neighbors continued to maintain the building. The church survived because of the neighbors and the community’s efforts to host events, raise money, and preserve the building. (Read the project file here for additional info.)

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Through the window: failing plaster throughout the church.

The Preservation Society of the Union Church of New Haven has continued repairs as part of the long-term preservation project since the 1990s.  In 1997, the Preservation Society applied for and received a grant from the Division for Historic Preservation to stabilize the foundation and paint the building. In 2011, the Preservation Society received another grant to repair the 20/20 double hung windows.

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New roof, 20/20 windows restored. Greek Revival details: pilasters, wide frieze, cornice returns, gable temple front.

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In need of exterior maintenance.

It’s a beautiful building in a striking setting, overlooking the small village of New Haven Mills and set adjacent to the Lampson School. However, buildings are meant to used and if they stand in year-round communities with only seasonal use, there is lost potential. Keeping a building seasonal allows the greatest amount of preservation. No wiring is needed; the building needs to be maintained, but not altered or disturbed. However, in our cold climate, that limits the months. And what a shame to not be able to use this building all year round. Perhaps minimal modernization and addition of systems would be worth it in order to use the building.

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The view as you approach from East Road. To the right is the Lampson School.

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View from the Union Church, looking to the Lampson School and a farmstead.

It’s a good preservation theory discussion. What do you think? If there is use, keep the buildings as-is for the warm seasons or disturb them for year-round use?

Abandoned Vermont: Ludlow House

At the corner of Main Street and Commonwealth Avenue in Ludlow, VT, sits an 1849 stone house. It’s an impressive building, one that I haven’t noticed in my travels, probably because I’m normally staring at the Fletcher Library across the street from this house. Finally, I noticed it.

This building is an 1849 stone building constructed in the unique “snecked ashlar” style (Scottish tradition), by William Spaulding. Originally there was a store on the first floor. Snecked ashlar is found only in southeast/central Vermont. (Chester village has an entire historic district of snecked ashlar, but otherwise it’s rare.) (State Survey # 1410-12.)

However, get up and close and you’ll be frightened by what you see. Structurally speaking, it’s not good. As in, I wouldn’t stand too close to that building. I think the walls are going to collapse.

I checked out Google Street View, and from the side street (Commonwealth Ave) you can see a Best Western sign on the front lawn (from Main Street it does not show). To confirm, I searched the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation online resource center. And yes, that was the answer! In the 1990s, the Best Western purchased the stone house at 83 Main Street to convert it to a 5 unit inn (click to read the Environmental Review file).  However, the Division for Historic Preservation denied the initial request as it would have adversely affected this historic building. The Division provided suggestions as to how to work with the building, rather than against it, and what features to retain and preserve. At first, Best Western even wanted to put vinyl siding on the building! As you’ll read in the file, the Hotel and the Division came to an agreement on how to move the project forward.

See, preservation is not about stopping progress! Just moving it forward with respect to the past.

 

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83 Main Street.

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Shutters falling off the front gable end.

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Due to the precarious condition of the building, I wasn’t about to stand under it to read that notice.

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It’s hard to capture in a photograph, but the slabs of stone are falling off the exterior wall, which is bulging at the middle. Windows are popping out of the frames.

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Another angle. In the middle you can sort of see the damage in the middle of the building elevation (look for the smaller rock instead of the stone slabs).

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Rear addition.

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This side is just as bad as the other side. Check out the door.

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Poor “snecked ashlar” house.

But, what about it now? My first guess was that the Best Western couldn’t (or wouldn’t) keep up with the maintenance. However, a bit more digging revealed in January 2015 there was an explosion in the building causing $500,000 worth of damage. Fortunately, no one was injured, but there was substantial structural damage.

Do you live in Ludlow? What’s the latest update?

Garfield District School

One room schoolhouses are easily recognizable, as we’ve discussed. I delight in what I call my “schoolhouse radar”. It’s a fun game to play. What is your favorite type of building to spot?

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At the crossroads in Garfield (a small hamlet in Hyde Park), VT on a cloudy, foggy day – just before a summer storm arrived.

