Letters to the Editor

Summer 2014 CoverRead on for a sampling of responses to our Summer 2014, Spring 2014, and Winter 2014 issues.

Please note that letters may be edited for length and/or clarity.

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Hello Dennis,

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.

Joni
Schley County, Georgia

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Dennis,


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. 

Aloha,
Warren
Lana’i City, Hawaii

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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.
 
Thank you.
 
Ever yours,
Mary Oberst (Former National Trust advisor)
Portland, Oregon

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Spring 2014 CoverDear Dennis,

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,

Vance
Fayetteville, Ark.

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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.

Sincerely,
Glenn
Brooklyn, N.Y.

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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.

Sincerely,
Michael
Alexandria, Va.

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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.

http://www.streetsofwashington.com/2013/01/popovers-and-hobbyhorses-at-water-gate.html

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!

Marsha
Roselle, Ill.

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Dennis,

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.

Sincerely,
Robert
Greenville, S.C.

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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.

Philip
Tiburon, Calif.

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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. 

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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.

Thank you,
Susan
Petoskey, Mich. 

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Dear Mr. Hockman,

My 11-year-old son and I both look forward to receiving our issue of Preservation, and with the winter issue came a special interest in the excellent "Reinvention Revisted" article. In the mid-'80s, I was an undergraduate at St. Louis University, and one year I lived in an apartment complex next door to the "spaceship" building which is mentioned in this article. I have fond memories of midnight burrito runs to the Mexican restaurant which occupied that space in those days, and was pleased to learn of the preservation efforts associated with the building

However, I take issue with the statement that the building "was in a rundown part of town." This may have been true in the '70s and '80s, but over the last 20 years the neighborhood around the SLU campus has undergone a major rejuvenation! SLU has purchased many of the historic buildings which encircled the campus, and has renovated or restored numerous locations which were either abandoned or in disrepair during my days on campus. This continuous effort has been detailed in many issues of the alumni magazine, archived copies of which can be found here: http://www.slu.edu/universitas/universitas-archive. The SLU campus area is now a vibrant neighborhood which boasts an eclectic mix of contemporary and preserved historical buildings, worthy of note from your magazine.

Thank you for continuing your efforts in this important area, and I look forward to continuing our family's support of Preservation.

Best regards,

Steven
St. Louis

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To the Editor:

I read the article in the Winter edition and was a bit surprised that there was no mention of the funding that allowed Columbus, Ind. to have so much incredible architecture. I drove from Washington, D.C. to Columbus just to see the wonderful buildings. It did not disappoint. The family deserves some recognition for the program they initiated to allow all this beautiful architecture in small-town America.

Jon
Fort Myers, Fla.

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Dear Mr. Hockman,

I always look forward to receiving my copy of Preservation. I read your article, "Are You Selling Yourself Short?" with great interest today. In 2012, a beloved project I was working on, with my committee, was highlighted in your magazine (see attached). Since then, a great deal of work has been accomplished, funds raised, and volunteer hours expended to complete our renovation of the Mable Ringling Memorial Fountain in Luke Wood Park (Sarasota, Fla.).

This past Sunday, we held a dedication ceremony to celebrate this community endeavor. We had a great turnout, and prepared a video to capture the 2+ year timeline of all the work that was done to make this a reality. I hope you can take a few minutes to view the efforts that took place in bringing back some of our history. Here is the link: http://youtu.be/q0xQDGPNIFs

Thank you and your organization for continuing the quest of historic preservation in America.

Kindest regards,

Larry, Media Specialist
Sarasota County Historical Resources
Sarasota, Fla.

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Dennis,

I read with interest "Reinvention Reinvented" in the Winter 2014 issue of Preservation. I was disappointed, however, that no mention of how the remarkable assemblage of modern architecture in Columbus, Ind. came to be.

It would have been nice to mention and give credit to J. Irwin Miller and the Cummins Engine Company for providing architectural fees if noteworthy architects were selected for the various projects. It was not accidental or as if by magic ... it occurred because of Mr. Miller's foresight, encouragement, and generosity.

Sincerely,

Fred, Architect
Cos Cob, Conn.

