VAF 2022 Conference Papers

All presentations are 20 minutes unless otherwise noted. Order of papers is subject to change at the discretion of the Papers Chair.

8:15 - 9:15 am – Paper Session One 

1.1 Landscapes of Texas

Session Chair: Kathryn O’Rourke, Trinity University

Claudia Guerra – City of San Antonio Office of Historic Preservation – “The Intangible in the Tangible: Values Based Survey and Treatment”

In 2018, the Office of Historic Preservation began an inventory to locate every remaining shotgun type house in San Antonio; nearly 800 have been found. The inventory, and following survey, included alternative methods to locate the houses including crowdsourcing, development patterns analysis, archival map research, building permits research, and oral history collection. This paper will discuss the concept of expanded standard historic preservation surveys to incorporate the complete story of cultural heritage, including traditional building construction methods, identification of architects, artisans, builders, carpenters, craftspeople, and skilled workers producing traditional cultural properties. It will identify the barriers to preservation of traditional survey methods.

Using the shotgun house survey as the example, the aim is to determine the standards and format needed to effectively create not only surveys, but also treatment recommendations for underserved communities, based on an understanding and analysis of construction methods and cultural heritage that may be unique to under-represented geographies and communities. The paper will include a discussion of designation standards that do not rely on integrity issues and include an analysis of designation criteria throughout the United States.

Background and Methodology

In 2016, the San Antonio OHP developed a survey to include the values and meanings of place to people of different communities, including places that may not have typical architectural significance, to identify and designate properties that embody other forms of cultural significance. Methods of obtaining information include, not only the survey form, but also community engagement through oral history, platicas, and cultural mapping.

As the OHP has increased the number of properties designated for cultural value, the ability to recommend appropriate treatment has been complicated by the non-standard/non-architectural value of these properties. While architecture may not tell the complete story, the established method to determine treatment is based on architecture. To solve this issue, OHP augmented the existing survey method better capture how the intangible manifests in the tangible and uses a value-based approach for documentation.


Characteristics of heritage in under-served communities are often overlooked by traditional survey methods. Ultimately, a comprehensive and equitable understanding will not only increase cultural designations and improve treatment recommendations, but also assist in developing a workforce that can repair and rehabilitate properties both properties of cultural and architectural significance, the creation of cultural contexts respectful of property owners, and, respected by developers, and an opportunity to retain affordable housing.

Marie Saldaña – University of Tennessee – “In search of 18th century town and ranch life in South Texas”

This paper describes early-stage research that seeks to understand the lives and built environment of settlers in Spanish colonial Texas. The Lower Rio Grande Valley was first settled by citizens forming the new colony of Nuevo Santander (today the Mexican state of Tamaulipas) in the mid-18th century. This area, below the Nueces river, was never incorporated in the independent state of Texas and remained contested ground until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo set the Rio Grande as the southern border of the United States in 1848. Thus, the trans-Nueces remained culturally distinct from other centers of Tejano culture like San Antonio, and retained close familial and geographic ties to Tamaulipas and Nuevo León, differentiating it from San Antonio which had a longstanding association with Coahuila.

In the 21st century, the shared architectural heritage of Texas and Northern Mexico in the Rio Grande Valley has become imperiled as the borderland becomes increasingly militarized. The impact on the vernacular landscapes of the region is worrisome, as material evidence for the lives and dwellings of early civilian settlers in South Texas is scant, and the area lacks the sort of missions and presidios such as have been preserved by the National Park Service and other institutions in San Antonio and Goliad. On the north side of the Rio Grande, 18th century architecture consisted mostly of dispersed ranch settlements, while the towns which were the urban foci of ranch society, with the exception of Laredo, were all located on what is today the Mexican side of the river. In addition, much of the ranch architecture along the river was destroyed with the construction of the Falcon dam in the 1950s.

The paucity of archaeological evidence for the 18th century, a critical time in the development of Tejano culture that introduced the ranching tradition that remains important to Texan identity today, demands new strategies for increasing our understanding of the architectural heritage of the lower Rio Grande Valley and trans-Nueces. My research seeks to fill in the gaps in the material record through investigation of archival sources such as wills, legal documents, and church records, and utilizes digital humanities methods such as network analysis and mapping to gain a perspective on 18th century social as well as architectural history. My paper describes initial explorations of these sources and strategies and their potential for helping us to reconstruct the vernacular landscapes of the Lower Rio Grande and re-establish the region’s place within the broader history of northern Mexico and the Southwestern United States.

Deborah Kanter – Albion College – “Building Mexican Catholic Respectability in Texas 1902-30”

In 1902 Bishop John Forest invited Spanish Claretian Missionaries to minister in San Antonio, the start of over a century of ministry in underserved pockets of the archdiocese. These Spanish-born priests came from Mexico and soon the Claretians established missions and inaugurated parishes throughout Texas, and also in Arizona, California, and north along the tracks to Chicago. Eventually the Claretians created a highly influential Latino ministry in regions across the U.S.

