Friday, December 29, 2006

BCon Blog Featured on Fixer-Upper Blog

Many thanks to Mindy at the central New York-based houseblog Fixer-Upper for featuring and linking to us (and Troy) in her December 20th post "Go pro--get a degree." In addition to information about our program, she includes several beautiful historic postcards of Troy and links to a number of Troy resources; we hope you will check it out.

Mindy is an alum of RPI's fascinating and cutting edge Electronic Media, Arts, and Communication program and, as mentioned in our December 19th post, is rehabilitating an historic home in central New York with her husband, Teague. Not surprisingly, Mindy's web and blogging skills are far greater than mine, her posts are a pleasure to both ear and eye, and she is very much in tune with the social networking possibilities of blogging and similar technologies.

Some of her eclectic and amusing recent posts describe having a clawfoot tub refinished, selecting color schemes for a bathroom (complete with examples of colors, furniture, shower curtain, etc.), hilarious photos and comments regarding cute dogs in Christmas outfits, and the all-too-common frustrations of having time off and not making as much progress on a home improvement project as you thought you would or could! We've all been there and you will enjoy following Mindy's and Teague's progress. Fixer-Upper also has tons of great before and after photographs for "house voyeurs," descriptions of many completed projects, and links to other house blogs and resources. Thanks again, Mindy.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Updated Building Conservation Program Web Site Launched

The Building Conservation program's updated web site went live today. It is still a work in progress and has some rough edges, but it provides much more information about the program than was previously available. It will be refined with additional navigation and content in the weeks to come.

The URL is:

Students, faculty, alumni, and friends, please share this information with anyone who may be interested!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

End of Semester, Christmas/New Year Break, Historic Preservation Blogs

Building conservation students completed final classes and exams last weekend and have now dispersed for an approximately one month break. Classes will resume Friday, January 12th, so until then, blog postings may be nonexistant or more infrequent than usual.

We do want to wish everyone a fantastic holiday, however they choose to observe or celebrate it, and we look forward to the coming semester.

In the meantime, in the event our students and other readers have some blog reading time, we thought we would call attention to other historic preservation, building rehabilitation, and history blogs that may be of interest. We do this because we think others will find them as interesting as we do, but also to show other examples of how preservationists are using blogs as an information sharing and communication tool. We hope that you, our readers, will share your own preservation blog discoveries with us; feel free to notify us using the comment function below this post.

As far as we have been able to discover, the number of preservation (and related) blogs is still fairly small. Here are a few we like, in no particular order:

--My Hometown Ohio, the "online magazine for Ohio's preservation and revitalization community."

--Fixer-Upper, an online journal that tracks the progress of a web designer and her contractor husband as they rehabilitate their 1890s Victorian Italianate house in central New York.

--Historic Districts Council Newsstand, "an open forum featuring news, events and alerts (and even the occasional report) from New York City's preservation community - collected and posted by the Historic Districts Council, the citywide advocate for New York's historic neighborhoods.", a combination web site/blog that presents "a collection of historic preservation-related news and information gathered from a wide variety of sources across the Los Angeles area and throughout Southern California."

--Brownstoner (Brooklyn inside and out), which describes itself as having "an unhealthy obsession with historic Brooklyn brownstones and the neighborhoods and lifestyles they define."

--Save Our Sarasota, a blog about "preserving Sarasota's [Florida] quality of life."

--The Gowanus Lounge, "musings and photos about life and real estate development in post-industrial Brooklyn and New York City."

--CECPP (Citizen's Emergency Committee to Preserve Preservation), a blog developed by a group that recently organized "to save New York's architectural heritage by demanding that the Landmarks Preservation Commission perform its legal mandate by upholding the landmarks law."

We will add other blogs as they are discovered and time allows, and may eventually add a "blog roll" to the sidebar at right. However, please note, that inclusion here does not reflect endorsement: these blogs are presented for informational purposes only.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Main Street/Downtown Program Links Added to Blog Sidebar

We recently added links to the Main Street and downtown revitalization organizations and programs for northeast and midatlantic states to the blog sidebar (right hand side; scroll down to view). "Main Street" refers to a program piloted by Building Conservation program adjunct professor and friend Norman Mintz in Corning, New York, and subsequently adopted by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It is essentially a community-based, grass-roots, downtown revitalization strategy based on the four key points of Design, Organizing, Promotion, and Economic Restructuring. We will be following the Main Street approach in our spring Preservation Design Studio, when we will focus on improvements to the upper Congress Street corridor.

