New Baby, New Perspectives: Accessibility in My City

If you are able-bodied and independent, you walk easily on most sidewalks and enter/exit stores without problems, other than the occasional surprise of a very heavy door or pushing/pulling when you should be doing the opposite. Cobblestones, bricks, steps, small doors – none of these bother you. Some stores might have small aisles, but other than it being cumbersome at times, it doesn’t slow you down too much. At least that is how I moved about my city – with ease.

Yet, over the past 4+ months, I have navigated the sidewalks and stores of Burlington, VT with a stroller. Suddenly, I gave thought to the condition of the sidewalks, the types of entrances, and the width of aisles. Frankly, the sidewalks of Burlington are horrendous if you are on wheels. Stores are a mixed bag of accessibility. I have plenty of appreciation for stores that are stroller friendly and plenty of empathy for anyone attempting to get around with a stroller or in a wheelchair.

Generally when you pushing a stroller, people are very kind and will hold open the doors for you. And you learn the turning radius and proper spatial distance needed for your stroller. You get better at avoiding sidewalk bumps because you don’t want to wake the sleeping baby, nor jostle her fragile head. You know which streets are best to take. And the list goes on.

(The building block above would be easy to make accessible.)

However, there are some limitations with a stroller, and I would imagine with a wheelchair. I spend a fair amount of time stroller walking. Depending on weather, I might pop in and out of stores to browse or run errands. While Christmas shopping, I realized that I could not take my baby into a few of my favorite shops because there were not accessible entrances (read: only steps, no ramps). Sometimes entrances are elsewhere in buildings, but if there is no sign, that does not help, as I cannot leave the stroller on the sidewalk to go in and inquire. Additionally, some stores have accessible entrances yet the aisles or displays are so close together that even my narrow stroller has a tough time navigating between everything.

(It’s hard to see in this photo, but my favorite building block has a few stores without accessible (or at least obviously found) entrances.)

I wondered about how many people face this challenge. Is the percentage of lost customers so small that it doesn’t affect the businesses? What if you’re in a wheelchair, what do you do?

Most businesses have modified their entrances to accommodate all customers. Unfortunately, this often replaces character defining features of historic entrances, or obscures them. The National Park Service Brief 11: Rehabilitating Historic Storefronts discusses the importance of entrances and their rehabilitation, but its only suggestions for access issues are as follows:

Alterations to a storefront called for by public safety, handicapped access, and fire codes can be difficult design problems in historic buildings. Negotiations can be undertaken with appropriate officials to ensure that all applicable codes are being met while maintaining the historic character of the original construction materials and features. If, for instance, doors opening inward must be changed, rather than replace them with new doors, it may be possible to reverse the hinges and stops so that they will swing outward.

(How would you make the above entrance accessible?)

It makes sense that this would be a case-by-case basis discussion; however, I think we need a collection of good examples. And a discussion. What are the challenges to improve entrance accessibility? Are small businesses at risk of losing business if they cannot improve accessibility? Does this affect you? As historic preservationists, how can we find the balance between character defining entrances and not limiting accessibility? What haven’t you considered in your environment until you had to consider it?

Good Reasons to Look Up: Burlington Sign Tour

Do you stroll around, always looking up? If you’re preservationist, you probably do. If you haven’t thought to look up at buildings and ceilings and cornices, give it a try. You never know what you might discover in your own town. It’s like playing tourist where you live.

Not sure where to start? Check out this Seven Days video  about Burlington signs, featuring two of my fellow UVM alums, Devin Colman and Britta Fenniman Tonn who wander around Burlington reading history through signs.

 

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. 

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!

With Your Coffee [Back to Work Edition]

DSCN1898

A church on the town green in South Ryegate, VT. 

Mondays after the holidays. Ouch, right? How are you? Did you have a good holiday? Make those resolutions yet? Good luck to everyone.

We finally have snow in Vermont and the ski resorts breathe a sigh of relief. I spent a lot of time falling on the icy cross-country ski trails, but more snow will come for future weekends. To ease the Monday blues, here are some links from around the web to get those neurons firing again.

Cheers! Have good, caffeinated Monday, my friends.

Burlington, Vermont City Guide

Views in Burlington.

Views in Burlington.

Welcome to Memorial Day weekend, also known as Marathon Weekend in Burlington, VT. It’s the unofficial start of summer (though we have been saying summer for weeks now – as we must take advantage of the too-short season in Vermont), and it’s one of the biggest events for Burlington, home to the Vermont City Marathon + Relay. My love of Burlington runs deep, so when a Twitter friend, @CaitAmirault, asked what to see, do, and eat in Burlington, it inspired me to make a list of my favorite places.

Top of Church Street.

TO SEE & DO

  • Church Street Marketplace is a must and where you’ll find most everyone. Stroll the pedestrian mall for food, shopping, people watching, and the unmistakable giddiness of this time of year in Vermont.
  • Head down to the Burlington Waterfront & bike path, where the marathon will end. You can watch the finish. And when the crowd clears, you’ll be able to see the renovated boardwalk (looks great), as well as the gorgeous Adirondack Mountains set in the background of Lake Champlain. If you’re adventurous, rent bicycles and head down the Island Line bike path, the old railroad line.
  • If you’d like to see some mixed-use areas of Burlington, stroll down Pine Street to the South End Arts District. It’s a mix of artist studios and small shops and restaurants – definitely the fastest growing area in the city. Walk up Marble Street or Howard Street into the Five Sisters neighborhood for walking among adorable bungalows and early 20th century homes.
  • In the mood for more high style architecture? Walk up to South Union and South Willard Street. Champlain College and UVM have beautiful campuses, too.

