What’s That? An HGTV Show That Will Not Infuriate Preservationists?!

While I’ve confessed my love of HGTV previously, most of the shows are not preservation friendly. What’s particularly annoying? The shows in which people talk about “character” and “charm” but only want brand new homes when they are looking at older homes. Or the shows in which spray foam runs rampant. I normally end up angry at the television. (It’s a good thing I watch HGTV only a few times per year.) But, wait! This time on my HGTV stint, I’ve discovered a new (to me) show.

The show is Rehab Addict, with host and “star” Nicole Curtis. She’s a self-taught DIY-er who buys historic homes desperately in need of rehabilitation. And what does she do? She restores them, doing most of the work herself. She saves old windows, hardwood floors, and significant features. And when new material is needed Nicole finds salvage material where possible. The show is based in Minneapolis, MN and Detroit, MI. How does she afford such tasks? Curtis is also a real estate agent; after the houses are rehabilitated she sells them.

As a preservationist, what do I like? Nicole seems genuine and she gets excited about finding historic features. She wants to save as much historic fabric as possible. She loves these houses. She despises vinyl tile, popcorn ceilings and bad renovation decisions. And she’s a cool woman. How many of us (women and men) wish we could do what she does? Read more about Nicole Curtis here.

While I’ve only seen a few episodes, it’s exciting to find a television that actually is about restoration not “remodeling.” Good job, HGTV. And now I want to buy a dollar house somewhere. Who’s with me?

Merry Christmas Eve


Flamingos live in my Christmas tree.

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you have time to relax, unplug, enjoy good company, and spend time around a beautiful Christmas tree. If you’re looking for some holiday entertainment, check out a few Christmas links.

The original 1966 How the Grinch Stole Christmas (watch the entire film for free).

The most recent dialect quiz from The New York Times. (Good family fun, avoiding politics and religion.)

 A photo of the first (1931) Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. (Have you been to Rockefeller Center?)

An O’Shea family Christmas tree (with my sister Sarah for scale, before we decorate).

Speaking of trees, did you catch the post on Christmas Tree sale typology?

A delicious cookie recipe: candy cane twists. (Always a favorite.)

Eggnog news story and recipe. (Yum!)

Past Preservation in Pink posts about Christmas.(Shopping to trees, carols, decorations, and more.)

Merry Christmas to you and yours. Enjoy the holiday. 


Preservation Month 2013


The Service Building of the Gryphon Building Block in Rutland, VT.

It’s National Preservation Month! Hooray! Good stuff coming your way.

Miss Mary Mack & Miss Lucy

From the Chicago History Museum via The Library of Congress memory collection. Click for source.

From the Chicago History Museum via The Library of Congress memory collection. Click for source.

Does anyone remember hand rhymes & games from elementary school? You know, the kind you played in the schoolyard. Or maybe you sang them as jump-rope rhymes. My mother, sisters and I were recently discussing “Miss Mary Mack” and “Miss Lucy” and other rhymes. We couldn’t remember the words, so naturally we turned to Google. And wow, are there many crazy versions of these rhymes. We were all intrigued.

We could get as far as “Miss Lucy had a steamboat / the steamboat had a bell / Miss Lucy went to heaven / and the steamboat went to – / hello operator, give me number nine … ” and a few more verses. Remembering the appropriate hand motions was even more difficult. However, I have fond memories of standing in the kindergarten playground and playing these clapping games with my friends.

Recently I came across the British Library’s exhibit of “Playtimes: A Century of Children’s Games and Rhymes” (found via Playscapes) which has a section about clapping games. While traditions might vary from Britain to the United States, this exhibit reads (click to access videos of the games):

Clapping games continue to resonate across modern-day playgrounds. Although they have an earlier history, these games found real popularity in the 1960s, travelling to England from America and filling playgrounds across the country. They can be employed in a number of situations: to pass time while waiting in line, to play with a large circle of friends, or to keep your hands warm on a cold day. Enticingly, they offer the chance to demonstrate to your peers your ability to memorise and enact dazzlingly complicated rhythms and rhymes.  The songs vary in complexity, from basic songs such as ‘A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea’ to hybrid pastiches drawing upon established clapping songs, pop songs, TV shows and actions. The result is a fantastically varied genre of play in a constant state of transition.

