Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday Update

Hello Everyone:

I hope your weekend is going well where ever you are.  First, I want to let you know that the pinterest board for Wednesday's blog on the newest additions to the World Heritage site list is up and can be viewed at  Second, yours truly has been invited by to be a contributor.  This should be exciting and I'll keep you updated.  Have a great rest of your weekend and we'll talk tomorrow.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Hello All:

I was just doing a quick check of the page views and I love it.  I'm live and world wide.  Thanks a million for your never ending support.  After yesterday's UNESCO themed post, I decided to start posting more world-wide preservation, architecture, urban planning and development.  I'll bring it to you as I get it.  In the meantime, I plan to work over the weekend on the UNESCO World Heritage pinterest board.  Thanks, love you all

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

World Heritage Sites

Hello Everyone:

First of all a very big congratulations to all of the LGBT readers out in blogger land.  Today, the Supreme Court of The United States overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, thus clearing the way for full legal recognition of same gender marriages.  I raise a glass of champagne to you.  Now on to today's topic.

The National Historic Preservation Trust in the United States released its annual endangered historic sites list last week.  On June 23, 2013 the United Nations Economic, Scientific, and Cultural Organization inscribed nineteen new world heritage sites at their annual conference, held this year in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, Cambodia.  Quickly reviewing the list, I noticed the diversity of sites around the world.  This year's list include sites in Qatar, Ukraine, Iran, Niger, and Fiji(!)  The list includes natural properties and approved extensions for certain cultural properties.  I bring this topic to your attention because preservation is not just an Western thing but happens all over the world.  The benefit of inscription is that it brings attention to places and buildings that would've otherwise gone un-noticed and fallen into disrepair.  Also, it save pieces of global history are a necessary part of the story of humanity.  Rather than go through all nineteen places, I'd like to pick a few places in the non-Western world and tell you about them.

Historic Center Agadez, Niger 
The Historic Center of Agadez, Niger has long been know as "The gateway to the desert."  Agadez is located on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert and was developed in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries by the Sultanate of Aïr.  The city center is the historic crossroads of the caravan trade and is divided into eleven irregular shaped quarters. The quarters contain numerous earthen dwellings and a well-preserved group of palaces and religious buildings including a 27 meter minerat entirely from mud brick, the highest such building in the world.

Fujisan, Japa
O.K. I had to put Fujisan (Mount Fuji 藤山) in because I did write my thesis on Japan.  This is a long overdue inscription.  This fabled snow-capped mountain has long inspired artists and poets as well as a site of pilgrimage.  It is an internationally recognized icon of Japan and has had a deep impact on Western art.  Fujisan contains twenty-five sites which encapsulate  the 3,776 meter mountain's sacred landscape.  Fujisan has been the site of ascetic Buddhism and contains Shinto shrines.

Golestan Palace, Iran
Golestan Palace, Iran, beautiful isn't it?  This masterwork of the Qajar era (1785-1925) reflects the successful blending of Iranian craft and architecture with Western influences.  This palace, located in Teheran, one of the oldest groups of buildings and the former seat of government of Qajar family.  It became the site of Qajari arts and architecture, which remains a source of inspiration for contemporary Iranian architects and artists.  The palace represents a new style that blends traditional Iranian arts and crafts with eighteenth century technolog and architecture.

Levuka Historical Port Town, Fiji
Levuka Historical Port Town in Fiji.  Fiji?  Fiji is normally associated with paradisaical vacations not historic preservation but UNESCO apparently thought otherwise.  Levuka was the first colonial capital ceded to the British in 1894.  From the early nineteenth century, Levuka developed as a center for commercial activity by Americans and Europeans who built commercial, religious, residential, and school facilities around the indigenous villages of the island chain.  The town is a stellar example of nineteenth century Pacific port settlements, reflecting the integration of local building traditions by a colonial power, creating a unique landscape.

Namib Sand Sea, Namibia 
Sand sea sounds like an oxymoron but really, its the coastal desert in the world with extensive dune fields affected by the fog.  The sand sea covers an area of three million hectares, with a buffer zone of 899,500 hectares.  The site is composed of an ancient semi-consolidated one overlain with a younger more active one.  The dunes are formed by the transportation of particles millions of kilometers from the hinterland carried by the river, ocean current, and wind. The sand sea features gravel plains, coastal flats, rocky hills, and inselbergs.  The fog is the main source of water to the site.  This creates a unique environment for indigenous invertebrates, reptiles, and mammals to thrive.

Tajik National Park, Tajikistan
I love this picture don't you?  It reminds me of those mythical ancient Eurasian trades routes.  Tajikistan National Park covers more than 2.5 million hectares east of the country and is the center of of the so-called "Pamir-Knot," the meeting point of the highest mountain ranges in Eurasia.  It is a rugged landscape with high plateaus to the east and rugged peaks to the west, some over 7,000 meters high.  It features seasonal variations of temperatures.  The longest valley glacier outside the Polar region is found among the 1,085 glacier on the site.  The park shelters national rare and threatened birds and mammals such as Snow Leopards and Siberian Ibex.  The park is sparsely inhabited and virtually unaffected by permanent human settlement and agriculture.

