Preservation ABCs: P is for Place

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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P is for Place

Not a historic site, but this place means the world to me.

Not a historic site, but this place means the world to me.

Place is not a standard vocabulary term that you’ll find in an architectural dictionary or preservation textbook; however, “place” is an often used term in historic preservation.

A place can be a town, a building, a field, a park, a bridge, a crossroads, a mountain range or anything really. When asked what is your favorite place, what’s your answer? Whether ocean, town, building, nature, any place can be special to someone, and it’s likely that every place has a dear meaning to someone. As the National Trust campaign says, “This Place Matters.” Identifying a particular place and appreciating that place allows the intangible ideas of historic preservation to make sense by connecting them with the tangible elements of our past and present. These places are important because they are the basis for everyone to understand significance. Not every place is a historic resource, but every place can be significant in someone’s life. And great places, loved places make for strong communities and a better quality of life.

We also talk about planning concepts such as “third place” – the idea that a third place is somewhere that people feel comfortable and welcome, beyond the home and beyond the office. This can be anywhere, though usually it refers to a restaurant, café or other gathering place (something that can be incorporated into new urbanism ideas).

What does “place” mean to you? What is your favorite place?

Livability Essentials: Sidewalks

I love sidewalks. Seriously. Sidewalks create connectivity in neighborhoods and towns, which increases the livability and quality of life for the community members. Why? Children can walk on the sidewalks, safe out of the traveled lanes of traffic. Pedestrians, runners, dog walkers and everyone else can stroll or dash through town without having to constantly worry about a car swerving into the shoulder or a car door opening.

Sidewalk in Jamaica, VT.

The visual connectivity of sidewalks is important, as much as the functional aspects. Sidewalks are a transition zone between private property and the public road; within this transition zone, people can stop and talk if they’d like. It is almost like the “third place” – a meeting place – (almost) in the street. Sidewalks create neater looking neighborhoods and in general, aesthetically pleasing corridors improve sense of place and quality of life. Additionally, sidewalks signal a residential setting, which then causes slower traffic; sidewalks can be traffic calming devices.

However, many rural towns do not have sidewalks. In some areas, they are not feasible because the cost would be too great for construction and maintenance, simply due to the distance that would necessary. In such cases, people are lucky if the road shoulders are wide enough for safe cycling, walking and running. Unfortunately there are many state highways and roads in Vermont that are very narrow and, although, they are bike routes, they are not safe for the beginning cyclist or children. There are “share the road” programs, but if you’ve ever had to pass a cyclist on the road and have encountered oncoming traffic, you know how dangerous these instances can be. Wider shoulders or separate bike lanes would be a much better solution.

At the very least, village centers should have formal, concrete sidewalks rather than gravel shoulder/path combinations. I feel safer on a sidewalk as a runner and as a pedestrian; I imagine parents want their children on sidewalks as they wander to and from school and other activities.

Long story short; in general, when in a residential setting, sidewalks are appropriate and improve the quality of life and the walkability/mobility through town (historic district or not). When are they not appropriate? When the population of an area is dispersed and sidewalks would not connect logical places. In those situations, it is time to consider safer pedestrian and cyclist transit lanes.

What are your thoughts on sidewalks? Love? Impartial? Unnecessary? Vital?

July 2008 Issue

Click below for the latest issue of Preservation in Pink! (Volume II, Issue 1).  I know it’s been a while, but the good news is that this issue is bigger and has more travel photographs!  Topics include Penn Station, Going Green, Living as a Preservationist, Travel, Media, and Third Place. Enjoy and send any feedback my way.  Thanks!

 

 Preservation in Pink July 2008