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Archive for May, 2012

Happy Friday readers!

In anticipation of the upcoming long weekend and Memorial Day holiday (or the day we honor those who died in our nation’s service, for those non-US readers), I wanted to bring you something that really symbolized the holiday and honored the sacrifice of those who fought bravely for freedom. While there are some pretty amazing monuments out there, none of them really seemed to fit the bill as they are more structure and less dwelling. Then I got to thinking about what we do to celebrate Memorial Day and I remembered that we place flags on the graves of those we honor, which led me to think about cemeteries, and one in particular: Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.  (The cemetery is located in Arlington,  VA not  Washington D.C., even though people tend to think of it as DC,  but just go with me anyway).  I had the privilege of visiting the National Cemetery during a band trip when I was in 8th grade  (I played the Bass Clarinet which is generally awesome, just FYI). The one thing that stood out most on the tour to me was not the Memorial Amphitheater (though it was beautiful) or the Eternal Flame (which was also something to behold) or even the sacred Tomb of the Unknowns. No, it was the Mansion in the cemetery that no-one seemed to be talking about. As a budding Preservationist, I REALLY wanted to see that house.  Fast-forward a few years and I came to find out that house is Arlington House, the former home of General Robert E. Lee. (Photo Below from  The National Park Service, NPS)

The mansion was built for George Washington Parke Custis, Martha Washington’s grandson and adopted ‘son’ of George Washington, in 1802.  Custis hired English architect George Hadfield to design Arlington House, and he lived in the Greek Revival manse until his death in 1857.  The house was left to George Washington Custis’s only surviving daughter, Mary Anna Custis Lee.  Mary Anna had married Lieutenant Robert E. Lee, a young graduate of West Point, and the rest of his story is history.  Still, General Lee’s history is closely tied to Arlington House, though he never set foot on the property again after the start of the Civil War.  Shortly after the war began, Mary Anna fled from Arlington House, which was quickly occupied by the Union Army.  Three years later, in 1864, the Federal government seized the property on account of unpaid taxes. * History says that this was an intentional insult aimed at the Confederacy to ensure that their guiding General could never return home, nor forget the repercussions of the civil war *<— MYTH!  (Photo Below from NPS)

TRUTH ! —>The US government didn’t aim any kind of ‘dig’ at the Confederacy over Arlington House.  They seized it for unpaid taxes, and Robert E. and Mary Anna chose not to contest the seizure, as he was old and not entirely in good health by the end of the war.  Their eldest son did contest the seizure, though, and won Arlington House back, but he then sold it to the Federal government fair and square…   but today I find that it serves more as a quiet reminded that war effects everyone’s “home-front” if you will and that those who sacrificed their lives for their Nation, freedom and justice will never be forgotten. (Photos Below from the National Archives via  mikelynaugh.com)

Today the Arlington house is Maintained by the National Park Service and you can visit it. Good to their website here.

Have a great weekend everyone

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Hey Readers,

I know I have been woefully neglecting you, but I have a good reason I swear!  It’s  National Preservation Month  and here at work that is combined with a time heavy in reviewing Architectural Plans and preparing for our awards ceremony, then add to that the fact that a co-worker and I promised  to give a presentation to a Local Historical Commission on re-purposing disused Municipal buildings, so yeah… I might have over-extended myself just a bit.

I don’t want to leave you hanging, though, so I’m going to leave you with a couple of pictures from one of the buildings in my presentation on re-using your town’s Municipal buildings. This particular building is the Salem Jail in Salem, Massachusetts. It underwent a MASSIVE rehabilitation where it went from an unused former jail to luxury Condos and a great jail-themed restaurant called The Great Escape. Check out their website, since it gives some before photos of the jail.

Here is a before picture from the Preservation Nation Blog:

Here is a an artistic view of  the after  from the company who markets the Condos (I love the guy hanging out in the doorway!):

I will be back when things quiet down a little bit. Enjoy Preservation Month!

-Etta

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