Introduction by Michael Rosen.

What other games do you remember? Do you have good sources for reading about playground games? Much research has been completed on playground history and design, but the games that took place within these spaces is a topic just as important.

Buy Local Advertisements

Yesterday’s image, “You Can’t Buy Happiness, But You Can Buy Local and that’s Kind of the Same Thing,” was well liked, so I thought you might like additional graphics. Who doesn’t love a good design, right? These “Buy Local” advertisements have probably been floating around the internet for a while, but some are so creative and fu that they warrant sharing with as many people as possible. Does your town or city have a similar poster or logo?

via Seed Designs. Click for source and original.

Infographic by elocal.com. Click for source and original.

Buy Local First Utah. Click for source.

Brookhaven, MS. Click for original source and additional images.

Clinton County, OH. Click for source.

Marshfield, WI. Click for source.

A nice main street block with such potential! BUY LOCAL so this doesn’t happen to you. Click for source.

Infographic via Columnfive Media and Intuit and Mind Body Green. Click for source.

Clearly, this could go on forever. Point being, the next time you are looking for some local shopping inspiration, take a look at these images. Share them (with proper credit to their original sites, of course) and get out to support those local businesses in whatever way you can. Have an image to share? Send it along. Enjoy!

The 1940 Census

Today, April 2, 2012, marks 72 years after the 1940 U.S. Census and the first day that the public will have free online access to the entire census via the National Archives and Records Administration. At 9:00 a.m. EST, the census will be released via a live webcast. You can start watching the webcast at 8:30 a.m.

1940 U.S. Map - all 48 states. Alaska and Hawaii were not states at the time. Click for image source.

If you follow news any of the many archivists, archives or libraries on Twitter or Facebook, you may have heard that the release of 1940 U.S. Census is a big deal. This clip from NPR provides an interesting perspective about the census:

This lifting of the veil takes place every 10 years, but William Maury, chief historian at the U.S. Census Bureau, says this census offers some particularly interesting information. “The 1940 census was very close to the end of the Depression, but it was also right at the beginning of all the uncertainties associated with World War II,” Maury says. “The census itself tells terrific stories about what we were as a people and what we are as a people now.

Why 72 years later? The simple answer is that U.S. Law requires a 72 year privacy mandate. The date for the 1940 census was set at April 1. Since April 1 was a Sunday this year, the release is April 2.

Currently, the census information will not be searchable by names, but you will be able to search by enumeration districts. An enumeration district is essentially an area covered by an enumerator (census worker) in a certain period (two weeks in urban areas of one month in rural areas), and these districts were created for record keeping purposes. And the information you can learn? The 1940 Census asked many more questions than previous censuses. It will also include if people worked for the CCC, WPA or NYA. Additionally, there is a question that asks where the person lived in 1935. That adds a much deeper layer to research. See a blank 1940 census form here or here’s an easier version to read.

AP Photo/Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

According to Ancestry.com, the 1940 census will be available (and free) in searchable form in mid April.  Check out a comparison between the 1940 Census and the 2010 Census. Read a good blog post from The History Blog about the history of the census and the importance of the  1940 Census.

If you’re not a genealogist, why should this matter to you? While you may not be researching many people, you’ll be able to find your great-grandparents, grandparents or your parents documented in this census with more information than ever before. Imagine your grandparents and great-grandparents being interviewed by the enumerator walking door to door in the city or walking and driving down dusty dirt roads from farm to farm. Of course, it sounds much more exciting than the boring forms we fill out today. Regardless, all of the information is critical to understanding the composition of the United States.

Obviously, the country looked much different in 1940; the census will augment historical records and research that we  have, and will aid future researchers.

I am excited research my grandparents, all of whom were very young for the 1930 census, but will be at least of working age in 1940. This extra decade of census information will add greater detail to my family’s history, which is important to me as it allows me to understand my place in history and my family. If you’re researching, have fun!  Read this information from the National Archives about how to get started.

