New Baby, New Perspectives: Accessibility in My City

If you are able-bodied and independent, you walk easily on most sidewalks and enter/exit stores without problems, other than the occasional surprise of a very heavy door or pushing/pulling when you should be doing the opposite. Cobblestones, bricks, steps, small doors – none of these bother you. Some stores might have small aisles, but other than it being cumbersome at times, it doesn’t slow you down too much. At least that is how I moved about my city – with ease.

Yet, over the past 4+ months, I have navigated the sidewalks and stores of Burlington, VT with a stroller. Suddenly, I gave thought to the condition of the sidewalks, the types of entrances, and the width of aisles. Frankly, the sidewalks of Burlington are horrendous if you are on wheels. Stores are a mixed bag of accessibility. I have plenty of appreciation for stores that are stroller friendly and plenty of empathy for anyone attempting to get around with a stroller or in a wheelchair.

Generally when you pushing a stroller, people are very kind and will hold open the doors for you. And you learn the turning radius and proper spatial distance needed for your stroller. You get better at avoiding sidewalk bumps because you don’t want to wake the sleeping baby, nor jostle her fragile head. You know which streets are best to take. And the list goes on.

Battery & Maple, Burlington, VT. #presinpink

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(The building block above would be easy to make accessible.)

However, there are some limitations with a stroller, and I would imagine with a wheelchair. I spend a fair amount of time stroller walking. Depending on weather, I might pop in and out of stores to browse or run errands. While Christmas shopping, I realized that I could not take my baby into a few of my favorite shops because there were not accessible entrances (read: only steps, no ramps). Sometimes entrances are elsewhere in buildings, but if there is no sign, that does not help, as I cannot leave the stroller on the sidewalk to go in and inquire. Additionally, some stores have accessible entrances yet the aisles or displays are so close together that even my narrow stroller has a tough time navigating between everything.

A favorite Burlington block from another angle. #presinpink

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(It’s hard to see in this photo, but my favorite building block has a few stores without accessible (or at least obviously found) entrances.)

I wondered about how many people face this challenge. Is the percentage of lost customers so small that it doesn’t affect the businesses? What if you’re in a wheelchair, what do you do?

Most businesses have modified their entrances to accommodate all customers. Unfortunately, this often replaces character defining features of historic entrances, or obscures them. The National Park Service Brief 11: Rehabilitating Historic Storefronts discusses the importance of entrances and their rehabilitation, but its only suggestions for access issues are as follows:

Alterations to a storefront called for by public safety, handicapped access, and fire codes can be difficult design problems in historic buildings. Negotiations can be undertaken with appropriate officials to ensure that all applicable codes are being met while maintaining the historic character of the original construction materials and features. If, for instance, doors opening inward must be changed, rather than replace them with new doors, it may be possible to reverse the hinges and stops so that they will swing outward.

(How would you make the above entrance accessible?)

It makes sense that this would be a case-by-case basis discussion; however, I think we need a collection of good examples. And a discussion. What are the challenges to improve entrance accessibility? Are small businesses at risk of losing business if they cannot improve accessibility? Does this affect you? As historic preservationists, how can we find the balance between character defining entrances and not limiting accessibility? What haven’t you considered in your environment until you had to consider it?

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South of the Border and a Playground

Traveling down (or up) I-95, you cannot miss the South of the Border billboards. At one point there were 250 billboards from New Jersey to Florida! These signs tell you that you’ll find souvenir shops, food, lodging, amusements, and fireworks at this roadside rest stop. Kitschy Americana or useful rest area? You be the judge. Before you decide – do you know the history of South of the Border?

In 1949, Alan Schafer, who owned a distributing company, opened the South of the Border Beer Depot in Hamer, South Carolina. This small cinder block building sat just over the Robeson County, North Carolina border, which was then a dry county. Within a few years, Schafer added a motel and dropped “Beer Depot” from the name. Schafer decided to outfit South of the Border with a Mexican theme and over the next decade it grew to 300 acres and included a motel, gas station, campground, restaurant, post office, drugstore, and other shops. (Read more about the South of the Border in this article.)