Here I explore two sites: Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in San Antonio’s impoverished near West Side and Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Martindale, a modest, cotton-farming town near San Marcos. The Claretian missionaries oversaw church construction and administration in these two contrasting locations—one urban, one rural. Catholic missionary work was a challenge in early twentieth- century Texas. In an era of anti-Catholic and anti-Mexican attitudes and extralegal killings in Texas, the Claretians persisted in the face of Anglo hostilities. Arson plagued new churches time and time again in towns including Martindale and San Marcos. The Mexican Revolution (1910-17) sent nearly 10% of Mexico’s population north of the border further provoking tensions in the region. The Spanish-born Claretians meanwhile learned English and created connections with larger Catholic networks in their new country in order to best advocate for the Mexican laity. In a hostile and uncertain time, these Claretian-initiated religious communities provided crucial refugios and respectability for Mexican immigrants and U.S.-born Mexicans.

Claretian primary sources, including photographs, allow us to explore the building (and rebuilding) of these churches and schools and, further, how these Mexican Catholic spaces were used in the early twentieth century. The laity celebrated devotions rooted in Mexico, for example, worship of the Virgin of Guadalupe, but under the Claretians’ tutelage they grew accustomed to the structures of American parishes with regular Mass attendance and parochial schools. Churches brought people together for fund-raising jamaicas, movie nights, and graduation celebrations. These two Texas communities exemplify how--during an era of racial exclusion and segregation-- Catholic churches could become centers of Mexican respectability and uplift. Together, lay people and Claretians used churches to foster strong foundations and respectability for Mexican Catholics in the San Antonio area and beyond.

This paper anchors my book in-progress On a Mission: Claretian Missionaries and the Creation of a National Latino Ministry, 1902-2022.

1.2  Layers of Meaning in Recreation Landscapes

Session Chair: Matt Lasner, Hunter College

Mary Fesak – University of Delaware – “Making Racehorses: Thoroughbred Training Barns and the Architecture of Equine Resistance”

In the decades following the Civil War, Gilded Age elites increasingly embraced thoroughbred horse breeding and racing activities to solidify their social status and express their power. They restructured American thoroughbred racing into its modern form to reflect their capitalist values and hierarchies. The reorganization of racing extended to the built environment. Led by August Belmont, elites redesigned the architectural form of racing stables to increase the buildings’ functionality in training thoroughbred racehorses. This new training barn form contained specialized spaces to support the care of racehorses, as well as a covered exercise tracks for breaking young horses and conditioning horses in training during inclement weather. The modern training barn form developed by Gilded Age elites was so successful that it has continued to remain the primary training barn form into the present.

This paper examines the development of the modern training barn form during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries within the context of elite racehorse owners’ values and beliefs about racehorse training. In addition to field research, it draws from period prescriptive literature and periodicals detailing methods of training racehorses to reveal how the new training barn form was used in the process of making young thoroughbreds into racehorses. The paper then combines field research with equine behavioral science to interpret marks left by horses in training barns as evidence of their interactions with the built environment. The architectural evidence of horses’ reactions to how they were housed, cared for, and trained offers an unwritten record of their agency that contests period human narratives on the best methods of equine husbandry promoted by Gilded Age elites, revealing how coercive the remade thoroughbred industry was compared to many earlier breeding and training methods. By combining vernacular architecture studies and critical animal studies approaches, this paper ultimately offers a method of recovering posthuman perspectives of the built environment for companionate animal species such as horses.

C. Ian Stevenson – Independent Scholar – “Rockville, South Carolina’s Confederate Vacation Home: A Case Study of Vernacular Architecture

In 1918, under dubious circumstances, German-born William Andell sold 1.45 acres fronting Bohicket Creek in Rockville, South Carolina, on Wadmalaw Island. A recently erected fence enclosed the trapezoidal, gently sloping plot colloquially known as “The Green,” but the land otherwise sat vacant, ready for the subsequent owner to build a summer cottage. Prior to the sale, the Green featured a gable-roofed, single-story “Hall,” set on palmetto piles with a covered porch projected toward the water (Figs. 1 and 2). Demolished in 1918 but completed in 1901, the Hall was a central gathering space for the local chapter of the United Confederate Veterans (UCV), who used it seasonally for reunions that blended memory and leisure with family members. The building brought together graying former soldiers to impart a specific message to their next of kin about the war’s causes, conduct, and legacy under the guise of recreation. Alongside shrimp boils and late-night dancing, these men spun yarns of their wartime experience and racial hierarchies, sitting amidst the palmetto logs and looking out to sea in a landscape transformed by war and Reconstruction.