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Dear Mr. Hockman,

I do consider myself to be a "preservationist." No, I am not an architect, structural engineer or a construction contractor, just a passionate advocate for saving our historic buildings and homes where I live. My first effort was in 2005 when I heard that the historic 1828 Singletary House in Streetsboro, Ohio, the city just north of my home in Kent, was being threatened with demolition for a Wal-Mart. I'd read of this home in a book called "Early Homes of Ohio" by I.T. Frary. Its front doorway is particularly unusual enough to be noteworthy enough to have been included in this book. I sprang into action and began calling people in the city government to see what could be done to save it. With the help of the Streetsboro Planning Director, we were able to gather some like-minded folks to find some way to save this house. Thank goodness, someone was able to talk to the Wal-Mart folks, who generously kicked in enough money to save the house. It is now fittingly the home of the Streetsboro Heritage Society.

My next effort is an ongoing one still in progress. Nearly two years ago, I learned of the impending demolition of houses on a soon-to-be vacated street near where I lived for a joint City of Kent-Kent State University project. One house in particular had always caught my eye. Sitting in among obviously early- to mid-20th century homes was a Greek Revival home that seemed downright out of place. I sprang into action and went to the County Recorder's office to do some research that yielded pay dirt -- the house was built in 1858 by and for our city's namesake Kent family and later owned by one of our town's leading citizens of the 19th century who also served in the State legislature. I had my proof, so I took all of my documentation to the City Council and presented it to them. They were suitably impressed enough to consider saving it, but it would mean a huge uphill climb.

In the meantime, I'd been contacted by a historic preservationist architect who was interested in working on the project. The big uphill climb would be finding a suitable reuse for the house and a piece of property to which we could move the house and then securing the funding for all of this. Fortunately, the local bank CEO is also on the Historical Society board and is an avid preservationist himself, so he was able to secure a loan for us to move ahead with the project. A three-month search yielded the right piece of property and the University offered to pay for the move since they were a part of the reason for the house needing to be saved. Once we secured the land and the permits needed, we thought that we had a green light to proceed, but ran into a snag in that a citizens activist group who objected to the property that we bought being used to move the house on to sued us. We were able to move the house temporarily to a small plot of land near where it sat originally and stored it there for a year while we prosecuted the lawsuit, which was finally dismissed this summer. In late September, we moved the house to our land, got it on its foundation and are finishing demolition of modern interior additions to prepare for its restoration. The second floor will be an attorney's office, the ground floor will be public meeting space and art gallery space (and a little section devoted to the house's history) and the basement is probably going to be rented out for commercial space as well.

This morning, the local paper had tragic news on the front page: The historic 1829 Federal style Poe House located between my home town of Kent and the next town over, Ravenna, suffered a devastating fire yesterday. I am wondering if there's any chance to save it at all. It would need to be looked at by a structural engineer and/or an architect, but it's one of the last Federal style houses still standing in the area. Its loss would be devastating to us preservationists. I'm trying to find out what, if anything, can be done.

In the meantime, work continues on the historic 1858 Kent Wells-Sherman House. We hope to have the house completed later this year. Saving this and the Singletary House has been extremely gratifying, and now if I can do something to help save the historic 1829 Poe House after its devastating fire yesterday, then I can chalk up another success story. I'm quite passionate about saving our architectural treasures, and having just retired last month from my 30-year career in a library, now I have time to devote to my efforts.

So I guess that you could say that I come from a family of avid preservationists. You can thank my mom -- she took us to many historic places that were museum villages of restored homes in our area. Living in northeast Ohio's unique Western Reserve afforded us an opportunity to learn a great deal about our architectural heritage. Retirement will afford me so many more opportunities to become more involved in preservation efforts. It's all a matter of choosing your battles and knowing which ones that you can win. Thanks for helping us to save more places in this country. We could not do it without you!

Sally,
Kent, Ohio

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To the Editor:

Joe Nick Patoski's article on south central Texas was a joy to read. Having grown up there, I would like to point out the Town of Castroville, which is on the banks of the Medina River just west of San Antonio. Interstate 90 passes through the center of town.

The earliest homes were built in the 1840s by settlers from the Alsace-Lorraine region of France.

The National Trust of Historical Preservation is a participant in a developing project referred to as the Castro Colonies Living History Center. I have yet to make some sort of contribution (shame on me!).

Forgive me if Mr. Patoski is familiar with the town of Castroville, but was simply constrained from including it in his article. Feel free to forward this email to him. At any rate, I encourage a look into this part of Texas history.

Thank you for your time,

John


 

Dennis Hockman, Editor in Chief
Preservation magazine

National Trust for Historic Preservation
The Watergate Office Building
2600 Virginia Avenue NW
Suite 1000
Washington, D.C. 20037
Preservation_Editor@savingplaces.org