Vermont’s Sculpture on the Highway

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.

The Viktor Rogy 1968 marble sculpture in the old Guilford rest stop, prior to relocation and cleaning.

The Viktor Rogy 1968 marble sculpture in the old Guilford rest stop, prior to relocation and cleaning.

A bit more interesting than just one concrete sculpture, yes? Want more information? See these links:

Preservation Photos #111

A concrete post and metal tube bridge railing in Newport, VT. Photo taken August 2010.

Do you ever think of bridge railings as historic? Many are character defining features of historic bridges, so much so that when one is replaced, the historic integrity of the bridge is adversely affected. These concrete & metal tube railings certainly are not loved like covered bridge or respected like truss bridges, but hopefully their time will come.

Mold Removal + Concrete

As you know, water or moisture can cause the most damage to buildings. Whether from a leaking roof or something as disastrous as a flood, water can be considered the root of all building problems. Water and moisture often lead to mold growth, sometimes in visible locations, but also in unseen locales throughout your building. One of the most important tasks after water damage is to remove all items from the building that have been touched by the water: sheetrock, insulation, rugs, furniture, everything.

Following the removal of flood water and then the removal of mud, we removed all items from the basement. It took days to remove all of the mud and over one week to get the basement to where it looked dry.  We washed our belongings, sanitized them, and have yet to return anything to the basement.

Now we are dealing with mold issues on the concrete basement walls, generally in locations at or below where the muddy water settled for a few hours. Originally we thought bleach would do the job, but it’s been a few rounds of bleach (one of those rounds was undiluted bleach!) and the white, fuzzy mold on the walls keeps appearing.

We have heard conflicting information, too. First, we heard that bleach would remove the mold and that the other products were all marketing. Then we heard otherwise. So, like a good homeowner and preservationist, I turned to my books and online resources. I learned that the chemicals in bleach are inactivated by organic compounds.

Darn. But, that explains why the white fuzzy mold keeps returning.

The concrete walls in our basement are certainly not of the non-porous variety. They are 83 years old and quite porous. In a handful of locations, I can see the aggregate that composes the concrete. It is not like today’s concrete, that’s for sure. Thus, the dirt and whatever else has migrated into my concrete walls is deactivating the bleach, and allowing the mold to grow.

We’re stumped.

All of the literature I have read, whether it’s from the National Trust or a university or any random website, simply talks about the importance of mold removal and safety precautions. The articles discuss the importance of drying out the basement and air circulation and a dehumidifier, of course. But, I need to know what to use in order to remove the mold and keep it away. I have yet to find a resource that mentions specific products proven to remove mold from concrete.

Can you offer a suggestion? What should we do?

I think our next step is to suit up and scrub the walls. But, with what? I’ll keep looking, but if you have an idea or even better – a proven solution – I would love to know.

Thank you!

Concrete Bridges

Consider it Bridge Week or Bridge Days, as the Lake Champlain Bridge center span is set for floating and lifting any day now.

Hardly any structure proves to be permanent; very few materials hold up for eternity. Concrete is a particularly troublesome material to many because moisture and salt and lack of maintenance equal a recipe for structural failure. Yes, I am referencing the 1929 Lake Champlain Bridge; but I am also thinking about the small concrete bridges across the nation. These bridges have concrete decks and concrete piers and railings, and we are losing them at an exponential rate.

Ripton, VT

Often, these small bridges face the fate of poor hydraulics or structural and geometric inadequacies; simply put, they do not meet AASHTO standards and any projects that rehab these bridges are required to bring them up to federal standards and code.  But because these bridges were so ubiquitous in the middle decades of the 20th century, they are hardly significant, according to many. Some are significant for technology or design or engineering, but mostly they come across as yesterday’s steel girder, single span (i.e. boring) bridges. Furthermore, repairs to these bridges have destroyed their integrity, and with that, any eligibility for significance.

Albany, VT

However, I have recently found myself disheartened by the fate of these bridges; I love small concrete bridges with decorative concrete piers and interesting railings. Whenever I cross a new 3 bar aluminum (or worse! steel w-beam type) bridge, I wonder what it has replaced and when. Alignments have likely been straightened and a bridge with character destroyed. (Go ahead, call me a transportation preservation nerd; blame it on the day job).

Sheldon, VT

Covered bridges are adored and respected. Metal truss bridges are heading in that direction. But, concrete bridges that aren’t elaborate concrete arch bridges are often overlooked.  I’m working on understanding the context and significance of small concrete bridges so I can either a) come to terms with the fate of such bridges or b) convince others of their importance. That doesn’t mean that I am the only one who thinks about concrete bridges, but I am looking for others who would like to talk about them. We can’t save everything in preservation, nor should we, but as time passes we need to reevaluate what is important, what is diminishing, what has been insignificant, and figure out what to do with these resources.  How are they treated differently if they are out on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere v. in a historic district. (Okay, that’s probably an easy answer, but what if the concrete is indicative of the landscape and a certain era of road travel?)

Wheelock, VT

What are your thoughts on small concrete bridges? For now, I’m still pondering and gathering any historical context I can find.




Continued Concrete vs. Asphalt Discussion

A reply written by Jen Gaugler to Concrete vs. Asphalt, one that I did not want to get lost in the comments section. Following the reply is another short discussion, inspired by a reader comment.


