This week we spoke with John Lindtner of Building Preservation Services about his journey from an MBA grad to a restoration specialist and the importance of preserving historic windows.
John O’Brien, Director of West Chester, PA’s Business Improvement District, and Jim Brown, Vice-President of Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County, in Lancaster, PA, joined the Practical Preservation Podcast to discuss their organization’s respective responses to COVID-19. We covered multiple topics, including:
- Background information about John and Jim, and on both West Chester PA Business Improvement District (BID) and Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County (HPT)
- The heritage of West Chester – including notables, historic streetscapes, and a thriving local business community – and how the BID functions to serve downtown businesses in a way that supports the community as a whole
- The history and mission of the HPT – and how it was conceived as part of a grassroots movement to save one of Lancaster’s most historically-significant homes
- Tactics both BID and HPT have utilized in order to navigate the challenges of COVID-19 – including increased outdoor events and services and heavy use of social media to reach the public
- Tips for downtowns and the general public to support – and hopefully, help to save – local business, downtown communities, and places of historic and cultural significance
WEST CHESTER BID
Website – notably, the website will be under construction and officially relaunch early 2021
HPT OF LANCASTER COUNTY
Please consider following West Chester BID and HPT of Lancaster County on social media links listed above to keep yourself apprised of special events and updates, even in the time of COVID.
Tim Freund of Lancaster Cemetery in Lancaster, PA, joined the Practical Preservation Podcast to discuss the history, preservation, and ongoing use of the cemetery. We covered multiple topics, including:
- How Tim’s living in close proximity to the cemetery coupled with his civic-mindedness inspired his current membership on the cemetery board
- The challenges of maintaining any cemetery – particularly historic ones with fewer families remaining to care for family plots – including limited funding and intensive landscape and monument preservation needs
- The history of the cemetery, similar to other Victorian-era cemeteries, and its origins as a church’s burial site for a dead congregant population that exceeded the capacity of the original churchyard
- Famous and notable occupants of the cemetery, including native Lancastrian Major General John F. Reynolds who was killed on the first day at the Battle of Gettysburg, and Augusta Bitner of “walking statue” notoriety
- Conservation and preservation efforts, including regular consultation with expert conservators, as well as cemetery conservation workshops
- The cemetery’s mission to be a “proactive gathering space” hosting unique events open to the public that help support the cemetery but also educate and maintain respect for this and similar spaces
Tim encourages people interested in visiting or supporting Lancaster Cemetery – or any cemetery – to consider volunteering or donating funding (here), or to visit (hours, rules, and directions can be found here). Most events are postponed this year due to COVID, but you can follow their Facebook events page to stay up-to-date on events that help support the cemetery in the future.
Anticipated events and ongoing services include a wreathe sale, conservation workshops, and genealogical research services – contact Tim to learn more!
Bruce Bomberger, Ph.D., archivist and librarian at the Lebanon County Historical Society in Lebanon (Lebanon County), PA, joined the Practical Preservation Podcast to discuss the Lebanon County Historical Society’s resources and services. We covered multiple topics, including:
- Bruce’s varied background in many areas of history, from archaeology to former curator of Landis Valley Museum
- The history of LCHS and historical societies in general – including their roots as fraternal organizations – and their varied roles in preservation of artifacts and buildings
- Unique aspects of the building itself and its relevance to Lebanon County history – from it’s origins as a private home, to holding some of the county’s earliest court cases, to functioning as the lodge for the local Loyal Order of Moose
- Special associations, including the society-owned Union Canal Tunnel, the oldest existing transportation tunnel in the United States
- Services and events open to the community, including Sunday lecture series (currently on-hold due to COVID), tours, and genealogical and archival research
- Challenges for LCHS and historical societies in general, including finite financial resources to sustain them, and limited space, as well as the ways which these issues are addressed
Contact Information – can be found at the bottom of this page
The society is open on a limited basis by appointment due to COVID (MASKS REQUIRED), for services such as genealogical and archival research, and tours – please email or call at the link listed above to schedule appointments in advance.
Consider supporting the society (or other historical societies) via donation, membership, ordering genealogical research services (which can be requested remotely), or taking a tour.
