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.
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…
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.
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
One Man’s Epic Quest to Visit Every Former Slave Dwelling in the US – 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.”
I had planned to post a re-cap of last evening’s BGT deTour today, but then I received a really special e-mail. It was written by a gentleman who would have been about 14 years old 69 years ago. Simply entitled June 6, 1944, the e-mail detailed his experience in Lexington, Ky on D-Day when he learned 155,000 troops stormed the shores of Normandy.
I remember the morning was cool and cloudy. I was awakened early by the newspaper carriers going up and down the street yelling “Extra, Extra” then some words about the invasion. From then all ears were glued to the radio to hear about the invasion and its progress and the causalities. Most families had some loved one who had been waiting in England for this day. There was no TV so if you wanted to see the warfare, you had to go to the theater and watch the MovieTone news, which played between features.
Families waited for the dreaded telegram telling that their loved one was killed or missing in action, although some mail got through from the front. The mail was censored, photographed to reduce the weight and sent as V-Mail.
I remember there was a detachment of military personnel living in the old Phoenix hotel and they marched to class at UK every morning.
Lexington was wide open and MPs patrolled the streets.
It was a turbulent time and after D-Day, I think everyone worked harder because they felt that the end of the war was in sight. It was a patriotic and unified effort time for the country. I am fortunate to have experienced it.
Sixty-nine years after the fact, his memories are sharp and clear. And they are tied to place. His description brings to mind a busy downtown with paper boys on the corner. Families pacing the floors of their homes waiting for news. Listening. Or sitting in theaters, not for the entertainment, but for the news reels in between films. Young men posted at an old hotel, neat and proud in their uniforms, marching up the hill to the University of Kentuckyeach the morning, wearily returning each afternoon. Waiting, waiting, waiting.
I hope we all take a few minutes to reflect today on the sacrifices of servicemen and their families everywhere. We owe a debt of gratitude to this generation (at home and abroad) beyond anything we can repay, but at least we can honor their memory.
Sorry for the radio silence on Brick + Mortar this week! I’ve started a couple of new exciting projects and getting them off of the ground has been taking up a lot of my time. I’m hoping to get back to a regular schedule next week. Thanks for your patience and, as always, thanks for reading!
Want to Take a Trip to 1940s New York? Step into Mishkin’s Drugs – Scouting New York
“When people think of New York’s classic pharmacies, the Kiehl’s stores, founded in 1851, are usually the first to come to mind. But what I love about Mishkin is that it’s managed to survive without feeling like a museum piece, or worse, a historical gem repurposed with hollow modern flare and minus the wear and tear of decades that is its soul. In other words, take this scene: an old wooden ladder on wheels. A stooped-over hulk of a radiator. A rusting stamp machine. A dirty white-tiled floor. This shouldn’t exist in the 21st century, save for some nostalgic store recreation.”
WWII Lard Washes Ashore – BBC
“Staff at St Cyrus nature reserve said four large, barrel-shaped pieces of lard have appeared on the shore. The fat is believed to have escaped from the wreck of a merchant vessel that was bombed in WW II. Scottish Natural Heritage said the lard was still a brilliant white and smelled ‘good enough to have a fry up with.'” – This has to be one of the weirdest things I’ve ever heard!
“A long-delayed restoration of the Colosseum’s only intact internal passageway has yielded ancient traces of red, black, green and blue frescoes — as well as graffiti and drawings of phallic symbols — indicating that the arena where gladiators fought was far more colorful than previously thought.”
Dr. T.T. Wendell – The Kentucky Historical Society’s blog History Burgoo
“Born in 1877, the son of former slaves, Dr. Wendell hailed from Nashville, Tennessee. Within the same city as his birth, he received both his medical and pharmaceutical degrees from Meharry Medical College. Soon after receiving his degrees, he and his wife, Mary Alice, along with their two children, relocated to Lexington where he set up an office. This move marked the beginning of a long, successful career, as well as a new chapter in Lexington’s African-American Community.”
Three Months by Car – Preservation and Place
Maria from Preservation and Place has begun a new project, Three Months by Car. The blog chronicles the journey of her grandmother and two friends who embarked on a three month long road trip in 1929. The girls, all in their early twenties, traveled 12,353 miles cross country. “They autocamped, stayed in hotels, and occasionally stayed with relatives. Taking $450, they returned home to Bridgeport, CT with 47 cents.” To learn more about these amazing women and the journey they took, check out Three Months by Car!
