Commercial and Interpretive

November 15, 2013 House Museums, Interpretation, Vision and Style Comments (3) 1697

I was at a meeting of the National Trust and several citizen preservation groups in Monterey concerned about the future of the Cooper-Molera Adobe, a house museum in Monterey, one of the treasures of California’s Spanish capitol. I blogged about Cooper-Molera two and a half years ago here, and what I said remains true – the site has been largely shuttered due to state budget cuts, cuts which are not going to be reversed.

When the National Trust announced it was working with a developer to come up with restaurant and other commercial uses at the site, there was a fair amount of community uproar, especially among volunteers who felt the site should stay interpretive. And this debate: “Commercial versus Interpretive” was still active when I was there last month. And it is a false dichotomy. This is NOT an either-or situation. It is a both-and situation. Continue Reading

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Green Preservation

November 4, 2009 Sustainability, Technology Comments (1) 1074

Preservation is green. It retains the carbon footprint of structures that are already there, requires less materials, less expense of energy to construct – because it is already constructed. It is true that some older buildings (more likely those built 1940-2000) USE more energy than new “green” buildings, but the greenest new building will still take 30-40 years to pay off its carbon debt.

Two years ago, National Trust President Dick Moe made a speech at the National Building Museum about preservation and sustainability. It was epochal. He had the statistics that proved that “the greenest building is the one already built” but he wasn’t just preaching to the choir. He was making it known that there was a vibrant, multifaceted preservation movement, and that this movement was staking its claim to sustainability and moving even further in that direction. Continue Reading

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A new birth of interpretation

February 13, 2009 Interpretation Comments (0) 982

Yesterday we had a great event in Lockport, unveiling the new Lincoln Landing park and Abraham Lincoln sculpture. It should have had better publicity, for the sculpture was a good and bold attempt at portraying the multitudinous Lincoln in three intertwined figures, at once a return to the narrative in sculpture within a modern matrix of sensibilities; an organic cubism that presents different aspects together within a realist mode. Interesting stuff and largely successful, by young artist David Ostro. Doesn’t beat St. Gaudens in Lincoln Park, but it works. Lincoln as a legislator supported the construction of the I & M Canal among other internal improvements. (Hear that GOP? – it wasn’t even shovel ready – and that is in the day they actually used shovels…) Continue Reading

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House Museums and Ultimate Use

October 24, 2008 Chicago Buildings, Economics, House Museums Comments (5) 1559

Gaylord Building 2004

During the National Preservation Conference for the last many years, Fridays are the busiest day, beginning at 7:15 AM with breakfast with the Site Council Chairs and Trust President Dick Moe. I represent both the Gaylord Building and the Farnsworth House. The former has a decent endowment while the latter does not, and of course the economic climate was at the top of the agenda for all 29 of the Trust sites.

This is always a fascinating meeting, especially since the Kykuit Conference, where the Trust sites took the “beyond the velvet ropes” step, encouraging Boards and staff at historic sites to go beyond the “museum” model for historic houses. This is of course a great interest of mine as readers of this blog will know. I have been proposing to the Trust for several years the idea of a national database of all historic sites that could be used for corporate meetings, institutional retreats, filming, and a whole variety of events. These things all happen of course on an individual Trust property level, but a national database – perhaps licensed to other sites as well – could be a powerful funding tool. Continue Reading

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floods keep me busy

September 30, 2008 Chicago Buildings, House Museums, Vision and Style Comments (0) 1095

It felt like I was crisscrossing the northern half of the state last week, and in a sense, I was. I did two tours for the Art Institute on Wednesday and Thursday to LaSalle, to visit the incomparable Hegeler-Carus mansion, an 1874 Italianate-cum-Second Empire extravaganza that never left the family, and to ride the new historic canal boat on the I & M Canal at Lock 14. The floods of almost two weeks earlier prevented us from riding on Wednesday and curtailed our ride Thursday.
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August

August 3, 2008 Chicago Buildings, Interpretation, Vision and Style Comments (0) 1105

August already in Chicago, normally time for some landmarks shenanigans by the powers that be. At least, that used to be the tradition in the 1980s – announce a big historic-building-damaging project in August when the goo-goos were off in Saugatuck or Door County and couldn’t mount public opposition. That may be less true in the Internet age, because you can get the internet next to the pool in Rowley’s Bay. We shall see if down time dog days produce anything this year, but in the meantime I need to catch up on landmarks news in Illinois…

The big news at Landmarks Illinois is the selection of Jim Peters as the new President of Landmarks Illinois. Peters brings excellent credentials, being an award-winning faculty member of our SAIC Master’s program in historic preservation for seven years, a former Director of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, and a certified planner with a preservation degree. Jim also knows everyone and knows how to get things done, which is the LI way. I can proudly say I was on the Search Committee that unanimously chose Jim. Continue Reading

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Twenty Years later

October 26, 2007 Blog Comments (0) 1014

In 1987, the rehabilitated Gaylord Building opened as a museum, gallery and restaurant. Last night we gathered there to celebrate the 20th anniversary of saving this landmark.

The oldest portion was built in 1838 as a supply depot for construction of the Illinois & Michigan Canal and thus is the oldest industrial structure in Illinois. The 3-story Italianate addition was added in the late 1850s when the building was used as a grain store and warehouse. In 1902 two brick stories were added as it became a lock factory, and in 1948 it became a plumbing supply warehouse. By the 1980s it was an abandoned hulk. Continue Reading

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Fallingwater and the Case of the House Museum

November 14, 2006 Economics, Interpretation Comments (0) 1236

Fallingwater – the iconic, death-and-decay-defying leap of Frank Lloyd Wright from one end of the 20th century to the other. A building that cannot be left out of architectural history. A building that almost too nakedly tries to say everything about the role of nature and artifice that everyone from Vitruvius and Alberti to Perrault and LeCorbusier tried to say.

Maybe I want to focus on Fallingwater because it has a built-in fire suppression system and Chicago is beset by idiots with blowtorches.

Beyond its iconic status, Fallingwater is also a house museum, which is a challenging thing to be. Continue Reading

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