If you cannot visit the society, consider visiting the Union Canal Tunnel via either the South or North Park, and view the exterior of the reconstructed Krall Barn, a rare Pennsylvania German log barn originally from Schaefferstown (Lebanon County), PA. You can also read more about Lebanon History via Bruce’s recent interview with Lebtown, here.
Chris Vera, president of the Columbia Historic Preservation Society in Columbia (Lancaster County), PA, joined the Practical Preservation Podcast to discuss Columbia history, legends, and lore. We covered multiple topics, including:
- Chris’s background as a child growing up in Columbia, whose passion for local history developed from working for elderly neighbors – people who preserved local heritage through storytelling
- The Columbia Historic Preservation Society’s role as a center for local Columbia history
- The Society’s own preservation and adaptive reuse story: transforming and reinventing itself from a circa mid-19th Century Lutheran Church to a historical society, and its brush with destruction due to a case of severe mold contamination, and one former staff member’s desire to tear it down rather than save it
- Unique aspects of Columbia history – its nearly becoming the capital of the United States, rich African-American and underground railroad history, the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge Burning, and its historical role as a beacon of industry and railroads
- Local legends and lore – from cryptids like the Albatwitch (or “apple snitch”), to ghosts said to haunt the buildings and local trails and hills, and the many events celebrating these folk tales
- Trends and challenges in history and preservation – funding being the number one challenge, followed by garnering interest in and support for these areas
Contact Information – General contact info located at the bottom of this page
Chris encourages supporting local Columbia heritage by visiting the nearby natural and trail areas (start here), as well as learning more about the history of the region from the Columbia Historic Preservation Society and other interesting historical sites to visit. You can also discover more museums, activities, and yearly events, here.
There are several opportunities to explore the legends, lore, and supernatural side of Columbia, including the 7th annual Albatwitch Festival on Saturday, October 17th, 2020 – including Albatwitch and Haunted trolley tours – as well as a “Fright Night at the Museum” Saturday, October 31st, 2020
Bill Callahan, the Western, PA Community Preservation Coordinator for the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO is a bureau within the PA Historical and Museum Commission) in Pittsburgh, PA, joined the Practical Preservation Podcast to discuss the state organization’s myriad services. We covered multiple topics, including:
- Bill’s background, including how exposure to the negative impacts of the agricultural economy’s crash in the Midwest led to cooperative initiation of a main street program in his Illinois community – a position he credits with his interest in preservation, and the catalyst for his subsequent manifold experiences in historic preservation positions
- His current position, which involves administration of several programs, including providing technical assistance regarding historic preservation to anyone who asks for it
- The only way to protect historic resources, and the 2 methods by which a municipality can go about it
- Grassroots tips, such as networking within local government and other community organizations, and the necessity of understanding one’s local planning processes
- A little known resource for private homeowners
- The overlap of natural resource conservation and historic preservation
- Positive trends such as increased awareness of the need for preservation
For community grassroots involvement, Bill also recommends interested citizens visit this general site in addition to consulting directly with him (or other regional community preservation coordinators). This site includes community preservation forms and guidelines as well. And Bill emphasizes the importance of citizen involvement with local planning and economic development offices.
Bill also encourages people to remember that sense of place is important to everyone – including saving buildings that make a place unique and hold memories – and this can be emphasized when working with others to prioritize local preservation.
Dominique Hawkins, founder and managing principal of Preservation Design Partnership based in Philadelphia, PA, joined the Practical Preservation Podcast to discuss flood mitigation in historic areas. We covered multiple topics, including:
- Dominique’s background in design, architecture, and historic preservation, including her early career transition from architecture for housing developments to the world of historic preservation, and her appreciation for the technology involved in saving old places
- Preservation Design Partnership’s purpose for acting as a voice for clients in figuring out the most sympathetic way to achieve clients’ goals, while also meeting regulatory requirements and historic preservation needs
- Dominique’s reasons for working in flood mitigation, including working on projects directly impacted by Hurricane Katrina
- How translating preservation design guidelines for clients prepared her for flood mitigation planning, by bridging the gap and interpreting the language of all involved parties – from preservationists, to FEMA, to floodplain managers, to clients
- The methodology of flood mitigation problem-solving: determining flood needs first and tailoring approaches to each individual situation
- The myriad of challenges – namely, the collective minimalization and (in some cases) total disregard for the severe impact of increased flooding on historic places – and the hard choices that are being made reactively rather than proactively by communities to address these
Dominique also advocates for individuals and communities to become aware, engaged, and proactive regarding flood mitigation for historic properties and communities, especially via meaningful conversations. To see examples or get involved, view a previous talk hosted by the New Jersey Climate Change Resource Center’s Climate Change Academy, here, and keep a look out for upcoming Fall workshops and talks, here.
