With Your Coffee

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Traveling this weekend? Feels like spring. Have fun! Seen here: Vermont I-89.

Hello preservation friends and happy weekend! How goes it? Big successes to share? Are you simply glad to have made it through the week (preservation and life can do that to you once in a while. You are not alone)? What are you working on these days? Have you watched House of Cards yet? I’m super psyched to do some binge-watching. Here are a few links from around the web if you’re looking for something to read this weekend.

What have you been reading lately?

Coffee cheers! 🙂

 

Reading List 2016

What are you reading in 2016? I have four definites on my list, three of which have been on my to read list for years. This is the year I read them. Why? My reasons are below.

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books of all time, and my mom gifted this to me for Christmas. A novel is a good place to start.

Roads to Quoz by William Least Heat Moon. Blue Highways is another one of my all-time favorites, and my sister Sarah gave this to me years ago. A good Americana-road tripping book is always a good idea.

A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia Savage McAlester. The update of the essential historic preservation/architectural history classic. I could use a refresher in architectural history and some new lessons on the suburban development.

The Great Bridge by David McCullough is about the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. I started this book about 3.5 years ago and never continued despite the fact that I know it will be great and it’s been recommended to me over and over. Time to focus and read.

I’d love to know your planned reads. For fun? For school? For career development?

(Proper credit: post inspired by Bernice’s post. Thanks for the idea!) 

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. 🙂

Land’s End

By now, everyone has heard of the tragic demolition of Land’s End, one of Long Island’s Gold Coast mansions. This particular mansion happened to be the one that provided inspiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby.  The Gold Coast of the 1920s stretched from Great Neck to Huntington Bay on the Long Island Sound.

Can you imagine living among stars and lavish parties, so much wealth all in one room? The images are remarkable. F. Scott Fitzgerald captured the roaring 20s. Land’s End represented that time.

Have you watched the CBS Sunday morning video yet? I hadn’t until yesterday. I didn’t want to see a building demolished (abandoned, still standing buildings pull at heart enough as it is). But I finally watched it. And it is heartbreaking. You can see a short video by News12 or a longer (much better) video clip on CBS.

Click for video.

A realtor, Bert Brodsky, and his son bought the $18 million property seven years ago and claimed that the upkeep was too much. So they let it fall. And eventually were able to have it claimed “beyond repair.” Now they plan to construct five $10 million dollar homes. At the end of the CBS Sunday morning video the realtor/owner said that he was sad, but life goes on.

CBS Sunday morning video

What a horrible loss to our heritage. How is it fair and allowed that someone can purchase such a significant property, likely knowing of the upkeep, and then just let it fall to pieces until it is just bad enough to be declared too far gone? It makes me so angry. I have to think that it was carefully calculated, particularly when developers are involved. How about you?

For more information, images, and video read the post and scroll down to the links of the blog 80,000 words. One link is to a New York Times article about F. Scott Fitzgerald. Her flickr set has devastating photographs of the end of the demolition. The strong, lonely chimneys are astounding.

Visit Old Long Island for pictures, and then follow Zach’s lead to Jen Ross’ demolition photos. She has an earlier set of the house in its sad, abandoned state. They are tragically breathtaking.  It is worth your time to browse.

A Life in the Trades: September 2010

Series introduction. October 2009. November 2009. December 2009. January 2010. February 2010. March 2010. April 2010. May 2010. June 2010.

By Nicholas Bogosian

While earning my B.A. at the University of Houston, the ritual of buying new textbooks for each new semester was a chore. Perhaps I was just unfocused or insincere with the major I had chosen. I looked forward to the possible returns when I would be able to sell them back at the end of the semester. Of course, I kept a few.

Now that I have found my way into the Building Preservation & Restoration program at Belmont Technical College, the acquisition of new books each quarter feels like a true investment. I wouldn’t give up a single one. For a program that has a reputation for an intensive hands-on curriculum, our book load seems equal to my B.A. studies, if not more. Perhaps this should come as no surprise.

I recall a past PiP post in which Kaitlin offered photo of her school books with pride [see here and here]. This month I wanted to do the same and let readers in on the great books to which the BPR program has introduced me.

