Preservation Is…

Rehabilitating historic properties conserves taxpayers’ dollars, conserves our local heritage, and conserves the natural environment. Rehabilitating historic buildings and using the infrastructure that is already in place to serve them is the height of fiscal and environmental responsibility.
– Donovan Rypkema , Place Economics

This Week

A weekly round-up of my favorite preservation related stories from around the web and in the newsClick on the title of each story to jump through to the original article/blog post.

Then Historic Places Saved This Year – Huffington Post

peavey plaza

Completed in 1975, the Peavey Plaza is one of the few landscape architecture sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Thought the City Council of Minneapolis voted to destroy it in 2012, preservationists fought the plan and succeeded. It will now be restored. Image via Huffington Post

“Every year, The National Trust for Historic Preservation highlights 10 places saved in the past year, as well 10 places that were unable to be saved from demolition or similar fates.  Here are 10 historic places that you’ll still be able to visit in the years ahead thanks to preservationists.”

A Brooklyn Church Uncovers a Long-Hidden Celestial Scene – New York Times

Brooklyn Church

Image via The New York Times

“At Grace Church in Brooklyn Heights, long-hidden stars have been uncovered in the ceiling of the building, a 165-year-old Episcopal church at Hicks Street and Grace Court, under a $5 million renovation that includes a new copper roof, new insulation, new lighting, new wiring and a much-needed cleaning of many of the 3,200 organ pipes. What had looked until a few months ago like a dull ceiling of plain wood planks turned out to be a dazzling celestial extravaganza of eight-pointed stars in gold, yellow and red — so lacy they might be taken for snowflakes — set in an expansive vault of royal blue.”

Memphis to Redevelop Abandoned Sears Distribution Center into Ambitious Health Care Hub – Next City


Image via Next City

“Preservationists in search of good news this month can turn to Memphis, where the city council voted unanimously to shell out $15 million in local, state and federal funds for the Crosstown Redevelopment Project.  The vacant Sears Crosstown building, constructed and expanded in phases between 1927 and 1965, will be transformed into a $175 million mixed-use project. Sears stopped retail operations there in 1983 and the building has been abandoned since the company closed its distribution center in 1993. Blight has marred the neighborhood, now one of the poorest in Memphis, ever since.”

X is for X-Ray – Preservation in Pink

“X-rays are not just for people in hospitals or luggage in airport security; x-ray technology provides non-destructive testing techniques to aid in building forensics as well as art and object conservation. Non-destructive testing allows for greater exploration without unnecessarily harming historic fabric. X-rays can detect voids in building materials as well as leaks, cracks, and other signs of deterioration. Part of this is to understand the structure and ensure the safety of the researchers/contractors.”

A Conversation with Bob Vila – Preservation Nation

bob vila

Image via Preservation Nation

Ever wonder how Bob Vila came to love old houses? About his work with Ernest Hemmingway’s house in Cuba, Finca Vigia? Or what people do to their old houses that makes him cringe? Click through for a lovely interview with America’s favorite handy man.

Six Stories – 99% Invisible


Image via 99% Invisible

“Elevators are old. History is full of things that lift other things. In ancient Greece, and China, and Hungary, there were systems of weights and pulleys and platforms designed to bring nobility–or their meals–to new heights.  And somewhere below were draft animals, or even people, tasked with turning wheels to bring these early elevators up and down. These elevators were dangerous. Ropes would snap, and then anything getting raised or lowered would plummet to the ground. Fall one story and you break your leg–fall two stories you break your neck. And this fear of falling kept building heights low. People only wanted to ascend as high as they could walk. The tallest buildings at the time were churches and lighthouses–buildings made up primarily of empty space.

And then came Elisha Otis…”

Holiday Posts from Bricks + Mortar

Christmas at the Biltmore


The Biltmore

The Biltmore, America’s largest house, is lavishly decorated for the holidays each year. The 250-room French Renaissance chateau took six years and 1,000 men to build and is a National Historic Landmark open to the public today.  It takes a staff of 1,800 over a month to light and decorate over 100 Christmas trees, hang 10,000 feet of fresh garland, miles of ribbon and hang thousands of ornaments for the more than 300,000 visitors that visit during the holiday season… [read more]

A Christmas Story House


Screenshot of the house in A Christmas Story. Image via A Christmas Story House

This holiday season, Best Buy featured the house from the 1983 classic A Christmas Story in one of it’s commercials.  I’ve never actually seen the entire movie from start to finish, but I’ve seen each scene (out of order, backwards and forwards) probably hundreds upon hundreds of times.  (Ours is one of those families that turns on TBS’s A Christmas Story marathon on Christmas Eve and doesn’t turn it off until every present is unwrapped and every treat eaten on Christmas Day.  It is the soundtrack to our entire holiday! And I’m happy to report that when it comes to A Christmas Story trivia,  I’m the reigning office champ!)  So when I saw the commercial, I was intrigued by the preservation effort, to say the least.  I did a little Googling and discovered that the project is really quite interesting – and not a preservation effort at all.  And although the nugget of my heart that is devoted to A Christmas Story is delighted, the big huge preservationist chunks of my heart are cringing and appalled! … [read more]

A National Trust Christmas


Hall fireplace at Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire. Image via The National Trust

The National Trust works to preserve and protect the coastline, countryside and buildings of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Incorporated in 1894, The National Trust is one of the largest landowners in the United Kingdom. It owns and operates heritage properties, including historic houses and gardens, industrial monuments and social history sites, most of which are open to the public free of charge.  During the holiday season, the Trust opens many of its most important homes and landscapes for special events including visits from Santa, decorating and cooking workshops, Dickens readings and concerts… [read more]