In existence for just seventeen years, the UCV Hall in Rockville performed an outsized role in propagating the Lost Cause Myth, functioning as a space for Civil War Vacations—hybrid memorial and leisurely gatherings. But recapturing the meaning and use of a building so ephemeral and gone for over a century should not automatically prove elusive. This paper demonstrates how to apply the methods of vernacular architecture to sites where the building no longer exists. The paper’s analysis relies primarily on historical photographs, architectural drawings, and documentary research rather than fieldwork. Nevertheless, it approximates vernacular architecture’s critical inquiries of the built environment to elucidate cultural meaning. At the same time that it makes a specific argument about the role of seasonal vernacular architecture in how Confederate Civil War veterans healed from the war’s traumas—both from battle experience and from coping with defeat—this paper makes a methodological contribution about how to examine architectural lacunae.

Jacob Torkelson – University of Pennsylvania – “Within Putting Distance: Golf, Segregation, and Competing Preservation Ideologies at Yorktown Battlefield, Virginia”

Yorktown Battlefield exists today as a bucolic, purely colonial landscape, and yet most visitors are entirely unaware of its artificial, manufactured nature. From the 1890s to the 1930s, competing ideas of how to preserve a historic site and for whom it should be preserved resulted in the near-total erasure of an adjacent African American community. During the Civil War, self-emancipated African Americans built Slabtown directly on top of the famed 1791 Revolutionary War battlefield. In the 1920s, prominent white men from across the nation came together to found the Yorktown Country Club and International Forum of Freedom. These elite white groups sought to acquire the historic battlefield for a private, segregated country club and pleasure grounds. From their view, such a project would not only preserve the aging Revolutionary War earthworks but could establish Yorktown, Virginia as a “new Geneva,” where groups like the League of Nations could meet and where American historical artifacts could be centrally displayed. The planned Yorktown Country Club would include a golf course, designed by famed golf architect William Flynn, that incorporated the historic earthworks and a Manor Hotel designed by architects McKim, Mead, and White. In doing so, this group (whose notable members included Calvin Coolidge, William Howard Taft, and Gifford Pinchot) advocated for the preservation of the landscape’s colonial history at the expense of later layers, including those of the Civil War and the immediately adjacent African American community of Slabtown.

In this paper, I argue that the residents of Slabtown actively preserved and stewarded the historic battlefield until wealthy white outsiders sought to acquire it at their expense. While only the golf course was ever realized, owing to the Great Depression, the story of the planned Yorktown Country Club reveals the implicit ideas of race and segregation embedded in the early preservation movement. These ideas were later taken up by the National Park Service when it established Yorktown Battlefield as a part of Colonial National Historical Park in the 1930s on the grounds of the failed Yorktown Country Club. By establishing Yorktown Battlefield as a layered site with multiple interwoven narratives, partially present and partially erased, this paper reveals how adjacent cultural landscapes, when treated as dynamic places with multiple periods of significance, can tell a better and more complete story of a place.

1.3  Landscapes of Erasure

Session Chair: Valentina Rozas Krause, University of Michigan

Sharóne Tomer – Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design – “Hidden Histories: Appalachian African-American Spaces”

Appalachia is often racially represented in the media and public discourse as homogenously White. Such representations are problematic: they simplify a demographically complex area, and often do so for strategic and productive purposes. They cast Appalachia–and by association its prevalent poverty–as ‘white’, and thus dispel the existence and effects of structural racism.

Yet, both blackness and racism do exist in Appalachia. This paper will be a spatial tracing and analysis of the dual existence and erasure of African-American spaces in one corner of Appalachia: Montgomery County, Virginia. The paper will work from an ongoing photographic study I have been conducting of African-American sites across the county. The study illustrates the variety of spaces that can be understood as sites of African-American history and contemporary life; these include plantations, schools, community halls, churches, cemeteries, and neighborhoods. Identifying the range of sites serves as a resistive act in a context where the African-American population has decreased from 25% in the late nineteenth century to less than 5% today, and where subsequently the county’s African-American history has been widely forgotten.

The latter point will be also demonstrated by the photographic study, which documents both the existence and treatment of the county’s African-American spaces. Treatment often falls into categories such as isolation, sanitization, and neglect. These effectively act as erasure by diminishing public awareness of the spaces and their history. Erasure in turn contributes to a lack of recognition of Montgomery County and the broader Appalachian region as Black places.

Overall, this paper will argue that the spatial treatment of historic African-American spaces in Montgomery County contributes to their invisibility. By extension, invisibility leads to the erasure of African-American histories, which contributes to misleading narratives of whiteness. In this paper, I will read photographic evidence alongside archival material, to examine the politics of how and why African-Americans histories get hidden, and the role of the production of the built environment in promoting agendas of whiteness and white supremacy in Appalachia.

Tim Davis – Historic Structures & Cultural Landscapes Program, National Park Service – “Exploring the Roots of California’s John Muir Trail”

Stretching 214 miles from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney, California’s John Muir Trail (JMT) is arguably the oldest long-distance recreational trail in the United States. The Sierra Club secured state support for the trail’s construction in 1915, invoking the recently deceased naturalist’s memory to bolster the cause. Through-travel was possible as early as 1916, though it took two decades to complete the official route.

