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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Way-finding in Historic Mount Holly, New Jersey

Mount Holly is a historic community located just 3 miles southeast of the New Jersey Turnpike off of Exit 5. Mount Holly was first settled by Quakers in 1677. Colonel Samuel Griffen established himself on Iron Works Hill during the Revolutionary War. Two thousands Hessians engaged in a three day-long artillery battle, allowing George Washington to cross the Delaware River and win the Battle of Trenton days later. Architect Robert Mills is responsible for helping build a County prison around 1819. As mills and dye-shops shut down after World War II, Mount Holly began to feel the effect. This was offset somewhat by increased employment with Fort Dix and McGuire Air Force Base. Military base downsizing following the Vietnam conflict presented further challenges for Mount Holly.

White Street, south of Washington Street, has an assortment of historic buildings and shops situated on a narrow street with prominent overhead entrance sign. Other way-finding signs are located throughout the community, directing people to sites including County Offices & Courts, the Historic Prison Museum, Mount Holly Library, and the One Room Schoolhouse.

Burlington County College has a facility downtown, occupying space in what appears to be a former bank building.

Mt. Holly's Relief Fire Company No. 1 is the oldest continuously serving volunteer fire company in the United States. Founded on July 11, 1752 as "Britannia" they later changed their name. The original firehouse built in 1752 sits next to the current firehouse built in 1895.

Mount Holly was designated a Main Street community by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. The program has won awards from the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society for landscaping of Fountain Square, and from First Night International for programming events and sculptural exhibits.

Way-finding sign directing visitors to sites in Mount Holly.

Marker designating City Hall & Jail

The present-day Mill St. Hotel and Tavern appears to have been made from joining together of several buildings over time. A rubble stone veneer on the side elevation, has a brick gable directly overhead. The building then appears to have been expanded upwards and to the rear.

"Red Mens Hall Imporium", 1886, has handsome frontispiece and cornice detail.

This metal roof with segmental arch dormer is typical of historic architectural details throughout Mount Holly.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Save America's Treasures 2009 Grant Awardees Announced


Episcopal Church of the Nativity, Huntsville – $432,216
The Church of the Nativity is a pristine example of Ecclesiological Gothic architecture, and one of the most intact examples of the works of noted Ecclesiological architect Frank Wills. It has suffered significant water damage, and with grant assistance the brick will be repointed and the roof will be replaced to ensure the church’s structural integrity.

Kolmakovsky Redoubt Collection, Fairbanks – $75,000
Kolmakovsky Redoubt was the first Russian fort in the interior of Alaska, and this historic collection contains over 5,000 artifacts that represent the 88 years of its occupation. Save America’s Treasures funds will help to preserve the original blockhouse and stabilize the archaeological collections so that their inherent and important research potential will not be lost.

Aline Barnsdall Complex, Los Angeles – $489,000
The Aline Barnsdall Residence, or Hollyhock House, was Frank Lloyd Wright's first commission in Los Angeles and among his premiere designs, but because of the severe damage it sustained in the 1994 earthquake, much of the property is closed to the public. With seismic retrofitting and rehabilitation supported by the Save America’s Treasures program, the building will be accessible to a far greater number of visitors.

Denver Museum of Nature & Science Anthropology Collection, Denver – $324,385
The museum’s anthropology collection touches on many different American themes from works by the painter George Catlin and photographs by Edward Curtis to materials and objects belonging to Lewis & Clark, Sitting Bull and Chief Joseph, as well presidential peace medals of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are among the 56,000-pieces in this collection. Funds will support the preventive conservation of the collection in preparation for it to be moved to a new facility.

District of Columbia
Old Naval Hospital – $150,000
The Old Naval Hospital is a rare example of an intact, purpose-built Civil War-era hospital, which has remained largely unchanged since its construction. Over time it has suffered from inappropriate alterations and deferred maintenance and is currently vacant. The Save America’s Treasures program will support its restoration in anticipation of its use as the Hill Center, a facility for educational enrichment and community life.

Smithsonian Archives of American Art Oral History Collection – $250,000
The Archives of American Art's Oral History Collection is one of the oldest, most significant oral history collections in the country. Nearly 2,000 interviews with artists, art dealers, critics, and collectors chronicle the complexity of the lives of working artists. The grant funds will assist with the digitization of approximately 4,000 recordings, preserving 6,000 hours of sound.

Smithsonian National Anthropological Archives – $323,000
This collection is the nation's principal repository for documentation of Native American languages, conserving the memory of earlier societies and their vocabularies, typologies, myths, and narratives. This Save America’s Treasures grant will help to address the deterioration of these paper documents and the damage caused them by frequent handling through treatment of the originals and the creation of digital surrogates.

Carrère and Hastings Architectural Collection, St. Augustine – $49,562
This Flagler College collection consists of the early architectural drawings and blueprints by John Carrère and Thomas Hastings, who are best known for their design of the New York Public Library. Among these fragile drawings are the blueprints for their first commission, the Hotel Ponce de Leon, which launched their careers. The funds will assist with the preservation of these recently rediscovered records and make them accessible to researchers.

Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta – $200,000
The 48-acre Oakland Cemetery, founded in 1850 during the garden cemetery movement, was one of Atlanta’s first green spaces. A botanical preserve with ancient oaks and magnolias that survived the burning of Atlanta during the Civil War, the cemetery encompasses not only the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers and leading citizens, it also includes important examples of sculpture and architecture. This Save America’s Treasures grant will fund the restoration and preservation of 55 intricate mausolea that have deteriorated due to the passage of time and were damaged by the 2008 tornado.

