Archive for June, 2011

Well folks, short post today because I am on the road doing some inventory research at a SHPO but I promise to take a few pictures to share with you along the way. Feel free to catch-up on some back posts!


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Hi!  It’s Ash again.  Etta has been busy lately, with upheaval at her office due to recarpeting, so she asked me to step in and give everyone an interesting preservation issue to think about.
We all know that what we need to boost our economy isn’t just consumer spending or big bank bailouts or other simplistic equivalents of the ‘get rich quick’ scheme. I’m not about to suggest that I have the silver bullet that’ll make energy and food and housing affordable again, and my opinion isn’t anything new, either.  I just feel that the case for historic preservation as a source for jobs and economic stimulus should be championed more often!
As stated by the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers in their 2010 report,  rehabilitation and restoration is a multi-billion dollar industry that creates jobs, bolsters the municipal tax base, and provides housing and business space that generates activity in local economies.  Historic rehab projects get tradespeople to work in restoring our historic downtowns and residences, and it keeps them on the job to provide maintenance to these buildings.  Rehab provides our cities and towns with viable, taxable residences, retail businesses and industrial space, which attracts residents and businesses to breathe life back into stagnating local economies.  Though advocates for new construction may encourage tearing down historic buildings (which attract the ‘criminal element’ and become havens for decay and delinquency) and replacing them with new big box businesses to encourage economic growth, historic rehab creates over 5 more new jobs per $1 million spent than new construction, and it provides approximately 5 new jobs for the same expenditure elsewhere in the community.  Bottom line, historic preservation is a good investment in the future vitality of our communities, and it’s a good investment that can stimulate our economy right now.
One of the major factors that encourages historic rehabilitation are state and Federal tax credits.  In 2009, the Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit generated over $4.7 billion in private investment in our communities.  The projects this money kicked off each created an average of 56 jobs!  The benefits of the Federal Tax Credit is clear, and there is little danger of this incentive for preservation being cut from the Federal budget anytime soon.  However, given the budget woes and shrinking income being experienced in many states, the Federal Tax Credit’s local counterparts are often on shaky ground.  Last year, 31 states had a state rehabilitation tax credit program, many of which mirrored the guidelines set by the Federal credit program.  The benefits of these programs for communities, and the benefits for historic preservation, were often comparable to projects backed by Federal credits.  Still, many state legislatures are searching for any budget items that look like an unnecessary expense, and historic preservation often comes under the gun.  In 2008, Rhode Island’s program was suspended due to an unprecedented $60 million in taxes leaving state coffers due to the credit.  However, despite the $300 million in tax revenue that never made it into the budget over the program’s decade-long activity, it supported an investment of over $1.2 billion in local economies, which is the reason that the state is reconsidering the program’s status right now.  Other states have yet to consider Rhode Island’s reticent reversal of tax credit removal.  Both Michigan and New York are currently considering suspension or outright elimination of their tax credit programs.

My opinion is that every taxpayer in every state should encourage their legislators to consider enacting a state rehabilitation tax credit.  I feel that the citizens of the fine states of New York and Michigan should plead with their representatives to keep their tax credits and be the founders of a renaissance in the historic downtowns throughout their constituencies.  Historic preservation creates jobs, encourages private investment in the future of our communities, and can possibly be the engine to power an economic recovery.


Below is pictured the Wilber School Apartments which received State and Federal Tax credits for its rehabilitation.

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Good morning all.

Today’s Friday fantasy is one that I have visited no less than 10 times and it is so famous it even had a book written about it (and I don’t mean one of those guide book things you get in a gift shop, I’m talking about actual “Literature” here), by a man you might have heard of. His name is Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the house is, of course, the House of Seven Gables.

The House of 7 Gables is located in Salem, Massachusetts, the site of America’s most infamous trial, which took place in 1692-1693 and during which I actually had a relative (Sarah Wildes) tried and hanged, so I always feel an extra sense of connection to history in Salem. Salem, by the way, has TONS of great places to visit, and it has THE BEST Halloween celebration (possibly in the world, if you can stand the crowds).  Since Halloween is my favorite holiday, I try to get to Salem in the fall whenever possible. (I think Gingerbreadbagles would agree that Halloween is the best holiday out there. Check out her blog, she has the sweetest treats around!)

Anyway back to business, one of the best parts of the House of Seven gables (well, besides everything) is the element that all fantasy homes wish they had: A Secret Passage!  That’s right. When you visit the House of Seven Gables, you will get to use the secret passage (assuming you’re built like an 18th century New Englander and aren’t claustrophobic, because it’s a tight fit) as part of your tour.

The House has roots to 1668, when the first portion was constructed by Sea Captain, John Turner. It remained in the Turner family for 3 generations before it was sold to Captain Ingersoll.  Ingersoll died at sea, leaving the house to his daughter, Susanna, who was cousin to Nathaniel Hawthorne.  Hawthorne so enjoyed his visits to the home that he made it a focal point of the setting when penned his famous Gothic romance in 1850.

For more information and to plan your visit, check out the House of Seven Gables website and take a look at all of the great things Salem has to offer here.

And I’ll leave you with a couple more pictures for good measure


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Hello All. Hope the weather where you are is as good as the weather has been here (well with the exception of today maybe). Today’s Post is about the overlapping of two of my favorite things in the world: Doctor Who and Historic Preservation. For those who might not know (but after this is over you’ll probably want to run out and watch it all on Netflix), Doctor Who is a British television show about an alien (The Doctor) who travels through time and space in a time machine that looks like a 1950’s/60’s Police Call Box called the TARDIS (which stand for Time And Relative Dimension In Space). The Doctor (almost) always has a human companion (most often a spunky girl/woman) who accompanies him on his travels. Now I know that that little description doesn’t really convey the awesomeness that IS Doctor Who, but really it’s just too difficult to explain the brilliance that is this show that’s been running since 1963 (with a break from 1989 to 2005), so you’ll just have to take my word for it and check it out!