Sierra Club leaders and subsequent historians cast the JMT’s creation as a saga of heroic exploration and enlightened conservation. Sierra Club stalwarts who forged the route were celebrated for blazing a trail through “terra incognita” and setting the stage for the preservation of endangered wilderness. Such accounts minimize or ignore two important factors: the extensive use of the region by indigenous and European-American predecessors and the implications of transforming a vernacular landscape for living and working into a recreational reserve catering to an empowered elite.

I will employ historical photographs, cartographic evidence, and published and unpublished accounts to underscore the extent to which the JMT’s creators made use of pre-existing trails along with advice and assistance from the region’s inhabitants – in particular, the predominantly Basque sheep herders Muir and his followers fought hard to displace. Objections to the sheep industry’s environmental impact were accompanied by aspersions about the moral and intellectual faculties of these “foreign” elements. They also reflected the privileging of what contemporary chroniclers characterized as “authentic information” over vernacular knowledge and values. Maps and published accounts both abetted and embodied the transition from an ostensibly trackless wilderness to a carefully curated recreational environment, paving the way for the construction of the gently graded and easily followed John Muir Trail.

The JMT audience expanded with the backpacking boom of the 1960s/70s and experienced another surge with the rise of social media as a source of information and medium for self- affirmation. Prospective users compete for permits, privileging those who are internet savvy and have more abundant or flexible leisure time. The increased popularity of fast-paced through- hiking and ultralight camping emphasizes the JMT’s role as a linear facility for athletic achievement rather than an avenue for more extensive engagement with the broader Sierra environment. At the same time, indigenous groups are asserting their ancestral associations and calling for the renaming of key features, including the trail itself, positing Nuumu Poyo as a preferred alternative to the heralded conservationist whose cultural insensitivities have engendered increasing concern.

Evan Pavka – Wayne State University – “Paupers, Fruit Jars and Gay Graves: Out of the Closet and into the Cemetery”

From bathhouses to saunas to dance floors, everyday spaces have long been employed by queer communities past and present to navigate their specific social worlds. These structures have a similarly long histories as lenses by which to view how architecture intersects with sexuality more broadly. What has been less considered in the scope of queer relations to the built environment, however, are the places in which members of the LGBTQ+ community end up after death: the cemetery. Cemeteries are foundational medical and moral infrastructures for both urban and rural spaces. As ideal mirrors to the cities they serve, these landscapes are riddled with the politics of respectability, religion, gender and sexuality. They function not only as screens for memory, but as important sites to write particular histories and conceal others.

This paper explores the emergence of the typology of the “gay grave” alongside increased activism as part of the Gay Liberation Movement in North America. Using a series of violent attacks of gay bars and saunas in New York, New Orleans and Montreal in the early 1970s to reveal a systemic of erasure of queer presence in multiple cemeteries, the paper then looks out toward the burial site of Sgt. Leonard Matlovich at the Congressional Cemetery as evidence of an explicit “gay grave.” In my reading, this “coming out in death” attempts to challenge the near total absence of queer presence in the cemetery.

The analysis is meant to open up two key trajectories for thinking about these vernacular elements of queer space. The first is to unpack how the destruction of the places used by queer people through situated violence, lack of archival privilege and legal persecution creates a two-fold absence in both the city and city of the death. The second is to posit that the “gay gave” is an integral, yet overlooked aspect of queer memory that challenges established heteronormative forms commemoration. While monuments function to remind the living of the persecution of the past, how does the individual monument — the grave — play a role in collective memory?

10:15 am - 12:15 pm  Paper Session Two

2.1  Decolonial and Reparative Methods

Session Chair: Arijit Sen, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Discussants: Jim Buckley, University of Oregon and Willa Granger, Harvard University

Aime Edwards – University of Florida, School of Architecture – “Asante Palace Architecture: Paradigm Shift from Colonial Historiography to a Multi-disciplinary Methodology from an African Perspective”

Traditionally the Asante Palace architecture and history have emphasized the use of written documents based on data provided by foreign travelers, traders, colonial officials, administrators, educators, and missionaries. The majority of works on African history are derived from a colonial historiography perspective to describe the feats of Europeans in Africa, and euro-centric ideologies often framed the assessment of African culture. The methodology, ethical, and moral criticism of colonial perspectives of Asante history and architecture were based on the insights and human vision available in the built environment at the time. However, to obtain a holistic understanding of Asante architecture, the paradigm of documenting African architecture and history must shift to a multi-disciplinary methodology to interpret the temporal space, material culture, and context from an African perspective.

The Asante Palace was destroyed by the British in 1896 but investigating traditional building methods of regional palaces and ritual praxis can establish its symbolic significance. This research discloses the importance of the Asante Palace in the past, the relevance of its memory for the present, and its implications for future research and scholarship. The vanishing point of cultural explication in the Asante society gives a range of vision that includes everything that can be seen as significant to the Asante identity. The Asante palace’s ontological importance is based on the structure’s function as a sacred dwelling for the authority of the Asante king and as a ritual space for the Asante. Specifically, the interpretation of the ontological meaning and essence of Adinkra symbols, the Golden Stool, and the Kente cloth based on oral history reveal the purpose of the collective cultural identity of the Asante displayed in the palace.

