A weekly round-up of my favorite preservation related stories from around the web and in the news. Click on the title of each story to jump through to the original article/blog post.
Barns are Painted Red Because of Dying Stars – Smithsonian
“Have you ever noticed that almost every barn you have ever seen is red? There’s a reason for that, and it has to do with the chemistry of dying stars. Seriously. Yonatan Zunger is a Google employee who decided to explain this phenomenon on Google+ recently. The simple answer to why barns are painted red is because red paint is cheap. The cheapest paint there is, in fact. But the reason it’s so cheap? Well, that’s the interesting part.”
Small Versions of Big Box Stores – Preservation in Pink
“Will these stores be considered for historic downtown locations, rather than sprawl? The store in the image above demonstrates that some are a part of the chain store sprawl. And design review doesn’t seem to be in effect in that example. If a Walmart Express (or any similar store) were willing to fit into an existing building block, would you be more favorable to it than if it were simply sprawl? Or do you think that would simply be empowering these big box chains, creating a monopoly, and hurting Main Street and small business owners?”
Art Deco Apartment Lobbies in the Bronx – Scouting New York
A photo log of great Art Deco lobbies in Bronx apartment buildings.
The Last of the Great Chained Libraries – medievalfragments
“What I find so interesting about the chained library is the rather fascinating dichotomy between the idea of ‘locking the books down’ in order to create a free, open, and shared space for an entire community to engage in reading. Despite the slight air of ‘mistrust’ (in a perfect book utopia, chains would not be needed), there is still a strong sense of community that underlines the creation of such libraries.”
“A Mayan pyramid that has stood for 2,300 years in Belize has been reduced to rubble, apparently to make fill for roads. Local media in the Central American country of 334,000 people report the temple at the Noh Mul site in northern Belize was largely torn down by backhoes and bulldozers last week. ‘This is one of the worst that I have seen in my entire 25 years of archaeology in Belize,” John Morris, an archaeologist with the country’s Institute of Archaeology, told local channel 7NewsBelize. “We can’t salvage what has happened out here — it is an incredible display of ignorance.'”
Last night media outlets competed for viewership by illustrating election results in new and appealing ways. There were running tickers, fancy graphics and maps. Every station pulled out all the stops, bells and whistles, but my favorite was CNN who partnered with the Empire State Building to display the electoral tally in the NYC skyline.
The 102 story skyscraper has been a Manhattan landmark for 81 years. Completed in 1931, it was the first building to have more than 100 floors and was the tallest skyscraper in the world until 1972 when it was surpassed in height by the World Trade Center. After 9/11 it was New York’s tallest building until the World Trade Center 1 building’s recent construction. Unlike most NYC skyscrapers, all four sides of the Empire State Building can be seen from the street making it a suburb choice for displaying the election results.
The top 16 floors of the building are tiered or stepped, a shape typical of Art Deco architecture. Its distinctive Art Deco spire was originally designed as a mooring mast and depot for dirigibles. Don’t know what a dirigible is? Neither did I! Dirigibles are airships – as in Zepplins and blimps! The 102nd floor was intended to be used as a landing platform and gangplank for airships to dock. This plan proved to be unsafe and was quickly abandoned. A large broadcast tower was added to the top of the spire in 1953.
For the election, the stepped portion of the building was patriotically lit in red, white, and blue LED lights. The mast was turned into a vertical meter – two sides lit with red lights, two sides lit with blue – to show Romney and Obama’s race to 270 electoral votes.
While this is the first time in its history that the building has been used as a meter, it is not its first brush with presidential history. The building officially opened on May 1, 1931 when President Herbert Hoover turned on the building’s lights by pushing a button in Washington, DC. The following year, tower lights were used atop the building for the first time to signal the victory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt over Hoover.
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.
This month, BGT deTours combined the spookiness of Halloween and Fire Prevention month. We toured the Old Episcopal Burying Ground and Chapel then the nearby Lexington Fire Station #1.
The station was designed by J. Graham Miller and constructed in 1928. It was the first firehouse in Lexington designed for fire trucks rather than horse drawn units. The last horse drawn response in Lexington was in July of 1926, but (being the “horse capital of the world” and all) the FDP seal prominently features a team of horses galloping to the rescue!
Fun Fact: The Lexington Fire Department (LFD) still uses four stations that were originally designed for horse drawn response units (Station #3 ca. 1920, Station #4 ca. 1904 and Station #5 ca. 1905). Horse feed can still be found in the attic of Station #5!
Fire Station #1 opened in 1929. The primary elevation has Art Deco inspired elements including a symmetrical facade, repetitive geometric themes, angular outlines and tapered pylons. It is two stories, three bays and has a porte cochere on each end.
Many interior elements remain intact despite several renovations. The ceiling of the garage is decorative pressed tin. The walls are glazed terracotta. And most exciting, four orignal fire poles remain in situ – two are still used! Two lovely firefighters actually demonstrated the proper technique for sliding down the pole for us much to the crowd’s delight. Our youngest preservationist (age 4) exclaimed, “I wanna do that!” Pretty sure he voiced what all the grown ups were thinking (at the very least, he voiced what this grown up was thinking)!
The station is still heated by an ancient boiler powered by natural gas. The firefighters on duty laughingly told us they have to open the garage bays in the dead of winter to cool off the station – the boiler is either off or on. It is NOT adjustable.
Fire Station #1, known at the time as Central Fire Station, replaced an older facility on Short Street. After the Short Street station closed, a church claimed its large brass bell. Once the Central Fire Station opened, the fire chief at the time demanded that the bell be returned. He burned (no pun intended) some bridges with the minister of the church, but the bell was returned. It has remained at the Central Station/Fire Station #1 ever since.
This post is dedicated to all the firefighters out there who are keeping us safe and especially to my dad, the best fireman who ever was (at least in this girl’s eyes)-and whose 59th birthday would have been today. Happy birthday, Dad!