Al Zubarah Archeological Site, Qatar

A lost city on the edge of a desert.  The stuff of mythology.  Al Zubarah Archeological Site in Qatar  in the Persian Gulf once flourished as center of urban trade and pearling.  Yes, people dove for pearls off the coast.  Did you think that pearls were only found in the Far East?  The city thrived int he late eighteenth, early nineteenth century before it was destroyed in 1811 and abandoned in the early 1900s.  Al Zubarah was founded by Kuwaiti merchants and had trade links across the Indian Ocean and Western Asia.  Excavation has only taken place in a small part of the city, which present excellant examples urban trade and pearl diving that sustained the region's major coastal towns and led to the development of independent states outside the Ottoman, European, and Persian Empires leading to the emergence of the modern Gulf States.

Thanks to the efforts of historic preservation around the world, people are saving tangible links to their heritage for the future.  Love your natural sites and buildings, their your history.

To see and read more go to:

pinterest board to follow.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Mad Preservationist
Don Draper

Hello Everyone:

On the heels of the Season 6 finale of the hit television series "Mad Me," PreservationNation Blog recently interviewed the show's creator and main writer Matthew Weiner about his work with the Los Angeles Conservancy (, his love of places, and why he believes the main character Don Draper is a preservationist.  For those of you not familiar with the television series, the show centers around the lives and loves of the people at the fictional advertising agency Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Price.  In particular, it focuses on the Gatsby-esque main character Don Draper.  Part of the show's appeal is that it's set in sixties New York and Matthew Weiner's fanatic attention to period detail.  I love the show because the very cool vibe it gives off.  So, today's blog will feature images of Los Angeles and New York in the sixties.  Enjoy.

The Miracle Mile
Popular television series sometimes reflect the zeitgeist of the period they take place.  "Mad Men" is no exception to this.  If you watch, have followed the series from the beginning, the you will notice that the characters are in a state of flux.  This is very much like the period the series takes place.  Architecture, like any art form, is also in a constant state of change.  In the sixties, Modernism, born out of the Industrial Revolution, had moved into its late phase.  The buildings still echoed the flat rectilinear forms of the early phase, but took on a more chunky, brutalist appearance.  In cities such as New York and Los Angeles many of the buildings built in the heyday of Modernism (20s and 30s) were still standing but were aging and deteriorating due to neglect and high maintenance costs.  In the twenty-first century, the dynamic forms of the sixties are suffering the same fate as their ancestors of the twenties and thirties.  A television program such as "Mad Men" has, among other things, served to draw attention to this monuments of an urban landscape in change.

Ada Louise Huxtable
"Mad Men's" executive producer Matthew Weiner and his architect wife have been interested in preservation and restoration for a very long time.  Mr. Weiner's wife has focused her practice on preservation and restoration.  Architecture is an important value to Mr. Weiner.  Mr. Weiner explains that real boom in architecture during the sixties was in Los Angeles, not so much in New York.  The reason for this was a lot of the land in New York City was developed and continued to be redeveloped.  Every location in New York City, where the pilot was shot, was either razed or remodeled.  Mr. Weiner states that only one place was left intact and "...literally remodeled the day we left."

LAX Theme Building
Paul Williams, architect (shown)
Over the last few years, the L.A. Conservancy (shout out to Trudi Sandmeier) has been actively involved in drawing attention to the buildings from the same period as "Mad Men."  The L.A. Conservancy Modern Committee ( was formed in 1984 in response to the wanton destruction of post-World War II architecture in Los Angeles.  Most recently, the committee won state approval for the Case Study House Nomination from the California State Historic Preservation Office such as the Case Study House #22 (The Stahl House) by Pierre Koening.  The committee has also focused its attention on less boldfaced places, winning landmark status for nautical themes bar and steakhouse Chez Jay from the City of Santa Monica, California.
Case Study House #22
Pierre Koening

What makes the sixties so attractive to Mr. Weiner, as well as a lot of people?  For Mr. Weiner, the story arcs from the period come from his childhood.  Personally speaking, much of the story constructions from my childhood could be illustrated in neutral shades punctuated with color, but I digress.  According to Mr. Weiner, "I think the part of the story I was tell was that most of the construction from that period was very commonplace from my childhood and aging...associated (somewhat negatively) with big, aging businesses or government institutions."  I suppose you can relate the characters of Roger Sterling and Bert Cooper to the aging buildings of pre-World War II New York, falling into obsolescence, while Don Draper is more like the buildings that went up immediately follow the Second World War, reinventing the urban landcape and investing
WTC under construction
with a certain optimistic mood.  While the younger characters such as Peggy Olson and Peter Campbell are more like the buildings of the sixties.

For Mr. Weiner, the extension of Modernism is part of the excitement of  about new materials.  I would also like to add a new sense of energy.  Much like his like the fictitious Ms. Olson and Mr. Campbell, according to Mr. Weiner, the architecture of the period had a sense of idealism.  However, that idealism became a commercial.  However, as Mr. Weiner rightly points out that Modernism has a real philosophical foundation to it, putting humanity into the environment.  Thus, we can make the analogy between this philosophy and Don Draper's philosophy of a good product, good ad. Make the user connect with the product.  Perhaps, the idea of putting people in the built environment can be evidenced in the affordable housing boom of the post-war period.