The multiple approaches for this research are ethnographic, hermeneutic, and architectural. Ethnographic methodologies draw connections between the palace and culture through secondary data analysis of interviews and observation records. The hermeneutic methodology analyzes the remaining archives of the palace as a case study for interpreting the palace’s cultural history, rituals, language, and symbolic significance from a traditional African perspective. Furthermore, the architectural analysis seeks insight into the palace’s tectonics and spatial context according to vernacular construction methods and cultural techniques. The analytical drawings and language interpretation help frame the shared system of ideas, values, and ethics within the Asante society. The African perspective, its narratives, and methodologies explain the historical symbolic significance of the palace as a structure of authority, identity, and belonging.

William Littmann – California College of the Arts –  “Road Scholar: Lessons Learned from a Bicycle Trip across the United States”

Last summer I rode my bicycle across the United States. This 90-day, 3900-mile trip through rural America allowed me to gain new insights about the built landscape of the United States. My presentation is comprised of two sections: the first and longer part would be an overview of lessons and observations from the ride as well as a discussion of the value of this kind of exploration of the built landscape; the second part addresses the limits of any comprehensive interpretation of the landscape by architectural historians.

The first section reviews what I learned as I rode across the continent. I will likely write about some of these topics in the future; but others could strike a chord with other members of the VAF who might later explore these subjects in their own scholarship. Below is a list of some, but not all, of what I discovered about the American landscape:       

Corporations and law firms outsourcing support staff to office buildings located in small towns or cities throughout the United States (rather than overseas). This trend is known as “onshoring” or “domestic outsourcing,” and is having an architectural impact on many small communities in such places as Wheeling, West Virginia or Grand Rapids, Michigan

The diversity and interpretation of the variety of flags and banners displayed in rural communities by adherents of right-wing groups, including newly invented “thin blue line” flags associated with the support of police officers, as well as flags linked to militias, QAnon, and other conspiracy-minded groups. 

Small towns creating a “brand” for themselves by erecting statues of single animal types or mythical figures throughout the streets of the municipality, whether it be multiple representations of horses, cows, squirrels, pigs, bears, and mermaids.                             

The phenomenon of prison museums in the United States and how they relate to the house museums as well as American beliefs about crime and rehabilitation.

The increasing number of new stand-alone McMansions in rural America.

The history, layout, and architecture of wild animal hunting preserves in the United States, especially in the Midwest.

However, the most significant lesson from the ride was that I began to believe it might be impossible to make any sweeping generalizations about the meaning of the American built landscape. The sheer amount and variety of buildings I saw this summer has led me to suspect that we might be overestimating our ability to connect material culture to the diverse and complex history of the American people. Thus, in the concluding part of the presentation, I would like to raise a few questions about the historical methods and assumptions we use when we write about vernacular architecture. If we consider recent scholarship about historical method by such authors as David Carr, David Hackett Fischer, Allan Megill, and Hayden White (as well as Dell Upton, who is exploring these themes in recent work), we might come to see our own methods in a more critical light.

2.2  Geographies of Health and Wellbeing

Session Chair: Abigail Van Slyck, Connecticut College

Jessica Fletcher – CUNY Graduate Center – “Health Under the “El”: the Bellevue Yorkville Health Center on New York’s East Side, 1926- 1938”

Architecture historians of the U.S. have focused on model tenements, public housing, and public parks to understand how philanthropic and government intervention shaped the buildings and landscapes designed to improve the health of working-class people from the late nineteenth- to the mid-twentieth centuries. This paper shows how reformers built a landscape of health in New York City by constructing district health centers in the first decades of the twentieth century. Distinct from hospitals and dispensaries, district health centers were spaces dedicated to working-class outpatient care that were organized on a neighborhood basis. Focusing on the Bellevue Yorkville Health Center on East 38th Street as a case study, “Health Under the ‘El’” examines how the Milbank Memorial Fund and the Department of Health remodeled a disused public bath into a modern health center to serve inhabitants of the industrial area on Manhattan’s East Side in the 1920s and ‘30s.

This paper argues that women staff members went to great lengths to make the new health center appear less overtly disciplinary than the previous sanitarian measure of the public bath. Nonetheless, they still sought to make the predominantly Italian and Irish visitors conform to Anglo American norms and ideals, with varying degrees of success. “Health Under the ‘El’” also analyzes how health reformers’ focus on helping children shaped the renovated building. Reformers suggested that young Americans deserved free or greatly subsidized health care because at their early stage in life they were too young to enter the workforce or be subject to the pressures of marketplace logic. Women workers carefully organized the center to provide age- differentiated clinics with spaces of play for children based on emerging understandings of infant development.

