Sitting alongside State Highway 37, just outside Fort Covington, New York sits this one-room brick schoolhouse. The unmistakable bank of windows caught my eye from down the road. A quick u-turn was definitely worth it to snap a few photographs. Without a sign to its name or any indication of ownership, I had to assume it was abandoned (perhaps only used for storage). If you know anything about this lonely schoolhouse, I’d love to hear.
The oddest feeling came over me on my recent trip to New York City. Odd in the sense of unexpected as opposed to strange. What was it?
I realized just how much of a New Yorker I am. The characteristics of New York City slipped my mind over the years of being away. Like a flashback, I was struck by the familiarity of accents, of last names, of food, of the pace.
I’m a New Yorker (Long Islander, if we’re being specific), born and bred, though I’ve found my home as an adult to be in Burlington, Vermont. It’s been almost six years in Vermont, much less than my time in New York.
You get used to the culture of a new home after a while. In Vermont, you can go with the typical no billboards, a focus on the local economy, green mountains and blue skies, an outdoorsy crowd of people. You get used to the habits and quirks and standard practices of wherever you live. While I’ve yet to fall into the hiking and skiing culture, count me in for the local food, environmental love, the beauty of Lake Champlain, and the pure beauty of Vermont.
Growing up on Long Island, there were many, many families with the last name O’Shea. I competed in track with another Kaitlin O’Shea! In Vermont, there are only a few O’Sheas (no relation to me). Most everyone I knew on Long Island was Irish. That is not the case in Vermont. And studying Spanish for 9 years is not as useful in Vermont; French would have been a better choice.
It’s not that I thought I had lost the New Yorker in me; I just hadn’t thought about it in a while. Have you experienced that after being away from your childhood home for a while? Vermont is my home now, and one that I love, but it’s good to know that New York will always feel like home, too, and I know where my roots are. Like the saying goes, “You can take the girl out of New York, but you can’t take the New York out of the girl.”
What about you? Have you ever felt something similar?
Driving by in the summertime, this house gave that abandoned aura. Driving by in the winter, it gave me the same feel. Finally, I had an opportunity to pull over and gaze at the building. The verdict? On a frigid (2 degrees) February day, this house looked frozen (actually frozen). With snow over my knees (and not the proper boots), I couldn’t get very close. Abandoned, vacant, seasonal or used for storage – it’s hard to tell.
Many readers always ask for information about the photographs on Preservation in Pink. Information is not always available. But, lucky for us, this house is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Center Shaftsbury Historic District (see #22, Section 7, page 50).
A bit about the architecture (from the NR): This ca. 1850 Greek Revival style house is a two-story, three by three bay gable front with sidehall plan, a two bay wing and rear attached shed. The single story porch wraps around the west and south elevations of the main house block.
The house is clad in clapboard on all sides except the area sheltered by the porch, which is flushboard. The double leaf doors with stained glass on the front porch were likely added at the beginning of the 20th century, perhaps when the windows were changed from 6/6 to 1/1.
A bit of history (from the NR): This house was owned and built by Norman R. Douglass (1818-1897) who from 1851-1856 was one of the principals in the Eagle Square Manufacturing Company of South Shaftsbury, a long-lived and successful company that formed for the purpose of manufacturing accurate metal carpenter’s squares. His wife was C. Amelia Douglass (1828-1919).
Clark and Rhoda Stone lived here in 1869 and in 1880. The Child’s Gazetteer lists Stone as a livestock dealer and farmer with two hundred acres of land, as well as one hundred acres of timber land in Glastenbury and part interested in 2,500 acres on West Mountain in Shaftsbury. Subsequent owners included Ralph Bottom and Harry Ellison.
At the time of the National Register nomination (1988), the property was owned by Priscilla & Woflgang Ludwig and the house was rented to tenants. A search reveals that Ludwig Dairy remains in operation in Shaftsbury, today. Where does this leave the beautiful house, 27 years after the NR? Often old farmhouses are used for storage or seasonal use, as descendants built new houses down the road for one reason or another. The Douglass House appears to be generally maintained and on land used by the family farm.
The conclusion? It’s not quite abandoned, but it certainly does not appear to be lived in. Hopefully there is a brighter future for this Greek Revival house.
At the corner Vermont Route 100 and “A” Street (or simply an extension of Main Street) sit two red clapboard buildings overlooking the Lamoille River at the edge of the Morrisville Historic District. Once important structures to a village, mill complexes don’t often serve industrial purposes today. If they have not been adaptively reused to meet the needs of a modern population, mill buildings sit empty. Such is the case in Morrisville. These buildings are currently owned by Morrisville Water & Light, appearing to be buildings no longer used, though in good condition.
