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!)

Seasonal Buildings: Union Church in New Haven Mills

White, gable-roofed churches with tall steeples are anchors in Vermont’s villages, historically and visually. Small towns often have more than one church, speaking to a time when people attended churches and community meetings in greater numbers. In modern day Vermont, these large buildings remain in the same small villages, whose populations and budgets are fading. As you can see in Abandoned Vermont posts, some are empty, and others are used only seasonally:

Seasonal churches are used in the summer when the building does not need to be heated and lack of electricity, perhaps, is not a hindrance to use. Buildings closed up for the winters are not uncommon in the colder climates; many summer camps and cottages are winterized and sit alone for the winter months.

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Union Church of New Haven Mills, VT, built 1851.

Union Church in New Haven Mills, VT is one of the seasonal churches. For decades it was used once per summer month for a church service, and the occasional special event.

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View through the window. Front entrance to the right.

Union Church was constructed in 1851 as a church and meeting house to accommodate the growing community of New Haven Mills. Local craftsman Eastman Case constructed the building; his study of Asher Benjamin is evident in his design. Union Church is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a well-preserved example of a wood frame Greek Revival style church with features that including the temple-front gable entrance, corner pilaster, full entablature and pediments, oversized windows, and interior details. The Queen Anne style belfry was added ca. 1880.

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Greek Revival details.

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Interior details: pews, plaster, tin ceiling.

The 20th century brought floods and fire to the community, which led to the demise of the town and its lumber industry. The church sat empty throughout the 1930s, until Burt Rolfe, a Middlebury College student, took on the role of caretaker and preacher. Mr. Rolfe died in World War II. Neighbors, Langdon and Colleen Smith began taking care of the building and holding one monthly summer service for the next 40 years. When the Smiths died, neighbors continued to maintain the building. The church survived because of the neighbors and the community’s efforts to host events, raise money, and preserve the building. (Read the project file here for additional info.)

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Through the window: failing plaster throughout the church.

The Preservation Society of the Union Church of New Haven has continued repairs as part of the long-term preservation project since the 1990s.  In 1997, the Preservation Society applied for and received a grant from the Division for Historic Preservation to stabilize the foundation and paint the building. In 2011, the Preservation Society received another grant to repair the 20/20 double hung windows.

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New roof, 20/20 windows restored. Greek Revival details: pilasters, wide frieze, cornice returns, gable temple front.

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In need of exterior maintenance.

It’s a beautiful building in a striking setting, overlooking the small village of New Haven Mills and set adjacent to the Lampson School. However, buildings are meant to used and if they stand in year-round communities with only seasonal use, there is lost potential. Keeping a building seasonal allows the greatest amount of preservation. No wiring is needed; the building needs to be maintained, but not altered or disturbed. However, in our cold climate, that limits the months. And what a shame to not be able to use this building all year round. Perhaps minimal modernization and addition of systems would be worth it in order to use the building.

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The view as you approach from East Road. To the right is the Lampson School.

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View from the Union Church, looking to the Lampson School and a farmstead.

It’s a good preservation theory discussion. What do you think? If there is use, keep the buildings as-is for the warm seasons or disturb them for year-round use?

Abandoned Vermont: Ludlow House

At the corner of Main Street and Commonwealth Avenue in Ludlow, VT, sits an 1849 stone house. It’s an impressive building, one that I haven’t noticed in my travels, probably because I’m normally staring at the Fletcher Library across the street from this house. Finally, I noticed it.

This building is an 1849 stone building constructed in the unique “snecked ashlar” style (Scottish tradition), by William Spaulding. Originally there was a store on the first floor. Snecked ashlar is found only in southeast/central Vermont. (Chester village has an entire historic district of snecked ashlar, but otherwise it’s rare.) (State Survey # 1410-12.)

However, get up and close and you’ll be frightened by what you see. Structurally speaking, it’s not good. As in, I wouldn’t stand too close to that building. I think the walls are going to collapse.

I checked out Google Street View, and from the side street (Commonwealth Ave) you can see a Best Western sign on the front lawn (from Main Street it does not show). To confirm, I searched the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation online resource center. And yes, that was the answer! In the 1990s, the Best Western purchased the stone house at 83 Main Street to convert it to a 5 unit inn (click to read the Environmental Review file).  However, the Division for Historic Preservation denied the initial request as it would have adversely affected this historic building. The Division provided suggestions as to how to work with the building, rather than against it, and what features to retain and preserve. At first, Best Western even wanted to put vinyl siding on the building! As you’ll read in the file, the Hotel and the Division came to an agreement on how to move the project forward.

See, preservation is not about stopping progress! Just moving it forward with respect to the past.

 

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83 Main Street.

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Shutters falling off the front gable end.

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Due to the precarious condition of the building, I wasn’t about to stand under it to read that notice.

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It’s hard to capture in a photograph, but the slabs of stone are falling off the exterior wall, which is bulging at the middle. Windows are popping out of the frames.

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Another angle. In the middle you can sort of see the damage in the middle of the building elevation (look for the smaller rock instead of the stone slabs).

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Rear addition.

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This side is just as bad as the other side. Check out the door.

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Poor “snecked ashlar” house.

But, what about it now? My first guess was that the Best Western couldn’t (or wouldn’t) keep up with the maintenance. However, a bit more digging revealed in January 2015 there was an explosion in the building causing $500,000 worth of damage. Fortunately, no one was injured, but there was substantial structural damage.

Do you live in Ludlow? What’s the latest update?