Tom King and several other preservation colleagues drafted a letter to Sally Jewell, the new Secretary of the Interior. The letter asks Secretary Jewell to revamp the federal historic preservation process:
We urge you to conduct a full review of the national historic preservation program with the aim of bringing it back to the intent of its founders, as that intent relates to the imperatives of the twenty-first century. We would be pleased to do whatever we can to assist in such an enterprise.
Tom asked me to sign the letter along with other practicing heritage preservation professionals and a batch of students poised to begin their careers in a regulatory system that has gone astray from its founding principles. The letter is embedded below. Continue reading
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There’s more to rural Frederick County, Maryland, than Camp David. Nearby, there were other twentieth century resorts that housed people of lesser means than U.S. presidents.
The Blue Mountain House (F-6-095) is a 1½-story frame house located south of Blue Mountain Road in rural Frederick County, Maryland. The house is a side-gabled rectangular building constructed on a concrete block foundation. There is a front entry porch in the north façade. The porch roof is supported by four battered wood posts on brick piers. The north façade has three bays with symmetrical fenestration (central door). There is a rear one-story shed roof addition (enclosed porch) and an external gable end (west) concrete block chimney. The building has 1/1 double-hung sash windows and is clad by vinyl siding; the roof is clad by composition shingles. Continue reading
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Montgomery County, Maryland’s historic preservation office supervisor Scott Whipple authored a great post on an exchange he had with a school girl at a planning open house last weekend. Scott had asked the girl why historic preservation was important:
She told me that historic preservation is important because it was better to reuse buildings than to throw them in the trash.
Yes! This girl got it. OK, it took a slight prompt from her mom. But she got it. She was thinking differently. It is better to reuse buildings than to throw them in the trash.
Read the complete post at the Montgomery County Planning Department’s Straight Line blog.
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The Decatur City Commission unanimously voted July 2, 2012, to allocate $1.3 million for consultants Rutledge Alcock Architects to prepare construction documents for redevelopment of the former Beacon and Trinity schools. The proposed project ultimately will cost $25 million.
Decatur Deputy City Manager Hugh Saxon’s June 28, 2012 staff report on allocating funds for the Beacon redevelopment project.
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The City of Decatur, Georgia, is on a fast-track to redevelop a historic African American school site. Plans include demolition of parts of the former Beacon Elementary School and Trinity High School to make way for new public facilities.
An isolated historical marker outside the former African American school describes Decatur’s Beacon Community. Photo by author, February 2012.
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I was supposed to testify yesterday (March 21, 2012) before the Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee on an amendment that was to have been attached to a land use bill. The amendment would have added language to the bill eliminating historic district subdivision review from Georgia’s historic preservation commissions.
A bill with the same language had been defeated in February 2012 by a House Judiciary subcommittee. I had testified twice before that body in opposition to the bill, then known as HB 802. At yesterday’s hearing, the hearing began and the chairman called for testimony. The first person to speak in opposition was DeKalb County Dist. 2 Commissioner Jeff Rader. Rader prefaced his testimony by stating that he was there to speak against an amendment (historic preservation) that had yet to be attached to the bill.
The chairman interrupted Rader’s testimony and informed him that there were no plans to attach any additional language to the bill, which covered pre-existing covenants and zoning laws. At that point Rader left the witness table and no further testimony was taken. Since my testimony had been prepared and distributed to the committee members by Georgia Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, I didn’t want to let it go to waste. The un-delivered testimony is reprinted below. Continue reading
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Oakhurst is a residential neighborhood in Decatur, Georgia. First conceived as a series of streetcar suburbs linking Atlanta and Decatur in the 1890s, the community experienced a subdivision and building boom in the first three decades of the twentieth century and another immediately after World War II. For much of the twentieth century, the neighborhood’s cultural landscape was best understood and most legible with those periods in mind. The frame Craftsman-informed bungalows, brick period revival homes, and vernacular small houses were Oakhurst’s built environment identity.
For the past several years Decatur architect Eric Rawlings has been designing homes in a style he describes as “Prairie Modern.” Rawlings considers the eight Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired homes to be among the best examples in his portfolio. Others in Decatur’s Oakhurst neighborhood call them out-of-place McMansions. All but one of the Prairie Modern homes have been built at teardown sites, single-family residential lots where smaller homes were demolished to make way for the Prairie Moderns.
Fayetteville Road urban homesteading property after teardown and new 3,564-square-foot “Prairie Modern” construction.
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Last October I watched and shot video as a builder demolished a 1,100-square foot house built in 1944 or 1945. It took less than eight hours for the small crew using a track loader to turn the one-story frame house into about seven bins of rubble that were carted away to a nearby landfill.
Over the subsequent four months I documented the transformation of the teardown site into a new 2,772 square-foot two-story single-family home that just went on the market for $589,000.
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Last week I testified at a Georgia House of Representatives judiciary subcommittee hearing on a bill that would amend the state’s historic preservation law. HB 802, described as an act “to allow for subdivision of historic property,” was introduced by Rep. Doug McKillip (R-115th Dist.) of Athens. If enacted, the amendment would allow property owners in locally-designated historic districts to bypass historic preservation commissions with proposals to subdivide their properties.
The bill has received little media attention in Georgia. One exception is an Athens Banner-Herald article published in January.
I was asked by DeKalb County preservationists to testify in opposition to the bill. I joined Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation CEO Mark McDonald and current and former Druid Hills Civic Association presidents Robert Benfield and Bruce McGregor. Continue reading
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Nearly thirty years of archaeology and historic preservation fieldwork have given me a memorable collection of quotations that I’ve scribbled in various notebooks. One that has stuck with me was posted above the bar in the Port Matilda Hotel in rural Centre County, Pennsylvania: “Language: use it right or you’ll be asked to leave.”
Another one is, “It’s old but it will never go historical.” That was how the fourth-generation owner of a 19th-century St. Mary’s County, Maryland, tobacco farm described her property as I surveyed it in the summer of 2004. I frequently draw on this quotation when I try to explain to people why seemingly ordinary — vernacular — buildings and landscapes are historically significant. Sometimes I’m successful, many times I’m not.
My new neighborhood: an anti-historic district sign from 2007. Photo by author, August 2011.
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