…it’s more highways.
Monthly Archives: August 2012
In 2010 a judge ordered Gettysburg National Military Park to re-evaluate its plan to demolish the Cyclorama building. The park just finished that review, and tearing it down remains the best option as far as the NPS is concerned. The Recent Past Preservation Network is apparently putting together a response.
For whatever it’s worth, I wouldn’t miss it. Its removal would help conform the landscape more closely to its 1863 appearance, which is the park’s primary preservation aim. The painting has a new home in the visitor center, so as of now, the building is an empty shell that doesn’t really serve any interpretive function. The architect’s son would like to see it turned into a Lincoln museum, but since the visitor center exhibit has pretty thorough coverage of the Gettysburg Address and the larger context of the war, another display doesn’t seem like the best use of a crucial piece of battleground.
And aesthetically…well, this pretty much comes down to personal taste, but to me it looks like some sort of sacred kiva built by ancient aliens, which isn’t the kind of thing that seems at home on a Civil War battlefield.
Still, I can see where the building’s supporters are coming from. It’s an interesting example of twentieth-century architecture, and it’s been there so long that it’s sort of a Gettysburg institution. The whole situation is reminiscent of the Electric Map ruckus. You’ve got an interpretive tool that’s outlived its original purpose—in fact, it’s standing in the way of advancing the park’s long-term goals—but the tool itself has become so venerable that some people see it as an integral part of what makes the site such a special place. In other words, when you have a longstanding connection to a particular historic site, the individual level of personal and sentimental memory gets woven into the larger fabric of collective, historical memory.
Of course, sentiment isn’t the only point at issue; opponents of demolishing the building argue that it’s got enough architectural significance to make it inherently valuable. Thus we have an unusual situation in which some of us history buffs oppose a preservation effort, albeit with the aim of restoring the landscape around it.
I’ve got a short piece on the Republican National Convention of 1860 (which was a lot more interesting than the one going on now) over at the Lincoln Institute blog.
You know, the one where coal companies and the armed forces teamed up against striking miners in an honest-to-goodness battle? If it doesn’t ring a bell, here’s a quick refresher.
My classes kicked off this week. In the days leading up to the start of the semester, I get this weird mix of anticipation tinged with a little nervousness. I don’t know why I should be nervous; I’ve done this plenty of times before, and I’m the one in charge of the class. But it happens anyway, and lasts until I walk into the room, crank up the projector, and get rolling. After that, I’m fine. Better than fine, actually; I really enjoy myself.
It always reminds me of this scene from Collateral in which an L.A. prosecutor talks about the night before she has to stand up in the courtroom.
When all else fails, you can always count on a Nathan Bedford Forrest monument to stir up a mess. This one’s in Selma, AL and got vandalized back in March. Now it’s about to get repaired, but there’s a petition going around asking the city council to take the whole thing down.
The thing is, neither the monument nor the land on which it sits belong to the city. It was on public property when first erected in 2000, but a ruckus ensued which resulted in its relocation to a plot owned by the UDC following year. What do the petitioners expect the city council to do about a monument on private land? Your guess is as good as mine.
…when a spectator actually passes out.
I didn’t watch
The History Channel‘s Hatfields & McCoys miniseries when it premiered a few months ago, mostly because the notion of a fictionalized account of the Hatfield-McCoy feud from The History Channel filled me with the same foreboding I had when I found out that the Rock was going to star in a remake of Walking Tall. But when an encore presentation aired last week, I ended up watching the whole thing, and it’s actually not half bad.
In terms of pure entertainment, Part Two is by far the best segment, and the scene in which the Hatfields execute three of Randolph McCoy’s sons packs quite a wallop. (IRL this incident took place on August 9. 1882.) To me, the standout performances are Kevin Costner’s “Devil” Anse Hatfield, Tom Berenger’s Jim Vance (Tom Berenger’s good in everything), Powers Boothe’s Wall Hatfield (ditto), Jena Malone’s Nancy McCoy, Lindsay Pulsipher’s Roseanna McCoy, and Noel Fisher’s Ellison Mounts.
