Five Questions With Clint Tankersley of Presonomics & HiFi History

For years now, I’ve had preservation friends from social media; but, it was only about two years ago that I started to meet my “social media” friends in “real life”. I love making the world smaller and meeting friends who are doing inspiring work. Enter a new series to Preservation in Pink: Five Questions With. In this series, I’m talking with colleagues, social media friends, and others I admire to learn some tricks of the trade, hear their stories, and introduce you to more preservationists.

Next up (#5) in the series is Clint Tankersley.

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A scene from his lobbying experience with Preservation Action: Clint Tankersley (left, 2014 Advocacy Scholar), Dave Cross (Georgia Deputy SHPO), Congressman John Lewis, and Michael Phillips (National Trust Community Investment Corporation). Photo courtesy of Clint Tankersley.

Those deep in the preservation world will already know Clint from Presonomics, the non-profit organization that promotes the economic benefits of restoring historic buildings. Or, if you’re a podcast junkie, you might know Clint from his podcast HiFi History.

At the PastForward conference in November, Clint participated in the Instawalk and he answered many of my questions about Presonomics. Preservation & Economics can seem like a daunting task, but Clint and his team jumped in headfirst (all volunteers!) to make it easier for all of us. Clint’s hard work and motivation to help spread the good news of preservation as well as the tougher topics is inspiring and admirable. I thought you might like to meet Clint and learn about these endeavors. Read on!

 

  1. You are a preservationist and a lawyer. How did you decide to do both, and which came first?

I’ve loved history all my life. I know that’s a cliche thing to say in the preservation field, but for me love of history and historic places was almost inborn. My parents, who grew up poor without many opportunities to travel, were always taking my siblings and me to visit awesome historic places. After I took Mr. Cory Callahan’s riveting and unconventional 10th grade World History class, I even thought I might want to be a history teacher one day. But in college I moved into what I saw as a more useful, more lucrative field—business management. Taking business law courses from a brilliant, smart-mouthed, no-nonsense lawyer moved me towards a legal career.

So, law school came first. I never ever thought of marrying my interest in history with a career in the law. Frankly, I didn’t really understand the field of historic preservation—you can major in that? But when I got a job as a research assistant for my Environmental Law professor, Ryan Rowberry, the scales began to fall from my eyes. Professor Rowberry was a historian in medieval British history long before he became a lawyer and he had successfully combined both interests into an academic career, so I guess I had a good model. Long story short, I soon realized that I needed to focus in on preservation law. Ryan encouraged me to pursue a Master’s in Historic Preservation and I eventually relented.

 

  1. Can you explain the importance of preservationists understanding laws and the legal system?

As preservationists, we use many tools. Digital cameras, mapping software, design guidelines, electronic communication, and public outreach, to name a few. The legal system is another one of those tools. Perhaps, in some ways, it can be understood as the tool belt—it holds up and binds together all of our other tools. The law underlies everything that we do as preservationists.

But recognizing the law for what it is—a tool—means that we shouldn’t fear it. Rather, we need to wield it deftly and artfully to our own benefit. And, as a tool (or tool belt), don’t forget that it can be modified or even replaced if we don’t like it. Current laws are not the “end all be all” in the preservation paradigm. Too often, I think we let timidity or fear of failure hold us back from trying to improve our current preservation laws.

 

  1. What work has Presonomics done in 2015/16 – with whom do you work?

We’ve done a lot! But I’ll just touch on 2 projects. Most recently, we launched a new podcast (more on that later). The other project (it’s a mega-project really) is the Presonomics Open Access Repository. POAR (pronounced like “pour some knowledge into this developer’s brain”), as we affectionately call it, is a free online repository that will contain all extant publications related to preservation economics. The concept behind POAR is to make it easier for preservation activists to access economic data that can be used as powerful tools in their efforts to win over government officials, developers and property owners. This project requires extensive research and we currently have a team of research interns conducting thorough investigations one state at a time. So far, our phenomenal team has collectively logged over 700 hours of research and has documented over 1,000 publications related to preservation economics!

