Tagged: African American History

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.

The Intricate Makeshift Money of Germans Relied On Between World Wars – Gizmodo


The most complete collection of notgeld online comes courtesy of Brooklynite Miguel Oks. Image via Gizmodo

State-issued currency is the scaffolding upon which capitalism was built, but it’s always been prone to mayhem. For instance in 1920s Germany, extreme inflation forced German businesses to actually print millions of their own customized paper bills. Now largely forgotten, this notgeld, or “emergency money,” was once ubiquitous—amounting to an ornately-decorated I.O.U. in Weimar Germany.  Notgeld was a catch-all name for private currency, printed between World War I and World War II in Germany and Austria. There are hundreds—maybe thousands—of unique bills, each created for a specific amount of gold, cash, or even corn and grain. Each printer created (or commissioned) its own design, which ranged from beautiful turn-of-the-century engravings to modernist Bauhaus-inspired typography. Keep reading…

Nevermind the Price: Nirvana Legend Kurt Cobain’s Childhood Home For Sale – NBC News


The 1.5 story bungalow was built in 1923. It was the childhood home of Kurt Cobain. Image via NBC

The childhood home of legendary Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, complete with the mattress he slept on, was this week put on the market by his mom in the month that marks the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s final studio album In Utero. The home, last assessed at less than $67,000, is being listed for $500,000. In 2002, an Oregon couple bought a home in nearby Montesano for $42,500. When they learned that Cobain had lived there with his father from 11 to 15, they sold it for $210,000.

Ground Gives Way and Louisiana Town Struggles to Find Footing – NYT

More than a year after it appeared, the Bayou Corne sinkhole is about 25 acres and still growing, almost as big as 20 football fields, lazily biting off chunks of forest and creeping hungrily toward an earthen berm built to contain its oily waters. The town at its edge has been torn apart by the impending disaster. There are the hopeful who have remained. And then there those who have fled. “Much of Louisiana sits atop an ancient ocean whose salty remains, extruded upward by the merciless pressure of countless tons of rock, have formed at least 127 colossal underground pillars. Seven hundred feet beneath Bayou Corne, the Napoleonville salt dome stretches three miles long and a mile wide — and plunges perhaps 30,000 feet to the old ocean floor.” Companies have been drilling into the salt dome and storing propane, butane and natural gas, and to make salt water for the area’s many chemical factories. Read more!

The World’s First Inflatable Concert Hall – Spoon and Tamago


Image via Spoon and Tamago

Architects and designers have been trying to solve the problem of inexpensive and mobile structures for use during disasters for for decades. Generally designed to provide shelter,  most iterations focus on the basics. Not this one. Renowned Japanese architect Arata Isozaki teamed up with British-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor to create an inflatable concert hall. Dubbed Arc Nova, the mobile venue will tour the earthquake and tsunami-ravaged areas of Tohoku, delivering hope and encouragement in the form of music. Click through for more photos and info.

One Man’s Epic Quest to Visit Every Former Slave Dwelling in the US – Smithsonian Magazine


It was his weekends as a Civil War re-enactor that urged Joseph McGill to campaign for the conservation of slave cabins. (Alan Hawes) Image via Smithsonian Magazine

Joseph McGill, Jr., who works for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, spends his leisure time as a Civil War re-enactor. Wearing the uniform of the 54th Massachusetts, the all black unit featured in the film Glory, he was inspired to do more than draw attention to the pivotal role of black soldiers in the Civil War.  When Magnolia Plantation near Charleston sought to publicize restoration of its neglected slave cabins, McGill proposed sleeping in one of them. It worked – and McGill began a mission to sleep in every former slave dwelling still standing in the United States in order to help save them and the history they hold. Currently, he’s on number 41. “Americans tend to focus on the ‘big house,’ the mansion and gardens, and neglect the buildings out back,” he says. “If we lose slave dwellings, it’s that much easier to forget the slaves themselves.”



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.