For additional information about the Main Street program, visit the National Trust Main Street Center or any of the statewide or city sites we have added to the sidebar.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Stay Informed With NPS Heritage News

Heritage News, the National Park Service's monthly e-newsletter, reports on topics including grant opportunities, new laws or policies, events, and activities of interest to the national heritage community. It is emailed to anyone requesting a subscription; to subscribe, go to:, or read it online at

Regular features include National Register statistics, preservation tax credit approvals, grants, conferences, training, publications, heritage in the news, on the hill, and milestones. Each issue has numerous brief articles with links to sources for additional information.

Suggestions of news or calendar items may be sent to News items should be no longer than 200 words and all items should include contact information and websites.

The National Park Service also publishes CRM: The Journal of Heritage Stewardship twice each year. It is available by subscription and can be read online at Back issues are also available online at

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Historic Preservation Jobs (New York)

Thanks to Building Conservation alumna Elisabeth Bakker-Johnson ('02), Lorraine Weiss of the Preservation League of NYS, and Kim Alvarez of Landmark Consulting and the Capital Region Preservation Network, we have recently learned of two New York-based preservation job openings that may be of interest to students, alumni, and other readers:

1. Historic Albany Foundation, a preservation nonprofit in Albany, NY, is seeking a part-time Technical Services Coordinator to provide technical services, develop programming, and administer and work on projects in the City of Albany. The Technical Services Coordinator reports to the Executive Director. Qualifications: Bachelor's Degree, Masters (preferred) in historic preservation, architectural history, or architecture with preservation experience; 3-5 years of practical experience in historic preservation can be substituted. Excellent communication skills and previous experience with the public; technical background a must. Salary based on 20 hours per week; pro-rated benefits. Position open until filled. Interested candidates should send a resume with references to; fax (518) 463-2704 or via mail: HAF, 472 Madison Avenue, Albany, NY 12208. See Historic Albany Foundation for full job ad.

2. Adirondack Architectural Heritage, the regional, nonprofit, historic preservation organization for the Adirondack Park, is seeking a Program Director who will work in conjunction with other AARCH staff and appropriate board committee members. Applicants should have: degree in historic preservation or a closely related field; graduate degree preferred; two years experience in the historic preservation field; program experience is preferred; a demonstrated ability to plan, administer, and execute complex programs with great attention to detail; excellent writing, research, and communication skills; knowledge of Adirondack history and architecture is desirable; computer skills are required. For more information, contact Steven Engelhart, Executive Director, (518) 834-9328, and visit the Adirondack Architectural Heritage website.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Participate in Dutch Farmstead Survey

The Dutch Farmstead Survey is looking for volunteers to "hunt down" and catalog all Dutch and Dutch-influenced buildings in the former New Netherland colony. The survey is funded in part by the Kellogg Foundation and "aims to record all known -- and particularly unknown -- buildings in a new central database that is thorough, consistent, and accessible to all researchers.

The project will be carried out by volunteers who either know their area's history or who want to know more, and would enjoy spending an afternoon or two exploring their countryside. Volunteers are needed for:

-- combing the countryside for buildings
-- recording on-site information (like styles and dimensions)
-- conducting research to locate old buildings through the archives and other records
-- completing forms for known buildings
-- training sessions

For more information, contact survey coordinator Steve Jones at or 518.381.1826 (snail mail 1077 Wendell Avenue, Schenectady, NY 12308). You can also visit

Friday, December 01, 2006

Historic Preservation and Neighborhood Revitalization in Troy's Pottery District

Please accept our apologies for the relatively long delay between posts. We have been distracted by mid-term grading, Thanksgiving travels, and winding up the semester.

