Vacant Buildings: I Wish This Was

Most towns have at least one vacant storefront. Does yours? Mine does. Many more have vacant second or third (or more) stories above the ground floor, whether vacant or occupied. How does anyone fill those spaces? It takes more than an idea to create a viable business in any town; it takes money, planning, community support and then some. But, neighborhood revitalization and economic development begins with an idea, with an ounce of hope and excitement.

While a designated group may guide the development and implementation of an idea or a project, it likely grew out of ideas from many. What makes a successful endeavor is when the entire community contributes (which is why public input is an essential component of the Section 106 review process for historic resources). What is the best way to gain public interest and community involvement? Something catchy, of course. How do you come up with visions for your community? Brainstorming.

Recently, I came across a unique way to engage the community and to receive public input. It is a public art project called “I Wish This Was” created by artist Candy Chang, an artist, designer and urban planner. This project began in New Orleans, LA in November 2010 in order to figure out what the community needed and to inspire.

I Wish This Was a Grocery. (via: iwishthiswas.cc -- click for source)

I Wish This Was stickers. (via iwishthiswas.cc -- click for source)

See the Flickr photo set of “I Wish This Was” in action.

I love this idea. It seems so simple and so intriguing. People can voice their opinions without attending public meetings, which, frankly, most people do not enjoy. They can write on buildings (the particular stickers for sale will not cause property damage). People can scan the ideas of others for inspiration. The community can start dreaming and answering the questions, “What do you really want? What do you need in this town? In this location?”

Has anyone seen this project in person? What do you think? Would you use it in your town? It seems like a great idea. Red stickers would probably call attention to a vacant building.

Grammar, Semantics, Theory and Tangents

Readers, if you have not been following the commentary on Monday’s post of Preservation Grammar: Historic v. Historical, I recommend you do! What started as a simple post have led to discussions on linguistics, terminology in the field, relevance to archaeology and more. Chime in; it’s fun!

To those already discussing, keep it going! Thanks for the debates and lessons so far.

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?

National Park Service’s Teaching With Historic Places: USS Arizona

The US Military wears the flag flying this way ("backwards" most of us would say) so it always looks like they are moving forward.

December 7 is the remembrance of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

USS Arizona. Image source: NPS Teaching with Place. Click for source link.

To learn about Pearl Harbor, try visiting the National Park Service’s webpage called, “Teaching with Places Historic Lessons Plans:  Remembering Pearl Harbor, the USS Arizona Memorial.” You find maps, a brief history lesson, and historic images. Start here with the historical context:

The attack on Pearl Harbor thrust the United States into World War II. The attack had significant and far-reaching political effects on the United States, changing the minds of many who had been philosophically opposed to war or who had taken a passive stance towards the war in Europe. The increasing diplomatic confrontations and economic sanctions against Japan by the United States and others, compounded by Japan’s undeclared war in China and the weakening of European control in Asian colonies, precipitated the war in the Pacific. The Japanese felt that the time was opportune to conquer British, American, French, Chinese, and Dutch territories in Southeast Asia. This belief pushed militaristic factions in Japan to provoke war with the United States. Fearing that the United States Pacific Fleet would pose a formidable obstacle to Japanese conquest of Southeast Asia, Admiral Isoruko Yamamoto, Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet, visualized a bold attack on the Pacific Fleet while it lay at anchor at Pearl Harbor. Such a surprise strategical attack, bold and daring in its execution, would, he believed, secure the Pacific.

Teaching with Historic Places is a part of the NPS’ Heritage Education Services. In a nutshell, “Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) uses properties listed in the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places to enliven history, social studies, geography, civics, and other subjects. TwHP has created a variety of products and activities that help teachers bring historic places into the classroom.”

Browse for lesson plans and interesting information, even if you are simply teaching yourself. Thanks for the resource, NPS!

Featured In…

Dubuque Main Street (of Dubuque, Iowa) features an excerpt from the Muppets (2011) post in its December 2011 e-newsletter (click to read). I’ve always loved Iowa (partially because of Field of Dreams, but also because of the time I spent in Iowa while living in Nebraska), so I’m psyched to have PiP featured in this newsletter.