You Do Not Have to be a Historic Preservationist

Lately, I have been thinking about historic preservation and how it is viewed by non-preservationists. Non-preservationists can be those who may be interested in but do not define themselves as preservationists, those who are generally uninterested in the field or those who are unaware of what preservation is. To the latter two categories, the term “historic preservation” may sound unfriendly, scarred by stereotypes and preconceived notions or affiliated too much with gentrification.

Those of us familiar with the field of historic preservation know that it is anything but elitist. The days of focusing solely on house museums and famous figures only have long passed. Now historic preservation includes all ethnicities, all races, all classes, all architectural styles, all communities and reaches beyond history to intertwine itself with economic revitalization, sustainability and quality of life. It is quite the challenge to be effectively succinct about preservation.

You do not have to be a historic preservationist in order to appreciate historic preservation.

Has anyone ever told you that? Does that sound strange? Or obvious? In other words, as I write and talk about historic preservation, I am not hoping to transform you into preservationists. My motivation is not to make every other field sound less important. Rather, the goal is to gain your respect for preservation while providing education about the field.

Reliving my childhood in summer 2005 at The Big Duck, except as a kid I bought a kite inside the store.

For reference, I consider my family members who are not trained in preservation nor would they define themselves as preservationists. Yet, there are traces of preservation throughout our childhoods. We all grew up loving The Big Duck on Long Island (and we had ducks for pets; Mom still does).  We were and remain incredibly attached to the town of and our memories in Point Lookout. My mom could explain the history of most places we’d pass on our drives to eastern Long Island. My sister Sarah loved road-tripping with my mom and me where we saw more roadside architecture, an abandoned schoolhouse, state and national parks and memorials and small towns in the middle of nowhere.

Sarah and me at the giant Prairie Dog outside Badlands National Park in August 2006.

Inside an abandoned Nebraska schoolhouse, August 2006.

My youngest sister Erin (a frequent commenter on PiP) understands how quality of life and sense of place are improved through supporting small businesses and getting behind the development of bicycle trails. Both girls loved the first time I brought them to a drive-in movie theater.  My sister Annie holds our family traditions dear, yearns to take a cross-country road trip together, and explains to me that I’d love Austria because of the narrow, winding streets and little stores and the architecture. My dad tells me the history of Forest Hills and his parents, his visits to the 1964 World’s Fair and his love for train travel.

I have taken many road trips (Route 66, South Carolina, South Dakota, Great Lakes) on which I have stayed in little motels, seen roadside America galore, driven through small towns and big cities and of course, seen flamingos along the way and/or had a flamingo in tow. And I always drink a lot of coffee.

On the road with Pip in July 2009, and lots of coffee.

You see, it is easy to identify many elements of and connections to preservation running through my family members and our conversations, even if they don’t completely (or didn’t always) realize it. Aside from my mom, I would be surprised if any of my family members included “historic preservationist” in their “about me” descriptions.

Yet, they understand why it is important and appreciate the benefits of historic preservation. And that is what matters most. While they may not want to do what I do for a living, they are glad that I want to do it. (Don’t be fooled; families are not perfect. We avoid discussions about big box stores.)

The same can be said for every field, probably. Sarah works in the wildlife conservation & environmentalism fields, which is another incredibly vital role in the health of our world. Wildlife conservation is not something I can see myself doing as a career/lifestyle, but I understand its importance. The same can be said environmentalism. Not everyone is going to keep up with the latest scientific findings and reports, but many will do his/her part to improve efficient use of resources in order to help save the planet, habitats and environment.

This is a non-succinct story to explain that just because you understand (or sort of understand) all of the historic preservation chatter and theories, does not mean that you have to define yourself as a preservationist. (This is not to discourage you from defining yourself as one if you’d like.) In fact, you don’t have to understand it all. The needed part, by all, is to respect historic preservation and those of us who believe strongly in the power (for good) of the wide-reaching field. You do not have to do the preservation work, but if you can come to terms with even one aspect of preservation (e.g. local shopping, rehabilitation of historic buildings, land use planning, heritage tourism), then you are enabling us preservationists to keep at what we love – and more importantly, to work at ways in improving quality of life and sense of place for person and every community.