Keeping Time by William J. Murtagh. A concise study of the history and theory of preservation in America.

The Decoration of Houses by Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman Jr. “…it might be argued that it is among the most influential books about decoration and architecture ever published in the United States.” (Richard Guy Wilson)

Downtown by Robert M. Fogelson. An in-depth history of the rise and fall of “downtown.”

Structures or Why Things Don’t Fall Down by J.E. Gordon. A richly colored exploration into the world of Building physics.

The Blacksmith by Aldren A. Watson. Beautifully illustrated and nostalgic manual on the life and work of the early blacksmith.

Science for Conservators Volumes One & Two by The Conservation Unit of the Museums & Galleries Commission. The definitive textbooks for anybody entering the field of conservation. An introduction to the chemistry of materials and the chemistry of cleaning.

Construction Contracting by Richard H. Clough, Glenn A. Sears, & S. Keoki Sears. A very thick book with ant-sized type exploring the entire world of Construction: estimating, bidding, management, labor laws, insurance, etc.

Conserving Buildings by Martin E. Weaver. The preservation classic that explores the various techniques for conserving various materials in various types of deterioration.

Everyday Life in Early America by David Freeman Hawke. A brief social history of early America. Topics include: floor plans, “what they ate,” recreation, language, etc.

The Reshaping of Everyday Life (1790-1840) by Jack Larkin. A Distinguished Finalist for the P.E.N./Martha Albrand Award for Nonfiction in 1989. The second part in the social history series.

Fundamentals of Building Construction by Edward Allen & Joseph Iano. A mammoth book on the complexities of building construction.

Understanding Wood Finishing by Bob Flexner. A truly comprehensive and easy-to-understand manual on all the various wood finishes. Considered the “bible of wood finishing.”

Basic Plumbing with Illustrations by Howard C. Massey. Uncluttered visuals pack this very handy manual.

Recording Historic Structures, edited by John A. Burns. Documentation from the perspective of the National Park Service. Rich with illustrations and photographs of case studies.

Structural Investigation of Historic Buildings by David C. Fischetti, PE. Fischetti is in the rare breed of “Preservation Structural Engineer.” Not only does the book explore many case studies of structural stabilization, but gives impassioned advice to structural engineers who tend to discredit our historic built environment.

Historic Preservation Technology by Robert A. Young, PE. An introduction into the world of Building Pathology & Preservation methodology.

The Very Efficient Carpenter by Larry Haun. Larry Haun invented the phrase “no nonsense.” All the “tricks of the trade” in one concise manual for basic building carpentry.

Architectural Graphics by Francis D.K. Ching. Introduction into the world of the architect: essential drawing tools, principles, and techniques designers use to communicate architectural ideas.

The Complete Manual of Woodworking by Albert Jackson, David Day, & Simon Jennings. Wonderfully detailed and clearly illustrated manual on all aspects of wood working: wood science, joinery, machine tools, chair making, marquetry, etc.

Plastering Skills by Van Den Branden/Hartsell. An in-depth manual on the science of various plasters, their various uses in buildings, plaster tools, and even work ethics.

Dictionary of Building Preservation, edited by Ward Bucher. With more than 10,000 terms, I can always count on this dictionary to have what I’m looking for. Everything from “King of Prussia Marble” to “out of plumb” to “State Historic Preservation Office.”

Illustrated Dictionary of Historic Architecture, edited by Cyril M. Harris. Over 5,000 important terms complemented by over 2,000 line drawings. Everything from ancient ruins to 20th-century Modernism.

House Histories by Sally Light. Light’s house curiosities become infectious. She is able to communicate the entire process of historic research for our historic structures for preservationists and non-preservationists alike.

The Lost Art of Steam Heating by Dan Holohan. Holohan is vividly in love with steam heating and I couldn’t help but become engrossed myself.

