A Visit to the Long Island Museum: Coney Island and Jones Beach

The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook, NY is a place that most Long Island schoolchildren visit and probably know as “The Carriage Museum” or “The Stony Brook Museums.” The museum grounds have a schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, and other historic buildings that you can explore. The carriage museum is home to thousands of carriages. And the art museum hosts the rotating exhibits. Previously, I wrote about my visit to the exhibit “America’s Kitchens.”

This season (June 14-December 29) the featured exhibit was, “Coney Island and Jones Beach: Empires by the Sea.” The south shore of Long Island, Jones Beach included, is near and dear to my heart and Coney Island is on my list of places to visit, so my family headed to the museum for an educational afternoon. Unfortunately, copyright rules prohibited any photography. The following quotes are from the exhibit and the Long Island Museum exhibit page.

“If Paris is France, then Coney Island, between June and September, is the world.
George Tilyou, owner of Steeplechase Park, 1886

“You may cross the world and find no resort to compare with Jones Beach.  No other beach or playground offers so much for so little…”
Meyer Berger, writer for the New York Times, 1947

The two exhibits worked their way in opposite directions of the museum gallery, meeting in the middle. Visitors were able to choose how to begin. Historic photographs and maps, antique objects, archival video footage, and well written text carried you from the beginning of both places to the present. Highlights included vintage lifeguard uniforms, an oral history interview (video) with a man who had been a lifeguard for 60+ summers, Coney Island signage, and video of the crazy amusement rides. (Read: I wish the steeplechase ride still existed.)  Did you see the photo post of the parachute drop? It is the only structure remaining from Steeplechase Park and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Steeplechase at Coney Island. Source HABS via wikipedia. Click for link.

The Steeplechase at Coney Island. Source HABS via wikipedia. Click for link.

Coney Island has a long, winding, interesting history of politics, transportation, amusement, culture, and it’s ever changing story of use, multiple parks and reputation. Have you been? I also want to ride the Cyclone, a 1927 historic wooden roller coaster that scares the living daylights out of most people.

Need some more information about Coney Island? Check out Coney Island History and the Coney Island History Project. And here’s a good post from a Brooklyn blogger.

As for Jones Beach: it is a New York State Park that opened in 1929. At 2,400 acres, it was the first public park of its kind, almost resort like for anyone. The park opened with swimming pools, art deco bathhouses, an amphitheater, sports fields, a two-mile boardwalk – all open to the public. If you’re driving on Ocean Parkway, you know Jones Beach by the pencil shaped water tower.  In 2012, the Cultural Landscape Foundation declared the park at risk on its annual “Landslide” list due to lack of funding and a lack of comprehensive planning. The park is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

This rotating exhibit space at the Long Island Museum always puts on an enjoyable, educational show. I enjoyed learning more about Long Island, though now it has me wishing for those warm summer amusement months.

Have you been to your local museum lately? Have you learned anything new about your hometown or region?

Preservation ABCs: X is X-ray

Preservation ABCs is a series that will work its way from A to Z, bringing words into conversation that are relevant to historic preservation, whether it’s an idea, feature or vocabulary term. The idea is to help you see preservation everywhere you look and wherever you go. Enjoy! See previous letters.

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X is for X-ray 

X-rays are not just for people in hospitals or luggage in airport security; x-ray technology provides non-destructive testing techniques to aid in building forensics as well as art and object conservation. Non-destructive testing allows for greater exploration without unnecessarily harming historic fabric. X-rays can detect voids in building materials as well as leaks, cracks, and other signs of deterioration. Part of this is to understand the structure and ensure the safety of the researchers/contractors. X-ray fluoroscopy is used to identify materials such as lead, which you know is a common question about buildings today. (See NPS Brief 35: Understanding Old Buildings.)

If you’re involved in the preservation technology field and the building sciences, you know how in depth this topic can go (books, courses, careers). Check out this NCPTT report for more information about x-rays and other digital technologies in historic preservation. It is important to remember that science and historic preservation are connected, just as engineering and preservation are linked.

Preservation Training Opportunity in Vermont

Looking for an excuse to head to snowy, beautiful Vermont in January? If you’re interested in historic buildings, rehabilitation of buildings, and would like to learn more about building codes and ADA, then plan on visiting Vermont in January. This workshop is a great deal, you earn AIA credits, and you’ll be much more informed about the confusing rules of accessibility. See details below.

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Historic Buildings, New Accessibility Rules & Codes Training Day

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

7:30 am – 3:00 pm

Vermont Technical College – ‘Old Schoolhouse’

Randolph, VT

  • Some of the most common questions builders and designers have are about new accessibility requirements, modifying historic buildings, and in particular modifying historic buildings for greater accessibility.
  • This seminar seeks to clarify Vermont’s building codes by bringing together three experts: from ADA-New England, the preservation community, and the Division of Fire Safety. Presentations and discussions will focus on case studies suggested by participants.
  • All participants in the workshop will receive complimentary membership in BSA-VT.
  • This course earns 6 AIA-HSW CEUs.