Kilauea Point Lighthouse, Kauai – $257,713
The Kilauea Point Lighthouse, constructed in 1913 in the Classical Revival style, guided ships navigating the passage to and from Oahu and played a pivotal role in the U.S. Army’s first transpacific flight. Its intact Fresnel lens, one of only seven, is endangered by the corrosion of the cast iron roof and lantern room assembly, both of which will be repaired with grant assistance.

The Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago – $400,000
The Museum of Science and Industry was designed by architect Daniel Burnham as the Palace of Fine Arts for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. It is the only surviving structure from the fair, and has served as the home of the Museum of Science and Industry since 1926. The funds will go towards the restoration and conservation of the masonry supporting the building’s numerous domes, which currently allow water intrusion that threaten the museum’s artifacts.

New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans – $300,000
The museum’s permanent collection, which numbers over 32,000 objects and spans over 5,000 years, escaped Hurricane Katrina almost unscathed. However, the museum’s storage facility was compromised by the storm. Save America’s Treasures assistance will allow the museum to purchase equipment to protect its collection in a new building, insuring against future catastrophes.

Jacob’s Pillow, Becket – $59,000
The collection of Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, one the nation’s premiere presenters of dance, is a repository of dance history with photographs that show the beginnings of modern dance dating from the 1910s and illustrate its diverse evolutions throughout the 20th century. The project will preserve some 10,500 photographs and 500 slides through digitization, allowing greater access.

Faneuil Hall Art Collection, Boston – $200,000
Faneuil Hall, America’s first town meeting hall, has played a crucial role in the political and social life of Americans for almost three centuries. The art collection displayed in the Great Hall reflects this history. It includes 24 paintings, 7 sculptures, 3 functional objects, 5 works of art on paper, 27 pieces of historical furniture, and 59 historical architectural features, all of which will be restored, cleaned, and repaired with funding from Save America’s Treasures.

Frederick Ayer Mansion, Boston – $400,000
Completed in 1901, the Frederick Ayer Mansion stands as the sole surviving example of an intact Louis Comfort Tiffany-designed exterior. This project will stabilize and preserve the building’s magnificent façade, which has deteriorated due to water infiltration and structural stress, through repointing, restoration, and reconstruction.

Old Ship Meeting House, Hingham – $300,000
The Old Ship Meeting House, built in 1681, is the only surviving New England Colonial meeting house in America. For 327 years it has been in continuous use as a building for public assembly and worship. The work to be supported will repair the Meeting House’s unique, exposed timber frame, restore and conserve it exterior envelope and interior finishes, and install new mechanical systems.

Tufts University “This I Believe” Collection, Medford – $58,783
This Save America’s Treasures grant will support the stabilization and preservation of 200 reel-to-reel audio tapes from the radio program “This I Believe,” which was hosted by Edward R. Murrow from 1951 to 1955. Each week, he asked different people to convey the values by which they live; participants ranged from teachers and cab drivers to notable figures like Jackie Robinson and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Hammond-Harwood House, Annapolis – $210,000
The Hammond-Harwood House, constructed at the close of the colonial period, reflects the classical ideals of Georgian England with its pediments, friezes and a strict adherence to the classical orders. Grant funds will help to stabilize the roof framework, which, due to lumber shortages caused by the Revolutionary War, lacks the necessary support, and to replace the roof slate.

Homewood Museum, Baltimore – $186,880
Built in 1801 by Charles Carrol, one of the four Maryland signers of the Declaration of Independence, Homewood is a rare surviving example of the suburban villa building type, which emerged in Baltimore at the beginning of the 19th century for residential summer retreats. This project will address the significant deterioration of Homewood’s identity-defining south portico.

Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress, Saco – $51,940
This 800-foot-long painting presents a continuous narrative of John Bunyan's 1678 allegory “The Pilgrim's Progress.” It was completed in 1851 by artists associated with the National Academy of Design, including Frederick Church, Jasper Cropsey, and Daniel Huntington. With the support of the Save America’s Treasures program, the entire panorama will be treated and a digital version created so that it can be dynamically displayed as it was intended to be seen.

Schooner J. & E. Riggin, Rockland – $300,000
The Schooner J. & E. Riggin, built in 1927, is an iconic symbol of Maine’s Midcoast working waterfront. It is one of only four 1920s oyster dredgers left in the world, and the only one that remains a working vessel. This grant will support the replacement of fastenings, planking, framing, and decking so that the Riggin can continue to educate passengers about North America’s maritime heritage.

Christ Church Lutheran, Minneapolis – $160,000
Christ Church Lutheran, constructed in 1949, was designed by Eliel Saarinen and became one of his most acclaimed works, facilitating the emergence of Modernist religious architecture by demonstrating that it can be spiritually moving, architecturally impactful, and cost-effective. The materials with which it was built are showing the effects of six decades of exposure and erosion. In order to preserve the church’s architectural integrity, the bell tower will be repaired.

New Mexico
San Miguel Chapel, Santa Fe – $200,000
The 300-year-old San Miguel Chapel, part of the country’s oldest continuously inhabited residential neighborhood, is illustrative of the United States’ Spanish colonial and Native American heritage. The whole structure is at risk due water penetration; grant funds will support the repair of the roof supports and drainage system.

New York
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Study, Oval Office and White House Collections, Hyde Park $200,000
The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, opened in June 1941, is our nation's first presidential library, and the only one ever used by a sitting president. Most of the collections have been on exhibit for more than 65 years in harsh environmental conditions. Grant assistance will help to conserve, re-house, reinterpret, and reinstall artifacts ranging from furniture and textiles to prints and paintings.