Using sketches, photographs, fire insurance maps, local newspaper articles, and charitable reports, this paper reconstructs the significance of the Bellevue Yorkville Health Center to reformers and imagines how visitors might have experienced this space. In doing so it contributes to recent scholarship on the importance of adaptive reuse as an architectural strategy, highlights the centrality of women and children to the built environment of health, and assesses how the politics of class and ethnicity informed the design and experience of district health centers.

Dustin Valen – McGill University – “Mosquito Wars: Tropical Fears, Fumigants, and the American Home”

This paper examines American-led efforts to eradicate yellow fever in Cuba from 1898 to 1902, and the concomitant rise of insect control technologies for use in domestic settings throughout the continental United States. I argue that tropical fears enshrined military knowledge in progressive-era debates over the cleanliness of American homes through a dialogical knowledge network encompassing popular architectural periodicals, home decorating journals, and women’s domestic literature. The project elucidates how tropical imperialism created settings for the development and testing of environmental technologies, as well as how technological transfers exacerbated social cleavages in American society by seating racially motivated colonial science and ecological fears in American attitudes towards cities and homes.

Tropical fears were acute as American interests expanded into new territories acquired at the conclusion of the Spanish-American War. Cuba’s sanitary infrastructure was decimated as a result of the last liberation war against Spain. And death rates in urban areas were alarmingly high, raising concerns over the ability of colonizers to safely inhabit tropical geographies. To address this, military personnel pioneered methods of eradicating stegomyia mosquitos and their larvae—the suspected carriers of yellow fever—by filling buildings with formaldehyde gas and burning pyrethrum powder. As a result of these interventions, monthly death rates from yellow fever fell from in the hundreds to zero. The successful campaign showed how American bodies could be safely inserted into the tropics by waging sanitary war against the surrounding environment, making fumigating technologies a cornerstone of American tropical imperialism, and cultivating an awareness of insect-borne diseases that extended into American homes.

In the aftermath of Cuban reconstruction insect resistance became a talisman of good hygiene for manufacturers and designers alike. Advertisements and first aid guides by medical manufactures touted the ability of germicidal gases to eradicate pests, microbes, and mold inside the home. Tropical fears also reverberated in advice on the design and construction of American homes, as architects, landscape designers, and builders extolled the benefits of casement windows, screened porches, and manicured gardens against the looming threat of contagion. Drawing on Americans’ growing awareness of tropical disease, writers underlined how unclean bodies and households were a danger to public health, constituting a politics of air linked to the racialization of colonial bodies, and refining ideas about citizenry, race, and nation.

Anthony R. C. Hita – Architectural Conservator, – “How the West was Watered: Frontier Engineering and the Water System of Fort Union’s Third Fort (1869-1891)”

Protecting the Santa Fe Trail in the high prairie of New Mexico, Fort Union struggled with disease and fire brought on by poor living conditions exasperated by unclean and insufficient supplies of water. During the Fort’s first two phases (1851-1869), cramped quarters and a lack of access to readily available clean water became a major issue, giving the Fort a reputation as a place of disease and despair. With the bolstered troop presence necessitated by the American Civil War, low discipline, a lack of leisure activities, and overpopulated quarters exasperated the already desperate water situation leading to endemic disease and a series of devastating fires. Though the end of the Civil War permitted a reduction of troops at the site, the westward movement of Americans still required an outpost in the area. As such, the Army refit Fort Union to modernize the site and alleviate the problematic conditions tied to the lack of available water. Completed in 1869, what became known as the Third Fort incorporated an advanced water system. Outpacing contemporary systems of similar forts and some towns of the area, it was considered a marvel of frontier engineering and sometimes regarded as extravagant and unnecessary by the Army command. The water system contained at least seven wells, over a dozen storage tanks, a fleet of water wagons, a technically advanced Philadelphia-model fire engine, four cisterns, and later a system of pipes and hydrants fed by a steam-engine powered well. Although a military outpost, the system was influenced by the civilian families of officers who brought with them Eastern middle class values and expectations of modern plumbing conveniences. The system was more than adequate to meet Fort Union’s water demand for adobe making, drinking, fire prevention, and human comfort of the time. Indeed, efficiency of the system meant the Third Fort not only had enough water, it likely had a surplus. While Fort Union’s history and the preservation of its ruins have garnered considerable interest, the development and importance of its water system has largely remained obscure. Through the study of both the archival records of the fort and the material remains of the system, this paper investigates the water system of Fort Union and presents the site not just as a guardian of pioneers on the Santa Fe Trail, but a pioneer itself in what was possible as the West was watered. 

