Gas Station Heritage
Slimp Oil, 604 Carolina
Back in 2008, the National Trust for Historic Preservation held a national contest called “This Place Matters” where people voted on sites that mattered to them – to their history, their identity and their community. As I noted in my blog at the time, the winner was not a grand mansion or a pathbreaking design by a famous architect. Continue Reading
Alfred Giles, Architect
Alfred Giles emigrated to America in the 1870s after studying architecture in his native England. Moving to San Antonio from New York in 1875, he became one of the most prolific and important architects in San Antonio. In 1875 he designed the stunning Second Empire Steves Homestead in the King William District, which is open daily for tours. Continue Reading
Moving Buildings – San Antonio
I am living in an historic building that was moved more than a mile from its original location, from the King William district, the first historic district in Texas.
This is the 1881 Oge carriage house, now located near the Yturri-Edmunds house, which is in its original location near Mission Road. Our San Antonio Conservation Society moved the house here in order to save it. On the same property we also have the Postert House, an 1850 palisado cabin which was similarly moved in order to save it from demolition. In fact, I remember very well in 1985 when San Antonio set a record for moving the largest building that had ever been relocated on wheels, the 1906 Fairmount Hotel. Continue Reading
Places of the Heart Part 1
Where are the people? Why don’t they flock here?
I just read Colin Ellard’s Places of the Heart: The Psychogeography of Everyday Life because I saw a reference to his studies, which measure how buildings and landscapes affect our bodies and minds, our thoughts and emotions. He famously tracked persons’ stress levels as they encountered blank and forbidding urban scenes versus human-scaled and interesting ones. Blank and forbidding facades increase cortisol and stress. Varied and humane ones trigger dopamine. Continue Reading
Alamo Plaza and Modern Archaeology
One of the great things about being in San Antonio is that they have 300+ years of history and a city archaeoligist. My years at Global Heritage Fund brought me into contact with a lot of archaeologists, just at a time in history when the field was being revolutionized by LIDAR, ground-penetrating radar and all sorts of other high-tech options that allowed us to evolve beyond simply digging things up, which is inherently destructive. Here is a blog about LIDAR from a little over a year ago. I also did a lecture at the Pacific Union Club a while back on the latest in archaeological technology, and another blog last year titled Heritage in the Age of Virtual Reconstruction. Continue Reading
San Antonio Conservation
“The entire mix of cultures was their birthright, the soul of their home city, and it was not to be taken away. Their goal became the saving not only of landmarks but of traditions and ambiance and natural features as well, the preservation of no less than San Antonio’s entire cultural and natural environment.”
Lewis F. Fisher, Saving San Antonio, p. 91-92 Continue Reading
Diversity and American History
I took this picture in the United States.
For several years I have been working on a problem: the “Diversity Deficit” in the National Register of Historic Places. 95% or more of our historic sites have as their primary significance the story of a male of European descent. You can see some of this year’s blogs on the topic here and here. Continue Reading
National Historic Preservation Act: Addressing the Diversity Deficit
Two weeks ago I spoke during the meeting of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation regarding the Future of the National Register of Historic Places, which will be 50 years old next year. I detailed some of the shortcomings that have emerged over that time, including a startling “Diversity Deficit.”
Less than 5% of the buildings listed on the National Register evoke the nation’s diverse history – the rest chronicle white men, who are much less than half the country. I also detailed many of the challenges in preservation practice that we inherited from an architect-driven 1960s practice, one that has a tendency to focus too much on the formal.
The photo is one of may favorite examples, from St. Nicholas Avenue in Hamilton Heights, New York, the building lacks architectural integrity. But Ralph Ellison wrote Invisible Man there in 1947, a book more relevant than ever today. The building is authentic but does not have integrity. The problem is not the building but our practice – we adopted the architectural concept of “integrity” in 1966 instead of the international concept of “authenticity.” Continue Reading
World Heritage in Texas!
This is the time of year new World Heritage sites are inscribed by UNESCO. The total number passed 1000 last year, after over 40 years of the program. As I have noted before, the United States has not taken advantage of World Heritage status in many years, partly due to a political funding dispute. Absurdly, the U.S. has refused to pay its UNESCO dues for many years, so even though we can arguably afford to take care of our sites, at World Heritage level, we are deadbeats. Continue Reading
National Preservation Conference Austin
6th Street, Austin
Two weeks ago the National Preservation Conference began in Austin, Texas and I participated in many ways: as a presenter in an Education Session, as a participant on tours, in sessions, as a member of the National Council for Preservation Education (and outgoing Chair Emeritus) and of course as a Trustee. It is a very exciting time to be involved in the National Trust, because we have a new leader, Stephanie Meeks, whom we chose as our President this summer. You don’t have to go any farther than her speech at the Opening Plenary session to realize that there are exciting times ahead in the world of cultural heritage preservation. Continue Reading