Spotlight on the Historic Bridge Foundation, Part Two

Yesterday we started talking about historic bridges as a way to introduce the Historic Bridge Foundation (HBF). Have you heard of the HBF prior to this? If not, let’s get you acquainted, as HBF is one organization you should know for your historic preservation projects.


The Historic Bridge Foundation is a national advocacy organization for the preservation of historic bridges in the United States. HBF achieves its mission through the following avenues:

  • Service as a clearinghouse for information on the preservation of historic bridges via a website, electronic newsletters or alerts, and directory of consultants
  • Identification of and communication with individuals and groups interested in the preservation of historic bridges
  • Consultation with public officials to devise reasonable alternatives to demolishing or adversely affecting historic bridges
  • Development of educational programs to promote awareness of historic bridge

How can the HBF help you? HBF provides support and resources. You’ll most likely be looking for help if you have a historic bridge threatened with demolition. You can start by reading How to Save a Bridge. This page has a list of contractors who have worked with historic bridges, steps to get you started for rounding up community members, as well as case studies of historic bridge projects.

When you’re hoping to save a historic bridge you need to know how the project is being funded, because that determines which regulations apply. If it’s federal funding, Section 106 comes into play. If it’s federal transportation dollars, then Section 4(f) applies. Both of these federal laws require public input from stakeholders. That’s you!, but you have to get organized. HBF offers guidance on that. HBF will point you in the direction of the resources you need.

Want to get involved and keep up with the Historic Bridge Foundation? Follow HBF on Facebook or Sign up for the newsletter. Questions? Need help? Have something to offer? Contact the Executive Director Kitty Henderson at If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Kitty, she’s extremely passionate, knowledgeable, and dedicated to the cause. She’s a guardian angel for historic bridges!

If you’re at the NTHP Conference in Savannah, stop by the HBF table in the Preservation Studio and talk to Nathan Holt, the creator of and the newsletter editor for HBF.


Spotlight on the Historic Bridge Foundation, Part One

While driving around Georgia, I’ve noticed one bridge railing in particular: a two bar concrete railing with rectangular concrete posts. It’s a rather simple design and it’s used all over Georgia’s highways (those that I’ve seen in south Georgia), from long spans to short spans, interstates and state highways. Something about this railing says engineering and economic efficiency, yet there is an aesthetic quality to it. And those that are replaced with concrete Jersey barriers are just not the same.

Georgia railing as seen from the passenger seat.

Georgia railing as seen from the passenger seat.

Bridges take us from one side to another, physically and/or metaphorically (whichever you prefer). Historic bridges stand as records of engineering heritage. Each genre of bridge speaks to its designers, materials available at the time, the technology available, the width of vehicles they transported, and methods of construction. And, quite often, those historic bridges that survive today are beautiful, photogenic and interesting to see. Covered bridges, metal truss bridges, arch bridges, small ornamental concrete railings – they’re all a part of the larger picture of bridges and transportation.

Unfortunately, because our transportation needs are constantly changing due to larger, heavier vehicles, more traffic, and safety standards, many of our historic bridges must be repaired, altered, or replaced. Deferred maintenance and deteriorating materials place many of our historic bridges at risk for demolition. Even with federal regulations to aid in preservation, the decision to rehabilitate a historic bridge is sometimes a difficult path.

Every resource needs an advocate or many, and advocates need a guiding force. What do historic bridges have? Enter the Historic Bridge Foundation based in Austin, TX. Before diving into the nuts and bolts of HBF, read the story on the main page, which is written by Executive Director, Kitty Henderson. She writes about the Vida Shaw Swing Bridge and how it really inspired the work of the HBF.

After you read Kitty’s story, take a moment in the comments to share your favorite bridge or a bridge story. Why do you love bridges? What got you hooked on bridges? What do you think of bridges? Tomorrow I’ll share more about the HBF and its mission, work, accomplishments, and challenges. 

A few bridges posts from over the years (I love bridges; I write about them often):

I’m looking forward to our bridge conversations. And if you’re here for #pastforward, be sure to visit the Historic Bridge Foundation in the Preservation Studio (exhibitor’s hall).

Black Friday, Flannel Friday & Small Business Saturday

The term “Black Friday” did not originate in reference to the consumer madness following Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Historically, “Black Friday” refers to September 24, 1869, the day when the gold market crashed at the hand of Ulysses S. Grant. To his credit, he was attempting to improve the economy, but it didn’t go as planned.

