Section 106 & Section 4(f) Exemptions from the Exemption

Exemption from the exemption? If you’re in the regulatory + infrastructure world, you’ve likely come across this. If you are not, step into our world for a few minutes.

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The “grasshopper bridge” in Lyndon, VT, carries Route 5 over I-91 and is an exemption to the Section 106 & Section 4(f) exemption. Meaning, this bridge is subject to project review, even though I-91 is not.

By law (the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966), all projects that receive federal funding are subject to review under Section 106. Review includes identifying historic resources that are listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Any project receiving transportation funding is required to be evaluated under Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966.

But, what happens when one of largest resources in the nation becomes eligible for the National Register? By that I mean the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways (more commonly known as the Interstate Highway System). This 46,700 mile interstate highway system became eligible for the National Register on June 29, 2006, which was its 50th birthday. (Read more about Interstate history here.)

As a transportation resource, this would typically require Section 106 and Section 4(f) review on this historic resource. Imagine the amount of project review that would have spurred as a result. A majority of work on the interstate is simply paving or repairs or line striping. Basically, this had the potential to bring unnecessary paperwork and delays to state and federal levels.

Instead, the bulk of the Interstate Highway System was declared exempt from being considered a historic resource under Section 106 and Section 4(f). In other words, the Interstate Highway System was exempt from project review. This is addressed under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU, Public Law 109-59, Aug. 10, 2005) / provision (Section 6007).

However, this exemption has exemptions! Elements of the Interstate Highway System that exhibit a national level of significance, as defined by the National Register of Historic Places, are not considered exempt, and will require project review. States submitted properties for consideration, and the final list was determined by the ACHP (Advisory Council on Historic Preservation) and FHWA (Federal Highway Administration). Find your state here.

Vermont has three elements, including the “grasshopper bridge” on I-91. Officially it is a steel rigid-frame bridge (built 1970) significant for its engineering. See the photograph at the top of this post. The official statement of significance is,

“This type of bridge is very rare on interstates in New England. In Vermont, two are on I-91; one each on northbound and southbound lanes carrying the interstate over Rte. 9 in Lyndon, Vermont. As of inspection on 01/12/05, structurally both bridges are in very good condition. Engineering-wise, this style was an experiment in 1960 and 1970 to determine if steel construction could take the variable weight loadings of an interstate environment. It was designed by a New York City firm, Blauvelt Engineering Co., and received a merit award from the American Institute of Steel Construction in 1974. The overall length of the bridges is 227 feet, 6 inches.”

Sadly, the steel arched deck truss in Brattleboro, VT that carries I-91 over the Williams River was not included in the list. It is uncommon bridge in Vermont, but not uncommon elsewhere on the interstate. Thus, it’s significance was not national. And when the bridge came up for replacement, no preservation law could save it. Thus, while not every bridge or element could be saved, the list is substantial, and better than exempting the entire system. Does your state have an interstate exemption? Have you seen it? Has your interstate lost an element not on the list?

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Preservation Conferences All Around

Spring is conference season! Everywhere you look, there’s a new conference. Get ready to be invigorated by preservation and inspired by colleagues. Check out this brief list below. Add your own in the comments:

I’m excited to announce that Preservation in Pink will be featured at the Rhode Island Statewide Historic Preservation Conference as part of the session “Getting Social for a Cause: Social Media and Historic Preservation.” (See the conference brochure, page 12, session C2.) With a theme of “Pride in Preservation” and an opportunity to share my love of social media and historic preservation, I’m honored to be included!

Session C2: Hope to see you there and meet new faces.

Session C2: Hope to see you there and meet new faces.

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A great program. Click to read about the conference.

Will you be there?

Preservation Inspiration: TED Talks

Inspiring thoughts, compelling stories, and a strong voice, all in 20 minutes or less. That’s a TED talk, which are growing in popularity. Not surprisingly, some of these have preservation origins or connections. For your Monday, here are some TED talks worth listening to and sharing.

Do you have any others? What’s your Monday inspiration?

Preservation ABCs: Z is for Zoning

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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Z is for Zoning

Alexandria, VA zoning. Click image and zoom in to read the map.

Zoning is a land use control and planning tool that dictates the types of buildings and their uses for a defined area. Elements under zoning control can include setback, height, density, appearance, parking, etc). There are pros and cons to zoning, as well as different types. All of this could be an entire book or an entire class, so let’s go over just a few pieces. 