Show some love and check out the newsletter to learn about Dubuque’s holiday festivities, local shopping and holiday decorations. Visit the website to learn a bit about Dubuque, too.  Here’s a snippet about the Main Street movement in Dubuque to get you started:

In the 1960s and ’70s Dubuque, like many cities across the country, experienced a polarization of its retail trade from downtown to new development on its west side. This shift led to a dramatic demise of downtown with first floor vacancy levels reaching 55% and a loss of anchor department stores.

Realizing that property owners, business owners and the City needed to work together; a coordinating committee was formed in 1984. Community leaders agreed the Main Street program would act as a timely catalyst for economic development and downtown revitalization for Dubuque

In 1985, Dubuque was chosen by the National Trust’s Demonstration Program to be one of seven pilot cities for the Urban Main Street program. Following the program step by step, Dubuque Main Street has provided structure and unity to a downtown composed of many separate parts. After 26 years of success, downtown Dubuque, the longest standing urban program, has seen a dramatic renaissance, leading the state of Iowa in Main Street investment.

I haven’t been to Dubuque in about 5.5 years and my stay was brief; thus, my knowledge is limited. After doing some browsing about the city, it seems to be a midwestern gem filled with great architecture, cultural events, tourist attractions and recreational activities, all set on the Mississippi River in this hilly eastern Iowa city. Dubuque has won awards from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is ranked high for economic growth and employment opportunities. Check out this BBC video, “How A Midwestern Town Reinvented Itself.”

Neat! I think I’ll add it on my list of places to visit. Thanks Dubuque Main Street  for reintroducing me to the city.

A&P Coffee Can

Coffee fuels my preservation thoughts. I love coffee. And yet, hopefully I’m not the only one who did not know that coffee used to come in a can that required a key to open said can. Am I (aside from my youngest sister)? Hmm. What kind of self respecting coffee addict aficionado am I? I must study. When my mother sent me the image below, I wasn’t quite sure what she was talking about. Behold, the unopened coffee can with a key.

Drip Grind A&P Coffee.

The top of the coffee can. It

20111129-003044.jpg

The bottom of the coffee can. That key comes with the can and it fits in the metal tab on the side.

The side of the coffee can. The key fits into the black spot. Once opened, you have a reusable lid.

Aside from the fun retro factor, my mom is wondering a few things about this coffee can.

(1) When did companies stop making such cans?

(2) How much would something like this be worth?

(3) Does anyone have any information about such cans?

(4) Do you think the coffee is still good?

Ha! Just kidding on that last one; Mom will keep this for fun in her kitchen. She remembers them in the 1950s and 1960s, but not after that. If you could help us out – if you happen to a true coffee aficionado, please fill us in. (These photos are from a cell phone, but if you’d like better quality images, let me know.)

We like to know the stories of our belongings. Who has a good theory as to why this was never opened?

Enjoy! And thanks!

Job Hunting Advice at HISTPRES

You have probably seen the revamped HISTPRES site by now. Meagan and Laura have done an excellent job putting together their new site, expanding it beyond job postings. Now the site includes resources, events, blog posts and more.

Head over there today to read a guest post, written by me, in regards to job and internship hunting and the benefits of doing so.

Thanks to Meagan and Laura for the opportunity to contribute!

P.S. The spooky looking picture that appears on the featured post section of the main page is quite appropriate for today. It is me conducting an interview at the Squirrel Cage Jail in Council Bluffs, IA, way back in summer 2006 when I internes with NCPE/NPS in Omaha, NE.

Cold Weather Coming! Insulation!?

Who else is getting chilly in the Northeast? Maybe it’s chilly in the Midwest, too? And the Northwest? Certainly you southerners are still enjoying the summer sun’s warm rays with a few lovely, blustery fall days. My memory could be skewed, but I am fairly certain that October was still very warm in the North Carolina Sandhills.

Normally, I wouldn’t mind this chill, except right now we are lacking heat in our house. (Thanks again, Irene.) We’re working on it with insurance, so hopefully it will be warm again soon. Fortunately, as new homeowners, we have a never-ending list of projects to do, which means there is enough reason to move constantly and keep warm. My favorite task is painting. I love painting! We’ll talk paint colors again soon.

