historical preservation

Banned Book #17

Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel

Meet Alison’s father, a historic preservation expert and obsessive restorer of the family’s Victorian home, a third-generation funeral home director, a high school English teacher, an icily distant parent, and a closeted homosexual who, as it turns out, is involved with his male students and a family babysitter. Through narrative that is alternately heartbreaking and fiercely funny, we are drawn into a daughter’s complex yearning for her father. And yet, apart from assigned stints dusting caskets at the family-owned “fun home,” as Alison and her brothers call it, the relationship achieves its most intimate expression through the shared code of books.

Banned for: depictions of lesbians, pornographic content

What Keeps Cities Affordable? - Beyond Chron
Critics of Jane Jacobs wrongly blame her for promoting gentrification while ignoring the real policies that cause displacement and keep cities affordable.

Jane Jacobs critics are wrongly blaming her support for historic preservation, mixed-retail and residential uses, and the virtues of city living for the upscale transformation of communities that would have happened had her classic book never been written.  In the 1970’s people began restoring rundown Victorians and Brownstones not because they suddenly read Jane Jacobs, but rather because the times brought a recognition of the virtues of preserving historic structures.  That some speculated on these renovated properties,  and sold these long rented housing units to the highest bidder,  was never a process Jane Jacobs encouraged or endorsed.

Cities can’t legally restrict single family home appreciation, so there was no way to stop the gentrification of heavy homeowner neighborhoods. While marketing campaigns urging young professionals to move back to the city into “borderline” neighborhoods expedited gentrification, the desirability of these historic homes made their occupancy by affluent owners inevitable.

The two strategies essential for keeping cities affordable —-rent control and nonprofit ownership—have both proven successful when allowed to operate.  But state preemption bars local rent control in gentrifying cities like Seattle and Portland, and state law  bars San Francisco and other California cities from either commercial rent control or limiting rent increases on vacant apartments.

The realtors’ enactment of statewide vacancy control preemption is the chief cause of San Francisco’s housing crisis. Neither Jane Jacobs nor the promotion of a “new urbanism” by SPUR and other groups had anything to do with rising housing costs in San Francisco/

Star Wars Episode III: Backstroke of the West - A Historical Preservation Post

Earlier today I made a reference to “Backstroke of the West”, and when I looked it up I saw that the original post was made in 2005, which means that a good chunk of people on here might be too young to remember it. So consider this post a public service. 

The following was originally posted here


episode iii, the backstroke of the west

i saw revenge of the sith last weekend at a local theater with my friend joe who was in town on business. it was much better than the first two movies and a fitting end (err.. middle) to the star wars saga.

the next day i was walking past my friendly dvd salesperson and decided to check out revenge of the sith. i was assured the quality was good and for 7rmb why not give it a shot.

aside from the counters on the top of the screen and a distorted perspective it was ok- not high quality but watchable. the captions were a hilarious surprise- a direct english translation of the chinese interpretation of what the script was saying. it varied from being somewhat close to the script to being ‘far far away’….

amazingly enough, the beginning scroll is mistranslated even though the words are right there on the screen.

star war (just one)

'the backstroke of the west’ is the english translation of the chinese title.

anakin: “this is where the fun begins”

obi wan: “let them pass between us”

anonymous doomed fighter pilot: “they’re all over me”

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The Kennicott Homestead at The Grove, Cook County, Illinois by Bob Callebert
Via Flickr:
The late summer prairie at The Grove is truly a sight to behold. It’s worth making a special trip. The Kennicott home is back there hiding in the mist, which was really heavy this morning.

This is the second-floor hallway in the abandoned 1864 Surgeon’s Residence (designated “Building R1”) on the campus of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Hospital.  Designed before electrical lighting - or indeed, prevalent gas lighting - a skylight illuminated the hallway in the early days of this building’s use, and now once again, during its abandonment.  The skylight continues up through the attic to a large cupola on the roof, which allows ample light to stream into the hall.  The hallway of the servant’s quarters, in the rear of the building, had no such appointment.  Thankfully, this Second Empire mansion - a National Historic Landmark - is in a state of controlled preservation.

Print available here.

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Daybreak in the Beury Building Penthouse, 2012.  The National Bank of North Philadelphia - now commonly referred to as the Beury Building - is a National Register of Historic Places-listed building that has been abandoned since the early 1980s.  Originally a lavish 11-story Art Deco bank tower, it was later converted for mixed-use, including a 3-story Penthouse on top, crowned by a pyramidal roof.  The now-14-story building is the largest in North Philly, and the only significant Art Deco building left in the entire city.  And yet, it has been left to rot for 30 years.  Pictured here is the top floor of the Penthouse during the Blue Hour, when the first strains of daylight were lazily reaching the sky.