A (Very Brief) History: In the late 19th century and early 20th century, American cities passed laws that governed aspects such as height and use of buildings. New York City adopted the first citywide zoning ordinance that identified residential, commercial, and unrestricted areas. The basic form for zoning began with the Standard State Zoning Enabling Act (1924/6) and the Standard City Planning Enabling Act (1926/8), both published by the U.S. Department of Commerce.  In 1926, the Supreme Court upheld that zoning was constitutional in the case Village of Euclid, Ohio v. Ambler Realty Company (272 U.S. 365). Here the village prohibited industrial development that could change the character of the village. The parcel of land had already been divided into parcels of land with height and density requirements, which is why industry could not be developed.

There is more than one type of zoning, and how zoning is applied varies across the United States and the world. The important point to know is this: Zoning and historic preservation can be good friends or foes.

How are they linked? A zoning plan divides an areas into different sections/zones. A zoning overlay is often a historic preservation district overlay that can cover more than one zone. In other words, the residential, commercial, and  industrial zones might all have some parts in the historic district, which is the historic preservation overlay.

How can they be friends or foes? Zoning can help historic preservation by aiding in controlling and directing growth to the appropriate areas. This has the benefit of protecting density and character of an area. Consider the Urban Growth Boundary of Portland, OR. However, zoning and preservation can interfere with one another. Zoning might restrict the rehabilitation of a building. In that case, zoning would need to be revisited for revisions or amendments or a special permit (conditional use) requested.

A lack of zoning will can harm historic preservation. Perhaps the National Register Historic District has not been expanded, therefore the historic district overlay not expanded. (Districts that were listed decades ago are often smaller than districts we would list today.) Inappropriate development could be  a threat because retail/commercial could be allowed in an area where it shouldn’t be. Consider a Dollar General built within an eligible historic district, simply because zoning has not been revisited in decades.

Despite changes that might be required, having a zoning ordinance is a better place to start than no zoning ordinance. If your community does not have zoning, it is a necessity. It is easier and better to be proactive than reactive. Check your town’s zoning districts, historic districts, and ask preservationists (check with your State Historic Preservation Office) if the districts could be increased). And preservation planners, feel free to add advice in the comments.

An excellent, easy-to-understand booklet from the NPS about Historic Preservation and Zoning. Alexandria, VA map found here.

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And just like that, we’ve made it all the way from A to Z. Thanks for following along with this series. If there are letters that you would change, please share. 

PresConf Recap: People of Preservation

Sessions, site seeing, photographing buildings, fun events, educational and inspiring speakers – the NTHP and Indianapolis put together a fabulous experience for the 2000+ preservationists and friends

October 30 – November 2, 2013. There’s much to say and much to share, and PiP will cover the conference in segments: people, sessions, events, buildings, and travel. First up: PEOPLE.

Historic preservation is place. It is buildings. But most of all, it is people. Preservation wouldn’t be anywhere without its people. Attending the National Trust for Historic Preservation conference in Indianapolis, IN this past week provided the strongest examples of just how important people are to preservation. It is inspiring to meet preservationists who have such diverse jobs and niches, yet who are all working to further the preservation cause.

New Media, New Audiences panel:

New Media, New Audiences panel: Dana Saylor, Julia Rocchi, Kaitlin O’Shea, Kayla Jonas Galvin, Michelle Kimball, Meagan Baco. More about this social media session to come, but these inspiring women standing with me are just some of the people to which I’m referring.

I’m grateful to live in and participate in the social media sector of preservation. After years of knowing fellow preservationists through blogs, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, finally I had the chance to meet so many passionate people. If you’re one of the social media crew: I probably hugged you – that’s how happy I was to meet you. How interesting it is to have this network across the country (and the world, in some cases), to build these relationships and to know what each other is working on in the field (and some outside of work) even before we meet. We are non-profit employees, government employees, self-employed individuals, writers, artists, photographers, and advocates with projects ranging from one building to an entire city to the entire field of preservation. What an honor to meet everyone. Some of the social media crew includes:

Beyond the social media crowd and network, it’s wonderful to know accomplished preservationists, students, and locals. The Preservation Conference is the place where you can talk to any preservationist; you already have the common ground of preservation, so just strike up a conversation. I was lucky to speak with Stephanie Meeks, President of the NTHP; Vince Michael of the NTHP and the blog Time Tells. I met a 16 year student who has already written a National Register nomination for a Rosenwald School (and it’s been accepted). And this is just the beginning. Everyone is sincerely excited for the field, for each other, and it’s a motivating, inspiring experience. Mix everyone together and you’ll be on a preservation high! The annual preservation conference is one of the best ways to be reinvigorated and inspired. I look forward to future conversations and conferences.

Preservation ABCs: W is for Window

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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W is for Window

W is for Window.

W is for Window.

Of course W is for Window. Windows are significant features of every building, indicative of technology, design, trends, architectural style and period. Original windows give much character to a building. When original (historic) windows are replaced, the ability to read a building’s architectural style (it’s identity) is lost, at least partially.