However, classes are in session again this weekend, with the students attending Industrial Archeology this morning and Building Conservation this afternoon. Since the semester is winding down, our Friday evening session will mainly be social, and will be held at the Pumpkin House, the recently restored, National Register of Historic Places listed Federal home of Building Conservation program friend and historic Pottery District founder Carl Erickson. Three of the Building Conservation program's professors also live in the Pottery District, which is located at the southern edge of historic downtown Troy at the northern end of Little Italy.

The Pottery District is a great living laboratory for studying neighborhood revitalization, and, as in past years, we will hear about its founding and revitalization, an effort that has been going on since the mid-1990s, when Carl purchased and began restoring 180 Fourth Street with his father (before and after facade photos shown above). When the restoration work was well under way, he began holding pot luck dinners to show off his progress and working hard to attract new property owners and residents to occupy and rehabilitate surrounding buildings. Within a very short time, seven neighborhood houses were purchased and rehabilitated, with several new owners coming from outside Troy. Based on the neighborhood's history, the group christened themselves the Pottery District, and began advertising additional homes and reinforcing the neighborhood "brand" by developing t-shirts, sweat shirts, posters announcing work in progress, banners, and product labels for honey produced in neighborhood hives.

Tomorrow the students will once again travel by train to New York City, where they will meet at the offices of Building Conservation Associates and continue to the conservation labs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Following exams two weeks from now, there will be no classes until Friday, January 12th.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Own It: Support Building Conservation Friends

Building Conservation friend Alane Hohenburg's latest project is the development of the Troy Community Food Cooperative in the former Pioneer Food Market on Congress Street in downtown Troy. Alane and her husband Paul completed a major rehabilitation project at a house on historic Second Street several years ago. Building conservation faculty and students followed the project closely, and have enjoyed several fall opening parties at the Hohenburg home.

Alane has successfully purchased the former market building and, with a small group of organizers, is now moving forward with architectural plans, fundraising, and membership organization development. As in many downtowns, Troy has for several years lacked a grocery store, and this project will fill that gap. This is truly a grass-roots community development project, with Alane's organizing group including Pottery District homeowner and Russell Sage professor Cheryl MacNeil, Washington Park Association president Lynn Kopka, commercial realtor and former executive director of Troy Rehabilitation & Improvement Program Barbara Jones Higbee, Washington Park homeowner and Market Block Books employee Mary Muller, and Kevin Blodgett, who owns several historic commercial buildings in downtown Troy.

Market Block Books, another great preservation story which we'll save for another post, is Troy's fantastic independent bookseller.

The mission of the Troy Community Food Co-op is "to provide wholesome food at affordable prices in a cooperatively owned grocery store. The Co-op will support local agriculture, stimulate community revitalization and be a collaborative community partner."

The Troy Community Food Cooperative will be owned by member-investors, and this is your chance to get involved. Dues are $140 (Founding Member/Investor Level, with an annual renewal rate of $35); $30 WIC; and $30 for students with valid ID. Quarterly payments may also be made. All dues payments should be sent to Troy Community Food Cooperative, PO Box 402, Troy, New York, 12181. Visit the Coop on the web at or join the Yahoo group for email updates at

In addition to becoming a founding member, there are many ways to get involved and this will be a fascinating project. For more information, email market organizers at

The World of Planning (and Preservation)

Another school weekend is upon us, and this one falls within the feverish intensity that is mid-term. Classes included Economics of Historic Preservation, in which final papers were due, Building Conservation, and Materials Testing, with the students again traveling by train early this morning to the offices of Building Conservation Associates in New York City.

For our Friday evening session, we traveled downtown to hear about the work of River Street Planning & Development from firm prinicipal John Holehan, who will also be among those teaching Preservation Design Studio this spring. This visit was both an extension of the Economics of Historic Preservation class, and a preparation for the spring studio. John spoke about the firm's creation and evolution, then described its main lines of work, including preparation of local waterfront revitalization plans, comprehensive plans, market and feasibility studies, and grant writing. Completed documents and successful grant applications for numerous funding sources were reviewed, and there was much discussion of the planning process, public involvement, and project management and costs.

