With Your Coffee

A view from the North Congregational Church in St. Johnsbury, VT.

A view from the North Congregational Church in St. Johnsbury, VT

It’s the With Your Coffee Monday edition, as the weekends are much too nice to spend time in front of a computer screen. Wouldn’t you agree? I hope you had a fabulous weekend. My weekend took me to/from central Vermont and north/south on the Island Line bike path in gorgeous weather, both with historic site explorations. What about you? Here are some reads to start off your week:

Cheers! Have a great week. :)

YUP: Bikes, Beer & Buildings

The media tells us, with valid evidence, that appreciation for historic buildings is on the upswing, and the number of craft brewers continues to grow, and alternate modes of transportation are catching on in urban areas.

Where can you find all of these in one place? Check out Rochester, New York. The Young Urban Preservationists (“YUP”) of the Landmark Society of Western New York hosted its second annual BBB – Bikes, Beer & Buildings – scavenger hunt on Saturday July 11, 2015. Caitlin Meives (UVM HP Alum 2008), Preservation Planner with the Landmark Society, gave me the rundown on the event and the group.

BBB-15-square

PiP: Tell me about Bikes, Beer & Buildings. 

CM: Bikes, Beer & Buildings is a great way to explore Rochester’s neighborhoods, see some lesser known landmarks, and learn about ongoing preservation projects. Organized by The Landmark Society’s Young Urban Preservationists (“YUPs”), BBB is Rochester’s first bike-based scavenger hunt. The YUPs provide the clues and you (and your team of 1-4 people) hop on your bikes and hunt down the buildings (or architectural features, parks, structures, etc).

PiP: How many years running? Where did you get the idea and the name? 

CM: This was our 2nd year. Last year, shortly after we formed, one of our steering committee members said he wanted to organized a bike scavenger hunt. So we did. Coming up with a clever name for events is always annoying so we thought, “Well, it involves three of our favorite things: bikes, beer and buildings….so why not just call it that!”

Happy participants! Photo provided by the Landmark Society for Western New York.

Happy participants! Photo provided by the Landmark Society for Western New York.

PiP: What’s the purpose or goal of BBB? 

CM: To have fun. To get out and see the city on two wheels. To see the exciting adaptive reuse projects that are happening all over the city. To see neighborhoods, parks, and buildings that a lot of people wouldn’t otherwise see or notice. Big picture, we (the YUPs) are also trying to engage as many youngish folks as possible. There is a an ever-growing community of young people in the area, especially in the city of Rochester, who are committed to their communities and are preservationists at heart.

PiP: Was it a success? 

CM: Yes, it’s a big hit and we’ll definitely do it again! This year we had 33 teams and just over 75 participants! We also had a bunch of local businesses and organizations who sponsored the event and provided in-kind donations of their awesome products for our prize baskets.

The beer garden! Photo courtesy of the Landmark Society of Western New York.

The beer garden! Photo courtesy of the Landmark Society of Western New York.

PiP: What was the best part of the event? 

CM: Watching everyone enjoy a cold beer or the purple “Pedaler’s Punch” that Lux Bar & Lounge prepared for our hot and tired cyclists.

Happy bikers and building lovers enjoying a cold beer. Photo courtesy of the Landmark Society of Western New York.

Happy bikers and building lovers enjoying a cold beer. Photo courtesy of the Landmark Society of Western New York.

PiP: Who are the YUPs?

CM: The YUPs are a group of youngish folks interested in preservation and community revitalization. We come from various walks of life and various professions—lawyers, planners, doctors, veterinarians, architects, writers, artists—but we all have one thing in common: we care about our communities and we believe our historic resources play an important role in any community’s revitalization.

YUP_2.0-small

What does “young” mean? Whatever you want it to! We’re targeting those oft-maligned by the media “millennials” (aged 20 to about 40) but, more importantly, we want to connect with like-minded people who are invested in their communities and are young at heart.

PiP: Sounds awesome! Can you offer any advice for groups wanting to do something similar to BBB? 

CM: Four tips for you:

  1. You need a dedicated and committed group of organizers. You don’t need a lot of people, you just need organized and committed people. In fact, if you have too many people it can become unwieldy. How you structure the organizing of an event like this depends on the structure and dynamics of your group. I happen to be one of the co-founders of the YUPs and I work for The Landmark Society, the organization with which the YUPs are affiliated, so it naturally falls to me to more or less lead the charge and to make sure we stay on track. In this case, delegating and giving people ownership of a task or an event can be challenging. However, in our 2nd year organizing this event, I found that people felt much more comfortable taking charge. If your group was formed more organically by people who just came together to form a group on their own, likely you’ll all have that sense of ownership to begin with. Regardless, I think it’s important to make sure someone is the point-person for the event as a whole or for each facet of the event. If everyone is running around doing a little bit of everything and no one is in charge of one thing, things can really easily slip through the cracks. Trust me. We had one or two last minute snafus.