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What about those billboards? While a number of billboards have faded, some have been updated in the past few years (to include South of the Border’s Instagram account, for example, @sobpedro). It seemed to me that a lot of the obviously questionable (some racist) billboards had been removed. Had they? According to this 1997 article, the Mexican Embassy complained, in 1993, about the “Mexican speak” billboards and other advertising materials. Eventually Alan Schafer agreed to take down the billboards, though it took a few years. For that reason, you will no longer see them on I-95. Some people have documented them. See D.W. Morrison’s website for the billboards. Good news, the billboards that remain are still quite entertaining! I laughed at quite a few.

If you’re a regular Preservation in Pink reader, you know that I cannot resist a corny joke or roadside America (and thus, I cannot resist South of the Border). And I love to share roadside America with the ones I love. On our family’s recent trek from Florida to Vermont, we stopped at South of the Border. After all, we had to introduce the baby flamingo to some crazy flamingo ways. We posed with a flamingo statue and a large concrete Pedro statue. She was unimpressed. Since she’s an infant, I assume she’ll grow to love it like her mama. (Fingers crossed.)

As we drove around, we found South of the Border surprisingly busy, yet still maintaining its eerily-sort-of-rundown vibe. The amusement park is shuttered. We couldn’t decide if one of the motels was open. The restrooms were clean. The worst part is that South of the Border sits on either side of US Highway 301, and lacks adequate pedestrian crossings or sidewalks, so it’s a nightmare attempting to cross. Hold your children and look both ways!

And now my favorite part. On our drive-about, much to my surprise, we found an old playground behind one of the motels. I’ve been to South of the Border a few times, and have never spotted this before. I had to get out and snap a photographs, of course.

Most, if not all, of the playground equipment is Game Time, Inc. equipment and remains in good condition. This equipment dates from the 1970s. Here is a tour of the playground.

These are called Saddle Mates.

 

More saddle mates on a merry-go-round

“Game Time / Litchfield Mich / Saddle Mate / Pat Pend” – Always check for the manufacturer’s stamp!

Saddle Mates on the “Buck-a-bout” from Game Time, Inc., ca. 1971

Single Saddle Mate, Donkey edition

The Stagecoach, a popular playground apparatus.

The Clown Swing, Game Time, Inc., ca. 1971. The Clown Swing would have had two swings. Other versions included the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Lion.

View of the Rocket ship slides and the Clown Swing. These rocket ship slides were often made by Game Time, Inc., though other companies manufactured them as well. If you’re wondering, I did slide down the slide.

View of the playground, as seen from the parking lot behind the motel. The road behind is I-95.

Looking to the motel

Good stuff, right? Hopefully some kids still play on the playground. A bit of Google searching led me to find images of an abandoned hotel & playground near South of the Border. Comments lead me to believe it no longer exists, but it used to be a part of the Family Inn. It looks straight of a 1970s Miracle Recreation Equipment Company catalog to me. Check it out. And remember, if you come across an old (historic?) playground, snap a few photos and send them my way. I love old playgrounds!

#ihavethisthingwithfloors, Lightner Museum Edition

The mosaic tile floor in the lobby of the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, FL, is one of the prettiest floors I’ve ever seen. In fact, it’s one of the prettiest rooms. It would be a perfect place for a preservation party! Take a look. 


Coming up: more on the Lightner Museum & Alcazar Hotel. 

Action Needed: Save the Historic Tax Credit

Do you know how your state is affected by the Historic Tax Credit (HTC)? Do you know that a lot of downtown and village revitalization would not happen without the aid of the HTC? The HTC makes up the difference in project cost, which allows for the buildings to be rehabilitated.

Need an example? A current project in Enosburg Falls, Vermont is rehabilitating the historic Quincy Hotel. This building, constructed in 1874, began as a railroad hotel and served travelers well into the 21st century, becoming one of the longest continually operating hotels in Vermont. 