And lest your readers think that this will just be a huge boring list of study names with hyperlinks, let me explain further. We want to make the information from these studies as accessible as possible for the broadest possible swathe of mankind. To that end, we have read every one of these publications so you don’t have to (but they’ll be there if you want to dig in). We then pulled out all of the topics that each publication discusses and even provided a nice, one-sentence summary of each study. We believe that this pre-packaged approach will greatly simplify and empower the preservation advocacy process. Plus, we may even uncover new, previously unknown benefits of preservation by data mining all of this information.

We are deep into the research phase of POAR and we are now planning for funding opportunities to finance the digital construction of the repository itself. We will be applying for grants during 2016 and we hope to have funding secured by the beginning of 2017. Best case scenario, POAR will be fully operational about 2 years from now. That may seem like a super long time but it is quite remarkable when you consider that this is an all-volunteer endeavor.

 

  1. How would you like to see it grow?

The vision of Presonomics is to make the preservation of historic places the rule, not the exception, in the development of living communities throughout the world. To achieve this goal, we have to educate, educate, educate. At all levels (womb to tomb) and across all sectors.

We need more partners from different fields. Environmental, health care, law enforcement, poverty reduction initiatives. Those all need to have a seat at the table and I’d like Presonomics to be a facilitator of these conversations. We aim to be the go-to source for all things preservation economics.

 

  1. You also have HiFi History – how did you decide to start this podcast series? What has the response been so far?

I love podcasts (if you’re wondering, some of my favorites are Hello Internet, Freakonomics, Hardcore History, and Reply All). Listening to podcasts makes my short commute to work much more enjoyable and they really do a fabulous job of stimulating my brain. But I hungered for more preservation-related audio entertainment. So, ever the go-getter, I took it upon myself to create a new podcast, which is technically under the auspice of Presonomics.

I figured that I would give it a go and see if there is enough interest out there to support it. The show’s future is uncertain, but so far the response that I have been hearing is overwhelmingly positive. We just need many more listeners to make it viable. I believe that they will come over time. If you’re reading this right now and haven’t listened to it yet, then give it a try! I think that podcasting is a huge untapped market for the preservation movement to get its message across. History-themed podcasts are among the most popular genres out there and I am trying to figure out how to connect with that community. Things take time! But exposure to popular blogs like the cult classic Preservation in Pink may be just the boost we’ve been looking for.

Which #historic downtowns do you love for eating, playing, and #shopping? Tell us in the comments!

A photo posted by Presonomics (@presonomics) on

 

Thank you, Clint! Economics is much easier to understand when you explain it. And thank you for the preservation podcast. We have been needing one! I also like that Preservation in Pink is now a “cult classic”!!  ;) Keep up the good work and send our appreciation to your team.

Connect with Presonomics on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and find HiFi History on Twitter.

Abandoned Vermont: Ferrisburgh Farm House

Sometimes I think I must have seen all of the abandoned (or seemingly abandoned, empty) houses in Vermont based on all of the roads I’ve traveled for work and fun over the years. It may seem ridiculous, but sometimes months pass before I find another striking one. And then out of nowhere, I’ll find another. This one caught me by surprise. Just outside of Vergennes (where all of the houses are well maintained and beautiful), this house seemed like a duplex because of the twin gables. It’s most peculiar. The house sits among a working farm; it is surrounded by modern, functioning farm buildings.

It is included in the Vermont State Historic Sites & Structures Survey (VHSSS) and the Vermont State Register of Historic Places. Little information is listed, as typical with many 1970s surveys. In fact, the information is more focused on barns than the house. It is described as a ca. 1885 house with a ground stable barn, dairy barn, and carriage barn. The house was not photographed at the time, which leads me to wonder how long it has been in a state of neglect. And the barns are maybe long, long gone?

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A barn & the ca. 1885 house. It almost looks good from far away.

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A collapsing porch, but what else?

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Another neglected building, breaking my heart.

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Zooming in with the camera, the fallen shutters and missing gable screens are apparent. Windows are open. No one is living in this house, or at least this part of the house. Pardon the washed out photo; I had to zoom in quite far!

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The side porch is collapsing, as well. The house must be vacant. How sad for it to fall surrounded by an active farm. I wonder where the owners live.