D 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.
Today’s This Week feature would be incomplete without mentioning Pearl Harbor, which was bombed 73 years ago today. This article is only tangentially related to preservation, but it is a fun read. It provides an interesting glimpse into the lives of WWII pilots and into the military in war time. As I was checking out the photos of these amazing jackets, I couldn’t help but think, “The military let them do that to standard issue clothing!?” They did, and the young men who wore them used the jackets to individualize themselves and to bond as units. These days they are highly valued collectors items.
When the accusation of “Disney-ifying” is thrown out, there are no positive connotations. It means something is false, made up, scrubbed clean. It’s fake and it is phoney. Leave it to Vince Michael to turn the term on its head after his first visit to Disneyland (which is historic itself, he is quick to point out). He casts aside the “morality” of all this fakery and instead praises “imagineers” for their skillful manipulation of nostalgia and architecture and memory. It’s a good read. I promise.
This article was brought to my attention by Preservation and Place it discusses the struggle to build additions/infill in historic districts. Is it better for new construction to look new or to blend in with it’s historic surroundings?
“I think the historic preservation movement is today in the most trouble since the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966. And it’s not just that the tax credits are now on the table for elimination, although that’s where I’ll start this morning, but a whole range of assaults on preservation.” Read this speech, given by Rypkema at the 2012 National Preservation Conference. As always, Rypkema provides insightful analysis and a provocative argument.
“A new, North Carolina-based tour company is offering a novel way to see Route 66 — by renting a classic car for the 2,400-mile trip. Blacktop Candy’s is offering an upgraded 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air, 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, or 1967 Camaro Super Sport for 18-day tours (both eastbound and westbound) from April through September in 2013. The vehicles come with Garmin navigation devices to guide travelers down the Mother Road.” How much fun would this be?! I think I’m going to spend the weekend day dreaming about spending summer vacation on THE road.
“Rome Reborn is an international initiative whose goal is the creation of 3D digital models illustrating the urban development of ancient Rome from the first settlement in the late Bronze Age (ca. 1000 B.C.) to the depopulation of the city in the early Middle Ages (ca. A.D. 550). With the advice of an international Scientific Advisory Committee, the leaders of the project decided that A.D. 320 was the best moment in time to begin the work of modeling. At that time, Rome had reached the peak of its population, and major Christian churches were just beginning to be built. After this date, few new civic buildings were built. Much of what survives of the ancient city dates to this period, making reconstruction less speculative than it must, perforce, be for earlier phases. But having started with A.D. 320, the Rome Reborn team intends to move both backwards and forwards in time until the entire span of time foreseen by our mission has been covered.” How do you think 3-D modeling can help us understand the past? How do you think it can aid in historic preservation?
In Fife, Scotland rather than restore the sites of former surface mines, the city council has elected to approve the creation of a major land art project. Massive landforms will replace the surface mines. Visit Education Scotland for more info on the creation of these massive works of art. Coming from a state that relies heavily on the coal industry, the concept of turning the stripped earth into art is interesting to me. What do you think? Would it be better to follow a more traditional restoration or do you like the idea of public art taking the place of coal mines?
A few weeks ago, my book club met to discuss And If I Perish: Frontline U.S. Army Nurses in World War II. We always choose a food theme to go with our book. Because no one was really interested in eating freeze dried foods from the army surplus store, we chose to make our grandmother’s favorite recipes. (Way more delicious!) When we met, we talked about the book, but our conversation quickly skewed toward our families. Making food for our friends that our grandmothers prepared for our families brought back so many memories. It revived a connection between the present and the past. We also talked a lot about the food itself. Mainly because it was all so tasty, but also because we noticed that the food told us a lot about our grandparents. Several of the recipes shared common ingredients – processed, canned or packaged foods. And some of them were regional dishes. The food squarely set our grandparents in a time and place.
