Letters to the Editor
Please note that letters may be edited for length and/or clarity.
To the Editor:
As a resident of Santa Monica and as president of our local preservation organization, the Santa Monica Conservancy, I was disappointed to see that your timeline of the Academy Awards on pp 10-11 of the Winter issue did not include the fact that the Welton Beckett-designed Santa Monica Civic Auditorium was the site of the awards from 1961 to 1968. Unfortunately, this City of Santa Monica Landmark is now closed to the public and its much-needed seismic retrofit and renovation is on hold due to the loss of funding through the California Redevelopment Authority. Although much beloved by the residents and the subject of a City-sponsored working group established to advise on a successful path for the future, we consider it threatened until a way forward is found. A mention in your timeline would have been helpful.
Santa Monica, California
Dear Stephanie and Dennis:
I read about your goal to work toward "a more complete representation of our nation's history" on the very day I attended a commemoration of a little-known atrocity committed upon Native Americans 150 years ago: the Sand Creek Massacre.
Given that I'd never -- until just recently -- heard about this terrible event makes it easy for me to believe that fewer than 10 percent of all places on the National Register represent ethnically and racially diverse sites.
Kudos to you for recognizing the role that orgs such as the National Trust play in honoring and saving diverse historic sites.
I was a bit underwhelmed by the article on Jack McBrayer. A native of Macon, Georgia, my home for over 50 years, he failed to even mention Macon's efforts and success in historic preservation, efforts that match any city in the South. Through the work of many individuals, but to a large extent the work of Macon Heritage Foundation (now Historic Macon), preservations have saved countless buildings -- homes, commercial properties, brick streets, cemeteries -- the list, and their work, go on and on. Hundreds of loft apartments now exist downtown in formerly shuttered stores and warehouses -- and are 95 percent occupied. The work of a few preservationists (starting probably with Scot Maryel Battin who headed MHF for many years) has become the work of a city. I'm sorry it was not even mentioned.
Schley County, Georgia
I enjoyed the article on company towns in the Summer 2014, Preservation magazine. While we don’t have “company” towns in Hawaii, we have what we call plantation towns here. They are fast disappearing, but there are efforts to save what is left. I grew up and still live in one of the last intact plantation towns in Hawaii. These towns were built to house the labor force of the sugar and pineapple plantations. I also came across a map of one of these towns named Puukolii on Maui which is no longer there. We are trying to preserve what is left of our little town but it is difficult in the face of development and the push to modernize. At least, we should be able to save some of the important buildings. You can find more information at Lanaichc.org. That is the Lana’i Culture & Heritage Center.
Lana’i City, Hawaii
Dear Mr. Hockman--
Thanks for the article in the Summer 2014 issue of Preservation about my home town, Portland, Oregon. It's always nice to see our vibrant neighborhoods and amazing landscapes highlighted in an esteemed national publication.
However, I was saddened to note that the accompanying photos do not show any African Americans. Oregon's original constitution and some of our old legislation sent a clear message that African Americans are not welcome here. That message continues to be sent in various ways -- like Preservation's nine photographs of Portland with no African Americans. I try to correct the message whenever possible; hence this letter to you.
Throughout Oregon’s territorial and state history, African Americans have come here, have created vibrant communities here, and have contributed here. This important history has been neither illuminated in our usual narrative of pioneers and statehood, nor collected and exhibited in our usual repositories of Oregon history. I serve on the advisory committee of Oregon Black Pioneers, a group of volunteers that is now discovering and sharing that history with well-researched programs, publications, and exhibits. (See http://www.oregonblackpioneers.org/.)
A really interesting idea for an article in Preservation -- and one the fits with NTHP's efforts at diversity -- might be a story that highlights the hidden history of African Americans in the Pacific Northwest, including buckaroos, Pullman porters, loggers, shipyard workers, and especially the people who, today, are dedicated to preserving that rich and ongoing history.
Mary Oberst (Former National Trust advisor)
I have been a member/subscriber for over 10 years. The Spring 2014 issue was good. I enjoyed all the articles.
One thing I struggle with is the historical preservation movement to create new streetcar/trolley programs. St. Louis was mentioned as putting in a 2.2 mile line in this issue, and it was hailed as a great and marvelous thing. Memphis has installed multiple lines over the last 10 years at quite an expense and with limited ridership. If a city, like New Orleans, has a historic line that is still in existence, it makes complete since to me to replace, rebuild or improve a trolley line. I don't understand the touristy old way of thinking in putting in trolley lines where they haven't existed for decades. It seems much wiser to invest in modern light rail systems that move large numbers of people, faster and more efficiently (take Charlotte, North Carolina, for example). 100 years from now hopefully we will be talking about saving those old light rail systems that were state of the art in 2014. One is progressive thinking and one is trying to find those ethereal days of old when all things were better. Renovating main streets is about making them commercially viable and preserving some of the past while we are at it. It should not be about re-creating the old times. At a minimum, I think this topic would make an interesting article for a future issue.
Regards and keep creating great new work about old stuff,
To the Editor:
As a long-time member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, I look forward to every issue of Preservation magazine.
Thanks for the timeline about urban mass transit in the Spring 2014 issue.
I find it ironic, however, that to illustrate New Orleans' 180-ish-year-old St. Charles Avenue Line, you chose one of the New Orleans red, replica streetcars built within the past 15 years with modern technology and never used on St. Charles Avenue itself.
