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.

RIconfbrochure

A great program. Click to read about the conference.

Will you be there?

National Trust for Historic Preservation Conference: Austin 2010

Who is attending the 2010 conference in Austin, Texas this year? Straight from the National Trust, the theme is:

Next American City, Next American Landscape — looks to the future of preservation. Attendees will explore how preservation supports and revitalizes vibrant cities, maintains and restores our traditional landscapes, and leads the charge on true sustainability.

On one level we’ll focus on the conventional and controversial issues that arise in urban or rural settings across the United States; on another, we’ll examine all types of landscapes, be they cultural, intellectual, sustainable, tangible, or intangible. Our goal: to encourage conversation and interaction while spotlighting 21st century preservation imperatives.

The theme and the program sounds a lot like my favorite class, History on the Land. Texas will be so much fun, but unfortunately I will not be able to attend. So, readers, if you are attending, please take lots of pictures and share! And, wow, the conference even has a recommended reading list. Planning on attending virtually? Participate through the blog, Facebook, twitter, live sessions, readings, or even you tub.

Enjoy Texas, preservationists!

Tennis in New York, Larger-than-life Texas, Roadside Utah, Missouri Preservation & Vermont Outhouses

Happy Monday! Here are some interesting links and stories I came across over the weekend (with a super-long post title to attract your attention).  Enjoy!

A New York Times article on September 11, 2010, featured an article about “Long Past the Last Match Point, Debating What’s Next at Forest Hills.” The gist of it: In Forest Hills Gardens, Queens, NY, the West Side Tennis Club owns the historic West Side Tennis Stadium, constructed in 1923, which was host to the US Open and many significant events in tennis history. A tennis match has not been played at the stadium in years and the wooden benches and concrete structure are suffering from neglect and deterioration. The club, operating at a loss for many years, does not know what to do with the stadium, which is small for today’s standards. Even if money can be raised for restoration, the West Side Tennis Club is in need of a creative solution. Thoughts? {Picture below shows the Tennis Stadium in 1960. Source: the NY Times, September 11, 2010, by Patrick A. Burns. Click photo for original source.}

Need some fun places to visit? Check out 10 Endangered American Tourist Attractions Worth Saving (with pictures!) on the blog, Searching for Authenticity, based on an article in Spring 2010 Society for Commercial Archaeology newsletter (and reproduced on the SCA blog). I want to visit Tex Randall in Canyon, TX.

Tex Randall. Photo source: RoadsideAmerica.com. Click for source.

Check out this awesome blog by Steven Cornell, Utah-rchitecture, dedicated to the past, present, and future architecture of Utah. It began in January 2010 and features only a few posts per month, but all seem well-written, well researched, and very interesting! The most recent post discusses the The Birth of Utah’s Automobile Tourism — lots of motel postcards & images included.

Another blog I just found is by Preservation Research Office, a project based collaborative research organization based in St. Louis, MO.  The blog, Ecology of Absence, seeks to be,

“… a voice for historic preservation and a chronicle of architectural change in the St. Louis region… The major theme of the blog is historic architecture and the primary goal is to build awareness of that architecture and interest in preserving it. The editorial approach is to “strike the roots” and look beyond threatened buildings at the larger forces that create, change and often destroy the built environment of the city. Public policy is a key part of the analysis. Consequently, the blog focuses on changes in the built environment that come about as St. Louis attempts to stem the deindustrialization, depopulation, shrinking public services and loss of architectural fabric that define the modern American urban condition.”

Roadside, real estate, policy – good stuff. Check it out!

And lastly for today, how about designing outhouses? Believe it or not, people think about such things. The book, Outhouses by Famous Architects, proves such a statement (thanks Elyse!)  In Vermont, the Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association (VWMA) has invited Vermont architects and woodworkers to participate to design the “Green Mountain Comfort Station,” a wooden structure that will house a composting toilet to be used at outdoor recreation areas and state parks in Vermont {see article here}. The winner will be announced on September 25, 2010. Read more about the contest rules in the Burlington Free Press article from September 12, 2010, “Designers pit themselves against the old, standby trailside outhouse.”

How could you not love Vermont, I ask.

Collecting Buildings

In one of my classes we spent some time talking about the history of historic preservation and the ways which it has evolved over centuries, internationally and nationally. Part of preservation’s history, particularly in the United States, lies in a phase of collection. People interested in the past collected items and sometimes began their own miniature museums. If you have been to Monticello, think of the walls in Thomas Jefferson’s house- my what conversation that must have sparked among guests. Yes, people have always collected objects.

Think ahead to those people and places that have collected buildings in one way or another – Henry Ford (Greenfield Village, MI), Electra Havermeyer Webb (Shelburne Museum, VT), Historic Deerfield, Storrowton Village, Old Sturbridge Village, and even Colonial Williamsburg.

Collecting and moving historic buildings can be a controversial topic. On one hand, the buildings will be “saved” when moved and shared with the public, but on the other hand, once a building is moved from its setting, its historic integrity is lost. It is like finding an arrowhead in a plowed field – without the stratigraphy, it means nothing because there is no context to tell the story.

However, it is important to understand that not every “old” building has historic integrity. How do you judge historic integrity? As always, refer to the National Register of Historic Places criteria. There are four basic criteria, but there are also considerations for exceptions. Basically, the property is significant if it can be argued (on the nomination form) that it has been associated with a signficant event in history, is associated with a significant historical figure, it embodies characteristics of a certain period or a high style or work of a master, or it yields or could yield important information about the past. (But read the link above for the exact wording.)

I started thinking about building integrity when I was reading an article in the New York Times titled “The House Collectors” (September 16, 2009 by Sarah Maslin Nir). A couple who lives on a large piece of property (10,000 acres)  in Texas fills their time by buying “wooden country houses” (as the article calls them). They move the houses to their property, fix them up, and decorate them in period style. Most of the houses they buy are in delapidated condition and falling down in pastures, hidden by brush. On the property, the Elicks have three ranches where guests come to stay for a weekend or so. They stay in one of the houses, for a fee of course, and can participate in the working farm activties. The Elicks rent out the ranches for special events, corporate events, for film locations, and to everyday people just wanting to spend some time in the Texas countryside.

Back to the houses… they are moved and restored to a certain time period (the article did not explain how Mrs. Elick decides on the period). The houses, when purchased, are in terrible condition and are just sitting out on the prairie. Did they have no use on their past property? What is their history? How much is lost by moving them? How much is gained? These houses are not for museums, but for a business.

How do you feel about this? Not every old house should be a museum and not every house has historic integrity. However, every house has history and a setting. When is it okay to move a building? It’s a difficult question to answer.