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.
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.
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. 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 University. From 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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
- Doing preservation research? If I were, I’d definitely apply for the 2017 Pocantico Fellowship. Deadline March 31.
- Another reminder: Apply for the Poplar Forest Architectural Restoration Field School. An incredible deal and a wonderful two-week experience. Deadline April 7.
Hope you have a lovely day. And I hope today is a holiday for you.
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.
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?
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!)
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:
- Clarendon Church (vacant)
- South Ryegate Church (status unknown, but sold in 2016)
- Simonsville Meeting House (seasonal use)
- Bloomfield Church (recent comments indicate it’s now a music venue)
- Highgate Falls Church (seasonal use)
- Hubbardton Church (storage only)
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?