So, what do you think? Does knowing that, as a preservationist, I am not attempting to “convert” you or others to a new field make you less apprehensive to historic preservation?  And if you are a preservationist, how do you feel about this?


p.s. Did you miss Friday’s Pop Quiz? Take it today and the answer will be up tomorrow.

Daylight Saving Time

Spring ahead for one less hour of sleep this past weekend, but one more hour of daylight for many months. Sounds like a fair tradeoff, yes? Do you ever wonder why we have Daylight Saving Time? It’s not something that the entire world (or even the entire country) follows. Did you know that it is Daylight Saving and not Daylight Savings (i.e. singular instead of plural)?

Click for source.

Do you know why we observe Daylight Saving? The most common-thought-to-be-true explanation is probably something we all heard in elementary school or in popular culture: so the farmers would have enough daylight for their work. However, that’s not exactly true. Its tale is complicated and sources are not always in agreement, but here is a brief history. Consider it your dose of trivia for the day.

Daylight saving is a late 19th/early 20th century concept, though it can be traced to Benjamin Franklin, who said “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” and thought adjusting the time throughout April and October would aid productivity. However, the first person to propose Daylight Saving Time (in 1895) was actually an entomologist named G.V. Hudson, who lived in New Zealand, and – like many of us – valued daylight after working hours. For the following twenty years, proposals for Daylight Saving were in British conversation and Parliament, but nothing happened until WWI.

Click for source.

Paired with Daylight Saving Time is Standard Time. Standard Time existed before Daylight Saving Time, which is an adjustment of Standard time. Daylight Saving Time currently is the portion of the year from March-November. Standard Time is November – March.

Standard Time (time zones) were in place – but not required – beginning 1883, when the railroads decided it was necessary to standardize schedules. A United States Act (not law) established Standard Time and Daylight Saving in 1918, which was repealed seven months later in 1919. President Franklin Roosevelt instituted year round Daylight Saving during WWII, in order to reduce costs by reducing the need for artificial lighting.

Since its inception, Daylight Savings has been inconsistent, debated and altered many times: in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and most recently in 2007. Days ranged from the first Sunday in April to the first Sunday in November, the second Sunday of March, to the last Sunday in October. As we know Daylight Saving now: spring ahead one hour the second Sunday in March and fall back the first Sunday in November (both at 0200 hours). Prior to that, the days were the first Sunday of April and the last Sunday of October. The reason for this 2007 change was the 2005 Energy Policy Act.

Debates about Daylight Savings continue. Does it benefit health? Does it simply mess with people’s schedules and throw off sleep patterns? Is it confusing? Is it necessary anymore?

What do you think? I love Daylight Saving Time, when it begins and ends. Less daylight in the colder months, makes the house feel cozier. I like being in my house. And that extra hour of sleep in the fall just gives everyone a mood boost. The one less hour of sleep in the (almost) spring is no fun, but the additional daylight after work makes everyone happy and encourages everyone to get outside. A little change is always, and in the northern states like Vermont, gives us hope that either spring is coming soon or that our snowy winter is close. Would it matter to you if there was another change to Daylight Saving Time?

Presidents’ Day

A bald eagle sitting in the cottonwood tree at Chimney Point State Historic Site, VT, February 2012.

Happy Presidents’ Day!

Who loves CBS Sunday morning? Whenever I’m home visiting my parents, we sit in the sunny living room, drinking coffee while watching this show. Usually the stories are interesting and we cannot tear ourselves away. Yesterday’s edition was all about the Presidents and the White House, and it was fascinating.  Here is some of my new presidential knowledge, thanks to CBS.

William Henry Harrison is the president who gave the longest inauguration speech (2 hours) and he was sworn in at age 68, at a time when the average life expectancy was only 39.