Modern scholarship indicates that the changes taking place in postwar Appalachia led to the resentments that erupted in the feud. The problem wasn’t so much the existence a traditional and primitive society untouched by modernization, but rather the reverse. My biggest fear—and the main reason I steered clear of the miniseries when it premiered—was that we’d get six hours of the same old superficial, simplistic, and stereotypical depictions of nineteenth-century mountaineers as backward, violent, lawless, clannish, and ignorant. Indeed, the feud itself helped generate and perpetuate these very notions. For the most part, though, I was pretty pleasantly surprised. The third part actually touches on the media’s role in popularizing the stereotype of a violent mountain culture in a scene featuring Bill Paxton’s Randolph McCoy. While the embittered patriarch holds a sort of press conference at a relative’s home, a New York reporter and a photographer urge him to hold a bystander’s firearm while posing for the camera.
A few minor criticisms: I know it’s cheaper to film in Romania, but Eastern European mountains aren’t quite the same as Eastern Kentucky ones, so the scenic shots undermined the illusion a little. Seeing men’s ponytails in a late nineteenth-century setting was also a little odd. Finally, Appalachian accents continue to be hit-or-miss when it comes to Hollywood; some actors just can’t swing it.
Despite all the snark I’ve directed against
The History Channel in the past, I’ll give them props for Hatfields & McCoys. Ultimately, what impressed me the most about the miniseries was its success in depicting the feud as a wrenching ordeal in which flesh-and-blood human beings got caught up in extraordinary, terrible circumstances. There’s something to be said for that. Over the years, cartoons, TV shows, and other media have used the feud scenario as a comic, almost buffoonish affair, but whatever else it was, the Hatfield-McCoy conflict was a tragedy involving real people, and the filmmakers didn’t lose sight of that. One could certainly do worse.
Hey, the most logical option is to burn it down so the fire department can get in a little practice, and then build something else there.
STOCKBRIDGE — An historic home is scheduled to go up in flames today.
The controlled burn of the Hightower House, named for its owner, Dr. Richard Hightower, is part of a ceremony hosted by the City of Stockbridge.
The burning, which also serves as training for county firefighters, will be Thursday, at 7:30 p.m., at 117 East Atlanta Road, in Stockbridge.
“The control training burn will be directed by the Henry County Fire Department,” said Henry Fire Capt. Sabrina Puckett.
The Hightower House was built in the 1800s, prior to the Civil War, according to officials. Its original purpose was to be the only medical facility in the area, having a doctor’s office, drugstore and small hospital. The Hightower House has been used in several capacities over the years, including a private home, a business, and recently to train Henry County firefighters.
City officials said they are burning down the historic house in order to make room for city improvements.
Preservationist that I am, I obviously find this depressing. On the bright side, however, the mayor provided a sound bite that is nothing short of unintentional comedy gold:
“It is only fitting that we stop to remember the historical significance this house has played in the development of Stockbridge, and Henry County,” said Stockbridge Mayor Lee Stuart. “The Hightower family history shows that [family members] have always been committed to community, serving [in various capacities] as sheriff, medical doctor, firefighter and emergency medical technician… We look forward to having the citizens of Stockbridge participate in the final chapter of this grand old house.”
“My fellow citizens, it is only fitting that we stop to remember the historical significance this house has played in the development of Stockbridge, and Henry County. Now pass the lighter fluid, so we can burn this sucker right down to the ground.”
The Explore Kentucky History app connects historical markers, related items in the Historical Society’s collections and user-submitted images and stories to points of interest on a map. The information is then grouped together into tours, with a Civil War-themed tour the first available.
As of today, it’s available on iTunes. I just installed it on my iPhone, and it’s awesome. (And free!) If you’re interested in the history of the Bluegrass State or the Civil War, you’re going to love it.