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Quincy House, ca. 1910, prior to the fire on the 3rd floor, which resulted in the altered windows and roof (see next photo). Image source: Enosburg Historical Society. 


Enosburg Falls is a typical example of a northern Vermont village; it was a bustling village and regional hub for industry, but with the demise of the railroad, it entered a protracted period of economic decline. This was manifested in a village center with many underutilized buildings and consequently fewer options for local employment, which have adversely affected the cohesiveness and vibrancy of the community. People left, businesses left, and buildings fell into disrepair. On top of that, the village suffered fires in some of its main building blocks.

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One of the rooms inside the Quincy Hotel prior to rehabilitation. 

The rehabilitation of Quincy Hotel will provide the community with public spaces to host events ranging from business meetings to workshops and retreats, all with in -house accommodations and meals, complementing what is already in the Village. The hotel is located downtown and adjacent to the Enosburg Opera House. The railroad has been converted to the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail; cyclists and tourists will find comfortable lodging at the Quincy Hotel. The rehabilitation of the Quincy Hotel would not be economically feasible without the state and federal Historic Tax Credits. There is a need for this project; Enosburg Falls is undergoing revitalization by dedicated residents and business people with investment in restaurants, retail, housing, parks, and now lodging.  Long-time readers will recall the Flying Disc coffee shop, a locally owned and successful coffee shop, which is just a short walk from the Quincy Hotel. 

This project, like all tax credit projects, will act as an economic multiplier; a catalyst for continued economic development. The local tax base will expand and jobs will be created as a direct result of this project. Even one small project can serve as a catalyst, leading to larger projects. Bringing housing downtown encourages commercial development (restaurants, retail, office spaces) and investment in a town or city block. This makes our existing communities more livable for all, and prevents poor development (i.e. sprawl) elsewhere. People want to live and work in vibrant communities.

So far tax credit projects seem like win-win situations, right? Yes. However, over the years our preservation efforts – from ordinances to regulations to tax credits – have been threatened at the local, state, and national levels. The only way to prevent their loss is to speak up! Right now is one of those times. Read on for an overview of the issues and how to help save the Historic Tax Credit (HTC), formerly called the Rehabilitation Investment Tax Credit (RITC).

The issue: The current tax reform bill introduced in the House of Representatives would eliminate the HTC. The HTC is a proven economic driver, as well the federal government’s most significant investment in historic preservation. If we take away the HTC, businesses and development projects are far less likely to pursue preservation projects because there will be no financial incentive. Why invest additional money if there will not be a guaranteed return-on-investment for developers?

Does this matter? Yes, it matters. If you take away the HTC, you take away valuable preservation dollars and in turn, irreplaceable historic fabric of your communities. How much of an impact will it have in your city or state? Find your state here and download an easy to use fact sheet. You can see which projects are housing, commercial, etc. For example, in Vermont (whose population is only approx. 600,000), from 2002-2016, there have been 234 HTC projects that resulted in over $200 million in total development.

Overall, the HTC generates more dollars than it costs to implement. It gives money back to the government while benefitting local and state communities. Most everyone is catching on; in 2016, the HTC was used more than ever, according to the National Park Service and Rutgers UniversityFrom the National Trust for Historic Preservation: over the life of the program, the historic rehabilitation tax credit (HTC) has:

  • created more than 2.4 million good-paying local jobs
  • leveraged $131.8 billion in private investment in our communities;
  • used $25.2 billion in tax credits to generate more than $29.8 billion in federal tax revenue;
  • and preserved more than 42,293 buildings that form the historic fabric of our nation.

This video from the National Trust shares highlights of the HTC.

Think this just a concern for Democrats? Not true. President Ronald Reagan put the HTC into place and fully believed in it. Watch and listen here.

What can you do to help? Contact your representatives! Here is an easy way to send an email. And, even more effective, call them!

Abandoned Vermont: Highgate Springs Church

Highgate Springs, a small town just south of the USA/Canada border, sits on US Route 7, directly adjacent to Interstate 89. Home to lakeside homes, a family resort, and working farms, you wouldn’t know much is there, except for the church steeple that you can see from I-89, if you’re paying attention. Finally, I had the opportunity to drive by and snap a few photographs.