John Tyler succeeded William Henry Harrison after he died (one month after his inauguration speech). His campaign would be very in vogue today as he was a wealthy aristocrat who portrayed himself as an average guy who liked hard cider and log cabins, unlike his opponent, William McKinley. And, John Tyler who served as President from 1841-1845 has two living grandsons — yes, 170 after his presidency, his grandson is alive. Three generations spanning 200 years. Crazy. How? John Tyler fathered a child at age 68 and his son was a father at age 75. John Tyler’s grandsons are in their 80s.

And, possibly the best part of the show were the clips of Jackie Kennedy’s tour of the White House. Mrs. Kennedy essentially created the role of White House curator and worked hard for restoration and historic preservation of the White House (and beyond). Mrs. Kennedy shaped the White House in a respectful way, stating that it is very important for how the country presents itself. She believed in keeping pieces from all of the presidents, but also thought that the White House should change a bit with each presidential family.  From the JFK Library, Jacqueline Kennedy is quoted in Life Magazine in 1961 as saying,

“All these people come to see the White House and they see practically nothing that dates back before 1948,” Mrs. Kennedy said in a September 1, 1961 interview with Hugh Sidey of Life magazine. “Every boy who comes here should see things that develop his sense of history. For the girls, the house should look beautiful and lived-in. They should see what a fire in the fireplace and pretty flowers can do for a house; the White House rooms should give them a sense of all that. Everything in the White House must have a reason for being there. It would be sacrilege merely to “redecorate” it — a word I hate. It must be restored — and that has nothing to do with decoration. That is a question of scholarship.”

(I knew I liked Jackie O.)

What an interesting piece to include; it shows that the presidency and the presidential terms are about more than the Presidents themselves. And while we should most definitely honor the U.S. Presidents, it is important to remember their entire legacies and families.

If you have the chance, watch some of those CBS Sunday morning clips or look up facts about a president you’re not too familiar with. At the very least, you’ll have a bit more knowledge of US history and some good trivia facts.

Here is a famous quote about Vermont, written by President Calvin Coolidge:

Vermont is a state I love. I could not look upon the peaks of Ascutney, Killington, Mansfield, and Equinox, without being moved in a way that no other scene could move me. It was here that I first saw the light of day; here I received my bride, here my dead lie pillowed on the loving breast of our eternal hills.

I love Vermont because of her hills and valleys, her scenery and invigorating climate, but most of all because of her indomitable people. They are a race of pioneers who have almost beggared themselves to serve others. If the spirit of liberty should vanish in other parts of the Union, and support of our institutions should languish, it could all be replenished from the generous store held by the people of this brave little state of Vermont.

You can visit the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site in Plymouth, VT (his birthplace). Here, Coolidge was sworn in as President of the United States by his father.

Preservation Grammar: Historic v. Historical

The grammar topic for today: When it is correct to use “historic” or “historical”?

How often do you come across “historical preservation” as opposed to “historic preservation?” I see this quite often, whether casually or in presentations. If you consider the laws and the basis for the field, the proper term is “historic” not “historical”. For all other purposes, what’s the difference?I found the best explanation I’ve seen so far via Grammar Girl.

You can read Grammar Girl’s response or listen to the podcast about Historic v. Historical here. In brief, historic is something significant to our past whereas historical is something that is old and not necessarily important. If you think back to the Old House v. Historic House discussion, you’ll recall that historic means significant. Significant means that a building, structure, object, district or site is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Old is simply old and not important or significant.

Now, how to remember this? From Grammar Girl:

William Safire said something that might help you remember the difference: “Any past event is historical, but only the most memorable ones are historic” (3). I’ve also created an odd memory trick to help you: You can remember the meanings of these two words by thinking that “ic” is “important,” and they both start with i, and “al” is “all in the past,” and those both start with a.

Why does this matter? Should you correct people who say historical preservation as opposed to historic preservation? (You should if it’s an appropriate occasion only.) Think of it this way: historical preservation leans toward the stereotype of “saving everything” as opposed to preserving, documenting, incorporating the significant (i.e. historic) elements of the past.

What do you think?