Demolished New York: Massena High School {or: How to Answer “What Used to Be Here?”}

Demolished? It’s a variant on “Abandoned” posts, yes. However; it seems like a good way to show you the mind of a traveling preservation (or at least how mine works). What does a preservationist think about when traveling? And how does a preservationist find the answer to her question? I’ll use Massena, NY as an example, which I visited earlier this summer.

Massena, NY is a town located on the St. Lawrence River in northern New York, just south of the Canadian border. Once economically supported by the railroad and a canal, the car manufacturer, GM, along with Reynolds and Alcoa, Massena has seen better days since GM closed in 2009, removing billions of dollars from the local economy. However, the town has a good stock of historic buildings with tree-lined side streets showing its former prosperity and its potential. We enjoyed walking around town studying its current state and wondering about its past.

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Downtown Massena: underground utilities, sidewalk pavers, trees, storefronts – it is clear that there has been investment in this town not too long ago.

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The 1918 Strand Theater on Main Street is currently closed, but rehabilitation efforts are in the works.

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Theater plans in the window.

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Massena Downtown Theatre Association – see here http://massenadowntowntheatre.com/

The remainder of the small downtown “main street” includes abandoned buildings (such as the School of Business), building under rehabilitation, empty storefronts, occupied storefronts, a hotel, a post office, and some stores.

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This corner building holds a gym on the first floor.

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The rehabilitated bridge over the Grass River.

Outside of the downtown block are tree-lined residential streets with sidewalks and historic houses with front porches. There is a large park between Clark Street and Danforth Street (see map below) with a monument in it. It’s part sign, part monument, you could say.

massena park aerial

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Massena High School sign and school bell installed in the park.

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Memorial sign.

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The park and former school grounds as they appear today. The sign is behind me in this photograph.

I wondered what this sign was doing here, oddly located, in the middle of an empty park with nothing else. Where did it come from? A quick look on the map showed it labeled as “Wooden Park.” Other maps showed it as “Old Bridges Avenue Junior High School.” It seems like an odd spot for a school building, as the lot is fairly narrow. There certainly was no parking. What did it look like, if it was a school? When I have a question like this, I turn to historicaerials.com, which usually answers my question. See below. The school filled the entire space between the streets.

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The school is in the center of the photograph with Clark Street on the left and Danforth Street on the right. Note the courtyard in the middle of the school.  Photo: historicaerials.com

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Massena, 1976.

And, of course, I search for images on Google or Cardcow.com or eBay. In this case I searched for old “Massena High School” NY. I vary the quotation marks until I find what I’m looking for. When you have a common phrase such as “high school” it’s best to use it in quotes with its name, otherwise you’ll have an endless list of search results. Fortunately, this search wasn’t too difficult.

High School Massena, NY

Massena High School. Source: cardcow.com

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Massena High School (later Junior High School). Source: http://www.topix.com/album/detail/massena-ny/R3V9PSPSATQBVQOU. Thank you, kind strangers, who post information about your hometowns on the internet.

The high school was closed after the 1980-81 school year and demolished in 1986. I was unsuccessful in discovering why it was removed, but I would guess it had to do with expensive upgrades and maintenance issues. In its place a wooden park was constructed in 1990 and removed in 2015. It was officially known as the Danforth Place Creative Playground. Walking across the grass, you can still find wood remnants of the playground. The playground was removed due to deterioration and increasing vandalism and illegal activity on the playground.

And that, my preservation friends, is a simple way to find out answers to “what used to be here?” What tricks do you have?

Cheap Old Houses

It’s impossible to resist oogling houses on the instagram accounts @cheapoldhouses @circahouses and others, and following #renovationdiaries or some similar hashtag. Or, maybe you’re more the type to dream while watching “Fixer Upper” or a similar HGTV show. (My mixed feelings remain on HGTV, as do my viewing habits.)

