South Carolina Senate Chamber Portrait of Ann Pamela Cunningham, The “Founding Mother” of Historic Preservation. Photo credit South Carolina Legislature

 

Many women and men have contributed so much to the field of historic preservation in America. However, as is too often the case, the role of many women has been hidden in the shadows. Sometimes these roles have been completely ignored or forgotten. Yet, women’s roles are inextricably linked to and undeniably contributed to the summation of successes in the field of American historic preservation. Despite their essential role in preservation, their memories are often not preserved. As noted here:

“Although women have led the historic preservation movement, the history of women has not been adequately preserved.”

-Ellen Perry Berkeley & Matilda McQuaid, p. 159, Architecture: A Place for Women

This blog post is written with the intention of being one small part of the movement to uncover the hidden roles of women in preservation, by shining a bright light on the women in the shadows, especially in honor of Women’s History Month. These women have played and continue to play pivotal roles alongside men in historic preservation. This post also includes relevant resources for interested readers to explore further, as well as tips on brightening the spotlight on women’s roles in history and preservation. After all, as Harriot Hunt stated in her personal narrative (regarding the monument to the battle of bunker hill):

“Half a people made only half a monument: the other half, the feminine, made it whole.”

-Harriot Hunt, p. 163, Glances and Glimpses: Or, Fifty Years Social, Including Twenty Years Professional Life

 

Early Roots of Historic Preservation: Cultural Diversity and Minority Groups

Beginning our overview of women in preservation by first acknowledging the historic and cultural contributions of non-European groups in America seems most fitting, as many of the women in preservation come from these backgrounds. These groups represent some of the earliest examples of what we could deem historic or cultural preservation in America because they have all played a part in shaping what American culture is today. Their unique stories did not always include preservation of the aspects of the physical built environment that we now typically associate with historic preservation, but their efforts did contribute to preservation of culture. One way these non-European groups maintained their traditions and cultural heritage within a broader American culture was through folklore and story-telling.

These traditions are often attributed most to the elders of the groups, particularly the female elders. Shannon Smith described the legacy of “native storytellers” as Native Americans are well-known for this tradition. These women were the primary means of passing stories on to subsequent generations, to educate and protect their culture and values, as men’s roles (e.g., hunting and fighting) often limited their ability to act as narrators. Jackie Krogmeier also discussed how Native women acted as cultural mediators with the European settlers; although this mediating role was necessary for maintaining peace and in some ways then also protecting their culture, their own voices and perspectives often are not highlighted. Instead, their parts are written in the annals of history mostly through the voices of European men, if noted at all.

Amache Ochinee Prowers was an example of a native woman considered to be a cultural mediator between the diverse cultural groups in what is now the state of Colorado, and this interview by the National Trust for Historic Preservation details the cultural heritage she inadvertently left behind for archaeologists to discover. Ada Deer is a modern-day Native American advocate and scholar, known for her tireless work to preserve Native culture and heritage while fighting for the rights of Native citizens. This Menominee Tribe member from Wisconsin was crucial in the Menominee Restoration Act of 1972, which restored the tribe to federally recognized status. This was just one victory in the fight to maintain Native culture rather than completely assimilate Native people, as the federal government had once intended. 

African Americans also played a pivotal role in preserving their own cultural heritage as well as contributing to modern American culture. African American slaves in particular were repressed in every way possible, including being prevented from learning to read and write. However,   described how slaves adapted by telling folktales of their cultural heritage. They updated and adapted those tales to their present circumstances, to prevent detection from slave owners who might perceive obvious traditional stories and ties to the African cultural identities as a way to unite slaves and a threat to the power the owners held over their slaves. Another way enslaved African people maintained their cultural heritage to some degree was through food. Christina Regelski discussed how enslaved African cooks brought their heritage into the homes of their masters, heavily influencing what people think of as traditional Southern food today, and we can guess that many of these cooks were female. Sylviane Diouf noted that female slaves often bore the burden of passing their cultural heritage to their descendants simply due to the tendency of slave owners to divide enslaved husbands and wives as another way to maintain power over them, leaving women with their children as the men were sold elsewhere, and even in cases where mothers were separated from their children. As with Native women, many of their voices and stories were lost to history.

Since the abolition of slavery, more African American women have prevailed in preserving their culture and have been able to do so with more resources at their disposal. Mary B. Talbert was one African American woman who specifically focused on preservation of African American heritage. She also contributed to preserving the built environment by saving the home of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, after initial efforts by others were unsuccessful. Several other modern African American women are also working hard to champion Black History as an integral part of America’s holistic heritage.

These are just two cultural examples of many minority groups in America, but all have stories to tell about their contribution to preservation. The National Park Service has highlighted general cultural diversity in historic preservation, including the short timeline for recognizing the importance of preserving the cultural heritage of minority groups and including diversity as a preservation issue.  

Women have faced unique challenges in many societies, including the Western world. Compounding being female with being a non-European minority in America has added to this plight. These trials have rendered the triumphs of maintained cultural heritage and historical preservation by the women of these groups all the more meaningful.

Timeline of Women in the Formal History of Historic Preservation

Most chronological accounts of the history of historic preservation agree that the earliest recognized formal example of historic preservation – in European-American Culture – was the founding of the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1791.  Its founding is credited to Jeremy Belknap, a clergyman and historian. His pioneering act paved the way for other communities and groups, including women, to establish successful means of recording, preserving, and restoring history. However, little is noted about the roles that women may have played in this historical endeavor. 

Subsequently, several other organizations for history and preservation were formed, buildings were saved from decay or demolition and even restored, and museums opened. Notably, women were involved in many grassroots efforts. One famous early example was that of the monument to commemorate the Battle of Bunker Hill. Several women were part of a group in the 1820’s that initially championed the creation of a monument, and were at the helm of organized fundraising events for the monument. Sarah Josepha Hale (whose many accolades can be found here) was probably the most famous among them. The aforementioned Harriot Hunt also contributed to and lauded these efforts by her fellow female activists.

However, it was not until perhaps the mid-nineteenth century when Ann Pamela Cunningham – often credited as the American Preservation Movement’s Founding Mother – inspired a preservation movement. Finally, a woman was given specific recognition for preservation. Cunningham was appalled at the state of George Washington’s monumental Mt. Vernon Estate, and in 1853, inspired by her own mother’s concerns, penned an article about it that was published in a Charleston, S.C. newspaper. Even in the 1850s, the estate of the “Father of our Country” was threatened by a combination of neglect and speculators hoping to develop it for profit. Not even the tumultuous time period, including threat of secession and civil war, could squelch Cunningham’s entreaty. Her pleas were answered by like-minded women all over the country, even on opposite sides of the Mason-Dixon Line. The result was the chartering of the Mt. Vernon Ladies’ Association, and America’s first nationwide preservation campaign was underway. After several years the Association was successful in saving and preserving the property. This success-story spurred other preservation movements, and modern-day preservationists esteem Cunningham’s efforts as having set the stage for things that are still done today. 

