A San Antonio surprise

November 4, 2017 Historic Districts, Texas, Vision and Style Comments (1) 228

So here is the photo I posted on my first day at work nearly a year and a half ago.

This is the main office of the San Antonio Conservation Society, and has been so since 1974, when the organization was already 50 years old.  It is the Anton Wulff House, built in 1870 and described as Italianate style.  This is reasonable since it has that Tuscan tower, those paired windows and doors and other hallmarks of the most popular style in America from 1850 to 1880.

After the tower and the main front-facing gabled mass, there is a half-gable mass that almost reads like an addition, but everyone assured me the building was built this way.

Maybe it is the nature of the slightly irregular limestone blocks, but that last mass (which contains my office) seemed less designed, reflective perhaps of the isolated and emergent city some seven years before the railroad arrived.

What did seem clear was a complete absence of any influence from Anton Wulff’s home country, Germany, and specifically the Alsace region adjacent to France.  Alsatians had clearly brought European architecture to nearby Castroville at the same time.

Huth House, Castroville, 1846.

But I was wrong because I did not have an encyclopedic knowledge of early 19th century high style European architecture.  If I had, I would have recognized a homage to the MOST famous German architect of the 19th century, Friedrich Schinkel, he of the Altes Museum.  In 1829, Schinkel designed the Römische Bäder, an expressionistic complex at Potsdam for the romantic Prussian Friedrich Wilhelm IV.  This is what it looked like:

Credit for this discovery goes to Michael Guarino, who left me a stack of images of the structure.  All of a sudden the Wulff House had a fairly grand legacy, and that half-gabled section made sense for the first time.

 

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Evidence and Storytelling

October 26, 2017 Blog, History, Interpretation Comments (0) 169

I wrote a blog inspired by Don Rypkema’s presentation at the Living Heritage Symposium in September.  Here is one inspired by Donna Graves at the same event, who urged the audience to embrace storytelling.  This is why we save places, because of the stories they tell.

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What Are You Reading This?

October 9, 2017 Blog, Technology, Vision and Style Comments (0) 186

“We live today in the Age of Information and Communication because electric media instantly and constantly create a total field of interacting events in which all men (sic) participate.”  – Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964.

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Buildings For The Future

October 4, 2017 Economics, Sustainability, Technology Comments (0) 346

My favorite quote from Donovan Rypkema during our Living Heritage Symposium last month was a marvelously simple recitation about why saving old buildings is economically brilliant.  He said simply:  “You can’t build new and rent cheap.”

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Conservation of Living Heritage

September 1, 2017 Intangible Heritage, Texas Comments (0) 379

The San Antonio Conservation Society was at the cutting edge of heritage conservation in 1924, focusing not only on buildings but the cultural landscape, including “customs” that we now call intangible heritage.  This week, San Antonio remains at the cutting edge of the heritage conservation field.

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The Construction of Nature

August 19, 2017 History, Interpretation, Technology, Vision and Style Comments (1) 607

Over the dozen years of this blog I have sprinkled in historical facts about how old certain ideas and institutions are. This is because these things are so fundamental to our way of seeing and interacting with the world that we assume them to be eternal, not a few decades or a couple centuries old.

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A dozen years and counting

August 1, 2017 Historic Districts, House Museums, House Museums, Interpretation, Texas Comments (0) 151

Twelve years and 502 blogs ago, I began “Time Tells” – my little blog about heritage conservation, architecture, planning, technology and economics.  I have moved three times in those dozen years and now live in San Antonio, one of the pioneering preservation places in the United States.

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HemisFair at 50

July 12, 2017 Texas, Vision and Style Comments (0) 319

San Antonio is gearing up for its Tricentennial next year, but there is another important milestone as well.  Continue Reading

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My Favorite World Heritage Sites Vol. 4.

June 28, 2017 Global Heritage Comments (0) 394

So, more favorite World Heritage sites I have visited.  And before you get too jealous, look at some of the places I have NEVER been and think how many World Heritage sites are there:

Egypt

Greece

Turkey

Denmark

Belgium

Brazil

Almost all of Africa and the Middle East

I still kick myself that I didn’t make it to Borobodur in ’86, and I was only 90 minutes (but no car) away from the most excellently named World Heritage Site of all in 2015:

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.  That’s in Alberta, Canada and it was inscribed way back in 1981.

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