As preservationists, we see potential in most every building. And when there’s an affordable (sometimes incredibly cheap) house just waiting for a new owner to uncover its story and restore its beauty, it’s hard not to be tempted to scoop up the house. A few that caught my eye lately:

View this post on Instagram

4625 Forsyth St, Bagdad, FL — Such a sweet little Florida home! "Incredible opportunity for historic restoration of the Turner House. John B. Turner was physician to more than 3 generations of Bagdad residents and mill workers. Across the street you’ll find the Thompson House, and plenty more of historic old Florida charmers throughout the village of Bagdad. The recently opened Bagdad Mill Site Park is just a bike ride away, and is truly a one-of-a-kind park that sits on the Blackwater River. Great potential to give new life to this craftsman-style bungalow beauty! Be aware, there are renovation loans available for those looking to take advantage of financing!" — link in profile

A post shared by Cheap Old Houses ™ (@cheapoldhouses) on

Would you ever pick up and move to a new place just for a house? While I fantasize about such things, because I daydream about old buildings, I don’t think I could actually do so. Once upon a time, younger me wanted to live in the middle of nowhere as long as I had land and beautiful old house. Actual grown-up me cannot fathom living in the middle of nowhere. I choose to live in the city, within walking distance to most everything, and not even in an old house. That last part is another story for another day.

What about you? Do you choose location? Do you choose your dwelling? Have your thoughts changed over time? What is more important to you and for what reasons? I choose location for economic, recreation, quality of life, and carbon footprint reasons. Maybe someday the perfect house in the ideal location will find its way to me. For now, I’m happy to gaze and daydream about cheap old houses, just my own preservation fantasies. What’s caught your eye lately?

(If you’re wondering, I love this instagram account, which is why I’m posting about it. Posts on Preservation in Pink are never sponsored. I simply share what I like.)

It’s impossible to resist oogling houses on the instagram accounts @cheapoldhouses @circahouses and others, and following #renovationdiaries or some similar hashtag. Or, maybe you’re more the type to dream while watching “Fixer Upper” or a similar HGTV show. (My mixed feelings remain on HGTV, as do my viewing habits.)

As preservationists, we see potential in most every building. And when there’s an affordable (sometimes incredibly cheap) house just waiting for a new owner to uncover its story and restore its beauty, it’s hard not to be tempted to scoop up the house. A few that caught my eye lately:

View this post on Instagram

4625 Forsyth St, Bagdad, FL — Such a sweet little Florida home! "Incredible opportunity for historic restoration of the Turner House. John B. Turner was physician to more than 3 generations of Bagdad residents and mill workers. Across the street you’ll find the Thompson House, and plenty more of historic old Florida charmers throughout the village of Bagdad. The recently opened Bagdad Mill Site Park is just a bike ride away, and is truly a one-of-a-kind park that sits on the Blackwater River. Great potential to give new life to this craftsman-style bungalow beauty! Be aware, there are renovation loans available for those looking to take advantage of financing!" — link in profile

A post shared by Cheap Old Houses ™ (@cheapoldhouses) on

Would you ever pick up and move to a new place just for a house? While I fantasize about such things, because I daydream about old buildings, I don’t think I could actually do so. Once upon a time, younger me wanted to live in the middle of nowhere as long as I had land and beautiful old house. Actual grown-up me cannot fathom living in the middle of nowhere. I choose to live in the city, within walking distance to most everything, and not even in an old house.

What about you? Do you choose location? Do you choose your dwelling? Have your thoughts changed over time? What is more important to you and for what reasons? I choose location for economic, recreation, quality of life, and carbon footprint reasons. Maybe someday the perfect house in the ideal location will find its way to me. For now, I’m happy to gaze and daydream about cheap old houses. What’s caught your eye lately?

 

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.

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!)

Happy New Year!

Wishing all of you and yours the absolute best in 2015.

May it be healthy, happy, and prosperous. 

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As for everyone, it’s been a busy year. A good year. Preservation in Pink told its story through photographs (my undying infatuation with Instagram), with travels throughout Vermont and to Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Georgia, New York, Washington D.C., and Montreal, QC. Of course, many of those included coffee and flamingos. 2014 was a photogenic year, as opposed to essays and tutorials. Check out the latest Instagram post for the most liked Instagram posts of 2015.