Communities and other organizations can also read a sample flood mitigation plan compiled in part by Preservation Design Partnership, here.
Briana Grosicki, associate principal of PlaceEconomics based in Washington, D.C., joined the Practical Preservation Podcast to discuss the economic benefits of preservation. We covered multiple topics, including:
- Briana’s background, including growing up regularly visiting local battlefields in Virginia, volunteering with her main street district as a teen, to working with Donovan Rypkema
- Briana’s additional roles as chairwoman for Preservation Action and board of director for the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions
- PlaceEconomics’ specialized consultation services at the intersection of economics and historic preservation, including research and city-wide studies, and educational talks and workshops
- Specific economic benefits of preservation, including that for every 100 preservation/rehabilitation projects there are 186 jobs created elsewhere in the community, vs. 135 new jobs created per every 100 typical construction projects
- Dispelling typical myths about preservation, including that historic preservation is a major cause of unaffordable housing, when in reality historic districts are more likely to include mixed-income housing than neighborhoods with speculative development (i.e., flipped houses and airbnbs)
- Challenges in the field of preservation, such as increasing preservation’s advantages for and accessibility to all people
For individuals interested in getting help with preservation in their community, Briana encourages they contact her or other staff at PlaceEconomics – they are always open to discussing if they are right for a client or community! You should also tell your local officials about PlaceEconomics’ services!
Briana also suggests that individuals who may be less likely to work with PlaceEconomics’ firm directly continue to work on preservation at a grassroots level – from government involvement with organizations such as Preservation Action, to simply maintaining their own historical buildings, investing in existing resources, and using local resources to fund the local economy.
Briana encourages everyone to consider involvement in Preservation Action’s virtual auction this year, scheduled for October 27th, at 7PM
COFFEE BREAK RECAP – This month’s “coffee break” video recap focuses on how to navigate the existing building code and uniform construction code within your historic building project in Pennsylvania. Watch below.
- Focus: Exemptions (Existing Building Code) and things liable to the Uniform Construction Code, depending on the parameters of a historic building project in Pennsylvania
- Solutions: Danielle and Jonathan discussed tips:
- Work with a contractor or design specialist who has preservation knowledge who can work flexibly with a code officer.
- Know EXEMPTIONS that fall under Existing Building Code:
- Historic buildings listed on the state or national historic register
- Historic building that is part of a historic district
- Replacement in kind (under the Secretary of Interiors Standards)
- Staircases (unaltered)
- Means of egress (doorways)
- Energy conservation
- Floodplain-located buildings
- Fire rating
- Know what is LIABLE to the Uniform Construction Code:
- Changing the usage of a building
- Substantial improvement/Alterations – if the percentage of alterations is more than 50% of the building’s value (even if usage remains the same)
- Relocated structure
- Seismic (structural) retrofits
- Means of egress
- If you disagree with the code officer, know the process of appeals
- Check with your local municipality
Old buildings are not automatically exempt from the Uniform Building Code in Pennsylvania
– ARM YOURSELF WITH KNOWLEDGE TO NAVIGATE CODES ON YOUR NEXT PROJECT!
- Meylvn Green’s book, Building Codes for Existing and Historic Buildings
- Although some things are municipality-specific, here is an example overview of the historical review process in Philadelphia
- The Secretary of the Interior’s Codes and Regulatory Requirements for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings
- For fire ratings/safety: Although it is obsolete, this building materials ratings guideline can help inspectors who ask for more information. Also, this video shows flammability of a historical interior vs. a modern one.
LABOR DAY – although it was yesterday, we feel it’s timely to discuss it. Now known as the unofficial end of Summer, a time for store sales, or an extra long weekend for some. But the history and meaning behind the day represent the struggles of laborers in the American workforce, and collective issues that are just as relevant today as they were over a hundred years ago. It’s important that we preserve the history of Labor Day and continue to support our laborers. Read on for a brief overview of national and Pennsylvania labor history, and links to Pennsylvania labor history points of interest.