North Family Great Stone Barn, Mount Lebanon – $400,000
For 150 years, from 1787 to its closing in 1947, Mount Lebanon was the principal Shaker community, and the North Family was its face to the outside world. In 1859 they built the Great Stone Barn, which, at almost 200 feet long and 5 stories high, is the largest stone barn in the western hemisphere. It is now in a state of advanced deterioration and in danger of complete collapse, but with grant assistance from the Save America’s Treasures program, the structure will be stabilized and its masonry conserved.

National September 11 Memorial and Museum, New York – $200,000
The Last Column is one of the most emotionally resonant artifacts of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. During the 9-month rescue, recovery, and clean-up operations, it was transformed into a living memorial and symbol of resilience as writings, photographs, and votive tributes were layered onto its surfaces. Despite its apparent solidity, exposure to harsh sunlight and fluctuating humidity has severely compromised its steel surface and mantle of ephemera. This project will conserve the ensemble features of the Last Column so that it may be placed safely on permanent exhibition.

Paley Center for Media, New York – $104,924
This collection of 500 hours of post-World War II television documentaries produced from 1951 to the early 1980s offer unparalleled coverage of a pivotal era in American history, both sparking and focusing the national dialogue on epochal events from the Cold War to the women’s movement. This grant will support the restoration and transfer of this material to stable digital media, ensuring that this collection is accessible to the public now and in the future.

Raíces Latin Music Collection, New York – $75,000
The Raíces Latin Music Collection comprises the world’s largest and most significant collection of materials pertaining to the Latin music genre known as salsa. Grant funds will support the re-housing of 11,250 recordings, the entire collections of scores and posters, and 55 scrapbooks to ensure their continued availability for, and safe handling by, researchers.

Allan Herschell Company Factory Building, North Tonawonda – $265,000
The Allan Herschell Company was at the forefront of American carousel and amusement ride manufacturing into the 1950s, producing more ride devices than the combined total of all the other competing companies in the United States. Its factory building is one of only two surviving buildings in which hand-carved carousels were produced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These funds will stabilize and support the carving shop’s failing wood trusses and roof trusses and replace the aging sprinkler system so that the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum can continue to preserve and interpret this significant site.

Everson Museum of Art Video Collection, Syracuse – $25,000
The Everson Museum of Art’s art video collection includes rare and original work by Vito Acconci and William Wegman, among others, made between 1968 and 1985. Assistance from the Save America’s Treasures program will go to the treatment and transfer to digital media of 52 reel-to-reel tapes; this will both conserve the media for its long-term preservation and make the collection immediately accessible to Museum staff, scholars, and the public.

Cherokee National Capitol Building, Catoossa – $150,000
Constructed in 1870 in the Cherokee Nation capital city of Tahlequah, the Cherokee National Capitol Building has borne witness to many of the Cherokee Nation’s efforts to reestablish their government and provide services to their citizens following their forced relocation. The building’s roof and foundation has deteriorated due to water infiltration, and grant funds will assist in their repair and in the installation of an appropriate drainage system.

Friendly Association Papers, Haverford – $31,065
The Papers of the Friendly Association for Regaining and Preserving Peace with the Indians by Pacific Measure (1745-1792) at Haverford College are a unique record of an experiment to build peaceful relations between colonists and native peoples at a time of horrific bloodshed on both sides. These documents offer insights into vanished cultures, as well as colonial America that have seen heavy use by scholars and historians and grant funds will assist in the stabilization and digitization of the collection to ensure their future.

Civil War Museum of Philadelphia – $150,000
This collection of personal records, possessions, and memories of the Union officers who founded the museum in the 19th century is one of the finest assemblies of Civil War documents and artifacts in the country. The grant funds will help to conserve and re-house items in urgent need of treatment including manuscripts, photographs, paintings, flags, uniforms, and weapons.

William Still Collection of Papers, Photographs, and Abolitionist Pamphlets,
Philadelphia – $46,770
William Still, one of the most successful black businessmen in Philadelphia’s history, was a prominent and respected leader of Underground Railroad activities in the area and author of The Underground Railroad, the only first-person account of black participation in this freedom movement. His papers, at Temple University, are in a state of severe deterioration. Funds will assist in the conservation and digitization of 140 documents and 14 photographs.

Romare Bearden’s Mural “Pittsburgh Recollections”, Pittsburgh – $100,000
Romare Bearden is regarded as one of the most creative and influential American artists of the 20th century. His ceramic mural “Pittsburgh Recollections”, which references the city’s history and the artist’s experiences there, was commissioned by the Port Authority of Allegheny County for the Gateway Center light rail station in 1984. Grant funds will support the removal, conservation, and reinstallation of the artwork in a reconstructed Gateway Center station.

Puerto Rico
Fortín de San Gerónimo de Boquerón, San Juan – $300,000
In order to defend San Juan from invasion through the shallow bay of Boquerón, the Spanish erected a small battery in 1591 that came to be known as San Gerónimo. It was rebuilt several times throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, playing a major role in the events that shaped the course of history in Puerto Rico. The fort requires immediate intervention to protect it from constant wave attack and the resultant erosion. With grant assistance, the fort will be stabilized and conserved.