There was also preliminary discussion of the spring studio, which will focus on a segment of Troy's Congress Street. This formerly thriving commercial and residential area is situated between a large former public housing site being collaboratively redeveloped by the City of Troy, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the Troy Housing Authority, Rensselaer County, and private developers, and the 15th Street corridor, which is also in the midst of revitalization. The studio will be organized around the National Trust for Historic Preservation Main Street program's four principles of design, organization, promotion, and economic restructuring, and will involve neighborhood planning and interaction with neighborhood residents, businesses, and project developers. We will also be working with a fourth year School of Architecture studio which will focus on alley improvements.

The Building Conservation program includes two studios, one focused on preparation of historic structure reports, and one focused on planning and main street revitalization. Previous planning studios have taken us to the North Central neighborhood of Troy, the Village of Middleburgh in Schoharie County, and the Village of Waterford in Saratoga County. We will describe these studios in greater detail in future posts. We have been invited to do the Congress Street studio by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's office of Campus and Facilities Planning and are always on the lookout for future studio sites.

For those who may be interested in joining the Building Conservation program because of our reputation for the enjoyment of fine food, dinner was catered in by our favorite and frequent caterer, Linda Canty (Harvest Moon Catering). Featured were a delicious chicken curry, basmati rice, a green salad with grape tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, and blueberries (a surprisingly nice addition), and seasonally festive chocolate chip-cranberry oatmeal cookies. As an army marches on its stomach, so does the Building Conservation program (we need to keep up our strength!).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

FREE Lead Safe Work Practices Training, Troy, NY, 12/06/06

Thanks to our friends at the Preservation League of New York State for alerting us that a Lead Safe Work Practices Training will be held Wednesday, December 6th, 2006, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 2nd Floor, Troy City Hall at 1 Monument Square.

The training is being presented, at no cost to participants, by The National Paint and Coatings Association and Atrium Environmental Health & Safety Services, LLC. All interested parties are welcome, so feel free to spread the word.

According to the sponsor's flyer, "those encouraged to participate include home (or code) inspectors, contractors undertaking renovation, repainting, or remodeling work where lead-based paint may be encountered, maintenance workers, building supervisors and landlords, professional associations, state and local municipal agencies, community and social service organizations, and do-it-yourself homeowners. The goal of this program is to teach attendees lead-safe work practices and the strategies for implementing them. Many homes built before 1978 contain lead-based paint, so it is important that renovation, remodeling and repair activities use methods that reduce and control dust and debris created during work."

Contact Tim Mattice at the City of Troy, (518) 270-4619 for more information, online at, or toll free (866) 689-9484.

Those interested might also wish to consult the National Park Service's Preservation Brief No. 37: Appropriate Methods for Reducing Lead-Paint Hazards in Historic Housing, which includes extensive recommendations for further reading, and Marylee McDonald's "Looking Out for Lead Paint: A Primer on Dealing With Lead-Based Coatings in Old Houses," in Old House Journal Online.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Historic Preservation Grant Awards

The Friends of Washington Park, Troy and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany have both received Environmental Protection Fund grants from the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Building Conservation program faculty, students, and friends have been actively involved in these projects and have periodically toured both sites to observe specific building conditions and restoration projects.

The Friends of Washington Park received $90,000 for the preservation of Washington Place, one of the few remaining streets in the Capital District with its original 1840s granite paving blocks. The street is in very poor condition from accumulated years of patching related to utility work, normal wear and tear, lack of appropriate routine maintenance, and road bed settling. The Friends will work closely with National Grid and city engineering staff to restore the one-block area, and note that preservation of the historic pavers of Washington Place is the final piece of the revitalization of the southern end of Washington Park. They predict that in one year, all ten row houses along Washington Place will be restored and occupied, with a drivable street in front.

Established ca. 1838, Washington Park is located a few blocks south of Troy's central business district on Second and Third Streets, Washington Street, and Washington Place, and is an elegant residential neighborhood with large Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, and Italianate brick townhouses, one church, and a former school facing a large private square. Notable buildings include Washington Place, a monumental block-long terrace of 10 Greek Revival townhouses that are still visible in spite of later remodelings. Enclosed by an iron fence, the park is one of only two privately owned urban ornamental parks in New York State (Gramercy Park in New York City is the other).

