All posts filed under: Historic Preservation

Posts about places that matter

Beauty and Design

Former Charleston, South Carolina, mayor Joe Riley has spoken eloquently about beauty and civic design. In an Architect magazine article on the occasion of the mayor’s retirement after 40 years in office, author Wayne Curtis quoted Riley as saying,  “Often architecture is thought elitist, that you’ve got to be schooled or have a special interest. But not long after I was elected, I’d see visitors in town. They looked like they were retired blue-collar workers, and you’d see them admiring buildings.” Riley ends with one of his core beliefs. “Beauty has no economic litmus test. It’s a basic human need and instinct.” I’ve been thinking of Joe Riley’s belief in the ability of beauty and good civic design to uplift our communities* as I have walked through our downtown in recent weeks. There is a great deal of construction activity underway in Silver Spring, but I am hard-pressed to find too many examples of fine urban design. One challenge is that much of the future of downtown Silver Spring was turned over to a development …

R.I.P. Virginia Governor Gerald L. Baliles, Advocate for Preservation

Former Virginia Governor Gerald L. Baliles, who passed away on October 29th at age 79, has been appropriately recognized as a quiet but effective leader. His “boldly cautious” style was credited for gains in increasing the number of women and minorities in statewide leadership positions, as well as for increased support for transportation and the environment. But the Jerry Baliles I remember was also one of the most effective advocates for historic preservation at a time when development pressures in Virginia were pushing forward at the expense of its past. His leadership led to much needed changes at the state level that played an important role in all that has happened to save the best of Virginia’s past in the almost three decades since the end of his term as governor in 1990. During his campaign for governor, Jerry met with representatives of the state’s preservation community. He listened intently to the challenges we put before him and promised, if elected, to be a friend of historic preservation. He was true to his word, and …

Ballpark

The latest stop on my quest to visit all 30 Major League ballparks* found me, earlier this week, with a friend at the front gate of Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. It had taken almost an hour by train during the height of the evening commute to get from midtown Manhattan to Flushing. After stepping off the subway, I was disappointed to find the ballpark—home to one of two major league baseball teams in the nation’s largest city—in what was essentially a suburban setting, surrounded by parking lots. The game had just begun so we stopped only briefly to take in the entry rotunda, yet even that short pause made me think of the gateway to Ebbets Field, the famous home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was only later that I discovered that the ballpark was in its unfortunate location thanks to that old enemy of urbanism, Robert Moses. And yes, the owners of the Mets had appropriated the Brooklyn Dodgers and the “New York City history of the National League as …

Why Labor Day Matters

We may hear more about “Back to School” sales this weekend than we do about why we celebrate Labor Day. I’ll do my little part to rectify that problem. Labor Day has been around in one form or another since the 1880s, highlighting the work of trade and labor organizations and their members. However, unions and workers have both taken a beating in recent decades, as financial interests have fought to rollback or restrict the gains made by the working classes over the years. I grew up in the South and saw first-hand the open hostility to unions. The powers that be wanted cheap labor and they used all sorts of tools to ensure that they succeeded. I was reminded of the promise and challenge of Labor Day while reading one of my posts from 2015 on the designation of Pullman, just outside Chicago, as a National Monument. Pullman, if you do not know the history, is a remarkably intact industrial town of historic buildings and landscapes. Located 13 miles south of downtown Chicago, it …

Wonder

Imagine living 99 years inspired by a sense of wonder. Entering into the world as children, we began with the curiosity and amazement found at the heart of a wonder-filled life. Yet along our journeys, most step out of this sense of wonderment and instead become cautious, cynical, hardened, haughty or any number of other traits designed to protect our egos and allow us to function—or so we believe—in the adult world. In taking that step, we too often lose a generous, more imaginative perspective. Wonder came into my consciousness last week while I was in Charlottesville for the memorial service of a long-time friend, Anne Worrell. I met Anne soon after moving to Virginia in the early 1980s, and over the years I came to know her primarily as a historic preservationist, businesswoman, newspaper publisher, philanthropist, and convener extraordinaire. With her husband Gene she founded their first newspaper, the Virginia Tennessean, in Bristol, and together they grew the company to be one of the largest chains of small dailies in the country. Anne, who …

History Was All Around Me: PreserveCast podcast of my career in preservation (so far)

“Connection to place is very important to me, and I learned that by walking the streets of Franklin and Murfreesboro, where I grew up.  History was all around me . . . and I’ve always wanted to do something about connecting the past to today.” When PreserveCast host Nick Redding began our recent conversation on the award-winning Preservation Maryland podcast with a question about my path to preservation, my thoughts went to my childhood home, grandmother, and a favorite downtown theatre. That podcast, looking at my work at the National Trust for Historic Preservation and more, can now be found on the PreserveCast website. In a thirty minute interview, Nick and I explore not only how I became a preservationist, but also the various jobs that led to my serving as the Chief Preservation Officer at the National Trust from 2010 until I stepped down from the position at the end of March 2019. “Somebody said that ‘Chief Preservation Officer’ is one of the great titles in the preservation field.  Its not as good as …

Don’t Create Followers, Create More Leaders

Management guru Tom Peters has said, “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” In the middle of a week full of simple yet sublime pleasures, I also had the opportunity to experience unexpected leadership lessons with long-time colleagues and friends. This story begins with The National Trust of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, which has been a model for preservation and conservation organizations since its founding in 1895. While many National Trusts exist around the world, all are modeled in one way or the other on this original National Trust. I’ve worked with U.K. Trust staff members over the years and have come to count several as dear friends. The Trust’s work to connect people with places and the willingness to give back out of its century of experience to the international preservation and conservation communities have long been an inspiration. I spent time last week interacting with the National Trust at several levels. The long-time connections were also how we found ourselves in Cambridge last Monday, visiting with Dame Fiona Reynolds, Master of …