The St. Charles Avenue Line is the province of a fleet of truly historic cars, painted green and built by the Perey Thomas Company in 1923. At 91, they are about half the age of the line itself, and, while they are lovingly preserved, they continue to provide a vital transportation link for commuters in New Orleans, as well as tourists.
Thank you very much.
To the Editor,
I am disappointed with the coverage you provide regarding Natural Bridge in "Virginia Underground." Here is a site regarded by Thomas Jefferson as one of the natural wonders of the world that is now little more than a cheesy tourist trap.
My wife and I tried to visit Natural Bridge more than a decade ago. When we saw the gantlet of cheap, gaudy tourist sites we had to run just to get to it, we turned around and left in disgust. We tried to view the bridge from afar, but the owners of the site had successfully erected high fences at every conceivable observation point.
I note that the bridge was recently sold to a state conservation group, which will take it over next year. Will they continue to operate the tourist trap, or tear it all down?
Given that this is a National Historic Landmark, I would expect the National Trust to criticize what it has become, rather than your author making veiled references to this and the other sites being "worse for the wear" but concluding that they still are "interesting and authentic." "Virginal Underground" is little more than a glorified travelogue.
To the Editor,
The news of the National Trust's move to the Watergate Office Buildings brought back memories. Upon my graduation from The George Washington University in 1967, I worked for a short time at an office in one of the first new buildings. My fondest memory, however, is of the Water Gate Inn.
My parents took me there several times on trips to Washington for political events from our home in Chicago. I still remember the aroma of those warm popovers!
While the West Point Foundry is a long way from South Carolina, it is certainly a treasured spot in the history of the state. The "Best Friend of Charleston" and several of the other locomotives of the pioneering Charleston & Hamburg Railroad were manufactured there based on specifications developed by Horatio Allen and Christian Detmold.
At the time of completion of the railroad in 1833, it was the longest railroad in the world, and the West Point Foundry was part of the reason.
To the Editor,
The Trust should look at the new part of downtown Windsor, CA, located 50 miles north of San Francisco. A very creative and driven '60s hippie built six or seven blocks of a turn-of-the-century downtown in Windsor in the first decade of this century. It was his own creation and totally his own execution. He has no architectural training, just a big heart and driving ambition to remake history.
It is executed very well as mixed use with condominiums on the top two floors and local retail on the ground floor. The community helped financially at first and he had a financial angel. The recession stalled the project just before its last phase of which I was to be a part. He lost the entire development to the banking industry and is now retired. I have never seen such an ambitious, large and well-executed private project of this type anywhere in the world.
The Trust should check it out this example of what can be done in a prosperous, small (30,000 population) town by one individual in this day and age.
To Dennis Hockman, Editor-in-Chief,
My wife and I were intrigued by your Note in the Winter 2014 issue of Preservation. Our delay in writing: We winter in Florida and just now returned to our home in West Lafayette, Ind.
We fell in love with a Midcentury Modern under construction in 1958 and bought it from an estate in 1980. Quite by accident we became novice preservationists. The house needed the usual: new roof and furnace, updated kitchen and baths, and lots of TLC. We proceeded cautiously to upgrade with new and improved building materials, and we also kept every original design element true to the closest millimeter. Serendipity, yes; learning about preservation, priceless!
In the 1980s-1990s we researched everything about the original owners, their architect, and our house. (I am a retired Purdue vice president and a research professor, so this started as just Q&A, then bloomed.) We dug deep, then deeper, and found that "our" architect was Robert J. Smith, Professor of Architecture at the University of Illinois Urbana. We interviewed the family that gave him his first commission in West Lafayette, and we uncovered twenty residences that he designed in our dynamic college town.
Concurrently, we became members of The Wabash Valley Trust for Historic Preservation, Indiana Landmarks, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. We received the Sycamore Plaque from the Wabash Valley Trust in 2006, the Indiana Modern Stewardship Award from Indiana Landmarks in 2011, and our house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012. We regularly open our house for preservation tours, including a bus tour from your 2013 National Convention in Indianapolis.
Thanks for all you do for preservation across America.
Dick and Connie
West Lafayette, Ind.
To the Editor,
Twenty-five years ago, if you had said I would be a preservationist, I would have laughed myself silly. Then, in 1990, my husband and I bought an 1880's Victorian home. It had its good points: beautifully preserved oak flooring under ratty carpeting, a superb location for my husband's business and close to schools for our kids. Then, came the rest of it ... over the next 17 years, we remodeled virtually every part of the house, upgraded plumbing and electrical, scrapped an entryway and built a laundry room over the footprint, and built a 2 1/2 car garage. Most everything we did was carefully documented by pictures, drawings, etc. The best thing we did for the home was change the exterior from barn red with white trim to a "Painted Lady" in shades of peach, green, rust, and white. It took two summers to carefully sand, repair, re-caulk, prime and paint, but when it was done, it was not the same home! We won an award from the local Chamber of Commerce for a "beautification project." That sure made it worthwhile. We got asked why we sold: my husband no longer had the business, the kids were gone, and I had health issues. We took what we learned from that project to our new home - one that I won't have to repaint every three years!
I am still a preservationist in a different way. I serve as a volunteer interpreter for Colonial Michilimackinac, a 1770's era fort which is part of the Michigan Historic State Parks in northern Michigan. It's history no matter where you are.
Dennis Hockman, Editor in Chief
National Trust for Historic Preservation
The Watergate Office Building
2600 Virginia Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20037