  2. Partnerships are key. Starting an event from scratch is tricky, especially if your group/organization is new and doesn’t have a huge base from which to pull. Our first year, two days out from the scavenger hunt, we had three teams registered. Then one of our partners, a popular local blog that focuses on urban and preservation-related issues, shared the event through its social media. The flood gates opened and we breathed a huge sigh of relief.

  3. Start small and work your way up. You don’t want your first attempt to be a colossal failure. So don’t set yourself up for failure by biting off more than you can chew or by expecting unrealistic numbers.

  4. Learn and adapt. Your event won’t be perfect the first, second, or third time around. But have fun with it, make sure your participants have fun, and get feedback from them.

PiP: Where can we find the Landmark Society or YUP on Social Media? 

Thank you, Caitlin, YUPs, and The Landmark Society of Western New York! Great job on such a wonderful event. 

ROM: A Museum Addition with Much To Say

Institutions grow out of their historic buildings as their functions and purposes change and time progresses. They will need new space. Architects design the latest trends, looking to make a mark on the world. Preservationists seek to find common ground and conversation between historic buildings and architects. Yet, architecture – old and new – remains subjective. The Royal Ontario Museum (“ROM”) in Toronto, Canada is a prime case study for this discussion.

Let’s start here:

The Royal Ontario Museum  (

The Royal Ontario Museum (“ROM”) in Toronto, Canada.

What is that?, you might ask. That is the 1912 Royal Ontario Museum building with the 2007 “Crystal” addition designed by architect Daniel Libeskind. Intriguing, yes? Take a look at more photos before we talk (and click here for the project photos from Studio Libeskind).

The view across the street.

The view across the street.


The glass facades provides interesting angles and reflections of the adjacent historic buildings.

The glass facades provides interesting angles and reflections of the adjacent buildings.


View down the street towards the entrance to the museum (via the Crystal).

View down the street towards the entrance to the museum (via the Crystal).


My first question: is that addition over the building or through the building?

My first question: is that addition over the building or through the building?


Checking out the connection on the facade.

Checking out the connection on the facade.


The Crystal peeks over the side of the building, too.

The Crystal peeks over the side of the building, too.

Still with me? It’s a crazy building, but you can’t ignore it or turn away, right? Unable to answer the question of how does the addition connect to the original building from the outside, I ventured inside. Here’s what I found:

The atrium, of sorts.

The atrium, of sorts.


I walked around to see the wall junctions. The Crystal addition creates odd shaped spaces.

I walked around to see the wall junctions. The Crystal addition creates odd shaped spaces.


Another connection view.

Another connection view.


In many places, the addition seems to be a facade for the original.

In many places, the addition seems to be a facade for the original.

The entire floor of the new building sloped towards the front door; a little disorienting for those of us accustomed to walking on generally level surfaces. After chatting with one of the employees, I learned that the building was quite controversial and does not have plumbing (it remains in the original building). Interesting. This employee indicated that the addition had a lot of political pressure behind it.

Regardless of public opinion, I want discuss, with you, the addition in terms of historic preservation (or heritage conservation as the Canadians say). Is this style of architecture appropriate for the historic 1912 museum? Is it intriguing? Atrocious? Offensive? Welcoming?

The architect’s portfolio describes the addition as this:

The entire ground level is unified into a seamless space with clarity of circulation and transparency.  The Crystal transforms the ROM’s fortress-like character, turning it into an inspired atmosphere dedicated to the resurgence of the Museum as the dynamic centre of Toronto.

The design succeeds in inviting glimpses up, down, into galleries and even from the street. The large entrance atrium, the Gloria Hyacinth Chen Court, separates the old historic building from the new, providing a nearly complete view of the restored façades of the historic buildings.   The Chen Court also serves as a venue space for all kinds of public events.

Where to start? Well, it’s interesting. It does offer glimpses of the other buildings. One street facade is restored. Still, is this an appropriate treatment of this historic building? Let’s consider what the National Parks Service and Parks Canada would say.

In the United States, we follow the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation when dealing with historically significant buildings and new additions or alterations, most notably the following two:

  • (#3) Each property will be recognized as a physical record of its time, place, and use. Changes that create a false sense of historical development, such as adding conjectural features or elements from other historic properties, will not be undertaken.
  • (#9) New additions, exterior alterations, or related new construction will not destroy historic materials, features, and spatial relationships that characterize the property. The new work will be differentiated from the old and will be compatible with the historic materials, features, size, scale and proportion, and massing to protect the integrity of the property and its environment.

