Tag Archives: Historic Preservation

Use a coaster, for Pete’s sake

Check out this article about the preservation and maintenance of the desks in the U.S. Senate chamber. I didn’t know that some of those desks have been in use since 1819.

Every desk has been examined for damage, scratches, structural issues and cracks in knobs or feet. Of the 100 desks, about a third needed some maintenance, the curator said — mostly to fix scratches on the surface or broken wood.

The goal of the restoration was not to make the desks look as good as possible by refinishing them, but rather to fix the desk parts — not replace them — to keep the historical integrity intact.…

Some desks are considered such historical treasures that the Senate has passed legislation officially assigning them: the “Webster desk” always goes to the senior senator from New Hampshire, while the “Clay desk” goes to the senior senator from Kentucky. The desk used by Jefferson Davis, who would become president of the Confederate States of America, is assigned to the senior senator from Mississippi.

More info about the Senate desks here.

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Friends don’t let ‘Friends’ demolish historic buildings

David Schwimmer had an 1852 East Village townhouse torn down to make way for his new digs, so an irate New Yorker retaliated by painting “Ross Is Not Cool” at the construction site.  I got a pretty good chuckle out of it, which is more than I can say for the average episode of Friends.

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Tearing down a 1756 structure in Pennsylvania

It’s on the National Register of Historic Places, but that hotel and CVS have to go up somewhere.

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Filed under Colonial America, Historic Preservation

Early South Carolina graveyard desecrated

Graves opened and stones broken at a cemetery in York County, SC.  Some of the burials date back to the eighteenth century.

I was just reading about the Rev War skirmishes in and around York County before turning in last night.  Hope they catch the lowlife who did this.

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Filed under American Revolution, Historic Preservation

We could all use some tactical back-and-forth

Check out this article on the history of Civil War battlefield preservation at The Washington Post:

Despite admirable efforts to connect battlefields to the larger history of the Civil War, the one thing that battlefields can teach very well is the history of what happened in a particular place. If the goal is simply to inspire thoughts about the larger social history of the Civil War, one battlefield is pretty much the same as the next — and it becomes difficult to explain why we need to preserve so many of them, and with so much land taken off the tax rolls. If the goal is to make people passionate about battlefields and their preservation, visitors need to engage with the actual place to understand its strategic importance and the tactical back-and-forth.

I would argue that visitors need to get the strategic importance and tactical back-and-forth because they have intrinsic importance, not just because they inspire respect for preservation.

I seem to run across more discussions about how to effectively integrate non-military subjects into battlefield interpretation than about how to effectively interpret the battlefield itself. Don’t get me wrong—I’m glad that battlefield interpretation is more well-rounded and contextualized than it used to be. We rightly emphasize the fact that the battles didn’t happen in a vacuum, but that insight cuts both ways.

Just as the war’s larger issues determined the conflict, the “tactical back-and-forth” determined the resolution of those larger issues. Emancipation, Union, and all the rest of it ultimately hinged on the stuff of old-fashioned military history: maneuver, terrain, firepower, etc. We preserve these places not only because people suffered and died there, but also because what happened there mattered. It mattered that such-and-such a colonel held a particular position, that such-and-such a general flanked an enemy. Determining the outcome of larger questions, after all, is why battles tend to be fought.

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Filed under Civil War, Historic Preservation, Museums and Historic Sites

If you ask me, the federal government should buy Wounded Knee

I didn’t even know that Wounded Knee was in private hands until this story popped up in the news.  The landowner has given the Oglala Sioux until May 1 to come up with the money before he puts it up for auction.  Unfortunately, the asking price is $3.9 million and the tribe is deeply in debt.  The current price seems high to me, but the guy claims he’s already had three offers.

There’s disagreement within the tribe as to what should be done with the site; some see opportunities for more tourist-related revenue, while others oppose any major development nearby.  Personally, I’d like to see the federal government step in and buy it with an eye toward eventual management by the National Park Service.  Supporters of tourism would get the visitor draw they’re after, while the NPS could preserve the site and interpret it in a tasteful, professional, and sensitive manner that would hopefully be agreeable to folks who aren’t keen on development.  Seems to me like a sensible solution, but that’s just my two cents.

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Tidings of comfort and joy

This ought to bring some holiday cheer to anybody who cares about battlefield preservation.  The Civil War Trust has an opportunity to acquire one of the most historic parcels of ground in the country at Brandy Station.  I second Eric’s call to action: This is the time for all of us history aficionados to help make this happen.

If you’re like me and aren’t in a financial position to write a big fat check with lots of zeroes in it, here’s a simple way to pitch in.  Lots of our friends and co-workers are scrambling around to find last-minute Christmas presents for us.  What if we e-mailed these folks and asked them to take the money they’d normally spend on a gift for us and send the same amount to the Civil War Trust instead?  Every little bit helps.

Alternatively, if you need to find a Christmas present for the history buff in your life, consider making a donation to the CWT in their name.  They’ll appreciate that more than a sweater or fruitcake, and it’ll last longer.

Cavalry Charge near Brandy Station, by Edwin Forbes. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (reproduction no. LC-DIG-ppmsca-22378)

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Filed under Civil War, Historic Preservation