Near Green River Reservoir in Hyde Park, VT, this building sits at a crossroads, a common place for one room schoolhouses. It has the gable roof massing of a schoolhouse and the general size, and hint of Green Revival detail (cornice returns).

While the building looks a bit dreary in the fog and clouds and the overgrown weeds, it still stands out as a schoolhouse converted to a residence, right? Maybe? Where is the bank of windows?

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Pardon the fog and the clouds.

 

The windows don’t lend themselves to a schoolhouse, but look closely and you can tell by the paint on the rear of the schoolhouse that the bank of windows has been removed and replaced by residential windows. Still, I’d bet on it being a schoolhouse.

Next up? Consulting the trusty Online Resource Center (ORC) of the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation. The ORC contains searchable PDFs of all of the state survey files, among many other resources.

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Garfield District School, 1981. The best part: the duck and ducklings to the right of the school. Source: Vermont State Register of Historic Places file.

This building at the crossroads of Garfield was indeed a schoolhouse. According to the 1981 survey, this was the Garfield District School, constructed in 1875, operating until 1953. This was one of the first schools in Vermont certified as a “Standard School”. The Standard Schools were aptly named, as schools were rated based on standards of lighting, ventilation, teaching quality, sanitation, and other details. As of the 1981 survey, the building was a residence. The survey does not discuss the west elevation (the former window bank). However, the existing chimney replaced a cupola that enclosed the school bell.

Applying What You Know: Reading the Built Environment

Learning to read your built environment – your city – helps you to form tangible connections to where you live. In turn, your sense of place and community increases. You feel ownership and responsibility for your town or city, which allows for better planning and smart development. The longer you live somewhere and study, the better you get to know a place; the more you love it.

But what happens you go someplace new? How do you read the built environment if you know nothing about its history? Good question. The best part of learning to read the layers of the built environment is that you can gain a sense of place and understanding without needing to know its cultural history. How do you do that?  By observing and translating the elements of the built environment you see the development and changes.

Elements of the built environment include street patterns (gridded or not?), buildings (height, architectural style, materials), parking lots (where? garages?), sidewalks (width, material?), landscaping (trees?), bridges (type?), utilities (underground wires or telephone poles?), and more.

I want to share an example that I used in my recent Built Environment lecture. It’s simple, but a good place to start. Ready to play along? And, go!

Recently, I traveled through Prescott, Ontario, a town on Canada Route 2 along the St. Lawrence River. I stopped in what appeared to be the center of town. As a preservationist, I always enjoy getting out of the car and wandering for a few blocks to snap photos and observe the area, stare at buildings – that sort of thing.

Here is the view standing on the corner of Centre Street and Route 2. Note the historic building block on the right. On the left, however, is a large parking lot. Parking lots always raise an eyebrow for me – why is there a large parking lot in the center of town? Historically, towns were not built with parking lots in the middle. Let’s have a look around.

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Parking lot (left) & historic building block (right) in the center of Prescott.

 

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Top left: the same historic building block mentioned above. Right: tower and parking lot at the SW corner of Route 2 and Centre Street. Bottom left: The same parking lot as seen from the other end of it (note clock tower behind the tree).

 

You can see the photos above. Now let’s step across the street. These Google street views (below) show that SW corner (in the first photo I stood next to the clock tower).

Once I did a 360 observation of the block I had a few guesses. In the United States, if there is a hole (read: parking lot) in a town or city, I automatically think 1960s Urban Renewal era. However, this was Canada, so I wasn’t sure on Urban Renewal.

But, the drug store adjacent to the parking lot had a mid 20th century vibe (see image below). The general automobile culture (1950s/60s) often falls in line with demolition and parking lots for auto-centric businesses.

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Google Street views of the corner and drug store.

My guess? A historic building was demolished for the drug store and parking lot, and the clock tower built on the edge of the parking lot to “honor” the historic building. Classic, right? Always the preservation nerd, I did some Googling to see if I could find information about Prescott development. It took a while, but eventually I did find my answer!

Yes, there was a historic building there. This one:

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Prescott, Ontario 1876 Town Hall. The clock tower was a later addition.

According to this source, the town hall was demolished in the early 1960s due to neglect and lack of available funds in the town for repair. While I couldn’t find when the drug store was built, I have a pretty good guess that it followed shortly after demolition of the town hall.