Countless other named and unnamed women from various cultural and ethnographic backgrounds contributed to preservation and general history through the years. But many diminished or even scoffed at the work of these women. For a large part of American history, those women’s twentieth century successors were jokingly referred to as “little old ladies in tennis shoes standing in front of bulldozers.” However, as Elizabeth Byrd Wood – a past editor at the National Trust for Historic Preservation – pointed out, the 1966 enactment of the National Historic Preservation Act created jobs via state historic preservation offices, finally creating formal positions for people to make a recognized career out of preservation. One of those first professional preservationists was Nancy Schamu, who began working for the Maryland Historical Trust in 1969, and who is now also considered a leader of the modern preservation movement. She was interviewed upon her retirement, sharing significant insights into the changes in preservation over the past half-century.

Women in Modern-Day Historic Preservation

The creation of formal government-based preservation jobs marked a significant formalization of the preservation field in this country and made it so that historical female preservationists’ work was not in vain. Women’s roles have continued to evolve from their foremothers’ roles as preservers of culture and activists for the built environment. More and more women have successfully trained and demonstrated their merit in the hands-on work involved in preservation. The National Trust for Historic Preservation spotlighted just a few of those women who are now part of this niche field of skilled craftspeople. Another example of women in preservation is exhibited on countless TV shows such as those featured on the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) network and the Home and Garden Television (HGTV) network, demonstrating how much more mainstream preservation, or at least restoration and renovation, have become to the public via commercialism (for better or for worse depending on one’s opinion). With countless books and internet resources information proliferates more than ever before regarding the pivotal roles of women in history and historic preservation. Restoring Women’s History through Historic Preservation is just one fine example of these written efforts that recognize the feminist imperative to increase female visibility and involvement in history and preservation.

Practical ways to honor and include women in history and preservation

Even with these strides, there is much more work to do to ensure the visibility of women in history and historic preservation. The National Trust for Historic Preservation featured suggestions on “Putting Women Back in History.”  Suggestions from this article include:

  • Put females in the wider context of history. Rather than relegating them to only domestic roles, focus on their roles in every aspect of history. Women have played less obvious but no-less significant roles in growing crops, mediating with other cultural groups, creating war-time munitions, and working in factories.
  • Note how expectations for women varied. This might include defining the contributing roles of slaves, servants, and rich women to the country we live in. Consider the different cultures and times in which they lived.
  • Use women’s resources. Anything owned by a woman in history is an artifact of who she was and what she contributed.
  • Search for new sources. Do not assume you know or have all of the information; previously uncovered sources of documentation may exist. You never stop learning about someone.
  • View women as independent and part of the whole. Women are worth something in their own right, not just in how they support men or children.
  • Do not stereotype. Look beyond simple interpretations of their artifacts and contributions, and look at the whole person, the unique individual
  • Let the women speak. Use direct quotes and add well documented-stories.

Historic preservation is about more than saving windows in an old house, or repairing a plaster molding; it’s about preserving any and all aspects of the history of a culture, where possible. To do that requires allowing all of the voices and work of all of its contributors to be heard. Everyone of us can contribute to this enriched history by remaining curious, researching women, including historical women’s stories, quotes and objects in our museums and heritage sites, hiring women in all roles related to history and preservation, and educating women about other women in history. Women themselves can continue to share their own stories to pass them down to future generations. As Harriot Hunt basically said, women are the essential half to make the ideal whole.

THE WOMEN OF HISTORIC RESTORATIONS, c. 2012

From the Left: Katie, Lois, Karri, and Danielle 

With all our posts, articles, education, and discussion on Women’s History month, would you have expected any less of us?  Of course not!  And we are always happy to meet (and then exceed!) expectations.  So without further ado, let’s bring these lovely ladies out into our preservation spotlight and let you get to know the wisdom, grace, talent, ability, grace, expertise, and all-around general fabulousity of these strong women.

“I’m a woman.  Phenomenally.  Phenomenal woman, that’s me.”
-Maya Angelou

“Right-Hand Rosie” Lois

Lois Groshong

The original lady of Historic Restorations, Lois radiates the quiet, centered wisdom that makes you want to fold your legs in under yourself and sit and listen in her quiet for a week or two.  Born to a father bearing the name of Apollo, would you have expected her to be any less of a goddess than she is?

Raised in a Victorian farmhouse in Nebraska by her parents Apollo and Evelyn, Lois and her older brother Thomas spent their days ripping through the fields and orchard playing cowboys and indians and pretending to be an assortment of superheroes, letting their wild imaginations create the world in the unique way that only unfettered childhood can do.

Lois’ Mother had different desires than mud and muck for her daughter.  Initially Lois resisted her Mother’s efforts to turn her into a lovely lady looking sweet in pink, lacy outfits – but eventually Lois blossomed into that lovely young lady indeed.  And while her tastes may not have run along the lines of pink lace, Lois’ original aspiration was to be a fashion designer and she pursued that interest in aesthetic design by majoring in art in college, flexing her creative muscles and rounding out that creativity with a minor in psychology.

Lois may have mimicked a variety of superheroes, but she had a host of real-life superheroes to ground her in the firm reality that heroes and she-roes are not merely for the makings of myths and childhood play.  Lois says, “My heroes are my family members. One of my uncles was the first African America to graduate from Creighton University School of Dentistry, and many of my aunts and uncles (and now siblings and cousins) are doctors, lawyers, in the teaching profession (college level and school administration), and entrepreneurs.  My Mother programmed computers for her job with Farmers Union Insurance Co. for over 20 years.”

With such a strong framework of determination, accomplishment, capability, and obvious worth, Lois’ family were the perfect stewards for the growing goddess.  Stewardship that impacted her strongly and helped her develop the determination she would need to face the world.  “I was told at a very young age that no one was ‘better’ than me, and that I might have to work twice as hard to be recognized as equal, but to never, never give up or ‘they’ win,” Lois says.

And apparently Lois Groshong doesn’t like to lose, because her quiet determination is as solid as the historic buildings she works to save and bring back to life.

“As a child I was creative, curious, and a tom boy.  As a teenager I was creative, introspective, and goofy.  As a young adult I was creative, searching, blooming.  As an adult I am creative, spiritual, traditional, and sometimes everything I was as a child, teenager, and young adult!” she says.

Obviously creativity is a running theme in Lois’ life, and that creativity suits her role in the Historic Restorations team.  As our “Right-Hand Rosie”, Lois facilitates our projects in a variety of ways and in any way necessary to keep the business, clients, and the other team members positive, organized, and focused.  Clients have been known to refer to our goddess as the “remodeling psychologist”.

And that suits her just fine.  “The most satisfying aspect of what I do is knowing that our talents and principles go against the accepted and typical building practices of today, and that what we do will be around long after we are gone,” Lois says.  “Historic preservation is all about conservation as well as preservation and our legacy will be that we shared something that is greater than ourselves and left this world a better place.”

Lois believes the biggest challenge to women in business is simply, “They are not men.  In the building business men are reluctant to have a positive reaction to women directing them in how to do anything.”  But Lois doesn’t let that stop her and simply continues on her way, knowing she has as much ability and right as the next person.  Encouraging other women to do the same, Lois also encourages us all to support women in business by judging businesses by the quality of the service and product they offer.  “Shop at women-owned business not just when you can, but when you should,” she says.

What does the future hold for our (still growing) goddess?  “My future is full of continuing to put my creative talents to good use,” Lois says.  “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”

“Riveting Phenomenon” Danielle

Danielle Groshong-Keperling

If Lois was something of a tom boy, her daughter Danielle was an even bigger one.  Born in Denver, Colorado, her early life was spent following in her Father’s footsteps – figuratively and literally.  Danielle recalls a photo of her at age two where she is wearing her Dad’s work boots and carrying his lunch box, fully prepared to go to work. “I wonder if that picture was a harbinger of things to come,” she says both with a laugh, and in all seriousness.