Rhode Island
Stanford White Casino Theatre, Newport – $400,000
The Stanford White Casino Theatre, constructed in 1879 as part of McKim, Mead & White’s renowned Newport Casino, is the only extant theater designed by Stanford White. When it opened in 1880, the theater was at the center of Newport's social scene, and notable performers included Will Rogers and Tallulah Bankhead. It has stood vacant for 20 years, but its Shingle Style exterior and ornate interior will be rehabilitated with assistance from the Save America’s Treasures program.

South Carolina
Unitarian Church, Charleston – $200,000
The Unitarian Church in Charleston is the oldest Unitarian Church in the South and the second-oldest church in the City of Charleston. Built before the Revolutionary War, the church survived the Civil War, earthquakes and hurricanes, but ongoing water damage to the plaster, paint, and woodwork of the interior threatens its future. Grant funds will address moisture penetration and help restore these features of the church.

Shelburne Museum, Shelburne – $600,000
The Shelburne Museum, founded in 1947, holds a collection of approximately 150,000 works of folk art, fine art, and Americana from the 17th to 20th centuries and is Vermont’s largest cultural attraction. This grant will support the design and construction of a communications system that will integrate the museum’s fire, security, and environmental control systems, which is crucial for the long-term protection of its artifacts and the safety of its visitors.

Chapel Car 5 Messenger of Peace, Snoqualmie – $180,000
The Chapel Car Messenger of Peace, a wooden rail car built in 1898, traveled the country for 50 years as a mobile church bringing modern evangelism to the frontier and helping to establish churches in numerous communities. With grant assistance, deteriorated structural components, windows, siding and roofing, and other features will be repaired and replaced, restoring the Chapel Car to its 1920 appearance.

American System-Built Home, Model, Milwaukee – $393,762
The six American System-Built Homes on West Burnham Street in Milwaukee are the only concentration of Frank Lloyd Wright homes still standing and existing in harmony with each other. Wright designed the houses to be affordable for moderate to low-income families by providing a kit of precut lumber with which to assemble the homes. Flat C has suffered from decades of neglect and abuse, and parts of its foundation are failing. This project will stabilize and restore Flat C to its appearance upon its completion in 1916.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Richard Charlton Coffeehouse Reconstruction, Williamsburg, Virginia

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Colonial Williamsburg has a well-established international reputation for their high-quality restoration projects. Among the least frequently used "treatments" when it comes to historic preservation is Reconstruction. The Secretary of the Interior defines Reconstruction as follows: "Reconstruction is defined as the act or process of depicting, by means of new construction, the form, features, and detailing of a non-surviving site, landscape, building, structure, or object for the purpose of replicating its appearance at a specific period of time and in its historic location.".

Given that Colonial Williamsburg has the quality of a living history museum, conducting a reconstruction project in the heart of the village requires special efforts to describe what is happening to visitors. Staff and interpreters and even the construction crew did not lose out on a valuable teaching opportunity.

One interpretive panel describes how Richard Charlton, a wigmaker by trade, operated a coffee house here during the mid 1760s. This was a popular meeting place for merchants, burgesses, and other officials on public business. In October 1765, Governor Francis Fauquier faced down an angry crowd protesting the introduction of the Stamp Act into Virginia from the front porch. Charlton continued to operated the business at this location until 1771, though after 1767 it was referred to as Charlton's Tavern. Among many famous patrons included George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

In 1995 the Cary Peyton Armistead House that had stood at this location for nearly 100 years was moved to a new location on Henry Street. Research that preceded and followed showed three of the four foundation walls for that building dated to ca. 1750 indicating they had supported not only the Victorian House but the coffeehouse as well. The Victorian building also had original rafters, one window, and a door that were used to help researchers understand how the coffeehouse may have looked.

Archaeological investigations between 1995 and 1998 identified the location of the front porch and a 10-foot-square dairy on the northeast of the main foundations. In the yard to the rear a midden (or trash pit) was discovered from which archaeologists recovered more than 70,000 artifacts. These have provided invaluable evidence of daily operations relating to the service of tea, coffee, chocolate, wine and spirits, and meals.

Another panel describing the construction process describes how the reconstruction was begun in September 2008 by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Framing erected in December 2008 and January 2009 was made by Colonial Williamsburg's Historic Trades carpenters at Great Hopes Plantation using period materials, techniques, and details. A construction schedule the described work as it was to occur through January. This work was supported by a generous $5 million gift from Forrest and Deborah Mars. The Mars family have been prominent supporters of the foundation for over 25 years.

Charlton's Coffeehouse gained added distinction thanks to the Richard Charlton's Coffeehouse Blog and webcam documenting the reconstruction process. The Associate Digital Content Specialist Joshua Muse in reflecting on the project wrote, "Though we had planned an online aspect for the project all along, we were still amazed by the level of interest shown in the webcam and blog updates."

The Richard Charlton Coffeehouse was formally opened on November 20th, 2009. Comments were offered on the project's history and goals by Forrest E. Mars, Chairman of the Foundation Board of Trustees Richard G. Tilghman, and Foundation President Colin Campbell. A performance of the Stamp Act Riot scene, demonstrations of Historic Trades, and an appearance by the Colonial Williamsburg Fife & Drums also took place.

An article from the Washington Post, "Brewing new sense of Colonial Relevance", published a day before the official dedication, places the Charlton Coffeehouse in context of an agenda to transform Colonial Williamsburg into a large-scale theater piece, "Revolutionary City," as part of a plan to "regain relevance, recapture audiences and reinvent the telling of history in a more distracted, disengaged and uneducated era."