While this was not the most uplifting example of reading the landscape, it is important to understand how our cities and towns are shaped by individual projects and decisions. And the lesson? When you see a large hole in the center, spin around and look around. It’s probably not supposed to be there.

Preservation Pop Quiz: Fisk Farm Edition

Fisk Farm is a historic estate located in Isle La Motte, VT, with an adjoining (historic) marble quarry that began operations in the 1660s. Today the quarry is a world renowned fossil preserve as a Natural National Landmark. The original stone house on the property burned in the early 20th century, but its ruins stand, and later houses and barns remain on the property. Set on the west shore of the island, with a view of Lake Champlain, it is one of the most picturesque spots.

Another Fisk Farm view for good measure. The porch and the stone house of the previous images. #presinpink

A photo posted by Preservation in Pink (@presinpink) on

But, like all historic properties, there are some mysteries. Take this stone structure as your next challenge:

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Set the to the left of the shingle style house in the photo above, this is the mystery object. The remains of the original stone house are in the background of this photo.

What is it? I don’t know, but I’m hoping you do. Some clues: 1) There is only one on the property. 2) Each side looks alike. 3) There are some pipes coming up from the ground. 4) Some of the insets have smaller metal pipes in them. 5) I am not taller enough to see the top.

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Look alike sides.

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Close up of the inset into the stone.

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Another inset. Note the metal pipe.

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One metal pipe coming out of the ground. This is the only one.

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Another view.

Your turn. What do you think?

 

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!

Join Me for a Preservation Lecture in Wilmington

memorial hall wilmington

Ever wonder what a preservationist thinks about when she looks around a town or city? Come find out! On Tuesday July 12, 6pm, join me at Memorial Hall in Wilmington, VT for a lecture on reading your built environment + historic preservation. I’m honored and excited to be a part of Wilmington’s Pettee Library Summer Series. After this, you’ll never look at your built environment in the same way!

14 West Main Street, Wilmington, VT – 6pm

Hope to see you there!

Panton Schoolhouse

Can you spot a one-room schoolhouse as you’re driving by? I bet after this week of one-room schoolhouses here on PiP, you can! It’s a fun game. This ca. 1895 school in Panton, Vermont sits next to the town garage and serves as town storage. It appears as though it was the former home of the town offices, and the town bulletin board is still in use on the rear addition. Take a look. These one-room schoolhouses were called “District Schools” because each town was divided into districts and each district had its own school. This was before the days of school consolidation.

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Quite the sunny morning, and the iphone couldn’t avoid it. But, look at the bank of 6 windows on this school.

 

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Note the town bulletin board on the wing. Current fliers are posted there.

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Unlike most schoolhouses, this one has windows on both sides. Perhaps they were added when the building was no longer a schoolhouse.

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Bank of 6 windows.

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View into the schoolhouse shows storage and  original features (see the doors and beadboard).

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Peering into the back windows: town highway department storage. Also, note the wall on the left. The addition was added after the original construction date.

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The Town Highway Department. Photo taken standing in front of the schoolhouse.

Of course, I feel badly for this schoolhouse. While it’s sort of in use, there is so much more potential to it. Poor thing. It’s a common case for these schoolhouses, even though one room schoolhouses would be fairly easy to rehabilitate to modern uses. What do you think?

Abandoned Vermont: Salisbury Schoolhouse

The bank of windows make this easily recognizable as a one room schoolhouse.

One room schoolhouses are adorable. And they are an easily recognized architectural form. While they would be seemingly easy to adapt to an alternative use, many sit on the side of the road, underutilized. The District #8 Schoolhouse, ca. 1855, on Route 53 in Salisbury, VT is no exception. The schoolhouse sits in the middle of a farm field, serving as storage space for its owner. The 1977 survey photographs show a vestibule entry, which has since been removed. Otherwise, the schoolhouse retains its historic integrity with its character defining features such as the bank of windows.

District #8 School on the edge of a farm field.
Front entrance, no longer a vestibule. 
Peek into the windows and you’ll see the original materials of construction as well storage.
Bed frames, desks, stuff.

Hopefully its owner will see its potential soon.