(And those of us who know Danielle don’t doubt for a second that even at age two, she really would have accompanied him right into work, fully prepared to pitch right in and get to work!)

“By the time I was in Middle School, I would help him clean the shop on weekends to spend time with him, sometimes I would even make wooden plugs,” says Danielle.

Danielle may have inherited a penchant for all things shop-related and a work ethic from her Dad, but she was born with an innate thirst for knowledge.  (Winnie the Pooh once asked Danielle, “Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?”  Danielle patted his head and offered him more honey.)

At the age of 11, Danielle migrated to Lancaster County, PA with her parents, where she began her long and lustrous career of educating herself.  She attended private Catholic grade schools and graduated from Lancaster Catholic High School.  After which she studied Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management at HACC and then completed her Organizational Leadership degree in 2009 at Eastern University.  In late 2011 she graduated with a Masters in Business Administration from Eastern University as well.

While she very much values her formal education, Danielle notes, “Real life eamples and experience have always been the ‘best’ teacher for me, which is one reason I did not feel as comfortable in a traditional college setting.  After all, my first ‘college’ experience was people that brought their real life experience to the ‘class room’.”

And believe it or not, she uses both her Culinary Arts education and her business education to this day.  As Chief Operating Officer at Historic Restorations and as a pastry chef at Byers Butterflake Bakery in Leola.

“I wanted to be a social worker until my senior year of high school when I had the revelation that I could not, in fact, save the world (or even, failing my saving of the world, just bring all the unwanted children home with me).  One day I was home from school sick with wisdom teeth, saw a commercial for a pastry arts program and decided that is what I wanted to do,” Danielle says.

Chief Operating Officer by “day”….  Wedding Cake Decorator by “night”….

And she could rivet too. 

That is indeed our Danielle.  Not having any interest in being anyone but herself, Danielle is funny, creative, decisive, determined, quirky, educated, and sharp.  So smart, we’re pretty sure we’ve seen tacks bow to her as she passes by them in the office.

In her spare time, when she’s not intimidating the office supplies, Danielle can be found reading, watching MSNBC or reality TV, helping friends, working in the community, or working on her master plan for world domination as she belts out her theme song – The Gambler by Kenny Rogers.

Danielle pulls from all these strengths, her work history, and her education in her daily management of Historic Restorations’ operations, working hard towards good stewardship of our collective built history – the most rewarding part of what Historic Restorations does for Danielle.  “My favorite quote points out that we are only on this planet for a short period of time, how we care for and preserve our history is a legacy for for future generations,” she says.

“Like people, houses are created, live, and grow old.  Like us, they eventually disappear.  Houses that survive to be studies, explored, and admired by distant generations should be regarded as emissaries from another time, as gateways into our past.”

 By Jack Larkin in WHERE WE LIVED: Discovering the Places We Once Called Home, The American Home from 1775 to 1840

But it’s only one of the legacies Danielle is working on leaving behind.  As a strong woman in a male-dominated field, she faces daily challenges in her career.  She says that while she does believe things are changing for women in construction, they still have to work a little bit harder and know their “stuff” a little bit better to get respect.  “I don’t know how many men get winked at during a project meeting for knowing the right answer…. but I bet it’s not as many as me,” she says with a laugh.

She advocates for women in business to be supportive of other women in business by sharing stories and providing information, helpful resources, guidance, and support.  “I’ve enjoyed reading books about women that have overcome obstacles and paved the way for my generation.  Including Personal History by Katherine Graham (the first woman to lead a Fortune 500 company after her father died), and If You Don’t Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons on Your Pigtails: And Other Lessons I Learned from My Mom by Barbara Corcoran (who built her real estate empire with a $1,000 loan),” she notes.

So what does the future hold for Danielle?

“Babies, more puppies, penguins, teaching on the college level, a pygmy hippo, who knows?  I am waiting for my crystal ball to arrive – it has been back ordered for awhile now.”

“Office Maven” Katie

Katie O’Brien

Our newest addition to the Historic Restorations team, Katie, is a Lancaster County native (though her parents are originally from Pittsburgh, where they now live again).  Active in dance and sports in childhood, Katie was adventurous, friendly, and eager to learn as a child, “rebellious, active, and confused” as a teenager, and now finds herself solidly in “happy, independent, world traveler” as a young adult.

Katie graduated from Clarion University of PA with a B.S.BA and a focus on marketing.  She also studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland and attended Dublin Business School, as well as interned for a non-profit organization while in Dublin.

“Traveling, studying, and working in Europe heavily influenced who I am today.  I don’t believe I would have gotten this far in my career without that asset,” says the frank Katie.

In her free time, Katie enjoys spending time with family and friends, watching movies, listening to music, being outside, and reading.  She brings many strengths to the table, but isn’t one to over-estimate herself.  “My strengths are that I am easy to get along with, a quick learner, and I am always interested in learning and doing something new.  But I procrastinate sometimes and always have multiple to-do lists going on at once,” she says in her straight-forward manner.

But while managing multiple to-do lists may feel like a weakness to Katie, it works as a strength for the important role she plays in the Historic Restorations team.  As our resident “Office Maven”, Katie executes daily administration tasks and marketing strategies with her precision efficiency and organization (and flourishing penmanship).  Quite literally everything and anything might be thrown Katie’s way, and she’s a master at woman-handling it and throwing it right back.  If this she-roe weren’t quite so petite and friendly, it might almost call Paul Bunyan to mind.  And for many, it does anyway.

Katie’s interest in historic preservation stems from her innate value of older buildings.  “It is important to me to preserve these buildings.  If they aren’t, they will be lost forever, and buildings just aren’t built the same anymore – they aren’t as grand as they once were,” she says wistfully.  With a sigh.

When asked about the challenges women in business face, Katie said, “They face discrimination, judgement from others, and are often viewed as being incompetent.  Through my career, I have faced not being respected by older colleagues and being looked down on.”

How does Katie woman-handle that?

“I turn to older colleagues and family members.  It’s easy to feel alone when situations happen, and women can support each other by sharing their experiences and stories.  It’s always good to remember that you’re not the only woman who has experienced challenges in business,” she says.

Katie’s biggest she-roe and influence has been her older sister, Kelly.  An independent woman who is very successful, happily married, and mother to an 18-month-old, Katie values having a strong and capable role model to look up to.

With that same positive outlook on things, Katie says of her future, “I am not certain what my future holds for me, but it is bright!”

“Wordsmith Extraordinaire” Karri

Karri A. Sensenig

Karri is another Lancaster County native we recently added to our (apparently growing) collection of native artifacts.  She’s joined our team as a consultant to help us develop and implement the Historic Restorations newsletter and blog as the solid educational resource we want it to be.

Karri uses her background in journalism, writing and reporting, marketing, education, and construction to pull together educational content for the online community we are building for our customers, colleagues, and the preservation community so they can continue learning, discussing, and sharing historic preservation information.

“I like to talk and teach people about things.  Or type.  Whichever is most accessible for me at the moment.  I’m not terribly picky,” she says.