Led by indefatigable and enthusiastic Washington Park President Lynn Kopka, Washington Park has completed several major preservation projects in recent years. Building on the preservation of the park's lighting and sidewalks (slate and herringbone brick) through EQBA funding, they stabilized 8 Washington Place, a collapsed structure near the east end of Washington Place; the shell was sold in September 2005 to an owner occupant who is undertaking the extensive rehabilitation project. Washington Park also issues an eagerly awaited and much appreciated monthly newsletter, which aggressively promotes home ownership and restoration, encourages support for local businesses, and facilitates new friendships among the new and existing residents of Troy. An informal walking tour booklet about Washington Park's history and architecture, and additional information (including properties available for sale and rent) may be viewed at

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception received $350,000 to complete the restoration of the eastern facade. This project has been directed by Larry Wilson of Mesick, Cohen, Wilson, Baker Architects (MCWB). A nationally-recognized historic preservation architecture firm, MCWB has been active in the creation and development of the Building Conservation program and is the employer of three alumni.

The project will entail the removal of Portland brownstone, repointing the brick armature underneath and installing new sandstone. The restoration of the east facade will remove a public safety threat and enhance the Cathedral as a gathering space for year round public events.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Troy's Victorian Stroll & RCHS Greens Show

We spend a lot of time in the Economics of Historic Preservation and Preservation Design Studio 2 classes talking about and studying downtown revitalization, and the roles of the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors. As will often be described in this blog, the city of Troy (and surrounding municipalities) makes an ideal laboratory.

Like those of many industrial cities in the 20th century, Troy's economy suffered with the departure of industry to the south and overseas (and subsequent loss of jobs), the construction of the interstate highway system, and the development of suburban housing and shopping malls.

In the past forty years, however, the city of Troy and its residents have worked hard to revitalize its Victorian downtown. Several faculty members and many friends of the Building Conservation program have been actively involved in this effort over the years, and we will likely describe these efforts in many future posts. At the moment, although the city has come a long way and still has a long way to go, it is hard to keep up with all the projects. So many existing and new residents are rehabilitating houses, new shops and restaurants are opening up, and there are several notable large scale new construction and adaptive use projects taking place. In this dynamic climate, the Building Conservation program never lacks new sites to visit and learn from.

In the meantime, while we are in event announcement mode, we wanted to promote Troy's 24th annual Victorian Stroll, which will be held Sunday, December 3rd, 2006 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Initially developed by local businesses, government officials, and the Rensselaer County Chamber of Commerce to promote and reintroduce visitors and shoppers to our historic downtown, this wonderful event always has something for everyone, including fire truck rides, historic house tours, great food and music, Santa's reindeer, an ever-changing variety of shops, and 15,000 people from all over the region. The Stroll presents a great opportunity for residents and visitors to see the many positive changes occuring in Troy.

This year's "strollers," some of whom dress in elegant Victorian costumes, will find a number of new shops and dining establishments, such as several new additions to the Antiques District on River Street (including the Living Room), Spill'N the Beans Coffee and Bistro, on Third Street, and Tosca Grille and the Golden Fox on Broadway. Strollers will also see many building rehabilitation projects underway, including the long-vacant former Stanley's department store building (pictured above) at the southwest corner of Third and State Streets and the Tavern Building on Congress Street. Stanley's is being transformed into "The Conservatory," four floors of Manhattan-style apartments with basement-level parking and first floor retail by J.W. Pfeil & Company, Inc.