What sort of content will 2015 bring for Preservation in Pink? Time will tell as adventures and lessons materialize, but you can be sure that it will be filled with images. That’s the affliction of a preservationist: addicted to documentation and fascinated by images. If you like photographs of buildings and landscapes and details, then you’ve come to the right place. And if you like historic preservation lessons, ramblings, and otherwise, you’re still in the right place. Rather than highlight the most popular posts and recycle posts, I’d encourage you to browse through the Series page for educational preservation posts, as well as Abandoned Vermont.

Anything you’d like to see in 2015? Let me know. The social media world constantly evolves and it is my hope that Preservation in Pink continues to reach its audience and connect, whether through words, images or something new. As will always be the case, I’m grateful for the friends, the colleagues, and the opportunities that I’ve found through Preservation in Pink and the social media world. Maybe it’s due to an abandoned building or a historic playground or someone looking for grad school information or someone who loves flamingos – thank you for stopping in and sharing a bit of your world with me and allowing me to share some of mine.

I’m looking forward to 2015, and I hope you are, too. Cheers!

Vermont: A Green State or Just Green Mountains?

Vermont is known by its nickname, The Green Mountain State. (Really, it’s on our license plates.) And we are a green state. We Vermonters recycle just about everything. People are active and love the outdoors, have urban chickens or large rural, gardens. Reusable plastic bags are commonplace. People live off-grid and have solar powered houses. Living machines clean water at the rest area on I-89 in Sharon. There is a huge focus on local food and local businesses.  It’s an entirely different culture than I’ve lived in before. Sometimes the organic, granola, hippie image fits.

Yet, our towns and villages are spread far apart and many people live down winding roads, far from neighbors. Vermont is not immune to sprawl, poor development. Perhaps our population of just over 600,000 keeps it from being as noticeable as it is in other places. Vermont is not known for its public transit. Rural environments are beautiful, but it means that people often drive for every errand or outing. Small towns lack basic amenities because there is not enough population to support it. For all of the fuel-efficient cars out there, just as many or more drive larger, gas-guzzling vehicles. Vermonters drive a lot because they have to.

Overall, that doesn’t sound very green, does it? An interesting Environment 360 article from a few years back (2009) argues that New York City is the greenest place on earth, not Vermont, which is what most people think (read below).

…Vermont, in many important ways, sets a poor environmental example. Spreading people thinly across the countryside, Vermont-style, may make them look and feel green, but it actually increases the damage they do to the environment while also making that damage harder to see and to address. In the categories that matter the most, Vermont ranks low in comparison with many other American places. It has no truly significant public transit system (other than its school bus routes), and, because its population is so dispersed, it is one of the most heavily automobile-dependent states in the country. A typical Vermonter consumes 545 gallons of gasoline per year — almost a hundred gallons more than the national average.

Fast forward to 2014 (5 years after the above article), and Vermont does have public transit. It’s not significant, but it’s improving and is used by many commuters. For my own experiments, I’ve been attempting to take the bus to/from work (Burlington – Montpelier) because it actually is cheaper than driving, and it uses my time more efficiently. It’s easy enough to do a few per week, but could I get along without a car. It would be a lifestyle change. Living in Burlington or Montpelier is easier than other places if you’re trying to live car-free. Some crazy, intrepid folks bike to work year-round! And with the Burlington-based CarShareVT (similar to Zipcar), more and more people are learning to live car-free or one-car-per-household. Of course, some lifestyles do not allow this. Students are often able to do this, but those of us in the working and commuting world have a more difficult time.