Married to one of Lancaster County’s few remaining stone masonry artisan craftsmen, and raised in a family of traditional tradespeople, Karri is no stranger to the construction industry.  Raised in a Mennonite family and the traditional Lancaster County culture, historic preservation is as ingrained in her as hanging her wash out to dry and growing her own tomatoes.  (Heirloom varieties, of course.)  Her first full-time job after graduating high school was with a construction company, and over the years she has worked for and consulted with a wide range of small to large construction companies.

In addition to her career activities, Karri has spent the last 15 years homeschooling, home-making, gardening, reading, writing, pursuing her B.A. in Educational Studies, studying and learning.  She’s rather curious about pretty much anything and everything and might surprise you by holding her own in discussions about anything from the best way to knead bread, to the economic impact of current trade policy, to the financial implications of local school district policies.

“I don’t believe in blindly following someone’s opinion – even my own – so I question it all, especially myself. I don’t know that I ever really gets answers to those questions, but I do learn a lot along the way,” she says.

As a child Karri grew up on farms and spent most of her time outdoors, in the fields, woods, ponds, creeks, and occasionally the back yard.  “I was a ‘free range’ kid,” she says, “Organically grown.  But I’m pretty sure there was some genetic modification, so no official organic label.”  As a teenager she continued to spend most of her time outdoors, this time usually on her horse.  As a young adult she poured her energy into mothering the four children she had in seven years.  While getting her B.A. and helping her husband start his own business.

We’re pretty sure they make a medication for people like her, and we’re kind of glad she doesn’t take it.

Now she splits her time between her family and homeschooling her kids and helping Historic Restorations save our history – one building at a time.  She says, “Historic preservation provides us all with a sense of community, a sense of self, a sense of place – all of which is important to me.”

But that isn’t the only thing important to Karri, supporting women in business is just as important.  She says, “The culture I grew up in is a very practical culture, and we don’t like things like wasted space so our glass ceiling was pretty low.  And I’m rather tall, so I kept hitting it.  After enough of bumps, I decided it might be smarter to just raise it.”

How does Karri accomplish that?

“Education.  Knowledge is power, not just because you now have awareness, but because now you can take action.  Without knowledge, the action true change requires could never happen.  So I educate people,” she says.

Will she do that for the rest of her life?  What else will she do?

“I’m not sure I’d know how not to do that!” she proclaims, adding, “I could try, I guess.  But I’d rather try lots of other things first.  Like running a marathon, or better yet an ultra-marathon like the 135-miler in Death Valley.”

One of the more intriguing interpretative strategies we read about during our research into expanding historic preservation to include women’s history was the use of heritage trails.  By now, we are all familiar with heritage trails – those walking and driving journeys around to different historic sites that historical commissions, museums, public agency, community organizations, and even private individuals put together to motivate us put on our shoes, grab our keys, and plan a trip to explore history.  
And motivate us it does, who doesn’t read about a particular heritage trail and decide they *don’t* want to make that particular journey?
Which is why a historic preservation master’s thesis we stumbled across piqued our interest with its title, “Commemoration and Protest: The Use of Heritage Trails to Connect Women’s History with Historic Sites” submitted to the University of Pennsylvania by Marissa J. Moshier.
We’re not going to bore you with a full-blown rehash and review of the excellent information Moshier conveyed in her thesis, mostly because you can read it for yourself right here, but also because we’d really rather make a better use of this space (and your time) to discuss this topic.

You see, for all the information Moshier presented (and believe us, you should read it, because it was a ton), it was what was missing from that information that stood out the most to us.  For all those wise, wise words, for all her obviously extensive research, for all the astute observations and connections she made, for all the motivation her writing inspired, for all her details on the women’s heritage trails in states and cities across the country, there was one thing Moshier failed to include in her information: any mention of a woman’s history heritage trail in Pennsylvania.

Because there isn’t one.

So what we would LOVE to discuss is how a heritage trail could be developed, promoted, and used by the public to connect women’s history to the rich network of historic sites we have here.

Here are our beginning questions, let’s open up the discussion.  Feel free to give us your thoughts in response to these questions, or respond with more questions you might have.

           Who would develop this heritage trail?             

                                            How would they develop it?   

   Would it be contained to publicly operated sites?  

             Could it blend both publicly and privately operated sites?  

     What were the important contributions women made in 
     Pennsylvania’s history?  

                                What were the roles they played 
throughout our history?  

              How are those contributions and roles already 
              represented in our history sites?  

  How can we connect those sites with a heritage trail?  

                       Which sites would we use?  

            Which sites specifically include women’s history already?  
    Are they the best ones to use to tell women’s stories in 
   Pennsylvania history?  
Do we need to develop new ones?

The following is an excellent list of resources for further reading and study into the effective inclusion of women’s history into historical preservation.  It is by no means comprehensive, but we found great value in reading the following and hope you will too.  Most of them require nothing more than a click (or a few) of the mouse and a few minutes of your time to explore.

————

“Declaration of Sentiments” 
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/senecafalls.asp

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal…”  So begins the Declaration of Sentiments – the document created at the first Women’s Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, NY in 1848.  In it, 68 women and 32 men, used the model of the U.S. Declaration of Independence to lay bare their demands for women’s rightful place in our society.  It is simply a must read for any preservationist, but unfortunately it’s one most don’t even realize exists.

————
Women’s History Resources in Pennsylvania

http://hsp.org/collections/catalogs-research-tools/subject-guides/womens-history-resources

The Historical Society of PA maintains online collection access for many resources, including resources on women’s history in Pennsylvania.  In this guide they detail those women’s history resources and collections and include a link to their online catalog of collections.  Further exploration of their website will yield you a ton of other good information, resources, and inspiration as well.

————

“Raising Our Sites: Integrating Women’s History into Museums” by Kim Moon
http://crm.cr.nps.gov/archive/20-3/20-3-14.pdf

In this article, Kim Moon, Assistant Director of the Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC), details the PHC pilot program from the early 1990’s that consciously worked to incorporate the female historical perspective into state museums across Pennsylvania.  Several museums in our area participated in this program and Moon’s article discusses what worked about the program, the challenges they face and how they overcame them, the procedural structures the program used to implement changes in exhibits, and sample activities developed to include women’s history.
————

National Women’s History Project
http://www.nwhp.org/

Founder of Women’s History Month is just one of the praises we could sing about The National Women’s History Project (NWHP).  In addition to supporting Women’s History Month and coordinating women’s history celebrations, observances, activities, etc. every March, the NWHP hosts collaborative workshops and conferences to raise awareness of women’s history, provides wide accessibility about women’s history through their award-winning website, and serves as our nation’s number one resources for information, artifacts, and resource material about the roles of women in American history.  