One of the highlights of the Victorian Stroll is Renssealer County Historical Society's annual Greens Show, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. This event will be held Thursday, November 30th - Sunday, December 3rd, from 12:00 noon until 5:00 p.m.; family night is Thursday, November 30th, 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Visitors can tour the historic Hart-Cluett House (also known as the "Marble House on Second Street" and pictured above) and adjacent Carr Building, which will be beautifully decorated for the holiday season by the Van Rensselaer Garden Club.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Historic Albany Foundation Events

The Historic Albany Foundation has two upcoming events: a lecture and book signing to celebrate the Landmark Society of Western New York's newest book, Historic New York: Architectural Journeys in the Empire State (Tuesday, November 14th, at the NYS Education Building) and a Holiday House Tour (Sunday, December 10th). The tour encompasses a new selection of "uniquely decorated private homes in the Center Square, Hudson/Park, Washington Park, and Pine Hills neighborhoods", and includes stops at "the elegant Fort Orange Club, law offices in the Harmanus Bleecker Building, and the historic Israel AME Church - with a choir concert at 1:30 p.m. Assemblymember Jack McEneny will be signing the new release of his book, Albany, Capital City on the Hudson, from 1:30 - 3:00 at the Albany Institute." For more information and ticket purchase information, call (518)465-0876, x. 10.

You can also visit Historic Albany Foundation's fabulous Parts Warehouse at 89 Lexington Avenue in Albany, Wednesday - Friday, 12 noon - 5:00 p.m. and Saturday, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. The Parts Warehouse accepts donations only of historic salvaged parts that otherwise would have been destroyed or lost, sells to architects, contractors, designers, and do-it-yourselfers, and can make recommendations about craftspeople who are appropriate and available for your restoration project. Please note that Historic Albany Foundation strongly advocates the preservation of all historic buildings and encourages the retention of parts in their original settings. The Parts Warehouse includes doors and windows, decorative ironwork and stained glass, lighting fixtures, clawfoot and other tubs, plumbing accessories, sinks, toilets, mantels and fireplaces, radiators and heating, spindles, stair rails, newel posts, moldings, woodwork, flooring, and hardware, hardware, and more hardware.

Now doesn't that sound juicy and tempting????? What are you waiting for? It's Saturday...Go! You'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Saratoga Springs Candlelight House Tour

The Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation will be holding its annual Candlelight House Tour on Friday, December 1, 2006. Seven houses, decorated for the holidays, will be open for touring in the Caroline and Circular Street neighborhoods. All houses are within walking distance of each other and the historic Canfield Casino, where the tour concludes with a silent auction and festive reception. Homes open at 5:30 p.m. and the reception begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $60/$50 (SSPF members) and are available online at the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation's web site or by calling the office at 518-587-5030.

Presentation on NYS Courthouse Architecture

As part of the current New York Court of Appeals Lecture Series, internationally renowned architects Henry N. Cobb and Paul Spencer Byard will present "The Shape of Justice: Law and Architecture," a program on courthouse architecture past and present at Court of Appeals Hall in Albany on November 16th at 6:00 p.m. With wonderful slides of New York courthouses drawn from their own design files and from New York's rich courthouse architectural heritage, the speakers will examine the role lof the courthouse as the center of the community and its symbol of justice, both now and historically. The event is free and open to the public; however, space is very limited, so RSVP to 518-455-7821 to save a seat. The program is co-sponsored by The Historical Society of the Courts of the State of New York.

If you are unable to attend in person, you may view the live webcast that will be posted on the New York Court of Appeals website.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Trip to Building Conservation Associates, NYC

On Saturday, November 4th, students traveled to the offices of Building Conservation Associates in New York City for their materials conservation class with BCA principal Raymond Pepi. This trip followed an introductory class that was held October 21st in our usual school of architecture classroom on campus.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Busy Weekend Away From School, Part II

On October 28th, students, alumni, and faculty traveled to Hyde Park, New York, to participate in another conference, Preservation Under Pressure: Protecting Historic Community Character in a Time of Change, sponsored by the Preservation League of New York State, Hudson River Heritage, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation (as described below).

Held at the new Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center, designed by the architect Frances Halsband, the conference brought together a diverse group of preservationists, elected officials, planners, planning and zoning board members and staff, and others.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A Busy Weekend Away From School, Part I

On October 27th, students, alumni, and faculty took advantage of a free weekend to attend and participate in two excellent conferences: the Louis Sullivan Terra Cotta Symposium and Preservation Under Pressure.