OBJECTIVES

Upon completion of this seminar, participants will be better able to:

  • understand and apply Vermont’s current Access Rules (based on the new version of ADA, 2010)
  • understand Vermont’s categories of new construction and renovation, including which codes apply
  • apply Chapter 43 of NFPA to existing and historic buildings
  • evaluate the balance between requirements for new and existing construction, as well as accessibility, with historic structures
  • discuss strategies for design/construction with building officials, owners, and other professionals.

INSTRUCTORS

  • Kathy Gips, Director of Training, New England ADA Center
  • Judy Hayward, Executive Director, Historic Windsor and Preservation Education Institute
  • Bob Patterson, Deputy Director, Vermont Dept. Public Safety’s Division of Fire Safety

SUBMIT YOUR PROJECT QUESTIONS & CASE STUDIES! 

Please email your questions about specific code and construction circumstances for review during the session to: Sandra Vitzthum

REGISTRATION

$60 per person includes the full day of training, continental breakfast, lunch. To sign up, please visit http://www.buildsafevt.org/

STORM ARRANGEMENTS

We have made arrangements to re-schedule the event to Jan 16 if necessary; the meeting will be held in Berlin VT if this happens. Final decision will be made by 8:30 am 1/14 and emailed to all participants. You can also check our website for updates.

PresConf Recap: Education Sessions

Gather thousands of preservationists together and there is a lot to talk about, which is more than buildings. Sessions discussed historic sites, publicity, economic revitalization, energy efficiency, social media, the 50 year “rule”, diversity, new ideas for building uses, community advocacy, bridge rehabilitation, federal laws (NEPA & NHPA), and much more. While it’s great to have so many choices for which sessions to attend, my complaint is that there are too many options. Having to choose from one of five or more at one time makes me feel like I’m missing out on important education opportunities. Of course that tends to sound like a “first world problem” but I’m letting you know how busy a National Trust conference can be.

Each session is worthy of discussion, but for this overview I’ll note some of my biggest takeaways (ideas and/or food for thought) and go into greater detail in subsequent posts. You can also find recaps from the Preservation Leadership Forum blog for the whole conference and daily recaps.

Held in the Madame Walker Theater.

Held in the Madame Walker Theater.

Conversation Starter: Diversity in Preservation: Rethinking Standards and Practices

A conversation starter worked like this: a panel provided the background information and set the stage for discussion on the topic. Audience members wrote questions on index cards and the moderator selected questions for the panel to answer. This panel discussed how preservation is building focused; preservationists speak the language of buildings. Yet, how does that impact important places that do not have significant buildings anymore (perhaps they are lost or have lost historic integrity)? Is there a way to make ordinary buildings significant? It’s the discussion of authenticity v. integrity. How much of a role does association play? Is the National Register effective in preserving our significant places? Where are we moving in the future? Are we changing standards or practices, both or none?

As you can surmise, this was a great panel for getting your preservation theory & practices brain working overtime. Rather than being told what to think, the audience participated in the conversation, making the session feel like a good class in school when we’d all sit around and talk theory.

New Media, New Audiences: Case Studies in Social Media

The much anticipated social media panel (one of the panels) with Kayla, Dana, Michelle, and Meagan. Each of us discussed how we use social for preservation work, individually and for our organizations and advocacy. Following the brief presentations, the audience divided into groups of five. We answered questions about social media, helped people work through their challenges and consider what might work for their needs. Each group was different, and all sounded like they went over well. At the end of the group breakout session, everyone wrote their lessons learned on 8×11 analog Twitter cards to tape on the wall sharing what they learned or another thought from the session.

Why is social media at a preservation conference? Simply stated, social media is not only for our personal lives. It can help our organizations be included in conversations throughout communities and across the country. It builds relationships and increases networks in a more genuine way than some might expect from social media. (After all, we preservationists love authenticity, so we’re going to be ourselves, right?) Our goal was to show that social media (whether blogging, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) can help to share powerful messages and create support for preservation causes. And it’s not just for the younger generations, nor do you have to use all of the social media avenues. It’s also fun. In other words, go ahead, jump on the preservation + social media bandwagon. You’ll be glad you did.

Our analog Twitter wall!

Our analog Twitter wall!