Jane Jacobs

The was this real urban planning initiative in the post-war period to make housing affordable for the average person.  How could that be accomplished?  Do ordinary people deserve a beautiful environment or is that just for the wealthy?  That questions sounds silly doesn't it?  Oddly, the materials that we associate with corporate America, steel and glass, were the cheap building materials of the immediate post-war era.  They cheaper to produce, but according to Mr. Weiner, a more beautiful living experience.  I live in a building that's made of concrete, glass, and steel frame and I wouldn't exactly consider it a more beautiful living experience but that's just me.  Business and people's attitudes about their living spaces were more conservative.  New things are scary and evoke an immediate negative response.  However, in the sixties, thanks in part to the youthful energy, people were open to new ideas about their living spaces.

Penn Station
Historic Preservation becomes part of a storyline.  The characters talked about the demolition of Penn Station to make way for Madison Square Garden.  Mr. Weiner describes Don Draper as someone who appreciates design.  Don is a curious person and has an eye.  The story, according to Mr. Weiner, centered on what was commercially expedient and what the masses will accept versus what will business accept.  To business, design is like decoration, an extra, what does it matter whether the space works or not.  However, the point of the show, according to Mr. Weiner, is that design does matter.  The spaces we live in are important to the way we live in them.  This concept is something that forever evolving, especially in this century as we become a more digital world.

Is Don Draper a closet preservationist.  Matthew Weiner says absolutely.  While Don Draper has particular tastes, he's open to new ideas, and fighting the battle over what to save and what to throw out.


Hello Everyone:

We broke 800.  Hurrah.  Thanks so much for your continued support.  I've noticed that I've gotten more pageviews since I started posting pictures.  So a picture is indeed worth a thousand words.  In this case, is a picture worth 1,000 pageviews?  Let's find out shall we?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Chinatown House Rancho Cucamonga,0,6057025.story

Hello Everyone:

Rancho Cucamonga Chinatown House
Welcome to the new week.  The weekend provided me with some great blog post ideas including one courtesy of "Mad Men."  Hey who new that Don Draper was a preservationist?  Today, I'd like to give a big shout out to my tribe at the USC School of Architecture Master of Heritage Conservation Program (  In particular I'd like to say a big hello to Rosalind Sagara and Christine Park and acknowledge their work on the Chinatown House in Rancho Cucamonga, California.  They, along withe the Chinatown House Preservation Coalition are working to raise funds and awareness for one of the last surviving examples of Chinese worker housing.  The building has fallen into a terrible state of disrepair and in  need of over $1 million in order to restore and retrofit the site.  Last week it was included in the National Historic Preservation Trust's annual list of endangered historic sites (

Current view of the Chinatown House
In the 1880s, the Chinese workers who had been brought over to work on the Transcontinental Railroad settled in the area near Rancho Cucamonga near the present day intersection of San Bernardino Road and Archibald Avenue.  The workers found employment in the agricultural industry, digging irrigation ditches, and making fireworks.  Hundreds of these immigrants lived in a small part of the town where the present-day intersection of Klusman and San Bernardino Avenues are.  Almost one hundred years ago, fire burned down the wooden houses where the workers lived.  The wooden houses were replaced by three two-story clay block structures, which held
Chinese workers c. 19th century
dozens of workers each.  Only one of these clay-block structures remains.  In 1975, the California State Office of Historic Preservation 
( listed the Rancho Cucamonga Chinatown Site as a historic resource number P458.  The general store/worker housing remains one of the last tangible links to the Chinese community in the town.  The Chinatown House was built from local materials in the vernacular style in 1919 and designated a city landmark in 1985.  Currently, the building faces demolition.

The Chinatown House property is currently owned by the Cucamonga Valley Water District.  The Water District was recently issued a notice by the city to correct structural issues in the house.  However, instead of moving forward to correct perceived structural issues, the city and Water District moved forward on plans to take down the building.  I'm going to withhold judgement on this because the sometimes the cost to restore and retrofit a historic site can be very prohibitive and not worth it.  Nevertheless, this decision brought together a group of local residents and preservationists concerned with the potential loss of this site.  Now before anyone thinks that just because something is designated means it can't be touched or taken down, let correct this assumption.  This not entirely true.  Strange as it sounds, it is true especially if there is an issue of human safety, as is the case here.  In response, the City Planning Commission decided that an Environmental Impact Report was necessary prior to approving demolition plans.  The Cucamonga Valley Water District assistant general manager Jo Lynne Russo-Pereyra stated, "It has been in ill disrepair for many years."  Ms. Russo-Pereyra also pointed out that the second floor had been condemned over fifty years ago.  However, the small silver lining in these is demolition plans have been put on hold while the water district and the city work together to come up with a plan to secure the site in order to keep out trespassers.  Sadly, the Coalition to Save the Chinatown House has not been assured that the building will be protected.   
Chinatown House

Interior of Chinatown House

Chinatown House Menu (date unknown)
The Chinatown House Preservation Coalition, chaired by Eugene Moy an urban planner and vice president of the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, called the site one of the last of its kind.  The organization is made up of several historical organizations in the region who banded together to apply for designation.  However, a designation application is not an guarantee of protection and is a highly competitive process.  Designation does heighten awareness for the need to protect the site and help with fund raising.  The group hopes to turn the building into an education space dedicated to not only to Chinese American history but also the agricultural industry and expansion of the American West.  In a blog post for the Huffington Post,  Kate Kelly says "the history of the Chinese in America is not very well documented but does the history of slavery but there are similarities." (  In a strange effort to draw a similarity, Ms. Kelly notes that just as the African slaves were vital to the Southern agricultural industry and provided labor for moving goods, the Chinese did the same thing in the West.  Ms. Kelly then quickly adds, "While they technically weren't enslaved, they were overworked and underpaid, often abused, and had little control over their live or their futures."  The problem I have with this assertion is that the African slaves had no choice but to perform the tasks they were given because of the threats to being sold "down river" or worse was always hanging over their heads.  Further, there were laws that prevented the slaves from assembling or obtaining an education whereas the Chinese workers would often gather for meals or bring with them books and other texts.  Once work on the railroad was completed, the workers moved off into the communities where they found employment digging ditches and in the agricultural industry.