Organized by the Northeast Chapter of the Association for Preservation Technology in association with Wank Adams Slavin Associates (WASA) and Cooper Union, the Louis Sullivan Terra Cotta Symposium commemorated 150 years since the birth of the architect Louis Sullivan. Presentations focused on the technology and early manufacturing period of terra cotta in the United States from the 1850s onward; Louis Sullivan's role in the evolution, development, and use of terra cotta throughout the 20th century; and the continuing evolution of conservation practice and techniques for the care of terra cotta today. The symposium was held at Cooper Union, one of the oldest known structures in the United States using terra cotta.

Building Conservation professor and consulting engineer Donald Friedman presented "Terra Cotta As Structure." Other presentations and speakers included:

  • "Growing Up Together: Louis Sullivan and the United States Terra Cotta Industry" by Tim Samuelson, Cultural Historian for Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs
  • "Terra Cotta: Its Evolving Technology & Unique Application" by Susan Tunick, Friends of Terra Cotta
  • "Louis Sullivan at the Metropolitan Museum of Art" by Morrison H. Heckscher, Lawrence A. Fleischman Chairman of the American Wing Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • "Angels Repaired: The Bayard-Condict Building" by Stephen Gottlieb and Norman Weiss (both formerly with WASA)
  • "Terra Cotta: The Numbers Game" by Michael Y. Ahearn, Seaboard Weatherproofing & Restoration Company
  • "The Recrowning of Louis Sullivan's Carson Pirie Scott & Company Store" by Gunny Harboe, Harboe Architects
  • "Cleaning Terra Cotta in the New York City Subway Stations: Making Informed Choices" by Mary Jablonski, Jablonski Berkowitz Conservation
  • "Terra Cotta Restoration: Where We Are and Where We Are Going" by Stephen Kelley, Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates
  • "Blackfriar's House in London: Cathodic Protection of Carraware in the United Kingdom" by Paul Noyce and Peter Gibbs, Electro Tech
The conference also featured a tour of the Bayard-Condict Building, Sullivan's only New York City building, and a reception in the elegant lobby of the Woolworth Building, one of the earliest examples of terra cotta skyscrapers in New York.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Friday Night Lights: Daisy Baker's Restaurant

While perhaps not quite as exciting as attending football games, our Friday night evening sessions are a highlight and very important part of the Building Conservation program. Generally speaking, this required course time, usually 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., is used as supplemental class time or time to tour a specific historic site, professional office, or project. However the time is used, it always includes dinner and involves both students and faculty.

In some cases, dinner is catered in and class work (such as during Preservation Design Studio in spring semester) continues or we hear from a guest speaker such as a local preservation architect, representative of the state historic preservation office, or stained glass conservation consultant. At other times, usually when we visit a specific site or office, students and faculty travel to the designated place and either have a catered dinner there or dine at a local restaurant with historic character (and, of course, good food).

The Friday night sessions enable the students to get to know one another, and facilitate close interaction between students, faculty, invited guests, friends of the program, and other professionals in the field. They also help establish a teamwork and collaboration orientation, rather than the competitive orientation of so many academic programs.

In past years, we have visited the offices of Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects; John G. Waite Architects; Einhorn Yaffee Prescott; River Street Planning & Development; the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; New York State Capitol; New York State Education Building; the Gardner Earl Chapel and Oakwood Cemetery; the city of Troy's Washington Park and Pottery District neighborhoods, and many other places.

Restaurants have included Smiths in Cohoes, New York; Brown's Brewing Company/Revolution Hall, Holmes & Watson, and South End Tavern in Troy, New York; and the Pump Station and Franklin's Tower in Albany.

This week, the Friday night session was mainly social. Faculty and students met at the historic Daisy Baker's Restaurant, a Richardson Romanesque building originally constructed as Troy's YWCA.

Industrial Archeology in Troy, Waterford, and Cohoes, New York

This weekend's classes included Industrial Archeology, Building Conservation, Economics of Historic Preservation, and Materials Testing.

