For Preservationists, Every Day is Earth Day

Happy Earth Day!

Preserving built heritage is a good thing for many reasons, not least among them the environmental benefits of keeping a building in use. Doing so is not only in keeping with the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mantra, but it also preserves the energy that went into its construction and keeps valuable materials out of landfills.

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As  Carl Elefante famously said, “The greenest building is one that’s already built”.

Adventures in Preservation has been using preservation as a powerful tool for protecting the planet since 2001. Why not join one of our hands-on building conservation projects this year and help keep the Earth a little greener?

 

Posted in AiP Projects, Building Conservation, Education, Environment, Heritage Preservation, Historic Preservation, Volunteer Vacations | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

When a Library Is Reduced to Rubble, and Books Turned into Ash…

Zeina Elcheikh discusses the consequences of war on movable cultural heritage.

“Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen” (Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings). When the German poet Henrich Heine wrote these words in 1823, he did not thought that they would become a prophecy, dreadfully fulfilled when the Nazis launched the burning book’s campaign in 1933: an event followed by atrocities in which people were, indeed, burned. Yet, this incident has been preceded and succeeded by many others though history where not only people, but also books and other movable artifacts have been targeted. Today, the challenges confronting fragile movable heritage in times of conflicts, seem to have a chance of resolution in our digital era.

The Library of Alexandria was one of the largest and most significant libraries in the ancient world. Part of its fame comes from its burning down, which has become ever since a symbol for the destruction of knowledge and culture. Centuries, in 1258, and further to the east, when the Mongols conquered Baghdad under the command of Hulagu, the House of Wisdom and its valuable manuscripts were destroyed; its scholars were also killed. It had been reported by the survivors that the waters of the Tigris had become black from the ink of the books thrown into the river. Over time, this type of destruction has become crueler with the evolution of warfare. The Belgian town of Leuven suffered from mass destruction  in August 1914. In five consecutive days,  the city was demolished and its library was destroyed. In May and June 1933, the book-burning campaign of the Nazis was an attribute of an authoritarian regime to censor an allegedly opposing culture.

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Leuven Library 1914 Wikipedia image

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The Ghana Preservation Link

Sam Baddoo tells us how Gaudi’s masterpiece La Sagrada Familia helped sparked an interest that led to preserving local heritage in his home country of Ghana.

Samuel William Baddoo is the West Africa Representative of the World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations and one of Adventures in Preservation‘s Project Managers. He has been a tourism professional since 1986 and owns The Home Tours Ltd (soon to become The African Journeys Co.Ltd.), which has been licensed by the Ghana Tourism Authority since 1994. Home Tours is a destination management organization that works with group travel to Ghana; Sam serves as the program designer and tour guide or heritage interpreter. His specialty is presenting the slave routes as an educational tour across West Africa, and many of his clients have been U.S. students from schools like Spellman, Tulane, Penn State, Vanderbilt, Agnes Scott College, University of Georgia as well as organizations from different fields.

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Like many people, Sam came to his current field in a roundabout way. He started a career with the biggest insurance company in Ghana. He studied insurance at the Escuela de Seguros de Barcelona in Spain and also studied Hispanics at the Universidad Central in Barcelona, Spain. While in Spain, he, not surprisingly, developed an interest in arts and architecture, particularly especially monumental buildings, that would guide the next stages of his career. Sam had the opportunity to participate for three days in hands-on work at the site of the Holy Family Cathedral designed by Gaudi. From there, his new direction was clear.

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Historic Pubs

The holidays, for me at least, are a time to catch up with friends and family, and to indulge a little bit as well. On raw winter days escaping into a warmly lit pub to meet with friends seems just the thing to do. How about indulging in a little history at the same time? While microbrewing has been on the rise recently, pubs themselves have been around forever.

In writing this post, I struggled to clarify the different between a bar and a pub. I think we all know the difference and expect a specific feeling when entering each. Wikipedia was not much help in distinguishing the two. One website said that pubs serve more food than bars, and that the alcohol selection is limited to beer, wine, and cider. Whatever the differences, a real pub, American, British, or wherever it may be, always has an “old time feel,” even when established recently. There are also those pubs that are truly historic, and for any large city there will certainly be a guide to the most historic pubs and taverns. Something about what a pub is necessitates the feel of a historic building, and there are many to be had. Below are just a few that caught my eye.

In Prague? Check out U Fleku, which has been operating in its location since 1499. With old wood panels, large portions, accordion music, a special house beer (a dark lager, surprisingly), shots of honey-flavored liquor, and communal seating, the pub feels authentic and not at all like an attraction that can seat hundreds.