————

“Places where women made History” by the National Park Service 
http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/travel/pwwmh/index.htm

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first Women’s Right Convention, the National Park Service (NPS) developed this travel itinerary of 75 places in New York and Massachusetts where you can learn about many women who made important historical contributions to education, government, medicine, the arts, commerce, women’s suffrage, and the civil rights movement.  This itinerary can be used as an actual travel itinerary, as well as an online opportunity to take a virtual trip to learn about how these women helped make history.  Each location link has general information about the site, pictures, maps, and links to essays that provide historical background for the sites.  This website also includes an extensive bibliography of resources, many online, in their “Learn More” section.
————

“Feminism in the Museum” by Lisa Price
 http://www.wrinklybrain.com/FeminismInTheMuseum.pdf

In this essay, author Lisa Price provides and overview of the information contained in Barbara Melosh’s article “Speaking of Women: Museums’ Representations of Women’s History“.  Price provides a succinct summation of the information in Melosh’s article about the role historical preservation plays in our society. Melosh’s full article was printed in History Museums in the United States: A Critical Assessment (edited by Warren Leon and Roy Rosenzweig, Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1989). 
————

“Transmitting Culture by Preserving Women’s History” by Connie Lamb http://www.mtnforum.org/sites/default/files/pub/1019.pdf

Connie Lamb’s article discusses the Women’s Manuscript collection that focuses on Mormon and Western U.S. women maintained at The Bringham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah.  Lamb presents a strong case for including women’s manuscripts in historical preservation to access and document women’s life experiences throughout history by preserving diaries, letters, poetry, oral histories, biographies, etc.  Her articles includes a link to the online guide to the manuscript collection maintained at BYU, which does offer online access to some texts.

————


“Restoring Women’s History Through Historic Preservation” edited by Gail Lee Dubrow and Jennifer B. Goodman


This book is not available online (though some of the articles it contains are), but it is available at the Franklin & Marshall College Library in Lancaster, PA.  The general public is welcome to join the library for a nominal fee, and we encourage you to do so if for no other reason than to read this book (though you might find yourself enjoying the architecture, the quiet, and the Library of Congress cataloging system at the library).  In it information abounds about how to research women’s history, combat challenges to preserving women’s history, include women’s history in existing preservation, organize new preservation of women’s history, build a “village” that will tackle the issue of preserving women’s history in your community, and more. 

————

“Revealing Women’s History: Best Practices at Historic Sites” by the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites
http://www.ncwhs.org/images/stories/revealing-womens-history.pdf

In this publication, five case studies are presented of how the historic sites across our country have brought the female part of our history into their preservation based on asking: “What women were present here?”, “What women were affected by the events/people here?”, “How did women affect this site?”, and “How did they perceive it?”.

————

National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites
http://ncwhs.org/

Founded in 2001, the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites (NCWHS) works towards the goal of making women’s history and their participation in American life highly visible and valued in historic sites.  One of the ways they do this is by publishing Women’s History: Sites and Resources, a 142-page reference guide for American women’s past that features forty women’s history sites and projects, complete with travel itineraries, teaching plans, and websites.  Additionally, NCWHS is currently working on a women’s history heritage trail project, and hosted an “Integrating Women’s History” workshop in 2011 (the complete video series of the workshop is available to watch free of cost on their website).

————

Over 100 years ago, women in this country began working towards being recognized in the eyes of the law.  They sought the right to vote, the right to own property, the right to fair and equal wages, among other rights.  They fought hard and they won them all.  
Yet in the early 90’s out of over 500 historic sites in Pennsylvania, only a single one of them intentionally featured the women’s historical experience in their permanent displays.  
After almost two hundred years of work by women’s rights activists, we are still recovering from the affects of treating women as less important than men and clearly need to turn a conscious eye towards preserving women’s historical experiences in our preservation efforts.

So how do we do that? What exactly are we preserving? What opposition and challenges might we face? What resources and tools can we use to accomplish this goal? What methods are best for reinterpreting our preservation efforts?

Revisit the history you thought you knew….

In Restoring Women’s History through Historic Preservation, editors Gail Lee Dubrow and Jennifer B. Goodman point out that the first step towards expanding our interpretation of history to include women’s perspectives is to put women’s historical experiences and women’s questions about the past at the core of the preservation framework.  Before we begin even putting together the what the final preservation will “look like”, we need to ask ourselves what the woman’s experience was at the time and what women today will wonder and ask about that experience.  
This should include preserving both the shared experiences between men and women, as well as the gender-defined roles they each played separately.  Neither men nor women lived completely apart and separate from each other and a well-rounded preservation of the past will value both their individual roles, the roles they played together, and the roles they played to influence the other gender’s roles.

A common challenge preservationists may come up in the process of integrating women’s history into their projects is the opinion that reinterpreting our history is “revisionist history”.   What may be most helpful in overcoming this challenge, should you find yourself facing it, is to build public awareness of  the contributions women made as producers, consumers, wives, mothers, healers, nurturers, social and political influences, community organization, moral authorities, etc.  These contributions make up half of our collective history and reinterpreting our historical preservation to include women’s perspectives is not rewriting history, it’s deepening our understanding of it.

 Preservation 
doesn’t need
to add
women into
history,
it only need
show how 
history has 
already 
included them.

Identify and tell your woman’s story….

Since women recorded their experiences, opinions, thoughts, interests, and roles throughout history in a multitude of ways, resources to help build women’s perspectives into our historical preservation literally abound.  Diaries and journals, household receipts and account books, organization records from social, cultural, and political organizations, correspondences (both public and private), prints and drawings, as well as manuscripts are all good beginning points to research the feminine viewpoint for your particular preservation project.  You may be surprised at some of the stories that begin to weave themselves around your preservation project as you learn more about how women functioned within its context.

Thanks to these vast and far-reaching roles that women throughout history played, artifacts that can be used to tell the women’s story you discover include your research is virtually unlimited.

Clothing, postcards collections, period prints and photos, newspaper articles, jewelry and hair adornments, costumes, textiles, home and domestic artifacts, portraiture, period books, magazines, recipes, medical instruments, tools related to women-defined occupations, childbearing and child rearing artifacts such as toys, period advertisement about women, furniture and decorative art, political papers and campaign advertisements.  All of which can be used in a variety of settings such as inside the period home, factory, social hall, church, town center, civic organization, etc.

Your site’s period and subject matter will also be a source of inspiration for how to tell women’s stories in your preservation.  But don’t limit yourself to just focusing on those things traditionally associated with the women of your preservation’s story. Turning to objects not typically associated with women (large power machinery, guns, military uniforms) can create a powerful commentary on the gender and value judgments that society of that time held.

Preserve extraordinary history with ordinary people….

Preservationists looking to include women’s history need also be careful that they are not falling into the easy habit of focusing only on well-known, high-profile, or prominent women in society.  Their stories are easy to tell, but the common, “ordinary” experience of the many should not be overshadowed by the more noticeable experience of the few.  Not only will the public more easily relate to the experience of “every day” women, these are the very experiences that most shaped the stories our preservation efforts seek to tell.

Notable female figures
in history play an
important role when we
preserve our stories.


William Penn is a notable historic figure to most Pennsylvanians (and many non-Pennsylvanians), but do you know who Sue, little Sue, Mary Lofty, and Abigail Pemberton were?  If you have been to visit Pennsbury Manor (reconstruction of William Penn’s summer home located north of Philadelphia) recently, you probably do.

They are the women of Penn’s household. Sue was his enslaved African American woman, little Sue was her daughter, Mary Lofty was Penn’s housekeeper, and Abigail was her assistant.  In the 1990’s, these women’s historical experience were built into the preservation at Pennsbury Manor in order to provide visitors with a more in-depth look into William Penn’s life.

Adding these ordinary women into the site’s preservation not only sheds light on the lives of the women, children, and servants who once lived there, it also allows visitors to explore the issues of class, race, and gender in the context of William Penn’s ideals and philosophy.  Were these women “unimportant” to history?  To William Penn?

So do the lesser known
women who’s ordinary
lives built an extraordinary
history for our culture. 

