Preservation ABCs: K is for King Post

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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K is for King Post (Truss)

Pine Brook Bridge in Fayston, VT: A king post truss bridge. Source: Library of Congress. Click for source.

Pine Brook Bridge in Fayston, VT: A king post truss bridge. Source: Library of Congress. Click for source.

A king post is a type of truss, and can refer to building or bridge construction. Being able to identify a truss is an important part of preservation conversation, whether you are working on an architectural description or talking to a contractor or an engineer. As an introduction to trusses, start with an easy one: the king post truss. It is a simple truss and most often used for short spans. Think of it as a triangle. An easy definition of a king post is borrowed from Cyril Harris’ book, American Architecture: an Illustrated Glossary:

A structural support for a roof formed by two inclined rafters joined at the apex of their intersection. A horizontal tie beam connects the rafters their lower ends, and a vertical central member (called the king post) connects the apex with the midpoint of the tie beam. 

See the triangle? This triangle is a truss and can repeat in bridges (then called multiple king post truss) and structures. They are easiest to identify on covered bridges or metal truss bridges or in attics. Take a look next time your passing over a bridge or hanging around an attic.

Got it? You can always jump to the HAER truss poster and dive right into studying.

Preservation ABCs: A is for Alley

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! 

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A is for ALLEY

Elfreth’s Alley, Philadelphia, PA. Photo source: Library of Congress. “GENERAL VIEW OF NORTH (LEFT) AND SOUTH SIDES OF THE ALLEY, LOOKING EAST” Click to go to original digital source.

What is an alley? An alley is a small, narrow street between or behind buildings, mostly in urban settings. Some alleys are for pedestrians only, some are for automobiles to access garages. What does an alley have to do with historic preservation? Alleyways are part of our planning and development history, giving us clues to how people traversed cities and used space. Also, think of it this way: as a culture, we are more likely to spruce front yards, building facades and the most publicly visible spaces that we inhabit. Alleys have the potential to show what the building looked like prior to improvements or stylized additions. 

Alleys are also working corridors. Often these narrow spaces between and behind buildings exist for services (trash collection, deliveries, vehicle parking) and are less traveled than the sidewalks on the streetscape. Because they are less traveled, alleys hold mystery.

Want to visit an alley? Elfreth’s Alley in Philadelphia, PA is a National Historic Landmark.

Talk with a Veteran

In 2004, I had the honor and privilege to interview my uncle, James H. Robb, for the Veterans History Project. In honor of Veterans Day, I’ve been listening to the interview today. I realized my uncle explained his experiences of basic training and his time in the Vietnam War with caution and care, in the sense that he expresses the impact and seriousness of the war, without revealing anything traumatizing – things that might not be appropriate for sharing with a young relative.

Before this interview, I knew very little about the military or about the Vietnam War. My uncle is well spoken and intelligent and he taught me a great deal within this 63 minute interview. I’d recommend his interview as a good introduction to learning about the Vietnam War. Click here for the transcript or the audio.

Thank you for your service with the United States Military, Uncle Jimmy. We are forever grateful and proud.

Friday Links: News and Winter

Happy Friday! Check out some links to important preservation news topics, news from around the Lake Champlain Valley, and some winter related links (sites and festivals).

Read PreservationNation’s summary about the fight against WalMart in order to save the Wilderness Battlefield in Virginia. It is an excellent summary and gives important facts.

Do you have opinions on LEED and its relevance to historic preservation? Now is the perfect time to voice those concerns! Read information on the Green Preservationist or some from the National Trust as well as instructions on how to comment. The comment period has been extended until January 17, 2011 at 11:59pm.

NPR ran a story this week about the largest donation of audio recordings ever received by the Library of Congress.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation is working with the Town of Charlotte, studying rehabilitation options for the Quinlan Covered Bridge.

A historic building in Elizabethtown, NY caught fire early morning January 11, 2011. The building was Hubbard Hall, which was originally built around 1840 by Congressman Orlando Kellogg, housed the Elizabethtown Community House Inc. in 1921.

Ever hear of Winter Park, Florida? Sounds a bit too cold for Florida.

Do you think it’s cold? Just remember Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War.

Need some winter fun? How about some winter festivals? In Vermont you can visit the Burlington Winter Festival, the Bennington Winter Festival, the Stowe Winter Carnival, and the Middlebury College Winter Carnival. Or in upstate New York there is the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival, staking the claim of the oldest winter carnival in the eastern USA.

Keep in mind that a bit of draft in your house is okay; I’d rather have some air circulation than a dry throat every morning. Still, keep in mind that there are ways to reduce energy loss. Take weatherization tips from the National Trust.

Enjoy the snow and stay warm!

Need something bright in the dreary winter? How about these fun sunflowers painted on a fence in Milton, VT?

Playgrounds of Yesterday

Following up yesterday’s Preservation Photos #25 post, which featured the Giant Stride, here’s a glance at other unique playground equipment from the early 20th century. Of course there are many sources with great photographs and information, so consider this a sampling.

First, a search through the Library of Congress digital records always provides good entertainment:

Another Giant Stride (or is it a may pole?) - at a playground in New York City, ca. 1910-1915. Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division (click).

Merry-go-round, ca. 1918-1920. Source: Library of Congress Prints & Photographs (click).

A playground apparatus that reminds me of a merry-go-round and a giant stride combined. Source: Library of Congress (click).

A children's city playground. Source: Library of Congress Prints & Photographs (click).

Seesaw, 1902, in Chicago, IL. Source: American Memory, LOC (click).

With the digital world taking over, Flickr is a wonderful resource as well. People share their own images as well as scanning in magazines, advertisements, etc. By searching for “playground” in the uploads or the “playground” groups, you will find some awesome images. Most of it will be mid 20th century, not ca. 1910 or 1920, but it’s fascinating in a different way. Check out the sets by Nels_P_Olsen on Flickr for images of vintage defunct and surviving playgrounds.

Part of the 1975 Miracle Equipment Company playground catalog. Click and scan through the other pages. Source: Nels_P_Olsen.

More from the Miracle Playground Equipment catalog. I include this one for my sisters and our friends at Norwood Elementary: that thing we always called the spider web -- apparently it's a geodesic dome (note bottom). Source: Nels_P_Olsen, flickr (click).

For more, try the “old playground furniture” group. See also this August 26, 2009 “Playgrounds” post from PiP.

How’s that, Erin? Enough to hold you over? I’ll post more in the future. When you’re out exploring, be sure to let me know of any great old playgrounds! Let’s go build a giant stride in the backyard for now.