In Canada, the regulations are not identical, though Parks Canada has The Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada. Similar to the US Standards, Parks Canada offers this about rehabilitation:

  • (#2) Conserve the heritage value and character-defining elements when creating any new additions to an historic place or any related new construction. Make the new work physically and visually compatible with, subordinate to and distinguishable from the historic place.
  • (#3) Create any new additions or related new construction so that the essential form and integrity of a historic place will not be impaired if the new work is removed in the future.

Basically, both the US & Canada’s guidelines say that new addition should be recognizable as new and simultaneously compatible with the old and the environment. And, should the addition be removed it should not impact the historic building (presumably the historic – the more prominent building – would be the one remaining). Due to these standards and guidelines, additions are often subservient to their predecessors. Setback from the original, additions employ similar architectural features without being renditions. Sometimes they are successful. Sometimes they are boring, because – at least if they’re boring – the additions do not overpower the original. From one streetscape, the Crystal overpowers the original, wouldn’t you say?

If we’re talking personal opinion: I like it for its intriguing angles and new approach to additions (I’m tired of boring additions that look like subdued versions of the old, unless the environment calls for such a thing). Yet, after looking through the architect’s portfolio and searching for other modern buildings, this one is not as unique as I would have expected.

But, on a professional review: the addition does not comply with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. It is not visually compatible and removal would damage the building. However, is it not visually compatible because we’re not trained to read buildings with striking modern additions? Should we redefine how we look at buildings and additions? After all, there are countless style-less additions that ruin buildings. Maybe this one doesn’t ruin it so much as highlight a restored facade and engage conversation and community.

What do you think? Does it comply with the Standards? If yes, how? If no, should we look at the Standards in a new way? Or do you despise such modern architecture?

I’d love to have a discussion and hear your thoughts, so please comment below if you’d like to join.

Streets of Old Quebec City

Quebec City (Ville de Quebec, in French) is the capital of the Canadian province of Quebec and one of the oldest European settlements in North America. Chock full of history, to say the least, and the architecture is spectacular. For preservationists (or heritage conservationists, as Canadians say), architectural historians and those who simply like to look at or photograph pretty buildings, every single building around every corner proved picture-worthy.

Narrow streets, stone buildings, casement windows… it was almost too much to handle. And what continued to be striking: just how neat and tidy and clean every street was. Seriously, one of the cleanest and tidiest cities I’ve seen. Rather than ramble on and on, I’ll let you ramble through these images of the streets of Old Quebec City.

View from dinner.

View from dinner.

So lovely, even without any trees.

So lovely, even without any trees.

Stone and colors!

Stone and colors!

Looking down the street to one of the many University of LaVal buildings.

Looking down the street to one of the many University of LaVal buildings.

Street after street.

Street after street.

Impeccable.

Impeccable.

Down another street.

Down another street.

See? You could take photos for days.  Left to my own devices, I’d still be there doing just that. And that’s only part of Quebec City. Stay tuned. Have you been?

Abandoned Quebec: Henrysburg Church

For years on my travels from Burlington to Montreal, I’ve caught glimpses of a small brick church beside the highway giving me an “abandoned” vibe. Even from the highway at 60mph, I could see that this church didn’t have any windows.

Finally, I was able to take a detour to visit this church. Getting off the exit at Henrysburg, Quebec, I was stunned. At first, there didn’t appear to be a way to get to the church, as it appeared to be encircled by the highways and ramps, without an access road. Fortunately, that was not the case. A small road off the access ramp led to the church.

A view from the side of Autoroute 15.

A view from the side of Autoroute 15.

The stone is the edge of the church property. See Autoroute 15 and the overpass. The church is practically in traffic.

The stone is the edge of the church property. See Autoroute 15 and the overpass. The church is practically in traffic.

See that island of trees? The church sits in there.

See that island of trees? The church sits in there.

Just sitting there in the middle of an interchange. (I do not know what Noel Canada means in this location.)

Just sitting there in the middle of an interchange. (I do not know what Noel Canada means in this location.)

The access road leading to the church.

The access road leading to the church (looking back to the highway on/off ramp). 

Despite the proximity to Autoroute 15, this is one of the most peaceful locations that I have visited. The church sits in an oasis of trees. The grass is mowed, probably because there is an active (as recently as 2012) cemetery on site.

Henrysburg Methodist Church, 1861.