“Black Friday” as a shopping day originated in the 1960s, when Philadelphia reporters described the rush of people at the stores on the day after Thanksgiving. However, even before the 1960s, this day was important to the retail industry and Christmas shoppers. According to Time magazine (A Brief History of Black Friday):

As early as the 19th century, shoppers have viewed Thanksgiving as the traditional start to the holiday shopping season, an occasion marked by celebrations and sales. Department stores in particular locked onto this marketing notion, hosting parades to launch the start of the first wave of Christmas advertisements, chief among them, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, running in New York City since 1924. The holiday spree became so important to retailers that during the Great Depression, they appealed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 to move Thanksgiving up in order to stretch out the holiday shopping season. Roosevelt obliged, moving Thanksgiving one week earlier, but didn’t announce the change until October. As a result, Americans had two Thanksgivings that year — Roosevelt’s, derisively dubbed “Franksgiving,” and the original. Because the switchover was handled so poorly, few observed it, and the change resulted in little economic boost.

Do you shop on Black Friday? Shopping is tempting sometimes because it’s easy to get caught up in the advertising. However, it’s also chaos and according to this Atlantic article, only a few items are actually the best deal. Shoppers beware! But, really, if you choose to shop on Black Friday, that’s fine. Still, can we all agree that it’s just not fair for stores to open on Thanksgiving Day when they are kicking off Black Friday? We spend all day and weeks prior telling the internet for what we are thankful and then we head out to the stores immediately after we finish the turkey and pie? It seems a bit off-kilter.

As an alternative to Black Friday, some towns and cities like Montpelier, VT have Flannel Friday which encourages shoppers to wear flannel and shop at local businesses. If you wear flannel, you get a discount. In other places it’s called “Plaid Friday.” (Vermont likes to be different, of course!)

Saturday November 30, 2013 is Small Business Saturday, an initiative led by American Express to encourage people to shop at local businesses. Merchants, if you’re an American Express member, you’re set. Customers, if you enroll your card and then spend $10 using your American Express card, you can get $10 back from American Express. Check out the full details here and then sign up here!

Shop Small on Small Business Saturday!

Shop Small on Small Business Saturday!

Will you shop? What is your preferred day? What is your favorite local store? Share any good links below.

An Interview with Preservation in Pink

I am accustomed to conducting an interview, not to being the interviewee, but I am thrilled and honored to be featured at Voices of the Past for an interview about Preservation in Pink, its mission, and historic preservation. Of course, there is some talk about flamingos.

Here is the headline from the Voices of the Past homepage right now:

Audio Podcast: Kaitlin O’Shea on collaboration, platforms, and the role of historic preservation in the blogosphere

Neat, huh? I’m psyched. Click here to listen to the podcast or to read the transcript (photographs included, too!)

Spend some time browsing through the website and you’ll find it to be more than just an occasional resource. Voices of the Past is joining the forces of heritage and social media by bringing important heritage news, issues, events, and faces  to the new online heritage community via modern internet based media tools (blogging, twitter, Facebook, rss feeds to the online heritage community. Topics range from historic preservation, archaeology, conservation, genealogy, how-to’s and social media techniques, ethics, news, and profiles… all without a political agenda. It is a community defined by users, but done so in an extraordinary way. You can find podcasts, news programs, blogs, peers, videos, tips, and much more on the website. Jeff Guin, the creator, works tirelessly with people like Bethany Frank, a journalism student, to develop what they have called a new type of journalism. Thank you to Voices of the Past for including me in such a great community!

Oh, about the photograph featured above? It’s about time I shared it here. What could be better than a giant flamingo? My disclaimer is that it does not belong to me, but Fred the Flamingo does indeed belong to a flamingo girl. (What else did you expect?)

Spotlight: the Harnett Historical Association

Many of us preservation minded folks are fortunate to live and work with in areas already established in preservation, whether it’s through one organization or several. Our work is much easier when someone has at least taken a few steps ahead of us because then we can follow suit, increase the workload and efforts, and build upon something already there. Yes, no matter what, preservation is forever an uphill battle. Still, starting at the beginning, creating a non-profit, and convincing a county or town that historic preservation, heritage, and historic buildings can benefit everyone is the biggest hurdle.