The answer, of course, is a resounding “no” – there are many more Sue, Mary Lofty, and Abigails in our history than there are William Penns and building our preservation efforts based solely on the notable, wealthy, powerful, noble, brilliant, famous people throughout our history presents a narrowly focused, imbalanced view of who and how we were.  

In reference to Ghandi, Albert Einstein once said, “Generations to come will scarcely believe that such a one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”  A quite fitting sentiment indeed to express about such an inspirational human being as Ghandi.  But does this sentiment apply any less to Ghandi’s siblings?  His parents? His neighbors?  Perhaps in some ways, it’s even more meaningful to express such a sense of awe, such an an overwhelming esteem, towards a common, ordinary, “every day” person.

In conclusion…. and hopefully in inspiration….

Make no mistake, progress for women in our culture has come a long way, and our preservation of women’s culture has too. Almost everywhere you turn, you see another piece of evidence showing how we’ve brought women’s places in society into an increasing consciousness and growing esteem.  
Let’s approach our future preservation with that very same goal: increasing consciousness and growing esteem of the roles women in our history have played and how we can broaden our preservation efforts to include women’s history.

“When people … took action, then there was a change.” 
-Rosa Parks


Ever wonder what the women of the Ephrata Cloister were like?  What other local women of that era were like?  The Ephrata Cloister can show you, with their program “Mothers, Sisters, Daughters” that explores the roles, duties, responsibilities, and influences of both the celibate women of the Cloister and married women of Colonial America.  For more information, visit their website at: ephratacloister.org.

VETERANS DAY – A day to honor those who served. This day has been observed in some form for a century, but preserved structures of all kinds – from memorials, to monuments, to buildings – provide tangible evidence of that observance, solidifying the impact of veterans’ actions in the conscious memory. Visiting these physical traces keeps that history alive long after those they honor are gone. 

Photo of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, located at the Northeast intersection of King and Queen Streets (with the Watt and Shand façade in the background), in Lancaster, PA. Photo courtesy of the author’s father, Bob Kise.

 

A Brief History of Veterans Day

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 1918 is significant for its designation as the cessation of hostilities of World War I (“The Great War”) on the Western Front. It was marked by the signing of the final armistice with the last opponent (Germany) of the allied forces. Although various complexities meant that true formal peace was not negotiated until the Treaty of Versailles’ signing nearly a year later, Armistice Day was celebrated on the November 11th. It became a day to honor the men who served in WWI and was observed as early as 1919 across the world. As the years went by the name and date of observance evolved in several countries. In the United States, the name was officially changed to Veterans Day in 1954 by President Eisenhower after a grassroots push to honor all veterans of all wars. The date was temporarily changed to the fourth Monday of October in the late 1960’s due to the federal government’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act, but was returned to the original date a decade later after much disproval from American citizens and state governments, based on their conviction about the historical significance of November 11th. 

 

Pennsylvania’s Preserved Military History

Just like preservation happened well before it was formally legislated, and much earlier than anyone thought of preservation as a career, dedicating historical military sites and honoring veterans throughout the United States also occurred on an informal level prior to Armistice and Veterans Day. As the American Battlefield Trust notes, in the mid-nineteenth century caring individuals started saving Revolutionary War battlefields, and during the Civil War, almost as soon as the battles were over, veterans erected monuments and memorials to their fallen comrades. By the end of the nineteenth century there were 5 national battlefield parks – one of the most famous being Pennsylvania’s own Gettysburg Battlefield. 

Even after these battlefield parks were established, however, there were conflicts over how and what should be preserved or restored, and disputes continue to this day (a recent example includes the battle over the Cyclorama building at Gettysburg), including arguments about the necessity of preserving historic commemorations of the original historical people, objects, and places vs. the actual thing being commemorated

Regardless, we are fortunate that people saw the necessity of saving these places in the past. This sense of place is key to making this history meaningful hundreds of years after the battles. A sense of place often requires more than construction of monuments, memorials, or signs to be truly felt, but also battlefields and other relevant lands and buildings. In Pennsylvania, we have numerous examples of preserved military history where people can gain a greater understanding of past conflicts as well as a better appreciation for what past and present veterans experienced and contributed. And to paraphrase Philip Kennicott’s summary in his 2013 article for the Washington Post, it’s best to engage and be engaged in this sense of place to truly make it meaningful.

“But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.”

– Lines from President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, delivered November 19, 1863

 

Examples of unique preserved military sites in Pennsylvania:

 

Fort Mifflin. One of the few remaining intact Revolutionary War battlefields – and the only fort in Philadelphia – this site has functioned well beyond its initial purpose, serving various needs through the Civil War, as well as both world wars, until it was decommissioned, fell into disrepair, listed on the National Register in the 1970s, and saved in the 1980s to become a significant historical museum. Read more about it here.

 

Photo above courtesy of Bob Kise.

 

Gettysburg Train Station. Constructed in 1859, this station is more than a station. Not only did it host President Abraham Lincoln when he arrived to provide the Gettysburg Address, it served as an advantageous spot – with its cupola – for soldiers to post themselves during battle, a hospital for wounded soldiers as well as the point from which wounded soldiers were transported to other locations. Read more here.

 

Photo above courtesy of Bob Kise.

 

Lee’s Headquarters at Gettysburg. Built in 1834, this home that was owned by Thaddeus Stevens and occupied by the widow Mary Thompson during the Civil War, this unassuming farmhouse became Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s headquarters due to its prime location. It also served as a hospital for wounded from both sides. It became a museum as early as the 1920s and was significantly altered before restoration by then-Civil War Trust in 2016. Read more here.

 

Photo above courtesy of Bob Kise.

 

Observing Veterans Day

 

Visit or Engage.

  • Self-guided tours – Many sites and parks are free and open to all, allowing for plenty of social-distancing. You can visit some of the sites (or at least the outside of them) pictured above, but may also consider cemeteries, or sites listed here.
  • Guided tours – some sites are still offering guided tours with mandatory precautions in place for COVID-19. Find information on Gettysburg Battlefield tours here.
  • Virtual events – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs blog lists virtual events for 2020, in light of the pandemic, here.
  • Live events – Gettysburg is holding a special day honoring veterans on November 12, 2020, information here.
  • Preservation – Consider these suggestions for preserving sites honoring veterans, or consider donating to or becoming a member of the American Battlefield Trust, here

 

For further resources and reading: 

  • Read more about battlefield preservation here, here, and here.
  • Read about the history of battlefield preservation here and here

BATHROOMS or whatever you call them, as they have many names – are a necessary part of our lives, but we often take them for granted. Bathrooms did not always exist as a dedicated room, and the conglomeration of fixtures and practices that occur in these rooms today, as well as the design of these rooms, are a result of many societal and technological changes. Understanding the history can help you better appreciate (or create) your own historic or period appropriate bathroom.


Illustration of early 20th century bathroom from the Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company. Image Source: Wikipedia’s Entry on Bathroom.

 

Bathrooms: History and Evolution

Bathing and specific elimination practices (e.g., toileting) have been around in some form since humans have existed on Earth. However, more sophisticated practices – including devoted bath houses and use of bathtubs – began as early as 3000 B.C. in what is now Pakistan, with the Indus Valley Civilization, and continued with the early Greeks and Romans. In those times, people focused on purity but not necessarily health and hygiene, and water was seen as a cleansing element for spiritual and physical purposes. So powerful was the belief in water’s protective spiritual properties that communal baths were sometimes kept separate from domestic living spaces to protect the living spaces from evil spirits. The Romans especially valued bathing as a way to relax and revive themselves, as well as an outlet to commune with others. However, the wealthy also often had private bath spaces. (Source). 

