Historic Preservation: Rubber Stamp or Healthy Debate?

I am catching a lot of flak over “blowing the lid off of Uncle Tom” as one colleague commented in an email earlier today. I suspect that I’ll be catching even more over the next week or so as various things work their ways through local newspapers. So why did I write what I did about the Josiah Henson Special Park (formerly known as Uncle Tom’s Cabin)? Continue reading

Tenley Tower II: Another Historic Preservation Battle Looms

There’s new controversy heating up in Tenleytown at the site where a telecommunications tower company aborted construction of a 765 756-foot broadcast tower that would have loomed over a historic landmark and the Tenleytown neighborhood.

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Daniel H. Burnham and Washington’s Union Stockyards

Earlier this month PBS aired Make No Little Plans: Daniel Burnham and the American City. As an architectural historian I have long admired Burnham’s work. Union Station and the Mall are incredible amenities for folks like myself living in the Washington area. My interest in Burnham, however,  goes beyond the architectural and city planning spheres. When he married Chicago Union Stockyards president John B. Sherman’s daughter Margaret, Burnham became part of the extended Allerton family, livestock entrepreneurs who profited from the shipment of most of the meat animals shipped into New York City during much of the nineteenth century.

Although Burnham never went into business with his father-in-law beyond his firm’s design of Sherman’s home and the Chicago Union Stockyards landmark gate, he did benefit from Sherman’s Chicago interests and he may have benefited from Sherman’s longtime relationship with the Pennsylvania Railroad. John B. Sherman (1825-1902) and Samuel W. Allerton Jr. (1828-1914) were cousins whose families had been in business together since the first decade of the nineteenth century. Continue reading

Going Historical, Going Folk: The Philadelphia Folk Festival Comes of Age

The copy of my article for the 2010 Philadelphia Folk Festival Program Book arrived via email. It’s a shame I couldn’t make it up to see the festival last month. The Philadelphia Folk Festival and the Philadelphia Folksong Society are historic institutions. Drawing on 25 years working in history and academic training in folklore, I can say without equivocation that the festival and its parent organization, the Folksong Society, are indeed historic. They easily pass the time test and both have had profound impacts on musicians, music lovers, folklorists, and communities throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania. Continue reading

John Skirving: From Bricklayer to Men of Progress

Sometimes it takes a real kick in the pants to get moving on turning a conference paper into something more. Last week I received an email from a history professor in the UK who is working on a project that parallels some research I presented in draft form at the 2007 Washington Historical Studies Conference. I allowed the National Trust for Historic Preservation to summarize the paper and post a link to a PDF of the entire paper at its President Lincoln’s Cottage Website. I have suggested a collaboration to my colleague across the pond rather than a race to get into print; we’ll see how that goes. In the meantime, I’d like to recapture a little bit of my own intellectual property by reprinting a slightly revised version of the 2007 paper with illustrations. Continue reading

The R.M.S. Carmania: 1905 Maiden Voyage

I grew up in Daytona Beach, Florida. One of the childhood pastimes that I developed — and which led to a career in history and archaeology — was exploring abandoned buildings. Whether you call it “urban exploration” or “creeping” today, back in the 1970s I called it fun. My favorite spots were old houses awaiting teardown (in Daytona that meant 1930s vintage) and an old Atlantic Bank building. The bank building was the most fun: entry was gained through a broken drive-through window and from there you get to all of the other drive-through windows and the main bank building. Lying around were blank bank documents, some business records, and lots of trash left by vagrants and fellow trespassers who took up residence in this building located just three blocks from the beach. Continue reading

Urban Skateboarding: A Working Bibliography [Updated]

Okay, I know this is going to be a candidate for the most boring blog post ever. A bibliography? For real? As I try to get my head around Silver Spring’s skateboarding subculture.  I am trying to build a bibliography of skateboarding culture and landscapes and I am casting a wide net. If you know of sources, hit the comment button or send me an email.

Skateboarding Working Bibliography

Compiled by David Rotenstein
Revised 3 September 2010 Continue reading