In the city of Rancho Cucamonga, there was a very large Chinese community.  According to Mr. Moy, "A very large Chinese community settled in Rancho Cucamonga...It was a beautiful agricultural area byt water was needed here for the farmers to be able to fully cultivate the land."  Mr. Moy goes on to explain that the Chinese thrived in the city and were the first to bring water to the parched region.  Later on, the Chinese went to work in the fields.  The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 prevented more Chinese, especially women, from coming to the United States.  Today, more Chinese with professional training are coming to the region.  This means it's even more important to tell the story of their immigrant predecessors.  Without some tangible link, such as the Chinatown House, the history of the Chinese in Rancho Cucamonga is just stories.  While major cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco have thriving and vibrant Chinatowns, smaller communities that were home to Chinese immigrants don't such places.  Therefore without  a physical reminder, it would as if that segment of history is erased.

Map of Route 66
The coalition plans for an educational space sounds like a promising idea but would take some time to accomplish.  First, assuming an option to demolition is found, the building would have to undergo serious restoration.  Mr. Moy says that the Coalition would like to modify the building but modifying the building could effect designation.  If the modifications seriously compromise the historic fabric of the building, it could have a negative impact on potential designation.  Second, restoration and adaptive reuse would require a very amount of time and investment in order to bring the building up current code.  The building would benefit from its location just off the Historic Route 66.  Ultimately with proper care and attention, the building can serve as a link between the past, present, and future of the region's Chinese immigrant history.

To sum up, buildings and landscapes can serve as a tangible reminder of a nation's history, good, bad, or indifferent.  With proper care and use, historic sites can serve  as a living history lesson for all time.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Save Terminal 3
Hello Everyone:

Worldport Terminal
Hot on the heels of yesterday's post, The Annual 11 Endangered Historic Places List,"  I'd like to focus today on place that's on the list, Worldport Terminal at JFK Airport in New York, a.k.a Terminal Three.  Terminal Three is an iconic symbol of the glamour of mid-century jet travel.  When flying used to be actually fun and exciting not something akin to root canal surgery.  The terminal was opened in 1960 and has been featured in several Hollywood productions.  The first commercial flights of the then first "modern" jetliner, the Boeing 707 took off from the terminal.  On May 24, 2013, Delta airlines ended operations at Terminal Three and there are plans to demolish it.  Alternatives have been suggested such as demolishing the south concourse instead and using the facility as a connection between Terminals Two and Four.  Another suggestion is to use it as a premier terminal or as an independent building open to the public containing a museum, retail and commercial space, aircraft observation space, or employee daycare. (  However, there is hope.  A group called Save the Worldport ( is on a mission to preserve this landmark to the glamorous jet set.

World Port Interior
Save the Worldport's Mission seeks to save the original Flying Saucer terminal with the goal of responsibly restoring it, re-purposing it, and continue operations at the building for revenue generating, charitable, or public uses.  The group has put forth several proposals to Delta Air Lines and the Port Authority of NY/NJ such as :

1) Save the historic original flying saucer building but demolish the 1973 south concourse and use the building as a premier terminal for a specific route i.e. JFK to LAX or as a regional terminal
2)  Save the historic original flying saucer building but 1973 demolish the south concourse and re-purpose it for non-passenger use such as retail-commercial or employee facilities
3) Save the historic original flying saucer building including the south concourse but demolish Terminal Two and use the land for an aircraft parking lot.
4) Save the historic original flying saucer building but demolish the 1973 south concourse and Terminal Two; build a brand new and modern terminal behind the saucer in a similar manner as JetBlue built its Terminal Five behind the former TWA Flight Center.
5) Save the Worldport's original proposal was Terminal Three serve as a connector between Terminals Two and Four but Delta scrapped the plan in favor of using shuttle buses.
6) Any combination of the above or any other ideas.

These all sound reasonable.

Worldport aircraft boarding
This sanctuary to the jet-age was designed by team of Tippetts-Abbett-McCarthy-Stratton, known mainly for their engineering work, with associated architects Ives, Turano & and Gardner.  The building was christened Worldport by Pan American Air Lines and carries the ignominious name Terminal Three.  Worldport was among nine of the most striking airline terminals built about the same time at Kennedy Airport, the TWA Terminal, designed by Eero Saarinen, comes to mind.  Pan Am's terminal is known for its sprawling elliptical canopy, four acre roof areas which cantilevers 110 feet over the aircraft boarding area.  This was contemporary with the roll out of jetways.  Pan Am opted for simpler boarding bridges that took passengers outside but sheltered them under the huge overhang.  This transitional point was never replicated anywhere.  When Pan Am ceased operations in 1991, Delta Air Lines took over the terminal.  By this time, the structure had been extended further out toward the field with an architecturally unimaginative wing much larger than the original portion and the canopied structure was considerably altered to serve changes in use.