Meeting a preservationist with an impressive list of accomplishments happens quite often; after all, this is a field where you work hard to get what you want. Meeting a preservationist who leaves the rest of us inspired and motivated happens less frequently, and is always a refreshing reminder to find such exceptional individuals. From the first time I met Thomas Ellis and Elizabeth Crudup of the Harnett Historical Association (Harnett County, North Carolina), it was obvious that they are on the path to something phenomenal.  Their energy and determination is contagious. The HHA incorporated in 2008, with Thomas Ellis as the President and Elizabeth Crudup as the Executive Director. The pair was inspired to preserve local history when they found the McKay House, a 1910 Greek Revival house, on the demolition list.

The HHA worked with Preservation North Carolina and the City of Dunn to find John and Lynette Mercer of Bluefield, West Virginia, who were eager buyers with a restoration vision.  (See this article in the Dunn Daily Record). The McKay House is a landmark in Dunn, North Carolina and it prominently sits in the small downtown next to the public library. Today, its restoration is well underway and will soon become a coffee shop and spa.

The Harnett Historical Association formed “in response to need for a protective advocacy and restoration alliance for historic properties in the area.” Its mission is “to pull historical properties from the demise that is their present condition into opportunities to represent various periods in its history with vistas throughout the county.”

The above reads plain and simple to me; in rural North Carolina and fast growing counties like Harnett, developers and planners are not often inclined to look at what is there. Instead, houses and barns are demolished and history is lost. The Harnett Historical Association is trying to change that, one house at a time. However, the HHA reaches beyond houses, too. The HHA was able to convince the City of Dunn save the Rosenwald School, which had been vacant for nearly a decade.  Through efforts of the HHA, the school has been cleaned up and the city has plans to reuse the building in the near future.

Currently, the HHA is working on getting approval from the Harnett County Board of Commissioners to go ahead with their plan for an educational, interpretive, historic site that would showcase rural North Carolina history and Overhills history. See a brief summary below. There are many logistics involved including land transfers, moving a few small buildings, and acquiring appropriate permits. These are their biggest hurdles right now.

Such a place would be an incredible addition to Harnett County. The demographics are rapidly changing as more military families move to the region, people move from the Raleigh Durham area and the county progresses. For people like me who are relatively new to the Sandhills and the tobacco farming way of life, a place to learn the heritage of the region would be invaluable.

The goals of the HHA and the “Overhills Remembered” history center are ambitious and long; it will be a challenging, but rewarding route. But, with people like Ellis and Crudup in charge, I have no doubt that it will benefit everyone in the surrounding communities. People like Ellis and Crudup embody the quote by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” They saw a house in need of salvation, a town in need of a deeper connection to and understanding of its heritage, and they started from the very beginning.

On Friday May 15, 2009 the HHA will go before the Harnett County Commissioners at 9am to hopefully earn their support and votes in favor of the project. This will be at 102 E Front Street in Lillington, North Carolina. If you are local, please go and show your support. If you are not a local, but believe in people like Thomas, Elizabeth, the HHA, and their efforts, please leave a comment here or email them at All support is appreciated and necessary. Without people like them and their unrelenting ambition, historic preservation would not be what it is.

Thank you to the Harnett Historical Association. Good luck on Friday.


A Brief Summary of the History Center, provided by the HHA:

The heritage that was the Overhills has mostly been ignored. With the demand for more combat ready soldiers and the immediate need to accommodate these new solders and their families, historical heritage has really taken a devastating blow in Harnett County.

But wait a ray of hope. One small square piece of land and a handful of structures are all that is available to showcase this history. Harnett Historical Association has risen to the occasion and formulated a project that will preserve and present the heritage of the Overhills in an interactive way.

The History Center will be a hamlet of the surviving Overhills historic structures not put into military use. A tobacco barn, the freight station and various dwellings will be moved to the Haire Farm location. These will be set up to narrate various scenes from day to day life in the early Overhills. This center would serve as the main educational field trip venue to the local schools.

A horse arena will accommodate stables and arena to represent the old equestrian life that prevailed in the region. It will be aptly called “The Circus”. It will have stables, dog kennels and host an array of equitation events and dog shows.

A demonstration crop grown on the property could be tobacco or even tapping turpentine from the many mature pine trees. This would give area students a chance to experience, hands on, the life of an early 20th centaury farmer.

The miniature golf course will be an adaptation of the original design of the one by the Croatan Club. This would be the last project construction project completed.

The resulting area will be not only informative but also thoroughly enjoyable by everybody. Visit our website at  to learn more about our organization