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You can immediately see the variety of architectural styles: the stick style gable screen, the Gothic entrance hood and pointed window arches, and the classical modillions on the tower.

 

The Highgate Springs Union Church, this Victorian Gothic building was constructed in 1877, with a mixture of Stick, Classical, and Gothic details. Originally built as a single-denomination church, it was soon used by a  “union” of Highgate denominations. It is listed in the Vermont State Register of Historic Places (#0609-58).

“The Little White Church,” as it’s locally called, is not technically abandoned, based on what I can find. However, it no longer offers regular services. Instead, it’s used for special events such as weddings from May- October.

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The church sits on at a small Y intersection.

 

 

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The benefit of late spring in Vermont: you can see the buildings through the trees even in mid May.

 

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The entrance.

 

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Looking up to the steeple. The siding is flushboard on the tower, a more expensive look that the typical clapboard (on the right).

 

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Flushboard siding.

 

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Classical, Gothic, and Stick details.

 

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A trick to tell if a building is being used? Is the electrical meter hooked up? If so, it’s not abandoned. Perhaps more neglected. This siding show paint peeling and repairs needed.

 

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Peeking in through the windows.

 

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The altar, as seen through the windows.

 

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The exterior.

Beautiful, yes? And not abandoned, but it could use some maintenance and more funding and greater usage.

Every community seems to have similar issues with churches. What about those near you?

Preservation Jobs + Internships

We’d all like to stroll around historic districts everyday!


How do you find a preservation job? It depends on where you live, of course. And like everything else in life, it helps to have good connections, whether to put in a good word for you or to alert you about employment opportunities. However, you should still seek out and apply for any job that suits you.

As President of the University of Vermont Historic Preservation Alumni Association, I feel a certain level of responsibility to connect the current students, recent grads, and alums looking to change HP directions with good links for job searching. Here’s my updated list:

HistPres, although no longer a website, has an excellent Twitter account, with jobs and opportunities you might not see elsewhere. https://twitter.com/histpres. Also, take note of where the jobs are posted and continue to search those sites, especially if you are looking for a similar style job. Note: you do not need a Twitter account to view this page.

PreserveNet remains the stalwart of preservation job listings.

Preservation Directory is another good option, sometimes with different listings than the above.

Saving Places: The National Trust lists jobs within the organization.

The University of Mary Washington keeps its historic preservation job board current.

LinkedIn: Search for “Historic Preservation” and see what’s been posted recently.

You’re school preservation department likely has listings, and be sure to connect with your alumni group. You never know what could come your way. And if you’re looking to work in the private sector, reach out to that firm and ask if anything is available.

Good luck! If you have other favorite sites, please share in the comments.

Abandoned Virginia: Central High School, Painter

Central High School is located on Lankford Highway (US Route 13) just outside Painter, Acccomack County, VA.  This 1932/1935 school was constructed in the Art Deco style, common for schools in the 1930s. Central High School joined students from Painter and Keller. In 1984, the school became the district middle school. The school grounds contain recreation fields, outbuildings, and additional classrooms. In 2005, the school closed. Read the National Register nomination here.

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Central High School, Painter, VA.

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1935 addition.

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Side entrance.

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Art Deco details above the side entrance.

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View through the side door.

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View through the windows.

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Cornerstone.

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On the athletic fields: “Central Bulldogs.”

In 2008, Tucker Robbins, a furniture designer from New York City, purchased the entire property for $150,000 with a vision to rehabilitate the school into a new home for his NYC based furniture manufacturing business, as well as an environmental-educational facility. Read about Tucker Robbins’ plan on his website. Unfortunately, his vision was not realized; and in 2015, he offered up the school for sale for $525,000. (Source: DelMarVANOW and Eastern Shore Post.) Fortunately, while he owned the building, Robbins did hire a consultant to nominate the school to the National Register of Historic Places (listed 2010).