Lately, I’m pondering how life would be without a car in Vermont. I like to think of it as going urban: living downtown, getting around on bike or bus, staying local, traveling by plane for greater distances. It’s not something I’m immediately ready or able to do, but it’s floating around in my head. Going urban in Vermont would be a challenge, though if you’re a core downtown area with everyday services, it’s not impossible. And it would come with great benefits, but challenges, too. Perhaps the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. In some places in Vermont, it would be impossible. The question that this brings to mind is: just how urban (read: environmentally friendly) can you go? Where do you live? Can you live car-free? Would you take that jump to do so? What do you think of Vermont? Green living? Green in color?

And, is living a sustainable lifestyle connected to preservation, for you? To me, it keeps the focus on the local environment and local economy, which is most definitely affiliated with historic preservation.

Being a Tourist by Trolley

The Burlington Traction Company trolley in Burlington, VT, 1906. Photo source: UVM Landscape Change program.

The Burlington Traction Company trolley in Burlington, VT, 1906. Photo source: UVM Landscape Change program.

Eighty-four years after burning a trolley in the street, to signify the end of the streetcar era, Burlington, VT once again has trolleys rolling about the city. Maybe these aren’t electric streetcars on steel rails, but they are historic and do take people around the city.

The Historic Trolley Tours of Burlington began in summer 2012, offering historical tours of the city as well as chartered trolleys for special events. Ride onboard one of trolleys and you’ll likely have the owner, Ric Crossman, as your tour guide. He gives the tours, instructs the drivers, and his wife does the research and script writing. The couple got the idea for Burlington trolley tours after visiting places like St. Augustine, FL and enjoying the trolley tours there.

In Burlington you choose between the north tour or the south tour. A few weeks ago, I hopped on the trolley for a north tour, hoping to learn more about the city. The 1.5 hour tour did just that, taking loops through the north side of Burlington in places that I don’t often get to explore. I appreciate a good tour. This one was accomplished by making figure 8s through some areas that way you were able to see both sides of the street and hear the history, without having to look in every direction at once. The tour is given by recording, but it is keyed to the GPS location of the bus, and our tour guide was able to pause the recording, add more information and comment.

On a sunny spring afternoon, it was fun to play tourist in my own city – see some photos below. Ric Crossman hopes to add tours, improve the tours and expand operations. He’s off to a good start.  Next time, I’ll take the south tour. Any trolley tours by you?

All aboard. When not in operation, the trolleys are parked near Perkins Pier in Burlington.

All aboard. When not in operation, the trolleys are parked near Perkins Pier in Burlington.

Otherwise you can catch a ride from the bottom of College Street, at the Visitor Info building at the RR tracks (near the Echo Center).

Otherwise you can catch a ride from the bottom of College Street, at the Visitor Info building at the RR tracks (near the Echo Center).

The owner found this trolley from a company in Quebec. Keeping it local (basically).

The owner found this trolley from a company in Quebec. Keeping it local (basically).

The immaculate interior of the trolley.

The immaculate interior of the trolley.

Trolley view of Church Street.

Trolley view of Church Street.

Funky new redevelopment in the Old North End.

Funky new redevelopment in the Old North End.

A historic firehouse.

The oldest firehouse in Burlington on Mansfield Avenue.

Crossing into Winooski, the Champlain Mill in the background.

Crossing into Winooski, the Champlain Mill in the background.

Over the Winooski River (Winooski is Burlington's neighbor). Don't look too closely at the railing.

Over the Winooski River (Winooski is Burlington’s neighbor). Don’t look too closely at the railing.

Owner, tour guide, Ric Crossman dressed to play the part.

Owner, tour guide, Ric Crossman dressed to play the part.

Changing my Transit Ways

Happy Spring, all. If Spring has arrived in Vermont, it must have found you by now. I hope! A quick question for your Monday morning: what is your preferred mode of travel in the good weather? I’ve been calling these days the happy weather in Vermont. It’s warm, beautiful, people are out and about, everyone’s mood has lifted.

And after a refreshing weekend of barely any need for a car, I’m attempting to scale down my daily vehicle use and rely on the bus, if possible for work, and my feet and bicycle for in town trips. It’s not entirely possible or easy, but perhaps a good (affordable, healthy) challenge for the next five or six months.