Before fun aesthetic matters like paint colors, let’s get back to insulation issues. I was relieved to hear that I am not crazy after my rant against spray foam insulation. See the comments by Maria and Henrietta.

As I’ve mentioned, this year’s winter will be for observing how our lack of insulation affects our 1928 house. The attic is insulated, so all will be okay this year. Next year we’ll decide what we’re missing. Between now and spring I would like to acquire more knowledge about insulation. Colleagues and friends know my stance on insulation (at least insulation in my house), and I’d like to have more credible answers – rather than just some knowledge combined with gut instincts – for when they ask me questions about their house. While I’ve never claimed to be an expert, people know that I care about historic structures. There is no use in caring and not applying preservation know-how or learning it.

Step One: Acquire References.

My list of references from reliable sources includes:

(1) Issues: Weatherization from the National Trust for Historic Preservation (with special note to insulation)

(2) Technical Preservation Services: Weather from the National Park Service

(3) Energy Costs in an Old House from Historic New England

(4) Q&A from Old House Online (Old House Journal)

(5) Q&A from Historic HomeWorks (John Leeke)

What have you found helpful? What can you add?

Step Two: Read & Comprehend. That is a project for winter.

As smaller measures this year, we’re making sure to close the storm windows and add insulated curtains. If necessary, maybe we’ll tackle weather stripping. However, I really do not expect the house to be especially cold. It’s a good house and I have faith in it.

Hey Buffalo, Wish I Were There!

This week is the annual National Trust for Historic Preservation conference in Buffalo, NY.

I haven’t been to a NTHP conference since 2005 in Louisville, KY and before that, 2004 in Portland, OR. These are large conferences with many events, lectures, field sessions and meetups to choose.  They were interesting when I was in college, but at that time, I always felt that the National Trust catered to more experienced professionals. As a college student and a newbie to the preservation world, I remember feeling out of place, despite my passion for preservation.

Over the last few years, I’ve noticed that the National Trust has been changing its attitude and encouraging the younger crowd of participants. Young professionals are all a-twitter at this conference (pun intended), and I would have loved to have met fellow preservationist, particularly those who I only know through the blogging world. Maybe next time?

Meagan at HISTPRES compiled her picks for young preservationists attending the conference. Twitter was filled with #presconf hash tags all day today, as was the young preservationist meetup.

So, now, I’m wondering — does the National Trust seem to be encouraging more “young” preservationists because I’m older (i.e. no longer a college kid) or because that is the trend. I’m thinking it’s the latter, but college kids, please correct me if I’m wrong.

Anyway, unable to attend? The Preservation Nation blog put together a list of highlights and links so we can follow along. Those of you attending, hope it’s a blast!

News: Preservation Funding at Risk

Extremely important news from the National Trust for Historic Preservation:

Dear Preservationist,

As early as today, the U.S. Senate could vote on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill. It is likely that a harmful amendment to this bill will be offered that would prohibit preservation-related activities under the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program – the single largest source of federal funding for historic preservation.

This change would be devastating to preservation projects that capitalize on existing historic resources to create jobs, improve the quality of life, and protect the environment. With the help of advocates like you, we overcame a similar threat to the program last month. Now we must rise to the challenge again to defend this important program.

The bill also carries damaging new language (Section 128) that would waive National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) review provisions designed to protect historic and cultural resources from disaster recovery projects. This measure is redundant and sets a harmful precedent of waiving the NHPA.

Please contact your U.S. Senators TODAY and ask them to vote NO on any amendment eliminating preservation-related transportation enhancements, and to OPPOSE Section 128 of the THUD appropriations bill.

Visit PreservationNation for more information on the importance of the Transportation Enhancements program to your state and the National Historic Preservation Act.

Thank you for standing up for historic preservation!

Your friends at the National Trust for Historic Preservation

CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION NOW.

Please take a minute to complete this form to have it automatically sent to your representatives. It barely takes any effort and could make all the difference in your community. As discussed on Preservation in Pink a few weeks ago, transportation enhancement grants are vital to historic preservation and to your town, state and our nation. Please don’t wait. Contact your senators today.