Currently the property is listed for $350,000. Bonus: the asbestos abatement is completed inside the school building. Check the real estate for interior photographs. See this youtube video for an inside tour. Anyone want to buy a school? I hope this building has a bright future.

Section 106 & Section 4(f) Exemptions from the Exemption

Exemption from the exemption? If you’re in the regulatory + infrastructure world, you’ve likely come across this. If you are not, step into our world for a few minutes.

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The “grasshopper bridge” in Lyndon, VT, carries Route 5 over I-91 and is an exemption to the Section 106 & Section 4(f) exemption. Meaning, this bridge is subject to project review, even though I-91 is not.

By law (the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966), all projects that receive federal funding are subject to review under Section 106. Review includes identifying historic resources that are listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Any project receiving transportation funding is required to be evaluated under Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966.

But, what happens when one of largest resources in the nation becomes eligible for the National Register? By that I mean the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways (more commonly known as the Interstate Highway System). This 46,700 mile interstate highway system became eligible for the National Register on June 29, 2006, which was its 50th birthday. (Read more about Interstate history here.)

As a transportation resource, this would typically require Section 106 and Section 4(f) review on this historic resource. Imagine the amount of project review that would have spurred as a result. A majority of work on the interstate is simply paving or repairs or line striping. Basically, this had the potential to bring unnecessary paperwork and delays to state and federal levels.

Instead, the bulk of the Interstate Highway System was declared exempt from being considered a historic resource under Section 106 and Section 4(f). In other words, the Interstate Highway System was exempt from project review. This is addressed under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU, Public Law 109-59, Aug. 10, 2005) / provision (Section 6007).

However, this exemption has exemptions! Elements of the Interstate Highway System that exhibit a national level of significance, as defined by the National Register of Historic Places, are not considered exempt, and will require project review. States submitted properties for consideration, and the final list was determined by the ACHP (Advisory Council on Historic Preservation) and FHWA (Federal Highway Administration). Find your state here.

Vermont has three elements, including the “grasshopper bridge” on I-91. Officially it is a steel rigid-frame bridge (built 1970) significant for its engineering. See the photograph at the top of this post. The official statement of significance is,

“This type of bridge is very rare on interstates in New England. In Vermont, two are on I-91; one each on northbound and southbound lanes carrying the interstate over Rte. 9 in Lyndon, Vermont. As of inspection on 01/12/05, structurally both bridges are in very good condition. Engineering-wise, this style was an experiment in 1960 and 1970 to determine if steel construction could take the variable weight loadings of an interstate environment. It was designed by a New York City firm, Blauvelt Engineering Co., and received a merit award from the American Institute of Steel Construction in 1974. The overall length of the bridges is 227 feet, 6 inches.”

Sadly, the steel arched deck truss in Brattleboro, VT that carries I-91 over the Williams River was not included in the list. It is uncommon bridge in Vermont, but not uncommon elsewhere on the interstate. Thus, it’s significance was not national. And when the bridge came up for replacement, no preservation law could save it. Thus, while not every bridge or element could be saved, the list is substantial, and better than exempting the entire system. Does your state have an interstate exemption? Have you seen it? Has your interstate lost an element not on the list?

With Your Coffee

Burlington’s Moran Plant in winter. The Community Sailing Center uses the yard for boat storage, as the lake is directly to the west (right in this photo). 

Happy Presidents’ Day, everyone! How are you? I’ve been on a semi-blogging break, I guess you could say. Or at least, a blog-writing break. A few [good!] life events and the general avoidance of screens after working at a computer for most every day of the week contribute to this. Also, I’ve been avoiding many forms of social media since November. I’ve deleted Twitter from my phone, and it seems to help my overall sanity, somewhat. However, I’m feeling the pull of the blog again and missing the preservation conversations. To start off, I’ll jump back to the reading lists, because I continue to enjoy good lists from other blogs. Here are some preservation articles.

Hope you have a lovely day. And I hope today is a holiday for you.

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!)