The Post article goes on to refer to Robert Putnam's 1995 book Bowling Alone, which documents a decline in civic participation and social engagement. Choosing the coffeehouse as the first major reconstruction in the narrative-driven era of Williamsburg was seen as fitting. This was after all a place where our Colonial forebears committed their own acts of civic participation.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Lasers and Landmarks

We were fortunate to read a recent article in the NYT about efforts of experts from the Glasgow School of Art to use lasers to make 3D models of landmarks. The system works as follows, a laser mounted to a box scans surfaces of structures and objects, and created a 3D "cloud" of data. These billions of bits of digital information can then be reconstituted into 3D models.

One upcoming project being funded by the National Parks Service, is an effort to scan Mount Rushmore. As an aside, many experts have recognized how it is only a matter of time until this quintessential Amemrican landmark succumbs to the twin ravages of weather and time. By scanning it now, however, we will always have a record of how it once appeared.

What really stood out in this article, was not the article itself so much, but a quote accompanying slides of screen captures from several different models. One of these slides had this quote as follows: "The new cutting edge of laser technology offers a means to preserve and restore whole cities exactly as they once were. It promises a world kept as if in amber."

Never was it the intention of preservationists to preserve everything in situ or to restore everything back to a fixed time. This is likely not the intention of preservationists, archeologists, and others involved in the scanning. Where this work introduces some intriguing possibilities is in the area of how we go about interpreting and visually presenting what no longer exists. Rather than holding on to every building, or removing buildings not conforming to a period of other buildings in an area, the 3D models when superimposed over present physical fabric of a place could help create the illusion of places as they once were. One opportunity this raises is instead of creating costly reproductions or replicas of what has been lost, technology allows us to recreate places and spatial relationships as they existed at far less cost.

One of the leading firms doing work like this on the state-side is Cyark. This non-profit has a fairly ambitious agenda to document heritage sites in danger of being lost. A more detailed description of their methodology and in-depth treatment of their projects is available here: http://archive.cyark.org/about. This work presents some interesting possibilities though may have some pitfalls.

What if a standard arises where if we have suitable digital models, that people feel it is no longer to retain physical places that are obsolete, older buildings that are in the way of so-called "progress", etc.? Ethics which guide preservation and archeological practice today, will likely need to be applied to the burgeoning field of digital documentation. Still, the promise and potential does appear to outweigh the challenges. The real tipping point with work like this will occur like the revolution in the digital photography field - innovations in technology increased performances while pressing prices down. Once this happens, it is certain that the virtual representations of actual places will gain greater acceptance and appreciation in the culture-at-large.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Justice Court Building, Glen Cove, New York

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The Justice Court Building at 146 Glen St in Glen Cove, New York, was also once known City Hall and Police Headquarters. Built in 1908, this building replaced a previous building that had served a similar function on the same site since at least the 1890's. The replacement building went through a number of uses, growing and evolving just as Glen Cove did.

The original "Justice Court" building on this site is shown in the June 1893 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map. This building was two stories with a porch built out to the street edge. A one-story "Jail" was located to the rear at this time. The only change by the time of the March 1902 Sanborn map is that the jail to the rear appears to have been replaced and expanded upon with a one-story addition spanning the full width of the back of the building.

1893 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map

By the December 1908, the old "Justice Court" was removed and a new "Justice Court Building is shown on the map with the notation "(Being Built)" alongside the former building which had apparently been mvoed to the east. The new building was two-stories tall, clad in brick, and with a one-story extension to the rear titled "Jail".

The old Justice Court building is entirely removed by 1915 while the replacement building from 1908 is left standing. The building to the west at 714 Glen Street was the Women's Exchange at this time. This organization would play an important role in civic and social affairs, thus its close proximity to the Justice Court Building is telling.

1908 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map

1947 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map

By the August 1925 Sanborn the once "Justice Court Building" was titled "City Hall" with an active "Jail" apparently still in use to the rear. An expansion to the jail appears to have occurred between the 1925 and 1931 Sanborn maps. Finally, by the time of the October 1947 map the building was labeled as "(Old City Hall)", with this apparently having been moved. The Police Headquarters an City Court by this time were located in this building.

Today an exciting project is underway to rehabilitate this historic building and make it home for the North Shore Historical Museum.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Big Picture Rochester, Rochester, New York

Among the more exciting urban-area photo installation projects is Big Picture Rochester, based in Rochester, New York. An original grant of $65,000 from a downtown enhancement fund allowed for printing and installing the initial images.

The originator of the project was Ken Sato, a student at Monroe Community College studying public administration. The international headquarters of the Xerox corporation in downtown Rochester opened some interesting partnership opportunities. Rochester has identified itself as the "Image Capital of the World" thanks to the presence of major imaging companies like Kodak and Xerox. This project hoped to build on that reputation by making the world's largest outdoor photo gallery.

In 2009 the exhibition, Downtown: The Way It Was, coincided with celebration of Rochester's 175th birthday, and featured photo installations at a number of high-visibility locations downtown. A map and walking tour was also developed, encouraging people to walk through the downtown district.

As a freestanding initiative this invites some interesting questions. In the case where art is installed in windows of vacant or underutilized buildings is this the highest and best use? What are the sources of the obsolescence and abandonment and is this an appropriate response? And does this limit in any way the future redevelopment potential of the city center?

When taken together with the VisitRochester campaign, an attractive downtown visitors center, and wayfinding signage initiative, these are all positive steps in the efforts for Rochester to reinvent itself. Rochester and the work of the Big Picture project provide an interesting example for other downtown areas to follow.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Art on Call, Georgetown, District of Columbia

Georgetown's Call Box restoration project is part of a city-wide effort to rescue the District's abandoned fire and police call boxes. This project has identified more than 800 boxes for restoration citywide. Neighborhood by neighborhood, they are now being put to new use as permanent displays of local art, history and culture.

