Mobile App for Historic Resource Survey in Alexandria, VA

Preservationists are moving forward in 2013! Are you looking for a way to help or are you interested in how the preservation field can incorporate mobile devices & apps for our work. Wouldn’t it be nice to conduct survey with your smart phone or tablet and transfer that information to a database without many in between steps?

You’ve probably heard about the app FieldNotes LT, which can geo-reference your resource and combine it with photographs and notes as a .kmz file. However, the file is dependent on whatever outside platform you’re using to open it (Google Earth in my experience) and you can’t really store it in a database. It’s useful, but not flawless.

So what’s better? What is a new digital & preservation initiative? Read on for news from Alexandria, VA (information adapted from correspondence with Mary Catherine Collins, a preservation planner with the city):

The City of Alexandria’s Historic Preservation division is seeking volunteers to assist with an architectural survey of the Old and Historic Alexandria District. This survey will be the first of its kind in the country using an exciting new GIS-based mobile application designed to expedite the surveying process and facilitate data sharing between the City of Alexandria and other cultural resource organizations.

Like FieldNotes LT, it will geolocate all of our survey data and photos, but more importantly by using a geodatabase format, we will be able to easily transfer our data to VDHR and NPS’s databases. The outcome of this survey is a set of digital transfer standards as well as digital update to our National Register and Landmark listings. Additionally the app will be made available for free on ESRI’s website once the project is complete.

Alexandria is a great place to begin this since, like many of the first designated historic districts, the NR nomination is entirely inadequate at only three pages!

Surveying will begin in early March, with training taking place in late February. We anticipate 2 days of training and approximately 5-10 days of field surveying. Please contact Mary Catherine Collins at if you are interested or for more information.

This is a great opportunity for anyone in the DC area to not only be part of an exciting project, but also to network with other design professionals and preservationists in the area!

Preservationists in the area, including Mary Washington & GW preservation students, I hope you’re listening. Get out, have some HP fun and learn about the digital age in preservation. If you do participate, report back to PiP.  Thank you Mary Catherine for providing this information. Good luck!


Surveys For Those of Us With Opinions

Who is opinionated? Most of us, right? Well good, because there are a few surveys around the internet that need some well-reasoned, fairly opinionated preservationists (and others) on the case.

First, how important are trails to communities? Do you think they’re great? Spotsylvania County, VA is currently running a survey to find out what people would like to see in the area. For those of you familiar with Spotsylvania County (Mary Wash grads!) take one minute to fill out the survey and help Spotsy create a safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists. For the survey, click here.  (You do not have to live in Spotsylvania County — just be familiar with it — the quiz asks for your location, but can otherwise be anonymous.) Thanks to Andrew Deci for sending the survey.

Second, preservationists and those familiar with the Secretary of Interior Standards for Rehabilitation, you are aware that preservation + sustainability are natural friends, but we haven’t quite figured out how to meld them into guidelines that aren’t so incredibly case-by-case or trial and error.  Do you have ideas and thoughts as to how the guidelines should or should not incorporate sustainability? This is the perfect survey for you. Sent from Andrew Deci via Megan J. Brown at the Historic Preservation Grants Division at the National Park Service:

As the custodian of the Secretary’s Standards and of the Guidelines for interpreting them, the National Park Service is beginning the process of expanding the Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings in order to address questions raised by the current emphasis on sustainability. Before we begin to draft any expanded Guidelines, it is critically important that we hear from those who rely on the Standards and Guidelines to preserve  their local communities. We need to know what general concerns you have, and we need to know of specific issues you have encountered where historic preservation values and sustainability were or appeared to be at odds with each other.  In all of the current discussions concerning historic buildings and sustainability, an important component is the relationship between the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation and the various recommended building treatments designed to attain more sustainable communities and energy efficient buildings. While there is a growing body of information on how to undertake these alterations, there is not yet a set of official guidelines on how to make such changes in ways that appropriately maintain the character of historic properties.  Please take a few minutes to complete this online survey before June 1. The survey will no longer be available after that time.