Seaside as A Historic District: Evaluating the Significance of New Urbanism Developments

Another one of my favorite sessions, hearkening to the day of Mary Washington where we were fascinated by New Urbanism developments (because some, quite frankly, were creepy, whereas others seemed like good places to live. Though we were unable to decide if preservationists could live in new developments, however well designed, because of all of the historic homes and communities out there). This session presented examples of planned communities throughout American history (think Radburn, NJ, all the Levittowns, the Greenbelt communities) and then discussed new communities (new urbanism) such as Seaside, FL and Reston, VA. What is the correlation between new urbanism and historic preservation? Are these new communities too Disney-like or gentrified? And the discussion led back to our favorite terms of significance and authenticity. The best thought to share: New urbanism is learning to build new cities in the fashion of successful old cities (i.e. old urbanism?), which have survived because of historic preservation. Perhaps the two fields: historic preservation and urban planning have more in common than previously thought.

Spans to Somewhere: Creative Outcomes for Large Transportation Projects in Historic Settings

A big transportation project is near and dear to my heart due to my days with the Lake Champlain Bridge. Unfortunately many of our larger historic bridges are at risk for demolition because they no longer meet the service levels or have suffered deterioration. This session discussed the Milton-Madison Bridge as well as the Louisville, KY bridge projects and how the communities worked to mitigate the loss of their bridge. While the regulatory world (Section 106 & Section 4(f)) isn’t often discussed in National Trust sessions, it is important to remember that the laws do play a role in everyone’s lives. And community input is an important part of these regulations. Citizens (stakeholders) can help to direct the outcome of a project, when working with the decision makers. The outcome can include rehabilitation, or it can include mitigation (a unique bridge design, historic research or documentation, interpretive panels, preservation planning, etc.)

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Those are just a few of the sessions and a few thoughts – hopefully some to get your preservation brain intrigued. If you attended the conference, what were some of your favorite sessions?

Reading Your Neighborhood

How often do you stroll around your neighborhood, whether suburban, small town, or urban, and take in the properties? If you live in the northeast, the forecast is perfect for strolling in this warm spring weather, so take advantage of it! (To those of you elsewhere, I wish you the same weather.)

You might recall posts how to read your environment, mostly streetscape and public space based. See the following:

But let’s step back from the street and onto the front lawns or climb the front stoop, or walk into a lobby. There is another obvious element for discussing our built environment: the buildings in which we live. Where you live likely gives you a default for the setting. For instance, Preservation in Pink often discusses smaller towns and villages, because most of the current inspiration is derived from Vermont. Yet, we all live in very different places: from rural settings to suburban settings to cities, or perhaps somewhere in between, or even a combination of sorts. And it is important to recognize and read these environments. Streets and street elements need context, just as buildings do. So, when you’re out and about, take a look around you. These aren’t technical questions; but, rather tips to help open your mind and learning how to look and read the environment. Practice often and soon this information will register automatically.

  • What is the primary look of the residences in your neighborhood? Single homes? Duplexes (aka half houses or semi detached)? Are they multiple stories?
  • Is there lawn space? How close are the buildings to the street? Is the green space landscaped?
  • Where are the mailboxes?
  • Are there fences?
  • Where do the cars park?
  • Where do the children play? (Lawns, streets, parks?)
  • Do the streets form winding streets or a grid?
  • Is the locale purely residential, or is commercial mixed in? Are the commercial and residential blocks different types?
  • Does the neighborhood look to be the same age? Do the buildings seem to have different architectural styles, or do they look similar? Does the age indicate original construction — workers’ housing, post war, or does it appear to have developed organically over a century?
  • Does it seem like people know their neighbors?

Aside from pure curiosity, why bother asking yourself these questions? You can tie this back to the idea that every place matters to someone or to a group of people. Understanding where you live or where others live and being able describe it accurately allows for discussion intangible and tangible elements.

What do you notice in your neighborhood?

Preservation Month 2013

Rutland.jpg

The Service Building of the Gryphon Building Block in Rutland, VT.

It’s National Preservation Month! Hooray! Good stuff coming your way.

Preservation ABCs: P is for Place

Preservation ABCs is a series that will work its way from A to Z, bringing words into conversation that are relevant to historic preservation, whether it’s an idea, feature or vocabulary term. The idea is to help you see preservation everywhere you look and wherever you go. Enjoy! See previous letters.

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P is for Place

Not a historic site, but this place means the world to me.

Not a historic site, but this place means the world to me.

Place is not a standard vocabulary term that you’ll find in an architectural dictionary or preservation textbook; however, “place” is an often used term in historic preservation.

A place can be a town, a building, a field, a park, a bridge, a crossroads, a mountain range or anything really. When asked what is your favorite place, what’s your answer? Whether ocean, town, building, nature, any place can be special to someone, and it’s likely that every place has a dear meaning to someone. As the National Trust campaign says, “This Place Matters.” Identifying a particular place and appreciating that place allows the intangible ideas of historic preservation to make sense by connecting them with the tangible elements of our past and present. These places are important because they are the basis for everyone to understand significance. Not every place is a historic resource, but every place can be significant in someone’s life. And great places, loved places make for strong communities and a better quality of life.