A Lot of Tiny Pieces Lost – Next City

For cities struggling with large numbers of vacant buildings, “‘The question isn’t, ‘what we should demolish on this block,’ but, ‘what should we be focusing our energy on?’” said Cara Bertron, director of PlaceEconomics’ Rightsizing Cities Initiative and a Next City Vanguard alum. “Long-term thinking is critical. What will this neighborhood look like in 10 years? In 20 years? If you make decisions based on what’s going to happen in the next six months, it’s just going to be a mess in six months and the city won’t be any better off.’”

Lagering Tunnels Reopened in Cincinnati! – Queen City Drinks


Worker reopen and restore lagering tunnel in Cincinnati’s OTR Brewery District. Image via Queen City Drinks.

An icon of Cincinnati’s rich brewing history is the lagering tunnel – an underground tunnel used to age lager beers at the cool and constant temperature of “58.6 degrees Fahrenheit provided by 30 to 40 feet of earth.” In past decades, many of lagering tunnels were sealed due to unsafe conditions and disuse. Today, they are being reopened and restored in the new Over-The-Rhine Brewery District. Click through to learn more about the tunnels and how you can get inside them!

[Editor’s note: originally, the brewery district was referred to as a distillery district. Thanks, Tom, for pointing out the mistake! ] 

Urban Change to Believe In – RobertaBrandes Gratz at Huffington Post

“It is time to celebrate urban change, not the old kind of change that Ken Jackson and Ed Glaeser celebrate with new skyscrapers continuously replacing old buildings. That view of change reflects an antiquated notion of what growth is all about. No, it is time to celebrate the new kind of change that manages growth by balancing old and new and recognizes that the new derives its value from existing in the midst of the old.”  Click through for more!

[Ten on Tuesday] How to Preserve African-American Historic Places – PreservationNation

Folks from the Blue Grass Trust and the First African Foundation waiting for the tour to begin.

Folks from the Blue Grass Trust and the First African Foundation in front of the former First African Baptist Church. It was constructed in 1856 when most of its congregation was still enslaved.

“In honor of our country’s recent 50th anniversary of the March on Washington — and in light of this week’s Congressional Black Caucus annual conference with its exciting focus on the many ways preservation can benefit African-American communities — [Tuesday’s] toolkit features tips and case studies to help you save sites of African-American heritage in your community.”  If you missed it, be sure to check out Bricks + Mortar’s post about the First African Baptist Church in Lexington and the struggle to preserve it!

Baltimore’s Three-Part System for Dealing with Vacant Properties– Next City


Image via Next City

“Baltimore is no stranger to blight and urban decay. The city has lost roughly one-third of its total population since 1950, and its 620,000 current residents live among more than 16,000 vacant properties that drag down property values and generate feelings of hopelessness in many struggling neighborhoods.  Reversing blight is no easy undertaking. It requires serious dollars, transparent commitment and reliable data to develop a true vision for revitalization. These three components make up the mission of Baltimore Housing, a dual-agency group comprised of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) and the Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) essentially operating as one cohesive unit.”

deTour: First African Baptist Church

The Blue Grass Trust’s deTours  is a group of young professionals (and the young at heart).  The program provides behind-the-scenes tours of  historic buildings, places, and sites in central Kentucky.   BGT deTours are free and open to the public. They occur on the first Wednesday of every month.

Sunday, HISTPRES shared the story of First African Baptist Church.  Jump on over and check it out!

Below is a photo essay about our visit to the site.  If you are interested in furthering the First African Foundation’s mission to purchase and renovate the church please go to their site to donate or learn more.

the picture

Bricks + Mortar is introducing a new series, the picture. As a photography enthusiast and a preservationist, I have hundreds if not thousands of photos of historic places, landscapes and well… old stuff. And they need a home!  Inspired by other photo series around the blogosphere, I think the picture is just the place for them to live.


This abandoned house in Cadentown is home to groundhog! See him at the edge of the front porch?

The only resident of this abandoned house in Cadentown, an historically black Hamlet in Lexington, Kentucky, is a groundhog. He lives under the front porch. The stand of day lilies suggest a time when this home was loved and maintained. Just around the corner sits a Rosenwald School (in use from 1922-1947). (Unfortunately, the school sits behind the former Cadentown Baptist Church, which blocks the view of the school from the road so I don’t have any photos).