Reaching the Penthouse is another matter, and anything but lazy - the stairs are almost completely gone, and only a set of dodgy wooden planks separates the climber from a painful (or deadly) fall of between 1-4 stories.  The building owners who commissioned me to photograph the tower for some “before renovation” photos advised me that I did not need to photograph this section as it was “inaccessible”.  Of course, I “accessed” it.  In the top image, a wide view of this floor, the glass of the windows long since broken out.  In the center image, an individual viewing window.  And in the bottom image, a detail of the view out the same window - whoever once lived here had a wonderful view of a once-affluent neighborhood, now dominated by liquor stores, pawn shops, and shady characters.  This view was worth the sketchy climb.

Print of top photograph available here.
Print of middle photograph available here.
Print of bottom photograph available here.

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Minneapolis about to sell historic Hollywood Theater for $1

The last picture show at the Hollywood Theater in northeast Minneapolis took place 27 years ago. The building has been empty, but not forgotten, since then. …

“I saw ‘Raging Bull’ there, I saw the ‘Blues Brothers’ there,” [Developer Andrew] Volna said. “It’s been on my radar since then.”

Photos courtesy of Sawdust Media


Meyer May House, Grand Rapids, MI

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Meyer May House is considered to be an exemplary example of the Prairie style. Built in 1908-1909, it features a hip roof with broad overhanging eaves, art glass windows in horizontal bands and pale brick that were common features of Wright’s houses. Wright designed nearly every aspect of the house, including the furniture, windows, light fixtures and rugs. The house underwent a major restoration in 1986. Nearly everything appears as it would have originally, including a mural of hollyhocks that had been covered by layers of paint for years. The house is open for (free!) tours.

Photos Meyer May House/Grand Rapids Press


With urban, Western settler and Native American archaeological sites just a short distance from campus, students in the UM Anthropology Program have a lot of opportunities to get their hands dirty. The undergraduate major includes options in archaeology, cultural & ethnic diversity, and forensic, linguistic and medical anthropology. Students also can pursue a minor in linguistics and certificates in English as second language, historical preservation and forensic studies.

Graduate programs include general anthropology, forensic anthropology, cultural heritage, applied anthropology, applied medical anthropology and linguistic anthropology.

Learn more on the UM Anthropology Program website.

The central administrative pavilion of Hudson River State Hospital is really the only part of the Frederick Clarke Withers designed asylum complex to remain in decent condition, as it was still used for decades after the wings were abandoned.  Elegantly created starting in the late 1860s in the High Victorian Gothic style, the Kirkbride building is a National Historic Landmark - sadly, one which now has little chance of preservation; the male wards were devastated by a fire in 2007, and the female wards have suffered so much water damage that the floors get worse by the year.  But depicted here is one of the worst sections of the central pavilion - a tiny room with a dormer window on the top floor - and as seen, it’s holding up incredibly well.  It is my hope that at least this primary section of the building will be saved.

Print available here.


“Spring forward” today with the colorful landscapes of the Piedras Blancas Light Station Outstanding Natural Area!

The Piedras Blancas Light Station is a historic landmark on California’s central coast. Located on a windswept point of land along scenic Highway One, the Lighthouse was first illuminated in 1875.

The Light Station is named for the distinctive white rocks just offshore. These rocks, and the rugged shoreline, are home to seabirds, sea lions and elephant seals. Over 70 native plant species can be found on the 19 acres surrounding the Light Station.

The BLM manages the Piedras Blancas Light Station as a historic park and wildlife sanctuary. Tours of Piedras Blancas are offered year round, and feature cultural and natural history as well as spectacular scenery.


victor lyagushkin and a team of divers, who can be seen swimming with a bioluminescent green algae, were the first to begin exploration of blue lake, located near the caucasus mountains in southern russia.

the lake’s sapphire coloured water, which comes exclusively from underwater tributaries, is a result of its high level of hydrogen sulphide. over time, these tributaries have dissolved layers of soluble bedrock, leaving behind the lake and its extensive cave system made of stronger rock. known as a karst lake, blue lake is believed to be the deepest of its kind on the planet at 800 feet.

given its location along the ancient silk route, and the uniform cold temperature of its water, the lake is believed to hold many well preserved historic artifacts.

in january of 2012, andrei rodionov, a member of victor’s team, died in a subsequent dive exploring the lake after an equipment failure, while martin robson was placed in intensive care after attempting a technically complex and dangerous nine hour, 209 meter dive.


Last week I visited the Untermyer Gardens in Yonkers.  I took the Metro North and walked up quite a hill to get there, and it was worth it!  The gardens have really beautiful views.  It is a small property compared to the botanical gardens I have been visiting, so it didn’t take long for me to see everything, but it’s the kind of place that makes you want to stop and stay awhile, I brought a book and enjoyed reading on benches throughout the gardens.  There were a handful of succulents, but overall a nice mix of different plants (marigolds were in abundance when I visited).  The architecture was beautiful (the water feature in the walled garden was a favorite).  Some of the garden areas feel like ruins, with columns still standing, but their former states have been lost.  The gardens are located in an unusual area, surrounded by medical buildings, but stepping into the walled garden you feel like you have entered into a very special place.  The grounds have a lot of potential and I hope that the idea is to preserve as well as to rebuild some of the areas to their former states.  A lovely day trip.

Check out their lovely tumblr page here.