Fire alarm boxes were originally painted red and installed in the District after the Civil War. In most boxes, the alarm was activated by opening a door on the front of the box and pulling a lever. An automatic telegraph system transmitted the box number to a central office that directed the closest fire station to dispatch a fire truck to the vicinity of the call box. The system began to decline in the 1960s with the advent of two-way car radios and walkie-talkies. The alarms were finally turned off in the 1970s and replaced with today's 911 emergency system.

Art on Call is a project of Cultural Tourism DC with support from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, DC Creates Public Art Program, District Department of Transportation, Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Development.

Industrial Georgetown Interpretive Sign, Georgetown, District of Columbia

The interpretive sign titled "An Industrial Georgetown" is a relatively rare example of interpretation of industrial areas placed in a publicly accessible location. The plaque is located within the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park. Established in 1751, Georgetown flourished as a tobacco port until the mid-19th century. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was begun in Georgetown as an alternative to the Potomac River with its natural obstructions. Eventually the 184.5 mile canal reached as far as Western Maryland. Today canal boats pulled by mules take people through the old warehouse district of Georgetown. The National Parks Service officers walking tours throughout the summer months on the weekends.

Text from the sign follows:
An Industrial Georgetown

If you could have walked along the towpath here in the 19th and early 20th century, your senses would have been overwhelmed by industrial pollution. The dust from coal being unloaded from canal boats fogged the air. The stench of animal fat being mixed with lye at Hoffmyer's Tannery and Soap Factory would have overpowered you. The groan of water wheels powering flour, grist, and paper mills would have been thunderous. A noisy, dusty, and sometimes dangerous place, the canal brought new goods such as coal, grain, wood, and stone to fuel Georgetown's bustling manufacturing district.

Today the evidence of Georgetown's industrial past is found in the architecture of buildings along the canal. Evidence of water outlets, bricked up chutes, smokestacks, and block and tackle still remain on many buildings. Reborn as offices, homes, and shops, the warehouses and mills of yesterday testify to Georgetown's humble beginnings and early struggle for prosperity.

Caption: View from the Aqueduct Bridge looking east in 1906. The Washington Monument is barely visible above the roofline on the far right.
Georgetown is also fortunate to have a business improvement district founded in 1999 by property owners and merchants. A description of their work from the Georgetown BID website follows:
From marketing and special events, to transportation and streetscape, the Georgetown BID contributes to the vitality and quality of life in Georgetown. Governed by a Board of Directors elected by its membership of approximately 1,000 businesses, the Georgetown BID is proud of the role it has played in the ongoing evolution as an exceptional shopping, dining and visitor destination.

Cady's Alley, Georgetown, District of Columbia

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Cady's Alley in Georgetown, District of Columbia, very easily could claim the title of being one of the prettiest alleys in America. The alley has almost always been relegated to purely utilitarian functions. Fact of the matter is that alleys too can inspire aesthetic delight.

Perhaps the reason for this high-quality design is an effort to promote Cady's Alley as Georgetown's Design District. The combination of locally-owned home furnishing and high-end antique stores have helped to set this area apart. These are now being complemented by national furnishing retailers hawking their own unique aesthetic.

This effect was accomplished through utilizing a number of strategies. Most notably this alley uses high-quality architectural surfaces from building edge to building edge. While there are buildings of varying scales from high one store buildings up to multiple story buildings these are well placed with respect to one another and create visual interest. Building surfaces in some areas pick up on paving materials used in other areas, such as the use of large stone blocks. Efforts are made to provide high quality signage and lighting throughout this area, though not of a uniform quality. Finally, using stone and concrete in the center with brick to either side, creates the sense of being on a track, and helps to pull people through the area.

Of course we would be remiss to not mention the visually gripping bicycle shop at the east entrance of Cady's Alley. Painted a bright yellow color with universally recognized symbol of bicycles painted upon it, there is not mistaking the purpose of the business. By standing out in the urban environment it helps to anchor the alley, and mark either the beginning or ending depending on the direct people are coming from.

Cady's Alley has such attractive power that there is a pedestrian walkway and entrance off of the heavily trafficked "M St NW" to the north.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

After School Matters Bench Project, Chicago, Illinois

During our travels we ran across this inspiring bench project in Chicago. Several benches were hand-painted and sculpted by teenagers in gallery37, a program of After School Matters, which employs teenagers both during the summer and after school, working with professional artists, teens created unique pieces of art while also learning valuable job skills. These were subsequently installed at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. This is just one of several enhancements to this airport that made this a wonderful airport to visit. More information about the program and artwork available for purchase is at www.afterschoolmatters.org.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

New Haven Landmark Marker Program, New Haven, Connecticut

Many communities have their own local register of historic places, and some even have markers to show these places off. New Haven is fortunate to have The New Haven Preservation Trust that is responsible for placing bronze plaques on designated buildings. The design is fairly straightforward and a simple elliptical shape with a symbol in the center and the text "A New Haven Landmark" above in larger letters, and "The New Haven Preservation Trust" below in smaller letters. There are two bulls eye shaped mounts where the plaque is affixed to the building.

Unfortunately when visiting the NHPT website there is no easily accessible information about the marker program. Reading into it somewhat, it could be this program is either not advertised or is being phased out. Some communities have found Wikipedia to be an effective and free tool to organize data about historic properties designated at the local and federal levels. One such example is the List of Town of Oyster Bay Landmarks.