(Some information from the National Register Nomination – these buildings are contributing structures in the Morrisville Historic District.)
The warehouse and grist mill date to 1867 as part of the Safford Mills Complex, constructed for and owned by J. Safford & Sons. The warehouse is a Greek Revival style clpaboard industrial building. While its original purpose is unclear, its location and plan suggest it was the receiving office/warehouse for the grist, saw, and wood-turning mill below. Its front is 1.5 stories, while the rear is 3.5 stories from the bottom of the bluff. Freight doors at the top and bottom and a platform elevator inside allowed flour, lumber, and other finished goods to be raised easily to the to of the bluff, thus avoiding a steep ascent by wagon via the access road.
The Saffords, owners of the mill complex, were a prominent family in Morrisville and resided in the adjacent Noyes House, a federal style brick mansion.
The good news is that Morrisville is on the upswing. Recently completed tax credit projects on Main Street show that there is interest and growth in the village. Perhaps there is life left for the Safford Mill buildings.
Any good mill projects in your small town?
Yesterday’s photo of concrete sculpture was not a crowd favorite, and it’s understandable. Concrete blocks? So exciting. With just a glance, there isn’t much to it, particularly in a cloudy season with no snow or leaves. Perhaps taking this interstate sculpture in greater context will make this sculpture more interesting. Yes, there are more concrete sculptures at rest areas on Vermont’s interstates. There are marble sculptures, too. Read on to learn about Vermont’s interstate art.
An art collection, known as “Sculpture on the Highway,” was developed in the late 1960s/early 1970s. There are eighteen concrete and marble sculptures located at rest areas and pull offs on Interstate 91 and 89, stretching from the Massachusetts border to the Canadian border. The intent was to create one (very long, linear) sculpture park. These sculptures were commissioned as a result of Vermont’s sculpture symposia, an American response to an international phenomena of the 1960s goals of fostering peaceful artistic dialogue. The efforts were funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Vermont Arts Council, and organized by Paul Aschenbach, a University of Vermont Sculpture professor. Aschenbach brought in talented sculptors from all over the world. The marble was donated by the Vermont Marble Company and the concrete donated by the S.T. Griswold Concrete Company.
Today some of these sculptures are located in rest areas or pull offs that have since been closed due to budget restraints. However, you can see many of them (though you might have to look closely – the Georgia sculpture is set behind the parking lot, not a place you’d immediately notice). In 2013, the Vermont Agency of Transportation relocated a 1968 marble sculpture by Viktor Rogy from the original Guilford rest area to the new Guilford rest area off I-91 northbound. While it is in a new setting, the (now cleaned) marble sculpture can once again be viewed by the traveling public in a similar environment.
A bit more interesting than just one concrete sculpture, yes? Want more information? See these links:
- This collection on Flickr features many of the sculptures.
- Read this article from the Chicago Tribune for a detailed 1970 account of the sculpture park (page 4 & 12 of the actual paper).
- Photos of the Georgia rest area northbound art from Obscure Vermont.
- A Brattleboro Reformer article about southern Vermont sculptures.
Lake Placid, NY, nestled in the Adirondacks, is one of those perfect winter towns. Whether you’d rather be skiing or strolling and shopping down Main Street or taking a sled dog ride on Mirror Lake, the snow covered evergreen trees and constant snow flurries will delight you, particularly at Christmastime. My sister Annie O’Shea prefers to be sliding down Mount Van Hoevenberg on her sled at 80 mph (she’s on the USA Skeleton Team). When skeleton season rolls around, we typically find time to visit Lake Placid.
Lodging in Lake Placid provides an eclectic mix of luxury resorts, standard hotel accommodations, trailside cabins, small inns, and a look back to roadside America. The Lake House (part of High Peaks Resort) is a 1961 roadside motel. Rumor has it that the place was pretty run down and outdated until this spring 2014 when the hotel closed for a renovation. My family and I chose to stay here and we were pleasantly surprised. Imagine mid-century style combined with the Adirondack aesthetic in crisp, modern lines. Got it? Take a look at some of these pictures.
The Lake House was great, and I’d recommend a stay there. It’s a great example of modernizing an outdated hotel while keeping the feel of its historic roots. See more photos on the website. What do you think?
Traveling across Highway 84 in Ware County, Georgia, you’ll see a worn sign with red lettering on the side of the road in Ruskin, an unincorporated community in Waycross.