One of the halls at U Fleku. Photo: ufleku.cz

In London, The Mayflower is supposedly the oldest pub on the Thames, having been opened in 1550 under a different name according to CNN. The pub takes its current name from the famous ship that set sail for the New World right outside the location. Inside, the decor harkens back to the 1500s.

Across the pond in Boston, the Warren Tavern (dating to 1780) claims to have been a favorite spot for both George Washington and Paul Revere.  Though flat-screen TVs have since been added, the interior still shows its Colonial roots.

Inside Warren Tavern. Photo: Warrentavern.com

And with preservation efforts growing worldwide, there are more and more new bars, pubs, and breweries opening in historic buildings. To name just a few, take Cincinnati, for example, where brewery Rhinegeist took over an old bottling plant. And in Pittsburgh, Church Brew Works opened inyou guessed ita converted early 20th-century church. Firehouse Brewing in Rapid City, SD was South Dakota’s first brew pub and has been crafting beer from an old firehouse since 1991. In Hampton, Georgia JailHouse Brewing Company operates from the old city jail.

Is there an interesting or historic pub, brewery, or bar in your town?

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Hope for Gyumri

My name is Armen Hovsepyan, I was born and raised in Gyumri. I received my education both in Gyumri, Armenia and in the US. I returned from the States so that I could use my knowledge in my hometown…

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Armen Hovespyan represents hope for his native Gyumri

Thus began the biographical sketch Armen sent us here at Adventures in Preservation. Armen has been working for several years to bring volunteers to Gyumri to help with building conservation projects. It, like so much else in the country, has taken an extremely long time to bring the project to fruition, but in 2016, there are a host of opportunities to work with Armen and the people of Gyumri.

The city of Gyumri suffers from high unemployment; for youth, the rate is 52%, the second highest in the country. Unemployment is causing both brain drain and migration; there is little on offer. Compounding that issue is a critical housing shortage. More than 25 years after an earthquake devastated the city, a great many people have still not returned to permanent housing.

In addition to his work to protect and preserve Gyumri’s architectural heritage, Armen is working with Gyumri Project Hope, a non-profit organization. Over 25,000 people lost their houses in the 1988 earthquake and through Project Hope Armen is working to raise awareness of the many problems the people of Gyumri are facing. Armen was four months old when the earthquake struck and considers it his “obligation to at least try to improve conditions in Gyumri”.

An extremely hard worker, Armen is also the founder of Travel Gyumri, a tour company  which provides the latest information on Gyumri and Shirak province tours, events, maps and other information for foreign visitors.

Working with EarthWatch was key to raising his awareness and knowledge about Gyumri and what’s known as indigenous Gyumri architecture. The city and province have many endangered monuments. Armen’s goal is to  be able to collect enough funds to be able to rescue at least one of these masterpieces of historic Armenian heritage.

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Highly detailed stonework is just one characteristic of Armenian architecture  Photo Louise Harrell

Armen uses photography as a tool to show the world the real beauty of Armenian architecture, landscape and culture. Currently, he is working on a series of photos that tell the story of Gyumri people who have been living in temporary shelters for 27 years, revealing their everyday struggle of survival. Armen himself is among them, living in what is essentially a container, with no heat to ward off the freezing winter weather. He has high hopes of moving to an apartment in the coming year. He’d love to live in a historic building.

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Hands-on Building Documentation Volunteer Project in Gyumri

 

 

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People Working to Save and Reopen Historic Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis

A guest post by Marvin Stockwell

Mid-South ColiseumThe Mid-South Coliseum, a mid-century modern, 11,200-seat venue built in 1964 and shuttered in 2007, is threatened with possible demolition. A City of Memphis plan proposes razing the building that once held concerts by the likes of Elvis, the Beatles, Frank Sinatra and James Brown, as well as Memphis State basketball games and wrestling matches, such as the famed match between Jerry “the King” Lawler and comic actor Andy Kaufman. Besides the building’s musical provenance, the Coliseum was built as Memphis’ first racially integrated building.

Through the actions of the Coliseum Coalition, a group formed in February of 2015, public opinion on the viability of the building has shifted from skepticism to optimism that the venue might be reopened. On May 23, 2015, the Coliseum Coalition hosted Roundhouse Revival, a daylong “previtalizing” event outside the Coliseum. The event featured basketball, wrestling and all sorts of music… the core activities that shaped the building’s legacy and, to a degree, define Memphis’ wider cultural legacy. The festival drew more than 4,500 people and helped the Coliseum Coalition establish legitimacy and find a wider support for the cause of saving the building.