Research Resource: archive.org

One of the best things about graduate school is discovering the wealth of research resources available, whether for a project or just your own curiosity. While I love JSTOR and typical databases such as that, sometimes I need more than articles. One of my recent favorites is Internet Archive (archive.org). From the “about” page:

The Internet Archive is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was founded to build an Internet library. Its purposes include offering permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format. Founded in 1996 and located in San Francisco, the Archive has been receiving data donations from Alexa Internet and others. In late 1999, the organization started to grow to include more well-rounded collections. Now the Internet Archive includes texts, audio, moving images, and software as well as archived web pages in our collections, and is working to provide specialized services relating to training, education, or adaptive reading or information access needs of blind or other persons with disabilities.’ Click here to read more about an internet archive.

My use for Internet Archive so far has been reading periodicals for research. Many historic periodicals are only available at a handful of libraries across the country, and they may be too fragile for copying or sending for inter-library loan, but a digital version allows access to anyone who needs it. Best of all, you can read these digital copies page by page in a book layout, almost like having the volume in front of you (sort of like an ebook, I would imagine). While flipping digital pages is not nearly as fun as flipping actual pages, it’s still a wonderful resource for those hard to obtain volumes. When searching choose among texts, moving images, software, web, audio, and more. For example, search for “American City” in text – American literature and you can instantly read fascinating issues of the magazine. Maybe you’ll get lucky and find what you need! (By the way, Internet Archive is also home of the Wayback Machine if you’re looking for an old website.)

Now another topic for discussion: what do you think of digital libraries? Perhaps we’ll save that for later this week. Think about it! Otherwise, what’s your favorite internet resource?

A Life in the Trades: December 2009

Series introduction. October 2009. November 2009.

By Nicholas Bogosian

When did manual competence become inferior to informational and technological competence? When did blue-collar become blue-collar? When did the college degree become superior to vocational training? In recent years, this dichotomy has been explored in academic realms to reveal fascinating insight. In truth, the line between the manual and the intellectual cannot be divided so easily.

The work of the preservation tradesman, like many other trades, must utilize the mind and hand in ways which few other careers can match in the modern world. The tradesman is not simply a field-trip factory worker cranking out the steps he or she learned back in trade school. The preservation tradesmen, in particular, rely on their knowledge of material sciences, history (human and building), building construction, conservation methods, the use of tools and various technologies, and manual proficiency at various building crafts. Their learning is a process which extends far beyond their initial training in a world where every new project is a process of new research and insight. Indeed, the critical thinking and management of all these elements into an informed decision and application seems to be a truer throwback to what we once called the “Renaissance Man.” The interdisciplinary character of the preservation trades can seem overwhelming and exhilarating.

Dave Mertz, director of the Building Preservation and Restoration program at Belmont Technical College, explains about his paper “The Role of Higher Education in Traditional Trades Training” that

“As late as the 19th century, the construction trades were considered highly desirable fields which required manual dexterity, critical thinking skills and advanced technical knowledge. This array of skills attracted highly qualified apprentices who were academically proficient and career driven. With the advent of higher education in America, the role of the training shifted from the practitioner to the technical and vocational schools and the quality of the student began to slowly diminish as parents, teachers and guidance counselors pushed their children into career paths that were deemed more socially and financially advantageous, leaving those who were not deemed “college bound” to fill the trades and other jobs perceived to be laborious in nature.

Today, students who struggle academically or who are socially maladjusted are often pushed into high school vocational programs. This influx of under-prepared and often unmotivated class of students along with the shift to assembly-like construction practices during the post-war building boom has led to the “dumbing” of the trades. Today’s preservation trades programs have begun to challenge the academic paradigm of the past fifty years by reinventing traditional trades education under the banner of historic preservation and at a collegiate level.”

Ken Follett, a historic conservation specialist in Mastic Beach, New York writes in his article, “A Contractor’s View of Craft Training”:

“The very idea that any modestly literate young individual should choose anything but a college education seems to run contrary to an economically-driven myth of our education system. (In crude terms, I think the myth runs something like: Pay up, and we will teach you how to capture the golden goose.) As well, respect paid to the trade of an artisan becomes a threat to the dreams of hard-working parents. Parents who work with their hands, especially, hope their children will not follow them in a career of physical labor…

Why is the preservation industry so incredibly lopsided in favor of intellectual occupations, to the neglect of hands-on craft? I have not met many people who think that a young person following a trade career is not headed on a difficult way in life, especially where higher education is available. Granted, physical labor makes a person tired. But it does not reduce brain cells. On the other hand, too much schooling can dull the senses, inhibit thirst for life, and inflate an individual’s self-importance. And however much is spent on an education, it does not increase the quantity of brain cells….