We also talk about planning concepts such as “third place” – the idea that a third place is somewhere that people feel comfortable and welcome, beyond the home and beyond the office. This can be anywhere, though usually it refers to a restaurant, café or other gathering place (something that can be incorporated into new urbanism ideas).

What does “place” mean to you? What is your favorite place?

Preservation ABCs: F is for Flamingo

Preservation ABCs is a series that will work its way from A to Z, bringing words into conversation that are relevant to historic preservation, whether it’s an idea, feature or vocabulary term. The idea is to help you see preservation everywhere you look and wherever you go. Enjoy! See previous letters.

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F is for Flamingo

Historic preservation and the flamingo: an obvious connection to some, yet a puzzle to those new to the Preservation in Pink world. The beginning of the link between historic preservation and flamingos dates to Mary Washington College, ca. 2003-2006. You can read that story here. In brief, the flamingo has been the underlying bond between eight of us since graduation when we scattered across the country, and it became a way to tie each other together throughout studies, conversations and eventually across the world. Sending each other pink flamingos reminded us of our shared passion and the fact that there was a group of classmates and friends for support in any way. Admittedly, it has grown a bit out of control. (And it’s so easy now because flamingos are very much in vogue everywhere!)

The pink flamingo says to everyone that preservation is not all academics and only for professionals; it is a wide reaching field that applies to everyone. Preservation can be connected to folk art and material culture kitsch like the pink flamingo in addition to serious topics like national policies, building restoration, quality of life issues, transportation, local businesses and shaping the future of our communities. Preservation discussions can be held in the classroom, a board room, at a coffee shop, casually or seriously.

In the world of Preservation in Pink, the flamingo will always be a focus. Hopefully when you see a pink flamingo, you’ll think of the positive outlook and good effects that historic preservation has in your world, and you can teach others about it.

Keep sending flamingo links, thoughts, photos, etc.

Preservation Grammar: “In” v. “On” the National Register

When referring to a historically significant property, do you say that it is listed “on the National Register of Historic Places” or “in the National Register of Historic Places?”

Think about for a minute. Write it down. Which is your preference? Which sounds correct?  Is there a correct answer?  Considering how interchangeable “in” and “on” seem to be in relation to the National Register, it may seem like either one is correct. While both tend to be accepted, there is a right answer.

In the National Register” is the proper phrase.

The National Park Service National Register Bulletin says this, “Properties listed in the National Register include districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that are significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture.”

And consider this. The Register is a list. Properties are in that list, among other properties – a part of something (the register). They are not on the list. Think of it like a group of properties or in a crowd of properties – in that group, not on that group. Make sense? Would anyone care to parse this discussion further?

What’s your success rate with “in” or “on” and where did you learn the difference?

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Previous Preservation Grammar posts: 

Preservation ABCs: C is for Ceiling

Preservation ABCs is a series that will work its way from A to Z, bringing words into conversation that are relevant to historic preservation, whether it’s an idea, feature or vocabulary term. The idea is to help you see preservation everywhere you look and wherever you go. Enjoy! See previous letters.

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C is for Ceiling

ceiling.jpg

Do you look up when you walk into a new room? Does the ceiling affect your comfort level and the atmosphere?

Ceilings say a tremendous amount about a particular room. Often ceilings are neglected features of buildings,  covered by drop ceilings due to failed plaster or sound and energy efficiency. Buildings that have had continual use are often victims of lowered ceilings and blocked in windows for those same reasons. Have you seen rehabilitated buildings with drop ceilings? What a crushing disappointment it is to walk into a rehabilitated or renovated building, only to look up and see the skeletal network of acoustic tile or other drop ceilings.

When outside preservationists look up at buildings (c for cornice, as well) because we know interesting features exist beyond the ground floor. Just as it is important to protect and highlight the architectural details of a building facade, it should be as important to preserve the integrity of the building’s interior. And when a ceiling cannot be preserved or restored, it should be replaced in kind.

To make a difference in a room, ceilings do not have to be ornate like the murals in the US Capital, the Sistine Chapel or ornamental plasterwork found in Virginia plantation homes (e.g. Kenmore Plantation in Fredericksburg, VA).

Where are you sitting right now? Look up. What do you see? What does the ceiling bring to mind? What would you rather see? Do you think the ceiling matches the building? A sheetrock ceiling is likely more appealing than a styrofoam-esque drop ceiling. What do you think? Even some restaurant chains are attempting to create a more pleasing environment by choosing black ceiling tiles or utilities.

Next time you’re in a new place, look up and stare at the ceiling. A tin or plaster ceiling has more to tell about a building and creates a more interesting environment. Just as the windows and floors, ceilings are part of the building’s history, too. Ceiling height can indicate purpose and importance of a room or be indicative of climate.

What do you think about ceilings?