Original windows are better quality than most replacement windows, especially vinyl windows. Please do not replace your windows. The money you spend on replacement, you will not recoup. A better bet is to install storm windows or to do easy, inexpensive energy saving tricks like weather stripping or energy shades will go a long way. And most of the energy loss leaves through your roof, not your window! This is an excellent window guide with a labeled window diagram (learn your sash from your sill from your stile) from the National Trust.

Historic preservationists discuss windows often because there are many rumors against keeping original windows, even those that can be repaired. New windows will never look the same. Look at the window in the photograph above; can you imagine how much character would be lost with another window?!

If a window cannot be repaired or must be replaced, it is best to replace a window in-kind (i.e. a wood window for a wood window with the same sash pattern). But if you can, save your money. Save your windows. Here’s a tip: most historic windows can be repaired because they were made with older growth timber. The wood we have today is not the same.

Next time you see a historic house that you love, take note of the windows. I’ll bet the windows are original or are appropriate replacements.

Preservation ABCs: V is for Viewshed

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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V is for Viewshed

The viewshed of historic downtown Montpelier, VT.

The viewshed of historic downtown Montpelier, VT. {click for sharper image}

Viewshed can be applied broadly, depending on the resource, but an easy way to understand it is like this: (1) Consider the historic property. (2) What would its surroundings have looked like during its period of significance? (3) Evaluate what changes would adversely affect that view from the historic property? (4) What is the view to the historic property from other locations?

For example, a neighborhood of small bungalows overlooking the lake would have an altered viewshed if high condominiums were constructed between the houses the lake. Think of the monstrous beach houses that block the views of the older, smaller homes. Or a historic farmstead – house, barns, outbuildings, fields – would lose its viewshed if all of the neighboring properties were developed.

This isn’t to say that all development can destroy the integrity of a viewshed; rather, new development must be done in a considerate manner with designs compatible to the historic character of its neighbors. How do you protect a viewshed? Identify what is in view from/to the property. An easement might fit the purpose of protection, or design ordinances on a municipal/town level.

Take a look at the photograph above. Both sides of the streets are lined with historic building blocks, and all are contributing properties in the Montpelier historic district. What if one of those building blocks were removed due to development pressures or fire, for example? The view of the district would be altered. Sympathetic and compatible infill would need to be constructed in order to save the integrity of the district.

Why does viewshed matter? It relates to the setting, association, and feeling of a historic property, which are three of the seven aspects of integrity, as per the National Register of Historic Places, the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Change the viewshed and you’ve altered the integrity, and quite possibly the significance of that historic property.

Preservation ABCs: T is for Trees

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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T is for Trees

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Now that it’s spring, it’s the perfect to appreciate trees in your town. Seen here is King Street in Burlington, VT.

When talking historic preservation, the instinct is to think of buildings and architectural styles, even though we know by now that preservation goes far beyond architecture. And the built environment encompasses streets, buildings, landscape, objects and unique characteristics of its setting. Aside from the benefit of providing oxygen to us, trees play an important role in historic properties. Often trees are contributing elements to the historic significance of resources.

Trees vary from region to region. A sugar maple in Vermont, a palm tree in Florida, a long leaf pine in North Carolina – trees aid in creating the setting. They provide a human scale, as well as a connection between the natural and built environment. Historic neighborhoods and towns often have tree lined streets, filled with trees that have matured. Historic farmsteads can have trees 100+ years old, planted when the house was built to mark time or provide wind protection. Newer properties and developments have smaller trees, planted with the intention that they will grow large and provide foliage and protection from the elements.

When streets lack trees it can be for a few reasons. Some species of trees suffered blights, wiping out entire cities of trees. The Dutch Elm disease struck the United States as early as the 1930s. Over the course of a few decades, American towns and cities lost their beautiful Elm trees. Historic photographs of a town might show beautiful tree lined streets, whereas today there might be very few trees on those same streets. In other cases, trees have been removed for construction reasons, whether road widening, sidewalks, parking lots, demolition, etc. Fortunately, trees are earning more respect as contributing to historic districts and properties.

Take note of the trees where you are. Streets look wider without trees, but perhaps the openness is less inviting. Trees provide shadows and tell nature’s story as the seasons change. Without so many trees (and other plants/bushes) would the seasons mean as much? (Certainly, my excitement for warm weather would not nearly be as great as it is!) Can you imagine your favorite street, campus, or park without its trees? Next time you’re describing a historic resource, a house or a district, pay additional attention to the trees. Chances are that they contribute to its setting and historic integrity.

News: Historic Bridge Conference

Do you like bridges? Summertime? Travel? New places? State fairs? Cornfields? Tours? Scholarly papers? Meeting new people with similar interests? If so, consider attending the 5th Annual Historic Bridge Conference, held August 9th – 12th, 2013 in Iowa. It will be the perfect combination of all of the above, and then some. Here is some conference information, provided by Jason Smith of The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.