To take the survey click here.

Thanks everyone!

Field Trip to Keeseville, NY

The end of classes brought deadlines, finals, and a field trip for my preservation classmates and me. We piled into a UVM van with snacks, lunch, and rain jackets (most of us) + 2 cars and we were off to catch the Grand Isle ferry over to Plattsburgh, NY.

Route 2 on the way to the ferry. We were hoping to avoid whatever storm lingered.

Our first stop was the new home, and old mill complex, of the organization Adirondack Architectural Heritage. We had lunch overlooking the Ausable River.

Ausable River in Keeseville, NY

Next we were on our way to do some survey practice, as part of our Practice Methods class, but before that we stopped at the Keese Homestead to take a look at the amazing collection of barns and outbuildings. (If you will recall, our class is particularly interested in barns, thanks to our Vermont Barn Census projects.)  And for most of us, this turned out to be the best part of the day. The collection of buildings is astounding, especially the cow barn. The Keese Homestead is privately owned, but the owner (a friend of AARCH) was kind enough to give us a tour and allow us to take pictures. He and his wife have done their best to keep up the buildings and to understand their history.Without sharing the 50 0r so pictures I took that day, here are  few (well, less than 50 anyway):

The smokehouse.

A row of farm buildings, just a few.

The granary.

The ceiling of the granary: those planks are about two feet in width, talk about firs growth timber!

Looking out the granary window.

Beautiful hinges on one of the barns.

Another farm building on the property (and Jen).

The best barn on the property was an unsuspecting (large) cow barn. I don’t think these pictures will do it justice, but see if you can note the massive timbers. It was just such an incredible space. We spent the most time in here.

Inside the cow barn. Wow.

From the hayloft. A few of us climbed up the handmade ladder -- hand hewn, rounded pegs/steps through a middle post.

Again from the hayloft.

To give you an idea of the timber size.

On the other side of the barn, the cow stalls and troughs. Note the cemter floor, indicative of an improvement in technology and sanitation.

The cow troughs.

The Keese Homestead. We only explored the barns, but the house is spectacular as well.

And after the barns we headed over to Peru, NY to practice our survey skills. I did not take nearly as many pictures, however. Here are my two favorites:

Window on the restored (and still active) church in Peru.

Former industrial area in Peru that flooded and is waiting a return to use.

We were back in Burlington by mid evening, just in time for a final review. A wonderful field trip day.  For the record, Bob McCullough brings the best lunches and snacks.

Building a New Bridge

The sad news has likely reached all interested parties by now: the Lake Champlain Bridge is to be demolished as soon as possible. A demolition company has been hired and design for the new bridge (to be erected in the same place as the current bridge) are moving full speed ahead. On Saturday December 12, NYSDOT held three public meetings to offer a summary of issues and present six new bridge designs. See the presentation here. Now the public is invited to view the designs online and to participate in a survey, categorizing reactions to the bridge designs, choosing what new bridge features are important, and commenting on how to commemorate the old bridge. The opportunity to participate in this bridge survey is available only until midnight on Monday December 14. Participants do not have to be New York State or Vermont residents. The survey is anonymous. Historic preservationists, bridge enthusiasts, historians, citizens, everyone can voice an opinion. This is an important chance to have a voice in the outcome of the new bridge.

A Historic Preservation Survey

What does historic preservation mean to you? Is it a movement, a field of study, an avocation, a trade? How do you classify yourself: student, professional, amateur? Lately I’ve been wondering how people in the field view preservation and how they view themselves in the context of the field. If you can, please take the time to read the questions below and leave a comment (anonymously is fine if necessary). Choose an answer and explain. If you a reader of Preservation in Pink, your answers will interest me. I am hoping to work it into the next newsletter.  Thank you!

Question 1: What is Historic Preservation to you?

a) a field of study

b) a profession

c) a movement

d) a trade

e) an avocation

f) a lifestyle

g) more than one: list them

h) other


Question 2: Categorize yourself.

a) student

b) professional

c) concerned citizen

d) other


Please add any other comments that you feel relate to this matter.