The oldest-surviving bathtub dates to 1700 B.C. and was located in a palace in Crete. (Source).

In ancient times there were also some primitive flushing toilets, although many public toilets in Rome were anything but private and did not necessarily flush. (Source). 

In addition to limited private toilets, many ancient Romans were relegated to using primitive, communal items before the invention of toilet paper. (Source). 

In the Middle Ages, public bathhouses continued to be used, and soap first came into production. Other items such as combs, tweezers, and mouthwash were also in use. (Source). 

Contrary to popular belief, people in the Middle Ages valued bathing, particularly steam baths. Baths were generally public baths and men and women communed together; although, women covered their hair for “decency.” (Source)

During the Renaissance, private bathrooms became more popular. However, fears increased about disease, associated with water, and bathing was discouraged in favor of focused washing. Clean linens were thought to be sufficient to pull toxins from, cleanse, and deodorize the body, and women during this time toiled over washing. (Source). 

In 1546, King Henry VIII ordered the closure of public bathhouses, as these – specifically, their water – were blamed for the 7 plagues that occurred in England over a 200-year span. (Source).

Public toilets were used by the lower classes in the Renaissance and often placed on bridges over rivers, the “sewage system” being that debris would float away in the river. In the countryside and in some private city homes privies existed in sheds or cellars, usually consisting of seats situated over cesspits. Portable chamber pots were the preferred means of elimination by the wealthy and royal, and were simply emptied into the streets. (Source). 

The first flush toilet was invented by Sir John Harrington in 1596, but was not widespread until nearly 3 decades later –  the wealthy and royal preferred chamber pots be brought to them, and not to walk to a room only for toileting as it would be considered immodest. (Source). 

By the 18th century, daily bathing was still uncommon. However, in England the wealthy were able to have taps put into their homes allowing for private bathing, thanks to a massive irrigation project. Otherwise, most of the bathroom rituals we use today were still done in the bedroom, which usually included a basin and washstand (and often a chamber pot). (Source). 

The shower was invented by William Feetham in 1767. (Source).

By the 19th century, houses were beginning to be designed around usefulness of each room. The discovery and dissemination of information about germs and hygiene was more widespread in Europe and America, and many homes of the middle and upper class had bathrooms – as bathing was considered necessary for good hygiene – while mass showers existed for the poor. The Industrial Revolution also facilitated  mechanization in the bathroom, including gas water heaters for hot-water production. (Source). 

The 19th century saw major changes in private bathrooms in the home, including flush toilets in the 1850’s, and the electric water heater in 1889. (Source). 

In the late 19th century more was discovered about infectious disease and bacteria, and previously wooden bathrooms transitioned to porcelain and enamel surfaces, with more exposed pipes that were “easier to clean,” tile and linoleum replaced wood floors, and drapery was significantly reduced, and this continued into the early 20th century. (Source). 

The late 19th and early 20th century’s concerns about disease also resulted in the introduction of second bathrooms – “powder rooms” – or half-baths often on the first floor, near the entrance, so delivery people could wash their hands and prevent bringing germs into the home. (Source). 

As the 20th century moved beyond the hygiene movement, and the public was exposed to two world wars, glamorized interiors featured in movies, and a greater increase in population and technological advancement, people were more interested in having fully-equipped bathrooms that served functional needs as well as offered respite. The growing middle class was also able to afford these luxuries with mass-production enabling affordable products. (Source). 

The 1950’s realized en suite bathrooms, as well as separate bathrooms for the children. (Source)

As people have continued to associate bathrooms with comfort and escapism, the number of bathrooms per person in each household have steadily increased, and bathrooms continue to be an important part of each household. (Source). 

 

Bathrooms in Your Historic Home

If luck is on your side, you may acquire a historic home with a period bathroom still in place, although this is rare given that bathrooms (and kitchens) usually were the first “victims” of updates to historic homes, and are some of the most modified and modernized rooms. Depending on the old bathroom’s condition, there may be significant work to do. Because of the last few decades’ emphasis on college education and continued focus on mass-produced items that are generally not repairable and have short shelf-life, skilled labor and trades people have dwindled, so repair may be more difficult. However, increased demand for historic features has also resulted in more reproduction options available, many of which are up-to-code. Sometimes it is necessary or preferred to create a new bathroom, either modern or styled to a chosen time in the house’s history. Regardless, it is important to always remember that water is the enemy of a historic home, and any modern updates must account for this. Below are a combination of suggestions from Restoring Old Houses by Nigel Hutchins, and Restoring Your Historic House by Scott T. Hanson

It is important to remember that water is the enemy of historic homes, so all plumbing should be in good condition and well-maintained to prevent water disasters.

 

Restoring an old bathroom. General period plumbing knowledge is important in old bathrooms. Many old homes have extant period plumbing fixtures and these were designed to be repairable – just be sure they are adapted to meet modern codes and standards. A knowledgeable plumber and flexible code officer can be helpful with this. (Hanson, p. 374). Old plumbing fixtures and features should be examined for breaks and other damage and replaced with copper or plastic where necessary; return traps and vent stacks should be cleared; worn gaskets and washers should be replaced; and entire systems should be flushed and pressure checked (Hutchins, p. 179). Some shops and companies specialize in repair of such fixtures (Hanson, p. 375).

If something is missing, beyond repair, or simply cannot be adapted to meet modern code requirements, it is recommended that you look for antiques (often through salvage, but again these must be adapted to modern codes), or options among the many reproductions on the market. It is highly recommended you compare the quality of the originals to the reproductions, and buy as high quality as you can afford. This will more likely prevent failure and subsequent disaster from burst pipes (Hanson, p. 376; Hutchins, p. 178).

Rural residents have even more unique circumstances, including utilizing wells for water sources and septic tanks for waste disposal. Hutchins (p. 179) recommends that people in the countryside check their old wells for rotten covers, bacteria in the water, and how well they refill. Many old wells cannot accommodate modern needs and new wells must be dug, which are expensive – it is recommended a homeowner budgets accordingly.

Antique toilets also need to meet modern standards, even if they are antique. Hanson (p. 374) notes that some communities have strict water ordinances, and toilets from times past were designed to use much more water to flush (and thus fully clear the bowl) than is allowed by modern code. In some cases, an extant toilet can be grandfathered in. In other instances modifications to the tank such as stacked bricks or a tank liner can decrease water – Hanson warns, however, that because of the original design, this decreased water may not be sufficient to clear the bowl. High tank toilets are generally more successful because of the additional velocity they allow water when it travels from tank to toilet. 

Antique sinks also generally require modification to meet modern standards. Sometimes, antique sinks and counter tops simply need cleaning; marble sinks and counter tops can be cleaned with paint cleaner and steel wool, although deeper stains may require fine sandpaper and muriatic acid (Hutchins, p. 179). Hanson (p. 374-375). Problems usually stem from the size of drain holes and the spacing of faucet holes. An old sink that is missing the 2-hole drain stem can present a conundrum, as salvaged parts may be hard to come by, and it does not match modern pieces. Sink bowls of various materials may have these holes widened to accommodate modern needs. If the traditionally-separate hot and cold faucets are missing, reproductions can convert the hot and cold into one, and still visually represent the original time period.If a required overflow drain is missing, modifications can be made to retain the antique bowl; Hanson recommends connecting the bowl to the above top with a gap in between, and putting a modern bowl below to catch overflow. This of course should always be checked with local code enforcers.