The Historic New Haven Digital Collection through Yale University, provides a unique assortment of images, maps and data sorted by neighborhood. This has some interesting potential to help make research materials broadly available. Combining materials from this collection with information about landmarked properties might have some real potential.

Lastly, while identification plaques are helpful, increasingly people are looking for more interpretive information. Having a number keyed to each location that corresponds with a website, audio tour, printed guide, cell phone tour, or some combination of the above would help to make more interpretive material more available. Doing so would help to create a stronger connection between the public and landmark buildings that groups like the New Haven Preservation Trust are seeking to protect.

Visitor Information Center, New Haven, Connecticut

New Haven has a handsome Visitor Center at a high-visibility downtown location. The center is located at 1000 Chapel Street adjacent to the New Haven Green and notable buildings of Yale University. On this same street just a block away is the Yale Center for British Art, and a number of other cultural attractions, shops, and restaurants.

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Most of the success of this center is its corner location. The center is clearly marked with custom-made projecting signs, neon flush mounted signs, and decals applied to the windows. Efforts to harmonize the center with the historic building it is located in while keeping a contemporary and modern feel are also notable.

The center appears to be supported by the sale of memorabilia and tickets to attractions and special events. Whether the center is open or closed the handsome downtown area map is enlarged and always on display. Use of the question mark symbol helps to immediately establish for people this is a good place to go to have their questions answered. Hours of operation are Monday to Thursday from 10am to 9pm, Friday and Saturday from 10am to 10pm, and Sunday from noon to 5pm.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Stamford Town Center Jazz on the Plaza, Stamford, Connecticut

As most visitors to Stamford, Connecticut might attest, this is a city and downtown in search of its center and whose history is not immediately apparent. Founded in the 17th century, very few relics from the colonial era and 18th and 19th century heritage are present.

This issue is put into stark contrast by a New York Times article from May 1988 entitled "A Town Sells Off Pieces of Its Soul". In it the author states a wave of redevelopment projects and lamented somewhat nostalgically:
When the city sold that small piece of its past, allowed parking lots to be built on playgrounds and permitted Park Manor to become just another office building, Stamford lost something dearer than jobs. Little by little, the town had sold off pieces of its soul, something that may take decades to find again.

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Ironically, the same modernizing forces which made Stamford an important corporate center for Connecticut made it a less vibrant retail destination for the major downtown mall. Stamford saw itself challenged by nearby Greenwich, Connecticut's downtown shopping district and newer malls in White Plains. In response, the mall owner Taubman Center redeveloped the former Filene's anchor and added pedestrian-friendly retail space. In November 2007, the Stamford Town Center opened with four new restaurants and an outdoor space for public gatherings.

Recognizing the important role of events to attract crowds, the "Jazz on the Plaza" concert series was started, sponsored by the US Open Tennis Championship, Altria Senior Living, a local State Farm Insurance agent, and the local 96.7FM radio station. A tent was erected in the Plaza with a sign promoting the series. While this is hardly the full answer to the question of what Stamford needs, it is at least a hopeful step forward, even if in design and programing it borrows from more successful downtown areas like Greenwich which it ostensibly is competing with.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ford Orientation Center and Donald W. Reynolds Museum

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A number of new attractions have been added beyond the well-preserved house and gardens of George Washington's home at Mt. Vernon. Opening in 2006, this enhance the visitor experience by providing interpretation of the grounds and site.

Upon arriving visitors are guided into the Orientation Center. In the lobby is a miniature model of Mt. Vernon, life size-bronze sculptures by StudioEIS in Brooklyn, and ca. 1950 stained glass windows depicting Washington. This spacious entrance hall leads to the theater. There a 20-minute movie, We Fight to Be Free, provides an action-oriented re-enactment from the Revolutionary War. Taking on an epic quality, this movie helps to set the tone and create dramatic tone as people prepare to visit the site.

From the theater guests are encouraged to walk through the grounds and visit the house at regularly scheduled tour times.

The Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center is positioned to greet guests on their way out. An accomplishment in and of itself, this building has a sweeping staircase that descends to the ground floor where exhibits are on display. An impressive list of donors is prominently on display along the wall facing the stairs. The Museum was made possible by a $24 million donation by the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.

The building also served as a long-delayed presidential library for Washington. Franklin Roosevelt was the first to have a presidential library that was built from 1939-40 on 16 acres of land at Hyde Park. This would later serve as a precedent for the Presidential Libraries Act in 1955 that regularized procedures for privately built and federally maintained libraries to preserve the papers of future Presidents.

Once visitors make it to the museum itself some highlights include Washington's wooden teeth, paintings, and other interactive interpretive displays on Mt. Vernon and Washington's life.

A long glass enclosed walkway connects the Museum and Education Center to The Shops, the Mount Vernon Inn, and a new Food Court. As visitors pass out of the walkway and prepare to exit the site they are greeted by a rendering of the house and grounds. Approximate size of this is 20 feet long by 16 feet wide, prominently showing The Mansion, outbuildings, and gardens.

An article in NYT review from 2006 neatly summarized the facility building effort and attempts to incorporate it into the overall site.

In 2009 Mount Vernon was officially nominated to the World Heritage List. A final decision is to be rendered in 2010. Such a designation would be a feather in the cap for an exceptional organization and the historic site they manage.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

34th Street District Way-finding, New York City, New York

The 34th Street Partnership began in 1992 as a plan to clean up the district, but expanded its services to planning and design. 34th street had been filthy with piles of garbage on the street. The Next American City magazine quoted Daniel Biederman, president of the BID, on improvements made: "Literally overnight, the garbage disappeared once the BID began its services." Subsequent efforts included improving streetscape aesthetics by standardizing the design of newspaper stands, street lamps, planters, and way-finding signage.

