The Story Behind the Stories
By James H. Schwartz | From Preservation | January/February 2011
I picked up the phone in my office a few months ago, and Logan Ward was on the other end. Logan is a gifted writer, and he possesses an insatiable curiosity that always generates good copy. This day he wanted to share the tale of a forgotten African American architect whose work has been rediscovered by a most unlikely detective—and that's how his feature story came to Preservation.
People often ask my colleagues and me, "Where do you find all those stories?" Some come to us courtesy of professional writers like Logan. We find others through partners in the field who call with local tales, like the one about exceptional high school students fighting to protect beloved landmarks in Idaho. Still others come from colleagues at the National Trust who send email alerts about places threatened, lost, or restored. But many stories come from readers—and those may be my favorites.
Take the email that arrived from Donna Paul late in September. She wrote that she'd just visited Provincetown, Mass., and seen a "remarkable artist's studio," and she attached a few historical photos. When I clicked on the images, two thoughts came to mind: 1) Whoa, that place really is amazing; and 2) could that be the famous artist Hans Hofmann in the pictures? It didn't take long for Donna to confirm that she had found Hofmann's studio. You can read all about it online.
The Now & Then story chronicling Western State Hospital in Virginia came to us much the same way. A reader told Assistant Editor Elizabeth McNamara that a deteriorating complex in the town of Staunton had been saved, and Liz did some digging to learn more about its history. Her piece about the landmark hospital is a tale of resurrection and reinvention.
Not every Preservation story is a happy one, and this issue closes with a poignant column by our friend Dwight Young. You may not realize it, but Dwight is your friend, too. His luminous essays on The Back Page have elevated the quality of this magazine for more than a decade, and the sheer joy of reading his prose is one of the finest parts of my job. Dwight's retirement is so well deserved that I've tried to put all personal disappointment aside, but I've been only partially successful.
Therefore, I hope you'll allow me to end this first note of 2011 with a message for the author of the last Back Page. Farewell, dear friend. We'll miss your wisdom, and your humor, and your wit. The place just won't be the same without you.
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