Do you know anything about this house? I’d love to know the local stories.

Sunshine and snow, welcome back! The District 1, 1866, Hathorne School in Bridport (Addison County, VT) looks good with you. #presinpink

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Reading List 2016

What are you reading in 2016? I have four definites on my list, three of which have been on my to read list for years. This is the year I read them. Why? My reasons are below.

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books of all time, and my mom gifted this to me for Christmas. A novel is a good place to start.

Roads to Quoz by William Least Heat Moon. Blue Highways is another one of my all-time favorites, and my sister Sarah gave this to me years ago. A good Americana-road tripping book is always a good idea.

A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia Savage McAlester. The update of the essential historic preservation/architectural history classic. I could use a refresher in architectural history and some new lessons on the suburban development.

The Great Bridge by David McCullough is about the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. I started this book about 3.5 years ago and never continued despite the fact that I know it will be great and it’s been recommended to me over and over. Time to focus and read.

I’d love to know your planned reads. For fun? For school? For career development?

(Proper credit: post inspired by Bernice’s post. Thanks for the idea!) 

With Your Coffee

The Gateway Arch. My sister Sarah is traveling cross-country and entertaining me with photographs.

Good morning, happy Sunday friends! How are you doing? Snow? Gray January? That’s we have so far in Vermont. Send some snow so we can use our cross-country skis. Since it’s still January, a few beginning of the year questions. Do you use a traditional paper planner or are you strictly digital? I go digital for work, but am using a paper planner for my personal life this year so it can serve as a memory book/diary of sorts. Who doesn’t love flipping through a planner?

I hope you’re enjoying your weekend. Here are some links from around the internet.

Enjoy the day. Cheers!

 

Five Questions With Katie Miller on the National Park Service and a Preservation Career

Five Questions With returns! In this series, I’m talking with colleagues, social media friends, and others I admire to learn some tricks of the trade, hear their stories, and introduce you to more preservationists. While the first three interviews have been with preservation friends I’ve made through social media, #4 is a graduate classmate of mine. I love making the world smaller and meeting friends who are doing inspiring work.

Introducing interview #4: Katie Miller!

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BUNDLE UP and get outside and you can see rainbows and beautiful landscape in Anchorage, AK as demonstrated by Katie. Photo courtesy of Katie Miller. 

Katie Miller is one of the hardest working people I know, and one who is extremely dedicated to and excels at historic preservation. I thought you all might like to meet Katie and learn about her career with the National Park Service. It’s taken her to Massachusetts, New Mexico, Wyoming, and now Alaska. She has a B.A. in Cultural & Historic Preservation from Salve Regina University and M.S. in Historic Preservation from the University of Vermont. Read on for Katie’s interview and to see some beautiful photographs.

1. Katie, let’s start with the basics. What triggered your desire to work for the National Park Service? 

I grew up on Cape Cod, where I managed to find an internship working with the museum at the national seashore. Instantly, I was attracted to the agency’s mission to protect not only its historic resources, but the collective natural and historic environment for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of the public. I also loved working with a group of invested, good-hearted, passionate, hard-working people.

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O’Malley Peak, Anchorage, AK. Photo courtesy of Katie Miller. 

2. You’ve had multiple positions with the NPS? Would you tell me about them? 

After my internship at the Cape Cod National Seashore, I then drove to the opposite coast to work in the archives at Yosemite National Park in California.

In graduate school, I worked with the Cultural Landscapes Inventory Program at a NPS regional office in Santa Fe, New Mexico. After completing my coursework, the region stationed me at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

After the funding ran out for my position, I stayed with Grand Teton for as long as I could as a volunteer working on several projects, including historic furnishings reports, compliance reports, and an iPhone app. for self-guided history tours.

For two years, I worked as an architectural historian with a cultural resource management firm that received contracts from the NPS. There, I worked on National Register documentation for a few personally exciting historic sites, including Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia, the Appalachian Trail (which extends from Georgia to Maine), Great Smokey Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina, and Marsh-Billings National Historical Site in Vermont.

Now, I work directly for the NPS in the Alaska Regional Office as a historian.

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3. Tell me about your job duties with the Alaska Regional Office. 