2.3  Sites of Rural Resilience

Session Chair:  Lydia Mattice Brandt, University of South Carolina

Rebeccah Ballo and John Liebertz – Montgomery County Historic Preservation Office – “Down White Ground Road: The Cultural Landscape of African American Education in Rural Montgomery County, MD”

Down the two-lane White Ground Road in Boyds, Montgomery County, MD, the cultural landscape of African American education can be plainly read in a small collection of vernacular buildings. The St. Mark’s/School No. 5 site (c.1878), the School No. 2 (c. 1895 and known locally as the Boyds Negro School), and finally the Edward U. Taylor School (c.1952) anchor this landscape within the District. This section of White Ground Road reflects the transition of African American school design from its collocation with churches, to the acquisition and construction of one-room schoolhouses for individual communities, and the building of consolidated elementary schools for the regional area. This landscape in conjunction with the protected surrounding resources, highlights the architectural landscape of racial segregation and integration over a 100-year span from the post-bellum to the mid-20th century.

In Maryland, de jure racial segregation excluded African American children from attending white schools. For 85 years following the Civil War, Montgomery County failed to invest significant public funds in the construction of African American educational facilities. The schools were spurious attempts to provide “separate but equal” facilities, which were separate but never equal. The gap between white and African American school facilities widened to the extent that the illusion of “separate but equal” was no longer viable by the 1940s.

The Taylor School in particular represents the cumulative efforts of individuals and organizations such as Edward U. Taylor (Supervisor of Colored Schools), Citizens Council of Mutual Improvement, Parent Teacher Organizations, and the League of Women Voters to obtain support for better facilities and opportunities for African American residents of the county. These efforts were strengthened by state and national litigation against the “separate but equal” doctrine. As a result, funding was dedicated to construct four new African American elementary schools between 1947 and 1951. The African American community recognized these buildings as a source of pride.

The Taylor School serves as a reminder of the final stages of the desegregation plan enacted in Montgomery County following the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954). One of the last county schools to be desegregated in 1961, the Taylor School was the only African American elementary or high school to retain its original use. Examining the architecture of racial segregation in this cultural landscape creates a forum to educate the public, provide spaces to deliberate on race relations, and discuss social justice and tolerance.

Gorham Bird – Auburn University – “Digital Documentation to Realize Rosenwald Schools”

Architecture, as a cultural and social construction, realizes both the priorities and oppositions of society: what they’re for, as well as what they’re against. Through close observation and analysis, the architecture of the segregated American South reveals these attitudes. Presented here is the impact of the Julius Rosenwald Schools across the Black Belt region of Alabama, shedding light on the past by analyzing the existing conditions of remaining schools and their adaptation over time, with the aid of digital documentation technology. The Rosenwald Schools embody the resilience and self-determination of African American communities across the South that overcame institutional inequities of Jim Crow to empower future generations.

Given their community impact and deteriorating condition, the Rosenwald Schools have become the object of study in a seminar entitled “Critical Conservation: Representing the Underrepresented.” Students explore the past by contextualizing historical events, documenting, and assessing the current condition of extant schools, and considering the potential future of how these places can be utilized again. The course applies the latest preservation and digital documentation technology including LiDAR scanners (including the iPhone LiDAR Camera), photogrammetry cameras, and drone photography to create precise as-built digital records, as shown above. By documenting the Tankersley Rosenwald School in Hope Hull, Alabama, students understand first-hand the fact that the designation of a property on the National Register of Historic Places does not guarantee its survival. Students understand the role of the architect as activist; given our expertise, we have the power to advocate for preservation on behalf of local communities. This activism, at its root, is the empowerment of underrepresented or marginalized communities.

The adaptations found in each of the documented schools represent the agency of each community and their ability to modify the school in response to changing needs and circumstances. Some of the designs in the school plans anticipated adaptation, by including an addition as a construction option. Particularly, the One Teacher School indicates the expansion of an additional classroom to the north of the plan, anticipating the flexibility for when and if the community school needed to respond to changing needs. Alternatively, studying how the schools changed organically from a vernacular perspective reveals the agency of the communities embedded in the architecture.

Asha Kutty and Monica Davis (presenting) – University of North Carolina, Greensboro – “The African American Front Porch: Exploring History, Meaning and Agency in Wilson North Carolina”

“The sun was gone, but he had left his footprints in the sky. It was the time for sitting on the porches beside the road. The sitters had been tongueless, earless and eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had occupied their skin. But now, the sun and the bossman had gone, so the skins felt powerful and human. They became lords of sounds and lesser things. They passed nations through their mouths. They sat in judgment.” (Zora Neale Hurston, 1937)

This project seeks to explore the ways in which the front porch has acted as a cultural bastion in the lives of African Americans, over the past century. The porch has been part of a controlled and monitored spatial narrative for African Americans and can be considered as a space where a collective identity has redressed these inequities to create something uniquely identifiable as their own. In this regard, mainstream notions of the what constitutes porch culture and décor have the possibility to be critiqued in the African American porch and prevailing dichotomies between public/private, domestic/recreational, familial/communitarian and secular/sacred realms have the possibility to be reshaped. While these porch-based activities and meanings have been referenced in African American fiction, poetry and music, their place in spatial disciplines such as architecture and urban studies has not yet been considered. This is unfortunate, as such a study could not only fill an ominous gap in American vernacular architectural scholarship, but in addition, inform neighborhood preservation and planning efforts on ways to consider the realm of African American porches in design practice.