Illustration from Tribute to Labor Day newspaper article – 1901 edition of the Desert Evening News, Great Salt Lake City, Utah. Image Source: Library of Congress.
The History Behind Labor Day
The U.S. Department of Labor’s fairly neutral overview of Labor Day reports that the holiday is the result of years of dedicated efforts by members of the Labor Movement to establish fair wages and work hours. The first official Labor Day celebration (which was actually a demonstration) occurred September 5, 1882 by the Central Labor Union in New York City, including a parade followed by a festival. This had a cascade effect. Subsequently, grass roots efforts by laborers and small unions led to initial ordinances being put in place in various municipalities by the mid-1880s. The first state law declaring Labor Day a legal holiday was passed in Oregon in 1887, and several other states followed suit. June 28, 1894, then-President Grover Cleveland officially signed the act into law making the first Monday of September a legal national holiday.
“According to legend, Peter McGuire stood before the New York Central Labor Union on May 12, 1882, to suggest the idea of setting aside one day a year to honor labor. McGuire believed that Labor Day should ‘be celebrated by a street parade which would publicly show the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations.’”
What the report by the U.S. Department of Labor fails to mention is the significant unrest, violence, and suffering that occurred for laborers before this holiday was created. Laborers endured 12-hour or more workdays, worked 7-days a week, had low wages, no benefits, and unsafe working conditions. Child labor was also prolific. Most sources claim that the official legalization of this holiday was a political move made to appease labor unrest. The PBS New Desk asserted that the catalyst for this political move was the Pullman Strike of 1894. The workers protested the simultaneous drop in wages and maintenance of rents following a decline in sleeping car orders (due to nationwide economic depression). The domino effect of this initial rebellion included nationwide boycotts of trains carrying Pullman cars, by railroad workers. Some of these protesters pillaged and burned the cars. Railroad executives were concerned and mail trains were delayed. President Cleveland’s initial response of declaring the strike a Federal crime and deploying troops to break it culminated in heightened violence and several deaths. The strike was declared ended via injunction July 20, 1894, several strike leaders were arrested, unions were disbanded, and striking Pullman employees were rehired on the condition that they signed a pledge not to unionize again.
Although it appears that the powers that be were ultimately victorious at the expense of the common working man, the strike’s handling was viewed poorly by much of the public. Some say to appease the public and garner political favor (although this source indicates Cleveland had little to gain by doing so), President Grover Cleveland quickly signed the act into law a few days after the strike’s declared end.
Pennsylvania’s Involvement in the Labor Movement
The Explore PA History website provides a thorough overview of Pennsylvania’s particular involvement in the labor movement. The Pennsylvania Labor History Society also includes a detailed timeline of Labor History in Pennsylvania. This history is summarized subsequently. Philadelphia printers staged the U.S.’s first strike for higher wages in 1786. Some of the most notable Pennsylvania industries in the 19th century – mining, steel, and railroads – involved very low wages, extremely long hours, and limited benefits so laborers in these industries were well-known for their unions and strikes. The Depression of the 1930s also caused hardship for Pennsylvania workers, especially in the steel industry, leading to an influx of union members. The Cold War period’s increased international competition and the subsequent deindustrialization of the United States caused significant job loss and lower standards of living for many Pennsylvania workers.
Tangible evidence of Pennsylvania’s industrial and trade contributions are existent today in their original locations (some still in-use) and through museums. The Pennsylvania Labor History Society includes links to various sites, The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission includes a link to the industrial heritage trail, with museums of industry (here), and The State Museum of Pennsylvania includes several items paying homage to Pennsylvania industry (many of which can be viewed virtually, here, here, ).
Work has shifted significantly in the U.S. over the past two hundred years from the industrial and skilled-trades to the white-collar jobs that we see today (related as well to the skilled labor shortage we’ve outlined before). Union memberships have significantly declined, and labor concerns have shifted to issues of health care, equitable wages, retirement, etc. Essentially, the players have changed but the game is essentially the same. It is incumbent upon us as a society not to forget the meaning behind Labor Day, to visit and read about historical industrial and labor movement sites and objects, to continue to fight for worker’s rights, and to support our local laborers as much as we can. In this way, we preserve our history as well as our society.
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