It’s located in Anchorage, the state’s largest city, population-wise. As a historian, I write national register nominations, historic structures reports, and coordinate future cultural resource projects for national parks throughout the state. Alaska is a considerably sized area. If it were transposed over the contiguous United States (they call it the “lower 48” here), Alaska’s body would encompass most of the Mid-West and its tails would extend from Sacramento, California, to Savannah, Georgia.

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The Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark near McCarthy, Alaska. Photo courtesy of Katie Miller. 

4. What was it like to pick up and move to Alaska (from Rhode Island) and how do you describe living in Alaska? 

I love working for the NPS. With full support from my family, the move was very easy. My father drove with me, all 5,000+ miles between Massachusetts and Alaska.

The state has mountains that meet the ocean; long stretches of darkness and lightness; the world’s most adorable animals — otters and puffins; inspiring Native Alaskan culture; and colorful auroras. I also get to work with some of the most wonderful people in the universe.

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On that 5,000 mile drive: Three Sisters near Canmore, Alberta. Photo courtesy of Katie Miller. 

5. What advice would you offer to new/aspiring preservationists? 

Don’t underestimate the power of an internship – it’s the perfect opportunity to identify your interests. If you’d like to work with the NPS, I encourage you to look into the Student Conservation Association and the National Council for Preservation Education Internships. Also — if you’re passionate about something, take the risk. It will be worth it.

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Flying from Juneau to Skagway in a six seater plane. Photo courtesy of Katie Miller.

Thank you, Katie. Your photographs and your travels are beautiful. We’re proud to have preservationists like you who are dedicated to the National Park Service. Enjoy Alaska!

The John Roberts Houses of Burlington, VT

You might be wondering what the John Roberts houses are, as I’ve recently posted a few shots from around Burlington, VT. Good question, and it’s about time I gave you some additional information.

Peering over the picket fence at a John Roberts house in the Old North End of Burlington. #presinpink

A photo posted by Preservation in Pink / Kaitlin (@presinpink) on

John Roberts was a builder in Burlington, VT who constructed many Queen Anne style cottages throughout the city in the 1880s/90s. They are recognizable by their similar characteristics: 1.5 story, gable end facing the street, two narrow second story windows above the first floor bay window, a side porch, and decorative millwork on the upper story in the gable. This millwork is diamond cut shingles and criss-crossing patterns of applied stickwork. Many of these houses were built for about $900. There are about 50 of these houses throughout Burlington. (For reference: see the “Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods, Vol. III).

A John Roberts house on North Winooski Avenue in the Old North End of Burlington, VT. #presinpink

A photo posted by Preservation in Pink / Kaitlin (@presinpink) on

 

A slightly less noticeable John Roberts house in the Old North End of Burlington, VT. #presinpink

A photo posted by Preservation in Pink / Kaitlin (@presinpink) on

The houses have been altered over the years as you can see in the examples I’ve shared. The bay windows are replaced or the two windows on the upper story are replaced with one window. The porches have been enclosed. The details is painted to match the rest of the house, rendering the tell-tale gable details more difficult to spot.

The same, but different. Can you spot it? #presinpink

A photo posted by Preservation in Pink / Kaitlin (@presinpink) on

Looking at the above photo, some of you noticed that these three houses are very similar. Correct! In fact, because  of the alterations, I had to step back from the sidewalk to notice that all three are John Roberts houses. The far left has been covered in vinyl (see photo below). The middle retains the most integrity. the house on the right has replaced the gable window, and converted the porch window to a door, allowing for an additional entrance.

It’s an interesting (albeit sometimes sad) game of comparison and contrast. And it makes you wonder why owners choose to remove some details and not others, why particular windows were replaced. Observing these John Roberts houses truly shows what can happen to buildings over time if craftsmanship is not maintained and respected. Thankfully many of the John Roberts houses are mostly intact. 

Wondering about those John Roberts houses all over Burlington? I've posted about them on PiP today (link in profile). Enjoy!

A photo posted by Preservation in Pink (@presinpink) on

And there are 50! Guess I’ll be out there searching for others – some good running entertainment. Do you know of any? If you leave them in the comments, and I’ll be sure to go take a look!