Have you altered your transit? How and for what reasons? Financial? Environmental? Efficiency?

Pink dogwoods for spring.

Pink dogwoods for spring.

Preservation Conferences All Around

Spring is conference season! Everywhere you look, there’s a new conference. Get ready to be invigorated by preservation and inspired by colleagues. Check out this brief list below. Add your own in the comments:

I’m excited to announce that Preservation in Pink will be featured at the Rhode Island Statewide Historic Preservation Conference as part of the session “Getting Social for a Cause: Social Media and Historic Preservation.” (See the conference brochure, page 12, session C2.) With a theme of “Pride in Preservation” and an opportunity to share my love of social media and historic preservation, I’m honored to be included!

Session C2: Hope to see you there and meet new faces.

Session C2: Hope to see you there and meet new faces.

RIconfbrochure

A great program. Click to read about the conference.

Will you be there?

Thoughts about Home: Part Two

Continued from Part One*

Part Two: The Physical Location – How Do You Make a Place Your Home? 

When you own a house, you have the right to change whatever you’d like. This is assuming you aren’t breaking any zoning ordinances or design review standards, of course. And to quell the rumor: if you have a house listed in the National Register of Historic Places, you are only required to follow state and federal review if you are receiving state or federal permits or money. A listing does not dictate your every move with your house. Still, you should respect the historic integrity of your house and community. But, aside from that, let’s talk about making a place a home in terms of the tangible elements.

How do homeowners begin to make their mark? Paint is the first and easiest answer. Gwynn lives in Northern California and though she rents, she plans to immediately paint when she does own a house. A fresh coat of paint does wonders. Removing wall to wall carpets is an easy (albeit annoying) task that can immediately change the look of your house.

When we own a place, often the best way to go about making a place your home is by living in it for a while and getting to know it, as Jim suggests: “I prefer to buy a place I can live in for several years as is, while I get to know it and form plans for how to make it more mine. In this case, I have been slowly taking up the carpets so I can live on the hardwood floors that lurk beneath, and I remodeled the bathroom, but that’s it over the six years I’ve been here.”

Jane (Vermont) sees her house as an on-going project, too: “I am removing the vinyl siding, replacing the ‘lifetime replacement windows’….insulating as I go. Maybe some day I will get to the kitchen. We’ve done the basics: roof, plumbing, electrical, heating.”

Yet, if you rent, what can you do? Most landlords allow you to paint in reasonable colors. Nothing neon or black (probably not even pink). White is a good option to make everything look fresh and clean. Colors add life to apartments. Some landlords are kind enough to upgrade appliances or door locks. Others landlord will let you do work, as long as they do not have to pay for it.

My experience has been the latter: my landlords are happy to allow me to paint or make minor repairs on my own dime. I’ll always paint because the standard beige/off-white apartment wall color is too blasé for me. If I’m going to live in a place for a year or more, I’ll gladly invest in a few cans of paint and hours of my time (and I love to paint). My biggest endeavor to date is a drop ceiling removal (which is another story, but one that was done out of sheer necessity. My pet peeve is a drop ceiling – a filthy, mismatched, aesthetically unpleasing one at that).

And for those who cannot do any painting? Our stuff – furniture, linens, artwork makes all the difference, of course. Dave (NYC) writes, “Moving into a house or apartment is part of the process too, arranging furniture and kitchen gear makes the place our home.” Lani writes, “I live in Chiang Mai Thailand, a growing mid-sized city, in an apartment that I rent. Since I move frequently, I feel like the first thing I want to change is the wall color! I wish I could but never can. Nevertheless, I almost always manage to make where ever I live more like home.”

We all seem to be on similar wavelengths: clean up the place. Paint if we can. Lovingly arrange our belongings. And if we own our homes, then take on one project at a time. For those who are renters and crazy enough to take on projects for the goodwill of the house, I’d like to hear your stories.

Anything we missed?

——–

*Hiatus to due to holiday distractions. Thanks for your patience.