Friday Vermont Links

Today is the annual downtown & historic preservation conference (combined this year!) in Poultney, VT. The entire conference sounds like fun, but I’m most looking forward to the Streets as Places theme.

Some news from Vermont:

The Vermont Division for Historic Preservation has awarded $186,000 in grant money for preservation and restoration projects throughout the state.

Lake Champlain has reached its record high water level and it seems as though the entire state is flooding. The Charlotte-Essex (NY) ferry is shut down due to high water levels. Rivers and lakes throughout the state are flooding towns across the state. This will create damage for all buildings and displace people and businesses for a time.  If you are aware of a historic building in danger, be alert, now and when the water recedes.

On the night of Sunday April 17, a fire broke out in the historic Brooks House on Main Street in Brattleboro. The five-story French Second Empire building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building was home to many businesses and apartments; their fate is unknown at this time.

On a lighter note, the site of the University of Vermont’s first baseball diamond will be recognized on April 30 in the Old North End of Burlington.

Have you heard of the Checkered House Bridge project in Richmond, VT? The metal truss bridge is going to be widened. You can learn more about this unique project on its website.

In connection to Vermont and its tourism, what are your thoughts on covered bridge preservation? A Richmond (Virginia) Times Dispatch article seems to debate the fate and purpose of such a thing. A necessity? An obligation? Too much money? Would a state like Vermont, known for its covered bridges, think it’s a frivolous expense?

A Very Fine Appearance: The Vermont Civil War Photographs of George Houghton was released earlier this month. The book includes over 100 photographs from the Vermont infantry experience during the Civil War. Photographs were all taken by Brattleboro resident George Houghton. You can buy the book in hardcover or paperback through the Vermont Historical Society.

Happy Spring! Happy weekend!


Street Lights, Historic Preservation, Night Sky

There is a neighborhood in Burlington that has the most beautiful views of Lake Champlain by day and often equally impressive views at night. Ever since my legs found that particular street with the breathtaking lake views, it has been my favorite part of my run. On a recent evening run, I discovered that I could see so many stars from that street, too, many more than I could see my from house. Actually, the stark contrast in numbers of stars was astonishing. And I enjoyed this neighborhood much more; there was a nicer feeling about it.

Before long I realized that the contrast was due to the types of streetlights. My neighborhood has the standard tall freestanding lights or those attached to a telephone pole, both being the kind that give off an orange-ish flooding light. Any night atmosphere is obscured.

Tall, freestanding street light (slightly obscured by the trees).

The neighborhood with the star filled sky, on the other hand, has streets lined with shorter, individual street lamps. There are a few styles on the streets, but all are shorter. One looks like a lantern or an old street light, and one sheds light down below a rounded metal hood. (I’m sure there are appropriate technical terms for styles, so if you are an expert, please clue me in.)

Lantern style street lamp.

Freestanding street lamp with metal hood.

This isn’t rocket science. It is amazing how much of a difference lighting plays, indoors or out.  Gas street lamps have been in the United States since the early nineteenth century (Baltimore in 1816). Since then street lamps have been powered primarily by electricity, whether in the form of  fluorescence, mercury, sodium, or something else. Light fixtures have, of course, varied throughout the last two centuries. Street lighting was given much attention in community plans; just think of the Garden City, City Beautiful, and other planning movements.  As I recall, the periodical The American City features many articles from the early twentieth century that discuss street lighting.

I’m grateful for street lights; they allow people to walk or run at night without tripping over the sidewalk or slipping on the black ice and lights make the streets safer. However, the disadvantages of street lights include the orange glow shining through your curtains at night, the obstruction of the night sky, the number of insects they attract, and that buzzing noise of the light itself.

Many rural communities have very few street lights, whereas those who grew up in suburbia know nothing other than orange street lamps. Take me for example: when I moved to Virginia for college and traveled around the state a bit, I was amazed at how many roads didn’t have any lights at all. It was pure darkness. Long Island had street lights everywhere and hardly any rural areas, so the world was always lit with orange street lamps, save for the occasional blackout. During the great blackout of summer 2003, I saw more stars at home than any other time. Since then and living elsewhere, I’m accustom to a world with much fewer street lights and now the variety that exists in the City of Burlington.

Street lights are often required and/or wanted, particularly in cities. It makes sense. But, clearly, there are street lights that are more appropriate in residential districts, historic or not. Why? Street lights are only the beginning. In fact, I started this post with the idea to just talk about street lights, and then realized that there are greater issues to address: beyond the annoying orange glow, the less than pleasing aesthetic,  and the buzzing sound of so many, the night time sky is something that many people do not have the opportunity to appreciate.  Light pollution is a real issue. Most of us have never seen pure night sky. And we’re losing it fast, faster than the growth of population, according to the International Dark Sky Association.

The International Dark Sky Association is an organization dedicated to calling attention to light pollution, providing solutions, and educating the public. They recognize the great importance of the need for street lighting, but address night sky friendly lights that decrease light pollution.

So, that subtle feeling you get in different neighborhoods may very well be connected to how it is lit at night. Street lights and other outdoor lights (such as spotlights) have an incredible ability to shape and color the feeling of our environment. Granted, light pollution comes from much greater sources such as shopping plazas and highways and roadside signs and cities with constantly lit buildings, but street lights are a tangible beginning that we all see outside our windows. The more thoughtful the lighting style in terms of light pollution, aesthetics, and compatibility with the built and natural environment, the better experience we can all have.

Read more about the importance of the dark sky or Lightscapes at the National Park Service. Read “Who Will Keep the Night” by Angela M. Richman from the Common Ground Summer 2003 issue. That entire issue addresses the importance and vulnerability of the night sky.

July 2010 Call for Articles

The next issue of the Preservation in Pink newsletter will be out in July 2010. This issue’s theme is Preservation Now. What is most important to you, the preservationist, right now? What are you studying? What are your work projects? What are related current events and trends that we should be considering in the preservation field?

Each issue always features writers discussing such ideas, but now is the time for everyone to consider what we are doing and where we are going.

How do you express yourself? Articles, cartoons, letters, photographs, whatever you have – share it!

Deadline: end of June 2010

Article Reminder & a Reader Poll

Happy November, everyone!

Here’s your 4 week reminder: articles due the weekend after Thanksgiving! If you haven’t mentioned an article to me, please pose a suggestion. (It’s very unlikely that I’d turn it down).  If you would like to write an article but can’t think of anything, let me know and I’ll give you some options.

Theme to start with: Preservation is our Real World (or real life).  Basically, consider what you do in the “real world” (post school or however you would like to translate that) and compare it to during school or during an internship or something like that. Or write about preservation in your life, your job, etc.

Of course, travel photographs are always encouraged. Anything preservation related is fair game. We’re striving for diversity at Preservation in Pink!  If you’re stuck in school mode, academic pieces are welcome, too.

Have fun writing.  And, please take the time to answer the poll, see the sidebar.