TWA Terminal

From the beginning, Worldport was a bit overshadowed by Eero Saarinen's bird-in-flight TWA Terminal.  TWA was a rival US carrier then flying glamorous overseas routes.  Fortunately, this temple to the jet-age was thoroughly restored for proposed operation by a hotel chain.  Unfortunately, there are plans to demolish Pan Am's ode to flight.  In 2010 Delta and Port Authority, which operates JFK, announced that the airline would be housed in a new $1.2 billion wing of Terminal Four and the area now occupied by Terminal Three would be needed for related aircraft movement and parking.  In other words, turn it into an aircraft parking lot.  This where grassroots organizers interested in air travel history come in.

Aerial View of JFK
This group of acquaintances organized Save the Worldport and began a dogged effort to save the structure.  Their campaign has mainly been conducted via the social media with some support from the established preservation organizations.  They have tried to persuade those responsible to preserve the original portion of the building not the clumsy 1973 south concourse.  Since an enclosed pedestrian walkway to link Terminals Two and Four is already in the works, Save the Worldport argues that the preserved "saucer" structure at a focal point in the passage, could be adapted for highly desirable amenities such as retail and restaurant space.  If you go to their website, you can find an online petition.  SIGN IT.

In applying for a National Register of Historic Places listing, the group discovered that the New Yorks State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO pronounced Shippo) issued a negative opinion in 2001 in response to a Port Authority inquiry.  The SHPO determined that Worldport was ineligible because of substantial alterations that resulted in the original fabric, association, or feeling.  This year Save the Worldport is challenging the reasoning behind the decision.  The organization submitted a new nomination application, asking the state to overturn its 2001 finding on National Register eligibility.  Save the Worldport has present statements at Port Authority's monthly public meetings and will continue to do so.  On May 15, some the campaign leaders took part in a telephone "debriefing" with state officials, making their position clear.  In the meantime, they've been able to successfully draw attention to their campaign through their website., sympathetic blogs (they can now add this one), print media, and the CBS Evening New.

Anthony Stramaglia, one of the campaign leaders, is optimistic that through continued efforts, they will be able to save this icon to air travel.  I urge all of you to support effort to save Worldport and other mid-century icons.  This is your part of your heritage and history.

For more information please go to:  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Annual Most 11 Endangered Historic Places List

Hello Everyone:

Every year, usually at year's end, people and organizations put lists of the top ten, one hundred, et cetera best and worst of something or another.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington D.C. is no exception.  Amend that, a slight a exception.  Every June the NTHP puts out a list of eleven sites it considers in danger of being demolished.  The sites are not just boldface places but mostly smaller lesser known sites that would've escaped notice had not a citizen's grass roots movement called attention to it.  This year's list features a full range of places from the boldface to the vernacular.  Rather than give you a long-winded description of each place, I'll give you a short description and tell you why they were picked.

Worldport Terminal at JFK Airport
First up is the Worldport Terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport in Jamaica, New York, which is threatened with demolition.  A beauty isn't she.  A real testament to the optimism and glamour of the mid-century jet-age.  This monument to America's entry into the jet-age is known for its flying saucer appearance and has been featured in several Hollywood movies.  It so reeks of Mad Men.  The first commercial flights of the then first "modern" aircraft, the Boeing 707, departed from this terminal. In May of this year, Delta Airlines ceased operations from this terminal, renamed Terminal Three.  Currently, the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey plan to raze it.

Historical Schoolhouses of Montana
Next on our list are the Historic Rural Schoolhouses of the state of Montana, which are threatened with lack of funding for upkeep.  Kind of reminds you of Little House on The Prairie doesn't it?  In addition to bison, Montana has the distinction of having an abundance of historic rural one- and two-schoolhouses still in operation.  There is at least one of these iconic schoolhouses in each of the fifty-six counties in the state.  The families that farmed the land in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries relied on these schools to educated their children, since traveling vast distances to the nearest cities was impossible.  So kids, no complaining about having to walk to school o.k.

Gay Head Lighthouse
The Gay Head Lighthouse in Aquinnah, Massachusetts is one of those icons that come to mind when you think of New England.  The lighthouse is currently threatened with erosion. It was the first lighthouse built on Martha's Vineyard and the first to receive a first order Fresnel lens in 1856.  Many men (yes men, sorry ladies) in the Aquinnah community, including members of the Wampanoag tribe, worked at the lighthouse.  Located on top of the National Natural Gay Head Cliffs, the lighthouse serves as a beacon to the tribe and is the only lighthouse with a history of Native American keepers.  It's the lighthouse of our dreams.

Mountain View Black Officer's Club
The Mountain View Black Officer's Club in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, built in 1942, remains one of the most significant examples of World War II-period military service clubs built specifically for African-Americans officers.  The club is currently threatened with demolition.  This building is an example of the American military's response to the "separate but equal" laws in the early twentieth century, begun in large-scale at Fort Huachuca.  I believe that's important to have reminders of a nation's dark past to serve as a lesson for the present and future.  This country has had a very shameful history of racism and bigotry, that is still pervasive.  By preserving this building and other reminders of the dark past we can hopefully move forward into the future when all people, regardless of who they are or where they come from, will be valued.