Period tubs or showers can often be restored with epoxies – or homeowners can purchase “new” antiques and restore those, if needed (Hutchins, p. 179). Similar adjustments may need to be made to the plumbing parts as were noted for sinks, above. 

  •  

Creating a new bathroom (period appropriate or not). Hutchins (p. 178) provides several general plumbing points when creating a bathroom space. He indicates that plumbing should not be run on exterior walls because of insulation difficulties, and sufficient venting is necessary for plumbing. He also states that other considerations should be made if converting a non-bathroom into a bathroom. For example, one must consider if there is enough head room for a shower, if ceiling beams below (if on an upper floor) will be impacted by plumbing pipes, and if the room has wood features, how those features will be treated to protect them from moisture penetration. 

Laundry features should also be considered. Although not inherently part of a bathroom in most cases, Hanson (p. 377) also points out that given most modern private homes have laundry areas or rooms, and many of these are now being moved from the basement level to first floors, caution is warranted to protect historic interiors. For example, Hanson notes that typically-cheap hoses often result in burst pipes and indoor flooding disasters. These issues can be prevented – or at least mitigated – by replacing cheap hoses with high-quality woven stainless steel washer hoses, and installing overflow trays with drains for added protection, according to Hanson. 

 

IN SUMMARY: 

Modern people may be less modest than people of the past, but the bathroom and related activities can still be a taboo subject for some. For others, it’s simply taken for granted. But we must remember how essential bathrooms are to our physical and mental health, hygiene, and relaxation. As such, it’s important to treat and maintain these spaces well, particularly to protect the integrity of our historic homes. 

 

For further resources and reading: 

Stay tuned for a similar post on another vulnerable room in historic homes: THE KITCHEN.

PART 1 PRESERVATION MONTH 2020 SERIES

It is officially Preservation Month. In honor of this, we’ll be sharing a series of blog posts specifically related to preservation and the spirit behind it. But, what does preservation mean? And where does Preservation Month come from? As to its formal inception, the National Trust for Historic Preservation shared information last year about the establishment of May as Preservation Month. In 1972, Donald T. Sheehan first proposed a preservation week as a “means of relating local and state preservation progress to the national effort for the mutual benefits of both.” Preservation week was signed into law by President Nixon on May 5th, 1973. In 2005, the National Trust extended the celebration for the entire month of May to provide more opportunity to celebrate the nation’s heritage. However, we’ve previously discussed how the history of formal preservation efforts in the United States extends at least as far back as the 1700’s. Preservation needs have certainly changed in just the last half-century. The future of preservation is less clear, particularly given issues like climate change and COVID-19, which has triggered the National Trust for Historic Preservation to create a virtual Preservation Month for the first time in its history. In keeping with this virtual learning, read on for more of why preservation matters.


Interior of Franklin Street Station, beautifully restored and saved from decay or demolition.

WHY DOES PRESERVATION MATTER?

The best way to answer this question is by turning to the positive benefits and contributions of preservation.

Tom Mayes – attorney and preservationist at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, who started a popular series of essays on Why Old Places Matter on the National Trust’s Preservation Leadership Forum and compiled those into his bookshared a photo essay highlighting the main reasons old places matter. Some of his most compelling points in the essay include that old places offer a sense of continuity in a world of constant change; they relate to our individual and collective identities; and they give one a sense of the history that occurred in that place.

These points may be seen as merely sentimental by some. However, they hold even more validity in light of practical implications, especially when contrasted with negative misconceptions about historic preservation. Rhonda Sincavage dispelled some common myths in her Ted Talk, and discussed how much of what people do on a daily basis could be construed as preservation without their even realizing it. Ken Bernstein, Principal City Planner and Manager of the City of Los Angeles Office of Historic Resources, also highlighted some of the benefits that can come along with preservation, including things that are often misconstrued in a negative light. To name a few comparisons by Bernstein (and echoed by Sincavage):

  • Property Value. Instead of reducing property values, studies show that historic designation and historic districts tend to increase property values.

 

  • Diversity and Inclusivity. While we do agree that there is still much work to do in increasing preservation’s diversity, preservation has evolved to become more inclusive, and is no longer reserved for the “rich and elite.” Many buildings and neighborhoods associated with ethnic minorities and people who were not wealthy have been preserved for their social and cultural relevance.

 

  • Business Impact. Historic preservation is actually good for business in many cases, supported by heritage tourism and revitalization efforts by programs like the National Main Street Center. These programs have created jobs and contributed to economic reinvestment.

 

  • Cost. While Bernstein acknowledges that historic preservation can be quite costly at times (and regular readers of this blog and our other resources will note that Danielle frequently acknowledges that costs generally increase for skilled labor, etc.), he notes that it is typically more cost-effective than new construction. The reason is that upgrades needed are usually cheaper than building entirely new buildings.

 

  • Development Impact. Despite popular belief, preservationists are not simply trying to save everything at the cost of all new development. Their goal extends beyond pure sentiment, and focuses on saving relevant historical places in ways that work with transition and change. This is concretely evident in adaptive re-use projects that are commonly seen today.

 

WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF NOT PRESERVING?

It is often helpful to be aware of known consequences of not preserving things in order to truly see the value of preserving them in the first place – even if we already know the potential benefits of preservation. Many people are aware of the now-infamous razing of New York City’s Penn Station in the early 1960’s. This was only one of many losses in the U.S., as well as the world. Although a positive consequence of this – as pointed out by the National Trust’s former president and CEO Stephanie Meeks in an excerpt from her book – was that preservationists and preservation-minded law-makers worked together to create a movement to learn from past mistakes, create more avenues for protection via new landmark laws, and to bring greater attention to these issues. Essentially, this marked the beginning of the modern preservationist movement. Beyond these positive impacts, many lament the loss of an architectural icon and gorgeous gateway to the city, as others compare the current underground station as somewhat deplorable in comparison to the old one in terms of functionality. In this and other cases around the U.S., we not only lose buildings that cannot be replaced, but also historical information, and even a sense of identity for people who live in the community associated with these buildings. Expanding our scope outside of the U.S., we can examine the extent of losses involved for everyone in world heritage sites (you can read more here, here, and here). No matter the cause, whether due to profit, bids for “progress,” war and terrorism, or environmental damage caused by humans, any type of lost heritage can be devastating to human communities. Stephanie Meeks underscored the value of preserving our built and cultural history in her speech at the Saving Places Conference in Denver, Colorado, in 2011. In responding to an oft-repeated question as to why someone should consider donation to historic preservation in the same way they would to food banks and homeless shelters, she asserted: 

“Preservation matters for the same reason those other causes matter—because it addresses a very fundamental need. Of course, food and shelter are the most basic needs. No one would argue with that. But just above them on Maslow’s hierarchy, and nearly as fundamental to our survival, is community. Preservation speaks directly to that need. It binds us to one another and to the past.”

This is why preservation matters and why we do what we do. 

Next week: PART 2 OF THIS SERIES focuses on How to Preserve a Building.