Hands-on work is not a refuge in a simpler life and it is unfortunate if a vital national resource, the skilled craftsperson working in traditional trades, is allowed to be stereotyped as a theme worker whereby anyone can take it up as a hobby. Construction contracting is not trivial; it is highly complex and demanding. There is an undeniable amount of pain in the fully engaged practice of hoisting two cement bags at one time; this is not a pursuit that comes easy. Progress is measured, not by a high grade-point average, but by food on the table. The gap between those who design and those who implement, between those who think about it and those who have a constant backache and dirty hands, is a convergence of two economic classes. The educational ideals of these two classes, totally foreign, collide at the building site. And neither system of ideals seems disposed to admit the validity of the other. There are few exceptions.”

Matthew B. Crawford majored in physics in undergraduate school and earned his Ph.D. in Political Philosophy. He later ditched numerous “information jobs” to open up a vintage motorcycle repair shop in Virginia. He wrote an essay for The New Atlantic which he later expanded into book form entitled, Shop Class as Soulcraft. Here’s an excerpt:

“Today, in our schools, the manual trades are given little honor. The egalitarian worry that has always attended tracking students into “college prep” and “vocational ed” is overlaid with another: the fear that acquiring a specific skill set means that one’s life is determined. In college, by contrast, many students don’t learn anything of particular application; college is the ticket to an open future. Craftsmanship entails learning to do one thing really well, while the ideal of the new economy is to be able to learn new things, celebrating potential rather than achievement. Somehow, every worker in the cutting-edge workplace is now supposed to act like an “intrapreneur,” that is, to be actively involved in the continuous redefinition of his own job.”

In another example of such matters being criticized, Richard Sennett, professor of sociology at NYU and at The London School of Economics, recently wrote an opus of sociological investigation with his 2008 book, The Craftsman. In it, he explores the meaning of the craftsman through history. Though Sennett does argue that the art of “doing as thinking” in craftsmanship is intrinsic, he does not believe that the craftsman has disappeared over time, rather that the intrinsic qualities have merely shifted into other areas of our economy: the computer programmer, the doctor, the parent, the musician, the chef. However, for those interested in the role of the craftsman through time and what makes them unique, this work is fascinating in its insight.

Matthew B. Crawford states, “Tom Thompson, of Oregon’s Department of Education, says there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that one of the fastest-growing segments of the student body at community colleges is people who already have a four-year degree and return to get a marketable trade skill.” He later goes on to say that 98% of those who graduate get jobs in their first year after finishing.

Though not all college degrees create abstracted job skills, I agree with Crawford’s sentiment that higher education is sometimes failing in its practicality and application. My step-father finds humor in the fact that he graduated with an architecture degree and was asked in one of his first interviews upon graduation, “Do you know how to change a light switch?” Well, he couldn’t. I know myself and a few others in the Building Preservation & Restoration program at Belmont Technical College are attending with previous undergraduate and graduate degrees ranging from history, economics, to theatre. I can’t speak for the others, but it was the specific career-defining move that attending such a trade school creates that drew me here. Dave Mertz, the director of our program, receives more job offers for students in the preservation field than can be filled. There’s a boom right now in the demand for preservation craftsmen as never before. It is heartening to know that at least under the “banner of historic preservation,” our skills are needed and that we should find work for many years to come.

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Crawford, Matthew B. Shop Class As Soulcraft. (New York: The Penguin Press, 2009).

Follett, Ken. “A Contractor’s View of Craft Training.” 1997: Cultural Resource Management, an online journal from the National Park Service. Volume 20, Number 12.

Mertz, Dave. “The Role of Higher Education in Traditional Trades Training.” From the International Trades Education Symposium, 2009. Web. http://www.iptw.org/iptw09-ites-speakers.htm.

Sennett, Richard. The Craftsman. (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2008).