The Industrial Archeology class toured historic industrial buildings and sites in Troy, Waterford, and Cohoes, New York. Traveling in a Rensselaer shuttle bus driven by program director Frederick Cawley, the group learned about the Hudson-Mohawk region's industrial heritage, with narration by adjunct professor P. Thomas Carroll, who is also executive director of the Hudson Mohawk Industrial Gateway and the RiverSpark Heritage Area.

Highlights of the tour included the Cohoes Falls, Gas Holder House, Ludlow Valve, Woodside Church, and various remaining structures of the Burden Iron Works Company, the Poestenkill Gorge, several locks of the Erie and Champlain Canals.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Historic Preservation Conference, October 28, 2006

On October 28th, several Building Conservation program faculty and students will be traveling to Hyde Park, New York, to attend the conference "Preservation Under Pressure: Protecting Historic Community Character in a Time of Change." The conference is co-sponsored by the Preservation League of New York State, Hudson River Heritage, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The conference is titled Preservation Under Pressure: Protecting Historic Community Character in a Time of Change. Speakers and topics include:

Edward T. McMahon: Dollars and Sense of Preserving Community Character
J. Winthrop Aldrich: Terra Firma: Preserving the Heritage and Natural Landscape of the Hudson Valley
Geoff Bornemann: Design Considerations and Community Character
Paul Daniel Marriott: Empire Roads: Historic and Scenic Road Protection in New York State
Sally Mazzarella: Blending Diversified Planning Tools to Implement A Community's Vision

The conference has been approved for six hours of local continuing education credit by the New York Upstate Chapter of the American Planning Association. For more information, visit or call (518) 462-5658, x. 13.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Van Alen House Archeology

Yesterday's archeology class exposed students to the methodology and process of an archeological dig at the eighteenth century John Evert van Alen House in DeFreestville, New York.

Small teams of students did shovel test pit excavations under the tutelage of professional archeologists. Correct procedure, nomenclature and recording were emphasized. The afternoon session was held at the Hartgen Archeological Associates' nearby lab. Students separated, cleaned and analyzed the artifacts they had found. Discussion followed as to what possibilities might be indicated by the results.

Friday, October 06, 2006

EMPAC Construction Site Tour

Following Economics of Historic Preservation in the morning, lunch in the Greene building, and Building Conservation I and II in the afternoon, Building Conservation program students and faculty toured the construction site of Rensselaer's new Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center and then gathered for a leisurely dinner at Brown's Brewing Company in historic downtown Troy, New York.

The Economics class focused on downtown revitalization, the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Main Street program, and business improvement districts. Students submitted their case study proposals, and will be intensively studying historic preservation policy, planning, and implementation projects in Somerville, Massachusetts; Charlestown, Massachusetts; Ithaca, New York; Wellsboro and Williamsport, Pennsylvania; Syracuse, New York; Utica, New York; Burlington, Vermont; and Oswego County, New York.

The Building Conservation (20th Century Building Materials) class focused on the use of metals in construction. The 20th century saw the use of traditional metals used in new ways and the formulation of new alloys, including nickel silver, monel, weathering and stainless steels, aluminum and titanium. Their properties, uses, care, preservation, deterioration and restoration were explored and notable examples were illustrated.

As noted on Rensselaer's home page, the 220,000-square foot EMPAC will contain a wide and flexible range of major venues including an atrium; 1,200-seat concert hall; 400-seat theater; 3,500-square-foot studio; 2,500-square-foot-studio; suites for artists-in-residence; rehearsal spaces; student and support spaces; professional recording, editing and post-production facilities; and digital broadcasting facilities. EMPAC is positioned at the southwest edge of campus on a steep bluff affording spectacular views of the city of Troy and Hudson River valley.

Brown's Brewing Company exemplifies a creative and evolving example of adaptive use and neighborhood revitalization. It occupies several historic warehouse buildings along the Hudson River in a commercial neighborhood that is being revitalized. Established as one of the region's first brew pubs in 1993, Brown's initially occupied two floors of a single commercial building that the small group of owners restored. In subsequent years, the owners have continued to make improvements, adding a deep porch overlooking the Hudson River along the building's rear facade, rehabilitating fire damaged upper floors into office space, and rehabilitating an adjoining building for use as Revolution Hall, a live performance venue.