Way-finding signs are located on the South corner of Herald Square, across the street from Macy's flagship store to the west. Three panels feature "Things to See and Do," "Herald Square" and the "34th Street District". Text is presented in English, Spanish, French, German, and Japanese. Bold colorful images of different attractions are highlighted. These include 1) CUNY Graduate Center, NYPL, 2) Macy's, 3) The Manhattan Mall, 4) Empire State Building, 5) Herald Square and Greeley Square Parks, 6) Pennsylvania Station, 7) Madison Square Garden, and 8) Visitor's Assistance and Information.

The central panel has a detailed map of the district with estimated walking time to different places shown in several concentric circles. A directory accompanies this keyed to the map and featuring Retail, Restaurants, Service, Attractions/Entertainment, Parks, Hotels, Banks, Education, Government, and Religious institutions. These are color coded and clearly displayed on the map.

Finally, a panel shows the 34th Street District in the context of New York City and the greater Midtown area. This shows portions of the district from the previous map, but also names of nearby neighborhoods including Chelsea to the south, the Garment District, Theater District, Times Square, Midtown, and Murray Hill to the north. Central Park is also shown on the northern edge of the map, as are a number of other parks in the area.

These three panels are coordinated with separate directional signs displayed above showing the "East Side" and "West Side" as well as street name signs, all using consistent font and colors, to coordinate well with the way-finding signs.

Another way-finding station in the Madison Square Garden area

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Knitta Please, Brooklyn, New York

Knitting graffiti in Austin, Texas. Photo from Author, 2012.
Montague Street Business Improvement District worked with Knitta Please to install "knit grafitti" throughout their district. Installations have been done by Knitta Please as far away as the Great Wall of China and a bus in Mexico. They were asked to help organize a public event where participants knitted coverings for 69 parking meters throughout the district. Costs for each post were about $3 each. This project is documented on the Knitta Please website.

According to a website by Magda Sayeg, founder of Knitta Please, "The simple juxtaposition of this woven material placed within an urban environment has inspired a new generation of knitters who no longer view function as the sole purpose for knitting. This new approach to knitting questions the assumptions of a traditional craft while adding a previously unused material to the world of street art."

Work of this organization was featured in a presentation by Kennedy Smith of CLUE Group at the National Main Street Center Annual Conference on March 3, 2009, in Chicago, Illinois. Smith's presentation on "Interactive Streets" focused on this and other projects like it that provide "unprecedented opportunities to animate downtown and neighborhood streets."

Kennedy concluded the presentation with five suggestions:
  1. Record people telling stories. project them on a wall. do at Christmas, tell stories of favorite memories about Christmas, graduation, in conjunction with other events. Teach people about community through stories that are told.
  2. Stage an event in a storefront window.
  3. Tag significant places in your district with markers keyed to a website or blog.
  4. Embed a game board in a sidewalk like hop scotch.
  5. Create cellphone activated triggers for something in a storefront window.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Baltimore Heritage Walk, Baltimore, Maryland

The Baltimore Heritage Walk is a heritage trail that links together twenty historic sites and museums in Baltimore, Maryland. The trail is 3.2 miles long. The trail is marked at various places by brass markers inset in the sidewalk, and in several languages including English, Irish Gaelic, and Hebrew. These translations give the walk a nice international flair and enhance accessibility, while also serving to limit repetition of the same "Heritage Walk" phrase across the entire route.

Sites included on the walk include:
  1. U.S.S. Constellation Museum, Pier 1, East Pratt Street
  2. World Trade Center / Top of the World, 401 East Pratt Street
  3. Baltimore Maritime Museum, Pier 3, East Pratt Street
  4. Baltimore Public Works Museum, 751 Eastern Avenue
  5. President Street Station, 601 President Street
  6. Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, 844 East Pratt Street
  7. Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History & Culture, 830 East Pratt Street
  8. Carroll Mansion, 800 East Lombard Street
  9. Jewish Museum of Maryland, 15 Lloyd Street
  10. McKim Free School, 1120 East Baltimore Street
  11. Old Town Friends' Meetinghouse, 1201 East Fayette Street
  12. Nine North Front Street
  13. Phoenix Shot Tower, Fayette and Front Streets
  14. St. Vincent de Paul Church, 120 North Front Street
  15. War Memorial Plaza, Fayette and Gay Streets
  16. Zion Church of the City of Baltimore, 400 East Lexington Street
  17. Peale Museum, 225 North Holliday Street
  18. City Hall, 100 Holliday Street
  19. Battle Monument, Calvert and Fayette Streets
  20. Alex. Brown Building, 135 East Baltimore Street
In addition to the Heritage Walk there is also a Heritage Pass. Each pass provides one free admission to several attractions. A discount is also provided at several neighborhood restaurants.

Free guided tours leave from the Inner Harbor Visitor Center April 1 - October 31, 2009. Self-guided tours are also encouraged, with Heritage Walk booklets that can be purchased by mail or at one of several historic sites on the walk.

The Heritage Walk is a project of Historic Jonestown, Inc. This not-for-profit consortium of cultural institution, community groups, and businesses. Their mission is "to promote the many historic and cultural sites of Jonestown and the surrounding area by creating an environment that attracts visitors and benefits local residents, businesses and institutions."

Irish Gaelic phrase literally meaning "native way"