Public opinion continued to move in the direction of preserving the facility in early June, when charrettes conducted by the National Charrette Institute showed that 85% of those polled favored reopening the building with only 15% favoring demolition. The data captured in the charrettes was given to the national office of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), which conducted its own interviews and issued a recommendation in June that also favored reopening the Mid-South Coliseum and featuring it as an historic anchor inside the surrounding Mid-South Fairgrounds.

The task remaining for the Coliseum Coalition and others who love the building is to hold the City of Memphis accountable, and see to it that the city makes an earnest attempt at following the ULI’s recommendation.

To learn more about how you can help save and reopen the Mid-South Coliseum, visit coliseumcoalition.org or facebook.com/coliseumcoalition.

Posted in Building Conservation, Cultural Heritage, Endangered Heritage, Heritage Preservation, Historic Preservation, Popular Culture | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Summer of Discovery

A guest post by Victoria Falcon, an up-and-coming preservationist who tried her hand at archaeology this summer

With no real plans for the summer, I took to the internet to find an opportunity for hands-on preservation experience and stumbled upon the Adventures in Preservation website  and found their joint project with The Fairfield Foundation. Without thinking about it too much, I signed myself up for both sessions at Fairfield.

Dave Brown, co-founder of The Fairfield Foundation, had contacted all of the participants in advance to let them know that there would be a smaller than average group on site in June but this would allow us each to focus on our interests. I then explained to Dave that I had little knowledge of archaeology, that my main interest was preservation but that I was interested in learning as much as I could. And  learn we did. Throughout the week, if I, or Callie or Kelly showed interest in doing something, we were given the opportunity to do so.

I began my first week at Fairfield, digging through Layer C, the rubble layer outside the house. With no archaeology knowledge I was a bit worried, but with excellent teachers like Dave, Thane and Anna, my concerns soon faded. By Tuesday afternoon, we had removed enough of the rumble to see a fallen wall section that needed to be mapped. Given my interest in technical drawings, I was paired with Colleen, a Fairfield Foundation intern, to map in the fallen wall.

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Documentation work at Fairfield Plantation. Photo: The Fairfield Foundation

Wednesday morning offered a nice break from our digging with a field trip to Colonial Williamsburg to work with Jason Whitehead, head of the colonial brick yard. Not only did we tour the brick yard and receive a full explanation of the brick- and mortar-making process, we were able to jump in and mix clay with our feet.

With everyone in agreement, we chose to forego any additional adventures Wednesday afternoon and head back to Fairfield: the call of the fallen wall segment was too strong to resist. The mapping took the rest of the day and by Thursday we were able to begin removing the bricks from the fallen wall section. By end of the workday on Friday, it was hard not to be impressed by the amount of progress we had made during the week. From a rubble layer that was difficult to work on, to a flat surface that exposed the burn layer from 1897.

Examining the burn layer at Fairfield. Photo: Victoria Falcon

Examining the burn layer at Fairfield. Photo: Victoria Falcon

My second week at Fairfield began with exposing more of the burn layer (Layer D). Working in the burn layer, I found more artifacts in mere minutes than I had found in my entire previous week. After cleaning the burn layer, we moved onto documenting it through drawings and photographs. Given my previous experience documenting the fallen wall section (and my interest in doing so), I teamed up with Emma, a Fairfield intern, and we spent our time carefully mapping out the burn layer in preparation of removing it to expose the 1897 soil.

Following our Wednesday morning spent at Colonial Williamsburg, we took the ferry across the bay to visit Bacon’s Castle in Surry County. Bacon’s Castle is a Jacobean style home, built in 1665. Bacon’s Castle is one of only two standing structures featuring the diagonally set chimneys stacks that Fairfield also featured. To be able to stand and look at a building, that was smaller in size than Fairfield, and marvel at the grandeur, was amazing. We could only imagine how impressive a house Fairfield had been.

Brickwork at Bacon's Castle. Photo: Victoria Falcon

Brickwork and diagonal chimney stacks at Bacon’s Castle. Photo: Victoria Falcon

After a long workday on Thursday, we all agreed that it was worth the short drive to visit Rosewell. Rosewell suffered a fate similar to Fairfield and would burn in 1916. The ruins are Rosewell are much more intact than those of Fairfield and the structure has been preserved to a point in which the standing walls are stable enough that you can venture inside of the home. It had a haunting glory to it that I won’t soon forget.

Victoria Falcon is a senior completing a bachelor’s of fine art in studio art at University of Tennessee at Martin, with an emphasis in art history, and a bachelor’s of science in business management. Upon graduation she plans to attend graduate school to receive in her master’s in preservation. She hopes one day to work for a non-profit organization focusing on preservation.

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2016 Archaeology at Fairfield Sessions

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