Time and Place
This got me thinking about food and its links to preservation. Preservation is not just about sites or sights – smell and taste and even what you hear can all be an important part of “place.” (Check out Preservation in Pink’s great post on defining place here). Time and place, of course, are a familiar pairing in preservation discussions. We use it to talk about why something is where it is and why it looks the way it does. We also talk about a sense of place when advocating for historic preservation as a means of maintaining the identity of a community.
Food as a Link to Time and Place
Food, on the other hand, isn’t such a common theme in preservation. Food implements are – kitchen gadgets, sets of silver, fine china, etc. are often on display in historic house museums and are used to date historic sites when found by archeologists. These food related items can sometimes tell us a lot about the people who used them – their social status, economic status, cultural background, etc. Food says just as much about us – where we came from, where we are and the whole lot. Some tourist attractions have successfully combined history and food – Shaker Town of Pleasant Hill, Colonial Williamsburg, war reenactments, etc. Restaurants with long histories often advertise authentic regional cuisine to tourists as part of the local experience -you have to eat sour dough at Boudin in San Francisco, a slice of pizza from Lombardi’s in New York, a Kentucky Hot Brown at The Brown in Louisville. Food can be a tangible connection to the past and to a place. Should preservationists give food more thought?
Our Grandmothers’ Recipes
Three dishes that demonstrate the theme of food and heritage stood out to me at our book club meeting. Amanda’s grandmother’s transparent pie, my grandmother’s chicken casserole and Erin’s grandmother’s frozen fruit salad.
Like a pecan pie without the pecans, it is basically flour, butter, and sugar in a pie crust. It is a simple recipe made from pantry staples that tastes amazing. (Although, I would recommend only have a sliver because it incredibly rich!) This recipe was passed down to Amanda in a handwritten cookbook filled with family recipes that her grandmother made for her as gift. This recipe is one that her grandmother brought with her to Lexington from her hometown near Maysville, Kentucky. Maysville’s Magee’s Bakery is famous for its transparent pie (it’s a favorite of Maysville native, George Clooney – rumor has it he has them flown to his movie premiers).
Amanda’s grandmother was a member of the Army Signal Corps and worked in Lexington during the WWII. Her grandfather was in the military and landed in Normandy two days after the invasion.
My grandmother’s chicken casserole is made from a recipe that was probably developed in the 1950s or 1960s. Post WWII recipes are characterized by pre-packaged and processed foods. After the lean war years, companies rolled out all sorts of new time-savers to help the homemaker including new appliances and convenience foods. The main ingredients here are canned cream of mushroom soup and boxed stuffing mix. I realize this sounds disgusting, but the empty dish at the end of book club can attest that it is quite tasty!
I forgot to take a photo of any of the food before we dug in and unfortunately I couldn’t find a photo that resembled my grandmother’s recipe online. But I was able to hunt up some photos of the dishes she used to prepare and serve her chicken casserole. She baked her specialty in a 1970s L’Eschalote Corningware casserole dish and served it on 1970s pyrex dishes. Just as fine china or not so fine china can provide clues to a family’s background at an archeological dig, these kitchen choices are also a clue. Corningware and Pyrex were pretty typical of middle class America in the ’70s.
My grandmother was a homemaker during the war. My grandfather, unable to enlist because of partial deafness, built LST warships in Evansville, IN during the war.
Frozen Fruit Salad
Erin’s grandmother’s frozen fruit salad is another simple recipe – a tub of Cool Whip, a can of pineapple tidbits, and cherry pie filling. Mix and freeze. It’s that simple. It’s also simply scrumptious! Who knew!?
If I had to guess, I would say this recipe was developed some time in the late 1960s (Mad Men fans will remember the Cool Whip pitch from last season – “Just taste it!”) or early ’70s. The processed food trend that began in the 1950s continued through the 60s and 70s.
Erin’s grandparents were still in school during the war, but her grandfather’s older brother died in combat. Erin’s grandmother never lost the thriftiness she learned during the war – she saved and reused everything!
Preparing our grandmother’s recipes not only reconnected us to our pasts and our families’ pasts, but sharing the recipes with each other allowed us to share our grandparents’ stories – stories that probably would not have been shared otherwise. It also brought us back to post-WWII America – the changes in food and culture and even politics.
These recipes connected us to a time and a place and to each other. And for a preservationist, that is food for thought.