Arts Riot Truck Stop.

To Eat & Drink

  • Here for the marathon weekend on Friday? Head to Pine Street for the Arts Riot Truck Stop for delicious food and a great crowd. Get there early or wait in long lines! Actually, the long lines are fine. Just eat in courses.
  • Need breakfast? Myers Bagels on Pine Street for Montreal style bagels approved by this New Yorker.
  • Coffee? Also on Pine Street: Speeder & Earls for locally roasted coffee and a good place to get work done or catch up with a friend.
  • Or, August First for more coffee and fresh food and baked goods. It’s a screen free café and it’s located in a rehabilitated service garage.
  • Brunch is a local favorite at Penny Cluse. The scrambled egg tacos are my current meal of choice.
  • The best views in Burlington can be found at the Burlington Bay Market & Café. Grab some ice cream or a beer and enjoy gazing at the lake.
  • And for dinner, go to El Cortijo. Hands down, you’ll find the best margaritas in all of BTV, and the freshest, most local tacos you can eat. Worth the wait, and it’s located in a renovated diner.

Church Street, just before a storm passed by.

Really, there is no shortage of good places to eat and drink in Burlington. It’s what we do best. I could go on and on, but those are just a few places to get you started.

I love Burlington, and I’m excited for marathon watching this weekend (this is one race I prefer to watch, not run). Happy Memorial Day. Cheers! Good luck runners! And visitors, welcome. Have a great time. xo!

61 Summit Street, Burlington, VT

Interested in a beautiful house tour? Hang around with preservationists and you’ll have the privilege of touring the best places. Last Friday, the UVM HP Alumni Association visited the Wells House in Burlington, Vermont – an 1892 Queen Anne residence once home to Edward Wells, then the Delta Psi Fraternity and soon to be the UVM Alumni Association. I’d be wanting to view this house since I moved to Burlington in 2009 – it only took 5.5 years! Visit the UVM Historic Preservation Alumni blog to read more about this house and see additional photos.

Second floor stairwell.

Second floor stairwell, as the sun set. 

Second floor bedroom.

Second floor bedroom.

#ihavethisthingwithceilings

#ihavethisthingwithceilings

Trusses over pocket doors.

Trusses over pocket doors.

As an alumni association, we’re interested to know what your graduate program does. What events do you host? Tours? What would you hope to get out an alumni association? And, are you a preservationist or a friend of preservationists? You can join the UVM HP Alumni Association. We’re working hard to get events off the ground, from house tours to happy hours and much more. Spread the word. Thank you!

[Book Signing] Vermont Beer: A History of a Brewing Revolution

Vermont is known for its craft breweries, in addition to our foliage, cheese, ice cream, skiing, and maple syrup. Tonight at Phoenix Books in Burlington, VT, come join the authors, Adam Krakowski & Kurt Staudter, of Vermont Beer: A History of a Brewing Revolution for a discussion of the book and a book signing. (Then go find a good pint around the corner!) It’s sure to be a good event. Adam is a good friend and a fellow UVM HP alum, and is absolutely passionate about his studies and his beer. Knowing the hard work he put into this book, I’m excited to see it presented. Way to go, Adam and Kurt!

beercoverSome information about the authors & the book:

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Adam Krakowski is a decorative and fine arts conservator based in Quechee, Vermont. He holds a BA in art history with a minor in museum studies and a MS in historic preservation from the University of Vermont. He has worked at museums, historical societies, art galleries and restoration firms all over New York and New England. He was the recipient of the 2010 Weston Cate Jr. Research Fellowship from the Vermont Historical Society for his project A Bitter Past: Hop Farming in Nineteenth-Century Vermont.

Kurt Staudter is the executive director of the Vermont Brewers Association, which represents all the breweries in the state. He is also the Vermont columnist for the Yankee Brew News and has written about beer and politics in the Vermont Standard and Vermont Magazine. He learned about beer at a very early age (perhaps a little too early by today’s standards) from his first-generation German American father, who made sure that his love for good food, great beer and family were passed on to the next generation. Along with his wife, Patti, he runs the trade association for the Vermont brewers from Springfield, Vermont.

ABOUT THE BOOK: Vermonters love all things local, so it is no surprise that the Green Mountain State has had a thriving craft beer scene for more than twenty years. Early Vermont brewers, though, faced many obstacles in bringing their beer to the thirsty masses, including a state-imposed prohibition beginning in 1852. Conditions remained unfavorable until Greg Noonan championed brewing legislation that opened the door for breweries and brewpubs in the 1980s. About the same time, beloved Catamount also began brewing, and Vermont’s craft beer scene exploded. Years ahead of the rest of the country, local favorites like Hill Farmstead, Long Trail and Rock Art Brewing have provided world-class beers to grateful patrons. From small upstarts to well-recognized national brands like Magic Hat and Harpoon, Vermont boasts more breweries per capita than any other state in the country. With brewer interviews and historic recipes included here, discover the sudsy story of beer in Vermont.

Hope to see you there!

Phoenix Books, 191 Bank Street, Burlington, VT @ 7pm

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.

Frozen Sunday

Shining sun, frozen Lake Champlain in Burlington, VT.

Shining sun, frozen Lake Champlain in Burlington, VT.

Standing on the breakwater.

Standing on the breakwater.

Looking back to land.

Looking back to land.

Walking on a frozen lake is still a novelty to me! Hope you had a lovely Sunday.