Henrysburg Methodist Church, 1861.

Church & cemetery hiding in the trees.

Church & cemetery hiding in the trees. And, no windows on the church. 

The cemetery beside the church.

The cemetery beside the church.

Some headstones date to the mid to late 1800s.

Some headstones date to the mid to late 1800s. That’s the highway in the background. 

Others are much more recent, including up to 2012.

Others are much more recent, including up to 2012.

It's always sad to see a vandalized headstone. I wonder if this person's descendents have any idea.

It’s always sad to see a vandalized headstone. I wonder if this person’s descendents have any idea.

View on the other side.

View on the other side.

Front of the church. Note the tower is covered in vinyl. Meaning, not all that long ago, someone "cared" to take care of this church.

Front of the church. Note the tower is covered in vinyl. Meaning, not all that long ago, someone “cared” to take care of this church.

I was not expecting to find what I did when I looked in the church windows.

Rubble!

Rubble!

The interior was completely stripped of all materials - walls, floorboards, everything!

The interior was completely stripped of all materials – walls, floorboards, everything!

Upon further investigation, I found a demolition permit. It expired in 2014. Perhaps they started and were stopped?

Upon further investigation, I found a demolition permit. It expired in 2014. Perhaps they started and were stopped?

Montee Henrysburg.

The former address: 138 Montee Henrysburg.

I stood there fascinated while simultaneously feeling like I was attending a building’s funeral, or memorial service and having so many questions. Why is this church stripped of everything? How long has it been in the middle of this interchange? When was the roadway completed? Why was demolition stopped? Is there a community group, or perhaps the descendents of the departed have rallied? So many thoughts and questions. What are yours?

Presumably, the church was active until the overpass was constructed, until Autoroute 15 was widened or completed. The road was completed around the 1960s, though I cannot find a definitive date, nor one for roadway upgrades such as widening. A lot of google searching reveals only that the church was constructed as a Methodist Church in 1861 and active until 1975, but burials have continued until 2012.

And why strip the church? Perhaps to protect it from fire? It’s much harder to burn a brick building than one filled with wood and other flammable objects.

Does anyone care about this church? I cannot think of another example of a building stuck in the middle of an interchange. One on level, the interchanged caused the demise of the building. Yet, it’s also preserving this structure. It doesn’t appear to be a spot where anything else would be built, so why not leave the church there?

You can see the super-tall  highway lights over the ridgeline of this church.

You can see the super-tall highway lights over the ridgeline of this church.

Do you know anything about this church? I’d love to hear more and find out it’s fate, hopefully with good news.

Brookfield Floating Bridge

Brookfield, Vermont is the sort of town that refuses to have its roads paved. In fact, the National Register of Historic Places nomination specifically mentions the dirt roads as character defining features of the village. It is also home to one of the few floating bridges in the world. The floating bridge means just as much, if not more, to its residents as the dirt road. It, too, is listed in the National Register – as a contributing resource to the Brookfield Historic District.

The story goes that a man fell through the ice one winter and drowned, prompting residents to lay logs across the water and tie them together in the winter of 1820. When the ice melted the log bridge remained, creating a floating bridge. Over the centuries, the bridge was replaced many times, with wood barrels to float the deck and eventually plastic barrels. Remember this photo from 2010? That’s when it was the sinking bridge, and closed to traffic. This 1976 bridge was the 7th floating bridge across Sunset Lake, but it had seen better days.

December 2010, Brookfield, VT.

Because of the bridge’s historic significance and the determined people of Brookfield, the Vermont Agency of Transportation designed a new floating bridge to replace the deteriorating 1976 bridge. The bridge opened on May 23, 2015 in grand celebration, with probably more people than Brookfield’s seen in decades! I worked on the project a bit while at VTrans, so it seemed like a fitting celebration to attend. Here are a few photographs from the day.

Dirt roads through the center of Brookfield.

Dirt roads through the center of Brookfield. The main road is actually State Highway 65.

Hundreds gathered for the bridge opening.

Hundreds & hundreds gathered for the bridge opening.

Food, souvenirs, bands, red, white and blue!

Food, souvenirs, bands, red, white and blue!

The brand new floating bridge still contributes to the Brookfield Village Historic District.

The brand new floating bridge still contributes to the Brookfield Village Historic District.

All details were discussed.

All details were sweat over in the design process – including bridge railings, guardrails, and the connection from the bridge to the roadway.

View across Sunset Lake.

View across Sunset Lake.

View from Ariel's Restaurant in town to the bridge.

View from Ariel’s Restaurant in town to the bridge.

If you’re in Central Vermont, visit the Floating Bridge (and drive across it). It’s a trip!