The “Old Ruskin Church” intrigues a preservationist familiar with John Ruskin’s, The Seven Lamps of Architecture. Pull over, make a u-turn and turn down the southern dirt road, Griffin Road. Cross the tracks at the curve in the road is the Old Ruskin Church. This darling white church sits quietly beneath the picturesque canopy of long leaf pines, among the fallen pine straw. On a sunny day, it seemed to be one of the most serene spots to find.
The Old Ruskin Church, ca. 1899, belonged to the Ruskin Commonwealth, a Utopian socialist community incorporated in 1899. This community was founded by 240 people who moved near Waycross in 1899 from the Ruskin Colony in Tennessee (1896-1899). As the name suggests, the community was founded on principles of the English social reformer John Ruskin. See photographs of the community here. Unfortunately, the settlement lasted only a few years, disbanding in 1901 due to poor farming land, poor business ventures, disease and poverty.
Who owns this church? What goes on here? There was no indication. Do you know anything about it? Please share!
It’s been a while since there’s been a Preservation Pop Quiz around these parts. This one is from my travels in Georgia. A group of us attended a local art opening in Buena Vista, GA. The opening took place in a historic building, though the drop ceiling and other modifications hid the original details of the building. But, like the preservationist that I am, I walked around the perimeter of the big room and looked up, staring at a particular corner for a while. Why was this door here and how did it function? I do have the answer to this one, but tell me your impressions first!
What do you think?
It’s not everyday that you encounter an octagonal stone schoolhouse; but drive on Route 22 through the tiny hamlet of Boquet in the town of Essex, NY and you’ll come across this historic 1826 structure. Designed by architect Benjamin Gilbert, the school served the population around the local, growing sawmills. The octagon was later popularized by Thomas Jefferson at Poplar Forest (read more here from AARCH). Today the building is owned by the town and open for tours by appointment. Many original features remain in this octagonal schoolhouse. The community is undertaking a fundraiser to raise money for restoration of the building. Read more here. And there’s an old set of swings, too. Take a look!
Savannah, Georgia: a perfect setting for the National Trust for Historic Preservation Conference (or “PastForward” as we call it these days). Historic homes and live oaks draped with spanish moss line the gridded streets and monumental squares of Savannah, planned in the manner of the Ogelthorpe Plan. Everywhere you look, the architecture is beautiful and photo-worthy. It’s a photogenic city in every sense of the word (and we preservationists love our photographic documentation). The Savannah Historic District is a National Historic Landmark District designated in 1966. The Historic Savannah Foundation is active in restoration, stewardship, and community involvement to achieve its mission of preserving and protecting Savannah’s heritage. Students of the Savannah College of Art & Design benefit from having Savannah as a living, learning lab. Historic preservation and heritage are common conversations in Savannah (not to imply that it is always easy). You can understand why preservationists were excited for a conference in Savannah. After attending the conference, I can say that my excitement for Savannah was well worth it. The National Trust has always put together great conferences, too.
However, I am interested in discussing the location in more detail. Anyone up for it? Let me explain. Many of the conference sessions were held at the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center located on Hutchinson Island, which is across the river from the city of Savannah. It’s a short drive over the bridge or a free ferry ride across the river, which wasn’t really a big deal. The issue that I found (and discussed and overheard many times) related to the fact that the convention center felt so far removed from downtown Savannah.
Why did it feel so far removed? The only places on the island were the convention center and a Westin hotel. This meant that there were no local businesses to support on the island. Your break between sessions, if any break, could not be spent wandering the street to another session and passing by the local stores or cafes. Speaking of cafes, there was no place to buy a cup of coffee or a snack or lunch on the island, unless you wanted to spend an arm and a leg at the corporate hotel next door. If you took time to catch the ferry and head back to the city side, you would miss sessions, probably those lunch time sessions! That was not convenient.
In such a large convention center, there was definitely space to contract with a few local cafes or caterers to sell coffee, lunch, or snacks. If contracts limited that option, perhaps that was not the best location. On Thursday and Friday there were “nosh and network” breaks in the preservation studio, but it didn’t quite fit the bill. Most people eat and drink coffee on different schedules. This seemed like a major oversight.
In a city so large with so many hotels located in the downtown historic district, it would seem that session locations could be spread out and attendees could walk from one to another or easily slip outside for a coffee before catching the next session. Spending most of the day in a convention center, only staring at the historic district across the river, felt odd to a preservationist, particularly to one attending a historic preservation conference.
Perhaps there were perfectly good reasons to site the conference across the river. It should be noted that field sessions, TrustLive and other events were located on the city side of the river, but many sessions were held at the convention center. I’d be interested to know why. And I’d recommend to the National Trust that the next conference be sited more in line with preservation practices.
In summary: great conference content, great overall location, poor conference HQ choice.
What do you think?