That’s a Barn!

Grafton, VT

Grafton, VT

As I mentioned, for one my graduate school classes, I (along with my 12 fellow classmates) am participating in the Vermont Barn Census. For our purposes it involves windshield surveys, which are just what the term sounds like. With maps, architectural guide books, notebooks, pencils, and cameras in hand, we plot out a route in our specified area (a Vermont town in our case) and drive the roads. When we see a barn we stop, snap a photograph, record the address and some other notes if necessary, occasionally talk to the property owner who is giving us an odd look, and moving on until we see another barn, or agriculture related buildings (i.e. equipment shed, ice house, milk house, sugar house, corn crib, etc.) Often we shout “that’s a barn!” when we see one in the distance, or we turn around to photograph the one we just caught out of the corner of our eyes.

Grafton, VT.

Grafton, VT.

Conducting a survey is an actual tool used by historic preservationists and architectural historians. It reminds me of the New Deal days when HABS started and crews spread across the country to document America’s built environment and shared heritage. Windshield surveying has its advantages and disadvantages, all of which would make for a good discussion. However, the justification for a windshield survey is to gather preliminary information on as much land as possible in order to evaluate which areas require in depth survey and further research.

Record keeping: making sure the addresses and photo images match.  (Photograph courtesy of Emily Morgan.)

Record keeping: making sure the addresses and photo images match. (Photograph courtesy of E. Morgan.)

Today is survey day #2 for Emily and me. We’ll leave early with coffee in hand and explore more of Vermont, hoping to find many barns. Last week we experienced just how many dirt roads are in Vermont, how beautiful of a state it is, how maps aren’t always accurate, and of course the many, many barns in Grafton, VT.

Technology often helps in survey, but not when the GPS cannot figure out our location!

Technology often helps in survey, but not when the GPS cannot figure out our location!

Not all barns are extant, so we have to record them to help figure out the rate of barn loss in Vermont.

Not all barns are extant, so we have to record them to help figure out the rate of barn loss in Vermont.

Expect more Barn Census posts this semester. In the meantime: check out the Vermont Barn Census.

Colorado Lessons for a Preservationist

Lauren Trice, a fellow Mary Washington Preservation Alum, is currently living and working in Colorado as a fall survey intern for Colorado Preservation, Inc. She and another intern are exploring rural Colorado, ranches, and seeing a different way of life, that of the Colorado ranchers.  She’ll be there until mid December and will surely return to us with endless stories, preseration related and then some. Lauren has begun chronicling her Colorado experiences on her new blog, Adventures of a Historic Preservationist. Featured here is her latest post about lessons learned after one month on the job. Aside from future blog posts, she will also have an article in the next issue of Preservation in Pink.  Read the post below and you will most likely be eagerly awaiting further explanations of her points.  Here is Lauren’s list of lessons:

1. Tarantulas migrate south in the end of October in southeastern Colorado. They travel across the road one at a time, so you have to be careful not to hit them.

2. Over 100,000 people can fit into Civic Center Park in the middle of Denver to see, now President-Elect, Obama speak.

3. It is not uncommon to see a salad bar on a covered wagon in a restaurant. (The bathroom’s also say “Cowgirls” and “Cowboys.”)

4. There are lots of subtle differences in quanset huts. They can even be used as movie theatres.

5. Ranchers are willing to make roads with their pickup trucks. They also look at you funny when you put a seatbelt on.

6. Although the Coors Brewery has its home in Colorado, nobody really like Coors beer.

7. Directions are given in N, S, E, and W instead of left and right. People orientate themselves by the mountains in the west and rely on the grid patterned streets.

8. There are places in the world where you can spin around and around and not see anything.

9. Double laid stone is simply beautiful.

10. It is always an option to order your food “smothered” in green chile.

11. Western preservationists have a broader approach to what needs to be saved, including modern linear landscapes.

-Lauren Trice