Toronto Facadism

Toronto is an interesting city, and one thing is apparent when strolling through Toronto: so much of this city is new. And new as in post urban renewal. Or newer, if you saw the condo construction behind Roundhouse Park. Much of downtown Toronto and Toronto’s historic neighborhoods were struck by urban renewal, though churches remain scattered between their large-scale, large massed neighbors. And today, high-rise tower construction continues at a rapid rate. Redevelopment continues. New development has its place, of course. However, sometimes when new development takes over, crazy things can happen. Take, for instance, this building near the University of Toronto.

IMG_7158

What is your initial thought? Historic? Disney World? Building constructed around it?

Just a façade.

Just a façade. There’s actually a Starbucks in there.

You might be asking, what in the world? As was I. See that plaque on the left. Here’s a photograph of it:

IMG_7155

It says: John M. Lyle Studio, 1921.This façade was part of a studio designed by John M. Lyle for his architectural practice. Lyle, one of Canada’s most distinguished architects, trained a number of noteworthy Canadian architects at the studio and worked there until his retirement in 1943. The building was set behind the homes that fronted Bloor Street, and was accessed by a pedestrian laneway located at 230 Bloor Street West. A portion of the studio’s façade was dismantled and reconstructed in its current location as part of a residential development completed in 2011.

That is to say: the building was in the way of development, so the façade was moved and stuck on this new building. Not ideal preservation, huh? The good part is the plaque that at least identifies where it was located and why it was moved.

What do you think? Acceptable? Not? I’d say it’s a case of relocated facadism, and the historic integrity no longer remains. Still, it’s interesting. I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please share below.

z

With Your Coffee

My mom and me at the Lake House in Lake Placid, NY. I love my mom!

My mom and me at the Lake House in the historic Lake Placid, NY. I love my mom!

Happy Sunday Mother’s Day (or Happy Monday, depending on when you read this)! To all the mothers out there, may you have a lovely day and know how much we all love our mothers and mother-figures. Here are a few reads from around the internet talking about history, architecture, design and culture:

How was your weekend? Favorite reads? Favorite activities? Have a great week!

A Springtime Preservation Song

Springtime brings everything back to life; it makes everything seem magical. Leaves and flowers blooming. New seasons work wonders. Inspiration, hope, optimism – these are all foundations of preservation. One of my dear flamingos sent along this song, citing this stanza:

“So much for used and abused, abandoned, thrown away
Some things are destined to live another day
It takes a certain kind to look deep enough to find the beauty within
And I thank God for those who make the old new again”

Thank you, Ali!

Church Turned Condos in Toronto

Large churches struggle to find alternative uses once they no longer serve as houses of worship. Whether located in a small town or a large city, too many churches sit empty and abandoned. Once in a while you’ll come across a success story. This church in Toronto has been converted into condos. Take a look at the photos and let me know what you think.

The Victoria Presbyterian Church converted to condos.

The Victoria Presbyterian Church converted to condos.

Only being able to see these from the outside you can see that floors have been added. The balconies are clear glass. The original windows have been removed, but the fenestration remains.

Only being able to see these from the outside you can see that floors have been added. The balconies are clear glass. The original windows have been removed, but the fenestration remains.

Another view of the church, now condos.

Another view of the church, now condos.

A bit about the Victoria Lofts:

Converted from a turn-of-the-century church into 38 gorgeous units, this building is beautiful, rooted in history, and ideally located.  Boasting soaring ceilings and gorgeous architecture including a dramatic sloping roof, a copper-trimmed steeple, romanesque arches and curved brick columns, suites range from 600 to 1800 square feet over one or two storeys.  Originally the West Toronto Presbyterian Church, this stunning building has been a vital part of the Junction neighbourhood since 1885, when it first opened its doors.  Renamed the Victoria Presbyterian Church to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897, this structure is one of several historic buildings in the area.  Located near the West Toronto Rail Path, a multi-use 4km path that links several Toronto neighbourhoods, the Junction is well-connected and a haven for any one seeking to reduce their carbon-footprint.  Spend an afternoon checking out the Junction Arts Festival, a neighbourhood display of music, dance and visual art, or take a fifteen-minute stroll south to High Park.

Apparently, converting churches into lofts is a thing in Toronto. Check out this post and this post. Do you want to live in a church? What do you think? A good idea? I’d like to see the inside. But, from the outside it looks pretty good. The windows would be better intact, but perhaps that wouldn’t work for the residences. In that case, the structure remains as a landmark in the neighborhood and it is legible.

Do you have a church in your town that could serve as a residence?