Each year since 2009, the Historic Bridge Weekend  Conference has  taken place in August or September, and each year, it has drawn in more people who are  experts in historic bridges, preservation or history, as well as those who are either bridge enthusiasts or have a keen interest in how these vintage structures were built and how they played a role in American History.

This year’s Historic Bridge Weekend is coming to America’s heartland, the state of Iowa, where the history of transportation and infrastructure and the development of America as a whole go together like bread and butter.  The Lincoln and Jefferson Highways meet in the state. Iowa was the first state to introduce the No Passing Zone signs. Kate Shelley made her heroic deed by stopping a passenger train from falling through a bridge washed away by flood waters.

And the bridges?  Iowa takes pride in its bridge building. The first bridge designs, like the Marsh arch, the aluminum girder and the Thacher truss originated from Iowa.  Numerous bowstring arches were built throughout the state. Many big-name bridge builders from Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania made their mark in Iowa, while the state had its own bridge building companies located in Clinton, Ottumwa and Des Moines, which dominated the American landscape during the first half of the 20th Century.

This year’s Historic Bridge Weekend will take place August 9th through the 12th and will focus on the eastern half of Iowa, where many historic bridges dating as far back as 1870 still exist today.

Upper Paris Bridge in Linn County, IA. Photo courtesy of Jason Smith. Click for source.

Upper Paris Bridge in Linn County, IA. Photo courtesy of Jason Smith. Click for source.

The agenda will include tours throughout the state, paper presentations, and a dinner each night. It sounds like a great weekend conference, and an excellent reason to tour America’s heartland. Bring your cameras and practice your photography as Jason Smith is working on The History of Truss Bridges in Iowa and welcoming contributions.

For those who are interested in participating in the dinner and presentations, please RSPV Jason D. Smith at the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles at: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com or JDSmith77@gmx.net by no later than 15 July.  Information on the bridge tours and the dinner and presentations will be provided through e-mail.  Lodging and camping possibilities are available upon request.

Maybe some of you haven’t had the opportunity to attend a conference yet, or are hesitant to do so because you’re not a bridge expert, for example. Maybe you just like bridges. Don’t worry! Conferences are meant to be educational, and if you have an interest in the conference subject then you are sure to learn a lot and meet interesting people. Smaller conferences with tours and many opportunities for networking and conversing are very rewarding, much more than those conferences purely focused on paper presentations. So, if you’re considering this Historic Bridge Weekend, go for it! In addition, Iowa is a beautiful state. (And might I recommend a visit to Field of Dreams, in addition to all of those lovely bridges.)

Find the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles on Facebook, too.

If you’re attending, let me know! And remember, in the Preservation ABCs: B is for Bridge.

Preservation ABCs: R is for Railing

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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R is for Railing

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A variety of railings. Top left: a modern cable railing in a historic railyard turnable (Montpelier, VT). Top right: a pedestrian railing on a truss bridge (Woodstock, VT). Bottom left: An elaborate Federal style balustrade (Rutland County, VT). Bottom right: a joint on a simple storefront railing (Randolph, VT).

Porch railings, stair railings (balusters & banisters), bridge railings, pedestrian railings, even small handrails – all of these might be small elements of our historic buildings and structures, yet they contribute to historic integrity and have the potential to make quite an impression, subliminal or obvious. Varying in height, detail, material and purpose, railings are elements that have changed over time; they are part of architectural style classifications just as doors, windows and interior details.

Due to deterioration of metal or rot of wood, railings exposed to the elements are often replaced. In terms of transportation, pedestrian railings and bridge railings are often replaced due to new crash ratings and safety standards. In public buildings, railings are often replaced because the old one doesn’t meet height requirements. And structures that did not have originally have railings often have later additions, perhaps on stairs or fire escapes – wherever one might be needed. Some might be historically appropriate to the architectural style of the building or structure; however, there is a chance that this new railing addition is an inappropriate, generic selection or 2x4s or standard w-beam (on bridges that is) when it should be something else. Modern railings on historic structures are often meant to fade into the background, such as cable rails, in order to not convey a false impression of what is historic on the structure.

In fact, railings might be something you notice without thinking about it. Next time you are walking or driving over a bridge, look to the side. What is the railing? Does it tell you about the bridge? When you walk into a building, what do you hold onto as you enter? How about when you climb the stairs or stand on a balcony? And then consider this: do you think the railing has been replaced? Even if you haven’t studied architectural history, does this railing seem like it matches the building?

Before replacing a railing consider if it can be rehabilitated. Minor repairs or a creative solution, like adding a parapet to get pedestrian height might solve your problem.

What do you think about railings?