Kake Cannery
Stop for a minute and admire the scenery.  Breathtaking isn't it?  The rising sun, the boats going out for the day's fishing, makes you want just sit there and take it all in.  You'd better hurry because the Kake Cannery in Kake, Alaska is currently threatened with deterioration due to high winds and heavy snow loads.  Located in the remote village of Kake, the Cannery is only one of a few listed as an NHL (National Historic Landmark not National Hockey League).  It is a large complex consisting of several wooden buildings sited on land held in trust by the Organized Village of Kake, a federally recognized Native American Tribe.  The cannery play an important role in the development of the Alaskan salmon-canning industry during the first half of the twentieth century.  The cannery attracted many foreign workers and was known for its multi-ethnic, yet segregated workforce.

Abyssinian Meeting House
The African-American churches have played a historic role in the Civil Rights Movement and continue to serve an important function in the communities today.  I would like to recommend the book The American Future by Simon Schama ( for a wonderful and concise account of the role of the churches.  Located in Portland, Maine, the Abyssinian Meeting House was built in 1828 and is currently threatened with lack of funding.  This modest house of worship has great historic significance to the people of Maine.  It served as school for the African-American children and a stop on the Underground Railroad.  It is the third oldest-standing African-American meeting house in America.

The Astrodome
Now that we're deep into Baseball season, it seems fitting that a monument to sports be placed on the list of endangered sites.  The Astrodome, home to the Houston Astros Baseball team in Houston, Texas is the world's first domed, indoor, air-conditioned stadium.  Air conditioning is a very necessary requirement in the American Southwest and Southeast.  The stadium is currently threatened with demolition.  The Astrodome was called the "Eighth Wonder of the World" when it opened in 1965.  It is symbolic of the city's entrepreneurial and space-age development as a major American city.  For many years, the American football team, the Oilers, called the Astrodome home.  It has also been the site of other sports events and political conventions.

Village of Mariemont
Where do you think this Tudor-style building is?  If you said Stratford-Upon-Avon, you'd be wrong.  It's in Mariemont, Ohio and is considered one of America's most picturesques communities.  The village was designed between 1921 and 1925 by well-known landscape architect and planner John Nolan.  Here's an interesting bit of architectural trivia, there are no Tudor-style buildings in England. This is a uniquely American invention.  Mairemont is considered an important examples of town planning and named a "Top 10 Great Neighborhood in America" by the American Planning Association in 2008.  It is currently threatened by road construction.  The elegant layout of the town continues to inspire planners and designers.

The James River

You can just feel the history.  The James River in James City, Virginia seems to just ooze with the sights and sounds of the history that took place in it and around it.  It should, because along the banks of the river, the settlement of Jamestown was founded in 1607.  A visitor can actually trace the route that Captain John Smith took on the only National Park Service ( water trail.  Currently, the trail is threatened with inappropriate development.

San Jose Church

Isn't this a lovely old church?  Reminds you of the California Missions or the churches in Arizona or New Mexico.  Actually it's the San Jose Church in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Puerto Rico is actually not a state, it's a territory of the United States and its residents are American citizens.  San Jose Church was built in 1532, a century before the Pilgrims established the first permanent colony in New England.  It is one of the few surviving examples of Spanish Gothic architecture in the Western hemisphere.  The church currently is threatened with deterioration due to neglect and the environment.

Rancho Cucamonga Chinatown House

Looks like some ramshackle building in the middle of neighborhood right?  Not exactly.  The Rancho Cucamonga Chinatown House, in Rancho Cucamonga, California, is a two-story brick building that provided housing and a general store for about fifty Chinese American Laborers.  In the nineteenth century, Chinese men were encouraged to come to California to work in the fields and help build the railroads.  Slowly, the Chinese built a thriving community.  Unfortunately, the were also victims of some of the vicious and violent racism.  If you'd like to find out more, I'd highly recommend Kevin Starr's magnificent multi-volume history of California series.  The building was built in 1919 in the vernacular style and designated a City Landmark in 1985.  It is currently threatened with demolition.  The townhouse is a testament to the once thriving Chinese community that help build Rancho Cucamonga.

As you can see from these eleven examples, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is making a genuine effort to broaden the scope of preservation.  There are two interesting things to pay attention to.  First, is the inclusion of two buildings, the Astrodome and Worldport both examples of mid-century modernism, second, the inclusion of vernacular buildings.  This, to me indicates the recognition of 1) the post-World War II modern heritage and 2) the sites that have been very integral to building communities.  It's not true that America doesn't value it's historic sites, as evidenced by this annual list.  Often, it takes the efforts of grassroots campaigns to get people to notice places that would've gone undetected.  These buildings and many more represent American history.  Historic sights are the testament of a nation.

If you'd like to learn more please go to 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Historic Preservation Gone Wild

Hello Everyone:

Historical Rendering of Gezi Park
As stated in yesterday's post, I planned to tackle the fallout from the protests in Istanbul, Turkey and I shall not disappoint.  The basis for today's rant comes to us from the Los Angeles Times via a wonderful website dedicated to all things planning,  As reported on Friday June 14, 2013, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to halt construction in Gezi Park after a three hour emergency meeting with anti-government protesters in  the capital of Turkey, Ankara. This helped ease fears of further violence and bloodshed after two weeks of widespread, often violent protests.  The matter still has to be decided by the Judicial branch and a referendum.  The referendum appears to be the biggest concession to the protesters made by the Erdogan government as police gathered at dusk and prepared to enter Taksim Square.  So what does this all mean in terms of urban planning?