Economics and durability aside, I agree that the environmental factors of choosing asphalt vs. concrete are very important to take into consideration. You are right about the heat absorption properties of the two materials being very different. The “heat island effect” is the tendency of paved areas and building rooftops to absorb the sun’s energy and result in the microclimate of that area being several degrees warmer than it would be otherwise. Believe it or not, this can have a big negative impact on the surrounding ecosystem. The albedo, or solar reflectance, of a material is its ability to reflect the visible, infrared, and ultraviolet wavelengths of sunlight. Concrete has a significantly higher albedo and therefore it is definitely better to use it in warm, sunny climates to mitigate the heat island effect. It may be more acceptable to use asphalt in northern climates (like Alaska) where it may help with snow and ice, as you suggested. But I think for most of the continental U.S. it is probably more environmentally sound to use concrete.

However, there are also systems available which are similar to dirt parking lots but slightly more durable (important in some places, for example where erosion may be a factor) and they consist of open-cell concrete systems (to form a grid pattern) with grass in between. This absorbs less heat AND allows storm water to be re-absorbed into the ground to recharge underwater aquifers. Pervious concrete – made with extra large aggregate and little or no sand, to make a very water-permeable paving substance – is another good compromise between durability and sustainability.

And of course the most important factor in decreasing the heat island effect – shade, a.k.a. trees! So lining our streets with mature trees is the way to go!

-Jen Gaugler


See also, an article from The Boston Globe on December 7, 2008, Architect Finds Beauty in the Asphalt Jungle. An assistant professor of landscape architecture  from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design is taking another look at asphalt and our the public views it, since it is our most commonly used landscape. This professor and her students are taking a new look at the “jungle” without vilifying it. One of the projects include “Steamroller Printing.” It’s something that most preservationists, including me, would have never considered; but, to step and work with the existing environment is possibly just as important as our other endeavors. Regardless of opinions, it’s something neat to explore and ponder. See also the onasphalt website. Thank you to reader, Melsiel, for adding a comment with the article.


Concrete vs. Asphalt

Have you ever been in a neighborhood with concrete streets rather than asphalt streets? Do you notice the road surface when you are driving or walking? For aesthetic reasons, I have always preferred concrete residential streets to asphalt streets. My beloved town of Point Lookout has concrete streets except for two (of thirteen), which look oddly out of place and have worn to the point of old asphalt, whereas the concrete streets are still smooth enough.  And have you ever tried to walk barefoot on asphalt? Ouch! But, walking barefoot on a hot summer day on concrete doesn’t hurt a bit (assuming you don’t stub your toes).

I’ve wondered about the change from concrete to asphalt. When did the asphalt phenomenon take over and why? I have always assumed it was for financial reasons, asphalt being cheaper initially. It turns out that cost is a factor, as well as surface smoothness. Asphalt, when first laid, is smoother than concrete, which factors into better vehicle mileage.  Repairs are done easily by simply heating and pouring the asphalt.  Concrete repairs, though less frequent, do require more effort.  In the end it may not make a difference. This discussion on mentions many of these points. The Colorado Department of Transportation has debated the use of concrete vs. asphalt, mentioning that asphalt is more flexible and permeable, but suffers from wear and tear at a greater rate than concrete, which requires less maintenance[i]. That article was written in 2000, and eight years later, Grand Junction, CO is using concrete in favor of asphalt, in part because the cost of asphalt is rising and the supply is diminishing[ii].

Some arguments for asphalt are that it absorbs heat faster, thus melting ice and snow faster. This makes sense in colder climates. But what about in the south? I feel like I’m melting when walking across a parking lot. Concrete would make summer life much more bearable.

As far aesthetic arguments go, I do not believe that asphalt could win over concrete. Concrete is less noticeable, more earth toned, and thus, it does not take away from the rest of the visual environment.  Compare these streets below.      

Concrete Street

Concrete Street

Asphalt Street

Asphalt Street

If you consider the connotation of the visual images, concrete always seems historic whereas asphalt seems like modern suburbia. In many cases, if the historic streets are repaved with asphalt, they look completely different. I’m not advocating bricks for that fake historic look, but if it’s concrete, I think it should remain concrete.

What about parking lots? Have you ever looked out of a plane and seen the miles and acres of asphalt pavement covering the earth? It’s horrifying, really. Some places are primarily pavement. How will we ever tear up that surface? We won’t. Long Island is land of pavement, as are many suburban places.  In Southern Pines, we, too, have paved surfaces, but in many cases, our parking lots are just dirt covered with pine straw. (For those of you wondering what the heck pine straw is, it’s the dead pine needles of the long leaf pine trees. It’s quite the commodity around here). Of course, this accounts for uneven surfaces more often than not, but it’s much more appealing to the eye and environmentally friendly. It is one of my favorite things about this area.

As many issues, the concrete vs. asphalt choice will vary by town, region, and state. But if it is up to you, I hope you’ll consider all of the factors and not only the immediate cost.  

What do you think? 

[i] Paula Aven, “CDOT Weights Concrete vs. Asphalt.” Denver Business Journal, May 5, 2000.

[ii] Mike Wiggins, “Concrete Now a Viable Alternative to Asphalt Roads,” The Daily Sentinel, November 20, 2008.