Cadentown was established after the Civil War as a settlement for freed slaves.  In recent years, urban development has encroached upon this once rural district. It is now just a stone’s throw from Hamburg Pavilion, one of Lexington’s largest commercial centers with over 1 million square feet of retail space.  This house sits in the path of a popular shortcut between Hamburg and a traffic-ridden thoroughfare and every time I pass it, I catch myself rubbernecking to see if there are any signs that someone might be rehabbing the property – which is how I happened to notice the house’s newest resident.  I think I’ll call him Caleb the Cadentown Groundhog. What do think?

Do you know any more about this house? About the Cadentown Rosenwald School? About Cadentown itself? Leave a comment!

Nota Bene: I ran across some more photos of this house yesterday. Turns out there are TWO groundhogs living under the front porch. Mr. and Mrs. Caleb Groundhog of Cadentown?

Memorializing Tragedy: MLK and the Lorraine Motel


Image via The National Civil Rights Museum

Forty-five years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee as he stood on the second floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel.

Just days after King’s assassination, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and King’s legacy was cemented. His advocacy and activism not only advanced the Civil Rights Movement in the US, but it influenced civil rights struggles world wide.

The Lorraine Motel and other buildings associated with King’s assassination were purchased in the early 80s and 90s by the Martin Luther King Memorial Foundation, and now house the National Civil Rights Museum.


King was a frequent guest at the Lorraine Motel, one of the few hotels open to African Americans during the 1960s. Image via CommercialAppeal.com

Fortunately, the owner of the Lorraine, Walter Bailey, recognized the significance of the motel to the history of the Civil Rights Movement early on. After the assassination of King, he maintained rooms 306 and 307 (those used by King and his entourage)  as a shrine to the activist’s memory, even as the motel suffered a long and steep decline. When the motel was threatened by foreclosure and demolition, he reached out for help to maintain the property as a civil rights memorial and the Save The Lorraine campaign was born.  A group of concerned citizens formed the Martin Luther King Foundation (later called the Lorraine Civil Rights Museum Foundation).  The Foundation raised enough funds to purchase the motel at auction on the courthouse steps, saving it from sure destruction. Using the design recommendations of a former Smithsonian Institution curator, the Foundation  created the educational facility and memorial site that today is the National Civil Rights Museum.


The historical Lorraine Motel (c. 1925 and 1945) has been beautiful preserved as The National Civil Rights Museum. (The cars in the courtyard are meant to orient visitors to the time period – they were not owned or used by Dr. King).  Image via Julie’s National Parks

The museum complex is comprised of the Lorraine Motel, former Canipe’s Amusement store and rooming house, and the empty lot in between. The properties were an integral part of Dr. King’s assassination investigation. The museum became custodian of the police and evidence files associated with the manhunt, indictment and confession of the assassin of Dr. King in the late 1990s.  Many of the items, including the rifle and fatal bullet, are on display at the museum.

As one might suspect, the use of the motel to memorialize King and the Civil Rights Movement has not been without controversy.  Using the site where the civil rights leader was slain has been called insensitive and morbid. It has also been faulted for causing gentrification surrounding the museum, forcing the traditionally low-income African American population out of their homes – something antithetical to King’s teachings.


This iconic photograph was taken just moments after King was shot. Image via the Washington Post

Despite the controversy, it is difficult to deny that the link between Martin Luther King, Jr., the Lorraine Hotel, and the Civil Rights Movement is strong. No one can forget the iconic image of  King’s prostrate body on the second floor balcony surrounded by a group of people pointing toward the boarding house  – an event that was followed by turmoil and a long, contentious investigation.

What do you think? Is the Lorraine Motel an appropriate site for the National Civil Rights Museum? Is it insensitive or morbid to preserve it for visitors to experience? Or is it a powerful and moving place from which to discuss the Civil Rights Movement in America and one of its most beloved leaders?

The Lorraine Motel is designated an historic site by the Tennessee Historical Commission. More than $3 million people have visited the museum since it opened in 1991.