Fountain at Gezi Park
According to Tim Arango in a recent New York Times article (, "In the current crisis, which centers on a government plan to convert the park into a replica of an Ottoman-era army barrack, Mr. Erdogan has acted more like the mayor of Istanbul, a job he held in the 1990s."  I can honestly see this because, it seems that Mr. Erdogan's primary domestic concern are focused Turkey's largest city while ignoring the real and immediate concerns of country as a whole.  Further, Mr. Erdogan's pro-Islamic stance has raised serious concerns among the secular population and women.  The sentiment raised by Mr. Arango is echoed by Professor Sadik Artunc, FASLA, RLA in The  Dirt (
Gezi Park

In his post, Professor Artunc accuses Mr. Erdogan of practicing Landscape Architecture without a license.  Professor Artunc believes that the widespread violence and bloodshed can be linked to the top-down planning style of the Prime Minister.  Instead of using his time in the spotlight to calm the protesters and approves a requested dialogue, Mr. Erdogan sent in the riot police and his  supporters.  That pretty much makes the Prime Minister's position quite clear.  What I still don't get is why celebrate the Ottoman?  After all, they ruled their empire with an iron fist for centuries while living in splendor.  From an architectural history point of view, the Ottoman contributed some very ornate and magnificent buildings.  However, let's not forget that the Ottoman oppressed not only indigenous Turks but also the people of the lands they occupied.

Protestors at Gezi Park
The plans announced by the city government and strongly promoted by Mr. Erdogan originally called for the razing of the park to build a shopping mall inspired by the demolished Ottoman Military Barracks.  After initial protests, Mr. Erdogan backed off the plans for a shopping mall (like the world really needs another palace to retail), however, the plans to raze the park an put "something" there is in the works.  I see an opportunity to do something for the benefit of ALL the Turkish people.  Besides that, when you have a bright and vibrant market place like the Grand Bazaar (thankfully not trashed in Skyfall) who needs a mall.  For rests of Taksim Square, the Prime Minister calls for removing several stores to bring an existing church out into the open and build a "major mosque" on the other side of the street in a location that was once reserved for private performances. A mosque near a church why not add a synagogue really let the religious dynamics play out.

Sympathetic protesters

As for the remainder of the proposed design, there are plans for traffic underpasses below the square and pedestrian access (  In order to accomplish this plan the entire park would have to be removed in order to create the underpasses that would alleviate the traffic congestion that plagues the square.  The green space would not be entirely gone.  Instead of a park, a very large tulip-shaped turf would serve as the green space.  The tulip is a revered flower in Turkey and is known to be symbolic of the Prophet Muhammed.  What is troubling is Mr. Erdogan's statement that "something" will be built implies that no one has a clue as to what to build.  Nor is there even an iota of hint about the master or street level design.  This should really worry everyone.  No clue, no plans equals trouble.

Ottoman Military Barrack (destroyed c. 1923)
Professor Sadik Artunc labels the proposed plan and design as "sophomoric at best."  Professor Artunc points out that over the years, the park has been encroached upon along the edges and received minimal maintenance.  The trees have matured and provide the only shaded areas and refuge from the congestion.  While he admits something does need to be done to take advantage of the green space, "paving paradise and putting up a parking lot"  of that vague "something" is not the answer.  Professor Artunc also questions the previous use of the Ottoman Military Barrack as a source of inspiration.  Historically, the barracks were the site of one of the bloodiest uprising by the mullahs, who wanted Sha'aria imposed during the last decades of the Ottoman Empire.  Atatürk Kemel, founder of modern Turkey, was the Ottoman military commander who suppressed the rebellion in the late nineteenth century.  Kemel later ordered the barracks destroyed after modern Turkey was established in 1923.  Thus,  Professor Artunc concludes that the use and promotion of the barracks by Mr. Erdogan begs the question: "How much respect does the current government have for its strong secular tradition?"

And there it is, the conflation of religion and politics.  It seems that every issue, no matter how important or trivial, in this region of the Asian continent is fraught with religious overtones.  As an American, it seems rather strange to me.  I can see why some people tend to stray from the religion they were raised with.  Speaking for myself, I find that when religion is used as a method of controlling every aspect of life, there is something definitely wrong.

What seems evident in the proposal is that, despite the inclusion of pedestrian access, there is not thought given to the needs of walkers.  Nor is there any element that is at human scale.  Professor Artunc postulates that Mr. Erdogan's unstated objective is to minimize and eventually remove the monument to the Independence War, which contains commemorative sculptures of Kemel, his commanders, and unknown soldiers during the final days of the occupied Ottoman Empire.  I would theorize that the Prime Minister is trying to rewrite history.

Professor Sadik Artunc explains the significance of this ill-conceived plan in a very succinct manner.  Let's say the United States government wanted to sell George Washington's Mount Vernon or the National Park Service wanting to sell off cherished open land to a private developer  to turn into a shopping mall?  If you're not in the United States, you can use your own example.  The point is this is what's happening in Turkey today and the source of the protests.  All this could been avoid if there was a public hearing system in the planning and designing process.  Instead of opening a dialogue, the Prime Minister has dismissed the protesters as "marginal and extreme."  This is ironic because the Erdogan government is currently holding talks with a convicted killer and head of an internationally recognized terrorist group, the PKK (Kurdish Separatists).