Now, you might be asking yourself what in the world does a British television show have to do with HP? Well I’ll tell you, but first a bit of context. You see, the TARDIS used to be able to camouflage itself to blend in with its surroundings.  Basically, it didn’t always look like a blue police box, but somewhere along the line, likely during a visit to 1960s Britain, its chameleon circuit stuck (the thing that allowed it to blend in), and now it permanently looks like a police box. Police boxes were real things in Britain during the 1950s and 1960s, because “bobbies” didn’t have personal radios on them, so they could use the police boxes to call in to the station, or pop in out of the rain to get dry, or for any other number of reasons. With the advent of personal radios for police officers, Police Boxes became a thing of the past, but there are still a few left and they have become synonymous with the TARDIS and Doctor Who.  And now for the Preservation link!  The most famous “TARDIS” that’s still standing is located in Somerton, Newport, England and it looked like this:

Photo by: Chuck Foster

As you can see it was in VERY rough shape in 2009, suffering from rot that caused almost total structural failure and what the Brits call Concrete Cancer. But because of the love Brits have not only for Doctor Who, but also for Preservation, the Somerton TARDIS received several Preservation grants and was restored in 2010.  (Believe it or not this is actually a listed structure Grade II on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest… their list is a bit different from our National Register, but that’s a post for a different time) Check out the Final Results below:

Photo By: Dave Edwards.

  Beautious, huh?
After all the horror stories we Preservationists find in pop-culture perpetrating myths about how ridiculous we seem to be (but aren’t really) it’s nice to occasionally see the media HELPING our cause.
For more in-depth articles on the story of the Somerton TARDIS, check out this site for the efforts to save it, and this site here for the story of the grant that saved the TARDIS.
Hope you all enjoyed this TARDIS’ story as much as I did.
Oh and a BIG thanks to Chuck Foster and his friend Dave Edwards for their Great TARDIS photos and my apologies for neglecting to mention them at first posting.

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Happy Friday all!

Today’s Fantasy brings us across the pond to Derbyshire to see Chatsworth. If you have any Landscape Architecture training you’ll be very familiar with Chatsworth because of its extensive and picturesque grounds. Just look at all this beauty.

Still if landscape architecture isn’t your thing you might recognize this as the home of Mr. Darcy in the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice staring Keira Knightley (though Mr. Darcy called his magnificent estate Pemberly).

Chatsworth is the home to and seat of the Duke of Devonshire and the Cavendish family. Chatsworth has ties to all the way back to Bess of Hardwick in 1549 when good old Bess had a Tudor Mansion there, but the current iteration of Chatsworth dates from 1687-1707, with many changes and additions along they way.

For more information you can check out Chatsworth’s website, but I’d also recommend this wikipedia entry for all the meaty information (usual wiki-caveats apply, of course). But most of all, I’d recommend you book your plane tickets now and experience this grandeur in person, as even the Newport Mansions don’t quite measure up to some of the UK’s great estates (but they’re pretty darn spiffy, and you should definitely visit Newport!).

Have a great weekend!


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Good morning all, it’s June 15 and we know what that means: the announcement of this year’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list. I guess it’s kind of contrary to celebrate the fact that some of America’s important places are in danger to begin with, but I’ve always had a touch of the Victorian macabre  (although I’d never sport any mourning jewelry…creepy). I’m just excited by calling attention to Preservation, and this black cloud is much more “silver lining” than anything else because, as National Trust President Stephanie Meeks has pointed out, in all the 24 years they have presented the Most Endangered list, only 8 endangered historic places named have been lost (out of the 233 named for those not playing the math game). All in all, a good track record!  But hey, why not let that number stay at 8 and never add another “lost boy” to the list?
Without further ado, I present you with the National Trust’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list:
Bear Butte, South Dakota
Belmead-on-the-James, Virginia
China Alley, California
Fort Gaines, Alabama
Greater Chaco Landscape, New Mexico
Isaac Manchester Farm, Pennsylvania
John Coletrane House, New York
National Soldiers Home, Wisconsin
Pillsbury A Mill, Minnesota
Prentice Women’s Hospital, Illinois
Sites Imperiled By State Action, Nationwide
And The one to watch: Charleston South Carolina

So does anyone have favorites? Ideas? Redevelopment plans? Passionate pleas or stories and memories about any of these sites? If so, please share them.
Hopefully we can save these buildings and landscapes this year and not add any more of America’s great places to the list of losses.

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Hello Everyone

Since I missed last weeks Friday Fantasies due to the fact that Ash and I had company, so today I’m going to offer TWO fantasy homes. The first is in sunny California and it is probably the best example of Eastlake (and only according to one of my professors): The Carson Mansion.  BTW, Charles Eastlake, the creator of the excessively ornamented furniture for which the architectural style was named, absolutely despised having his name applied to buildings he had nothing to do with designing.

The Carson Mansion was built by William Carson in 1884 who made his fortune in lumber. It is now privately owned by the Ignomar Club and they have a lovely website for it that you can see here.

For our second fantasy we’ll head to the south. Natchez Mississippi to be exact. To see Nutt’s Folly, better known as Longwood. Longwood is a Brick Octagon mansion with an onion dome and as some of my followers know I am a big octagon style fan (even if I do think Orson Fowler and Phrenology are a bit strange). Another interesting tidbit about Nutt’s Folly is that its exterior was used  for the home of vampire king Russell Edgington in HBO’s True Blood.

The Story of Longwood is an interesting one and I stumbled across this website with great floor plans and information.

Hope you enjoyed today’s fantasies, and get to visit sometime.


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