Finally, Professor Artunc makes this blunt statement, first, Mr. Erdogan and his ministers need to recognize the fact that they represent ALL THE PEOPLE of Turkey, not just those that elected them.  Second, Mr. Erdogan needs to decide what he wants to be, the Prime Minister of Turkey or the Mayor of Istanbul.

Back to Brooklyn

Hello Everyone:

Welcome To Sunset Park
Map of Sunset Park
First of all, we broke 700.  Hurray and thanks so much for your continued support.  Can we do 1,000? Let's make that our next goal.  Second, we'll spending some time this week talking about the urban planning aspects of the protests at Gezi Park in Istanbul, Turkey and what it all means.  It should  be an interesting topic.  Today, though we're going to the hipster mecca, Brooklyn. The borough that continues to hold the fascination and imagination of cool people, like yours truly, around the world.  Instead of moaning about the latest effort to gentrify some quaint little neighborhood, I'd like to spend time talking about the Sunset Park Landmarks Committee's ( grassroots campaign to build community support for the preservation of its row houses from "out-of character" development.  On June 1, 2013, the SPLC began its third walking tour of the area on 43rd Street and 4th Avenue and concluded the excursion on 8th Avenue and 60th Street.

The Sunset Park community was primarily made up of modest three-story, two-family houses, originally designed for working class families during the late decades of the nineteenth century and to the first half of the twentieth century.  The rowhouses were designed in the neo-Greek, Romanesque, and Renaissance revival styles, partially attributed to the firm of Pohlman & Patrick.  Interestingly, these styles were quickly going out of popularity in Europe, where they originated, and being replaced by first experiments in modern architecture.  The rowhouses were built n a combination of brick, limestone, and brownstone.  If you've never encountered a brownstone building, you're in for a real treat.  The warmth and character of these buildings just oozes out of its pores, begging you to come closer and touch.
Sunset Park Rowhouses

In 1988, Sunset Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places ( for its architectural/engineering significance.  The neighborhood's periods of significance was 1925-1949, 1900-1924, 1875-1899.  Its historic function was commerce/trade, domestic, and landscape and a historic sub-function of business, multiple and single dwellings, and park.  Currently, Sunset Park retains its primary and secondary functions.  At the time of designation, the area was the largest historic district in Northeastern United States with 3,237 registered buildings and approximately bounded by 4th Avenue and 7the Avenue; 38th Street and 64th Street.  The landmarks committee was established in the spring of 2012.

Project Manager Lynn Massimo stated that she helped put together the committee because, "the rowhouses in Sunset Park are beautiful, they make the streets feel special and they embody a sense of place.  Insensitive changes to the rowhouses take away from that."  Ms. Massimo has resided in Sunset Park since 2000 added that the group was started by a local neighbors who were witness to the houses being taken down.  The group felt that someone had to preserve the houses and it didn't seem like anyone was make an attempt at preservation and creating a historic district.

Attachment and sentiment, two of many reasons for local preservation.  Indeed, when you walk down the streets and stop to admire the rowhouses, you can't help but think about who lived there, when they lived there, and what were their experiences.  These were/are people's homes.  It is/was where happy and sad moments took places, the whole range of life cycle events.  Insensitive development would strip away these moments, or wouldn't they?  Let me stop here for a moment and digress.  Where do our memories of life cycle events reside?  In the place where they occurred or in hearts and minds.  A building is a physical object, which we attach sentimental significance to.  Memories, on the other hand, reside in conscious and subconscious.  While I'm certainly not advocating razing these beautiful buildings and putting yet another high-rise condominium development, what I am asking you to consider is the emotional attachments we have to a place.

Study Area Map of Proposed Historic District
Through research, the SPLC has identified a study area of approximately 800 houses on specific blocks worthy of designation.  The study area is a group of visually and architecturally cohesive blocks where the houses retain most of their original appearance and plan.  The blocks are not only visually and architecturally cohesive but also have enough homeowner support for submission to the New York Landmarks Preservation Committee for consideration.  Only the blocks where there is a contiguous architectural character would be considered for landmark status.  The SPLC is not insisting that the entire community be designated, rather, the SPLC will only submit blocks that have homeowner support for the process.  To garner support, the organization has conducted regular open meetings, door-to-door campaigns to build support, set up informational tables around the community to raise awareness,  and conducted walking tours.  The tours are led by Joseph Svenlak, a licensed New York City tour guide, urban historian, and former Sunset Park resident.  The tours highlight the blocks that are part of the study area as well as individual landmarks such as the former 68th Police Precinct Station House and Stable, designated in 1983 and the former Sunset Park Courthouse, designated in 2001.  The next walking tour is scheduled for June 22, 2013.  The Historic District Council will sponsor its own walking tour on July 13, 2013.

Former 68th Street Police Precinct House and Street

Former Sunset Park Courthhouse

Sunset Park is no doubt a lovely neighborhood in Brooklyn.  It is a thriving community with a great of pride in the place.  The grassroots campaign to get parts of the community designated a historic district highlights citizen participation in historic preservation.  Really, all historic preservation activities are citizen driven.  In this case, we have an example of the direction of historic preservation.  More and more  communities are beginning to realize the value of their resources.  My question to the SPLC is regarding the ethnic communities in Sunset Park.  There is strangely no mention of the historic contributions of the primarily Asian and European communities that have settled in the area.  It would be interesting to see how the SPLC intends to address this issue.

Sunset Park at sunset