The project seeks to addresses this prevailing disconnect through an ethnographic and archival study of porches and porch life in a predominantly African American neighborhood in North Carolina, namely, the East Wilson Historic District in Wilson. The study’s objectives will be to examine the experiences, meanings and architectural décor associated to the porches and ways in which local political and economic policies and programs have influenced these porch-based narratives. Findings from the study will be disseminated to ongoing preservation and development efforts in the neighborhood overseen by The University of North Carolina, Greensboro Preservation Field School and local non-profits.

Nicholas Vann – Washington State Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation “Forgotten Stories: Chinese-American Exclusion and Built Legacy in Small Town America”

The Chinese Exclusion Act, passed in 1883, was the first Federal law to prohibit members of a specific ethnicity from immigrating to the United States. The lingering effects of this iniquitous national policy and law are still felt, though the leftover stories from the exclusion years are gradually fading away. The Chinese-Americans that lived in the United States during the late 19th century through the mid-20th century were able to become entrepreneurs, foster community, and grow legacies that have ultimately defined a portrait of America. While these stories are clearly evident in larger population centers such as San Francisco, Seattle, and New York, Chinese-American presence in small towns has not been well preserved.

The tangible evidence of Chinese-Americans on smaller communities has gradually faded or become obliterated over time. We are often left with oral histories and perhaps a ghost sign at best. Historic preservation identifies and preserves connections to our past, but efforts to restore and rehabilitate historic buildings oftentimes have unintended consequences and erode or completely eviscerate what's left. The built legacy of Chinese-Americans was not high style and typically ad hoc in nature, making identification of these types of resources difficult.

This presentation examines three examples in Washington state and Arizona that exemplify the rarity of such resources, as well as the embedded determination and tenacity exhibited by their associated Chinese Americans. The properties range in physical historic integrity and in all instances are portraits of realizing the American dream despite surviving in a country that was constantly finding ways to ethnically exclude its owners. The analysis centers on social justice and equity conversations regarding the need to better understand and document resources associated with Chinese-Americans, and particularly for those that manifested during the Chinese Exclusion Era.

Learning Objectives:

1. Articulate the immigration history of Chinese Americans in the United States from the late 19th century through the mid 20th century.

2. Recognize the importance of preserving tangible evidence the past Chinese American built legacy, regardless of architectural significance.

3. Understand the need to conduct more in-depth research beyond reconnaissance-level visual inspection to uncover all discoverable history.

4. Apply sensitivity towards understanding underrepresented groups

2.4  Technology, Power, and Social Change

Session Chair: Kristina Borrman, Washington State University

Ernesto Bilbao – Auburn University – “Airplanes and Roses in the Andes: Aviation and the Emergence of Greenhouse Landscapes around Quito, Ecuador, 1960-2013”

This paper analyzes the transformation of traditional post-colonial forms of agricultural production near Quito, Ecuador, such as the hacienda, into territories of large-scale capitalist industrial flower agriculture. This study looks beyond the evident changes in the rural landscape. Instead, it aims to understand this transformation directly tied to the development of Quito’s old and new airports between the 1960s and the 2010s.

In the Andean highlands near Quito, Ecuador, Floriculture has become a multi-billion-dollar industry, especially in the last decade. Thanks to the advances in air transportation, a shipment of fresh flowers, from harvest on a farm near Quito until it arrives at its final destination in the U.S. or Europe, can take only two days. Flower exportation from Ecuador consolidated in the 1980s when advances in air and ground transportation, genetics, and refrigeration resulted in a successful flower-growing business and subsequent distribution to foreign markets in other continents. For example, Ecuador’s export of roses has grown from 14 million dollars in 1990 to 885 million dollars in 2017, and the country has become the major roses supplier to the United States.

Although flower export began in Ecuador as soon as small propeller aircraft with small loads took off from Quito in the 1940s, a crucial aspect was the construction of Quito’s old and new airports in 1960 and 2013, respectively. These new infrastructures, in conjunction with other ideal factors such as ideal Andean ecological zones higher than 2000 meters above sea level rich in volcanic soils, the existence of abundant labor and land in Quito’s surroundings, and the relative proximity to the United States, determined the success of Ecuador’s floriculture industry. However, the business, which began only with a few planted hectares near Quito’s old airport, has grown to at least 4200 hectares. This growth is such that greenhouse plantations featuring disposable plastic and reusable metal frames have transformed large extensions of rural landscapes in Quito’s environs. At the planetary scale, even the NASA Earth Observatory has featured these vast plantation landscapes confirming the emergence of a “Plantationocene”. [1] As floriculture is labor-intensive, these greenhouse landscapes have also impacted the lives of thousands of people who farm operations have directly or indirectly absorbed.

Building off these contexts, this paper studies the evolution of “greenhouse landscapes” and the success of flower export in Ecuador to explore the broader effects of air transportation on cultural landscapes, even in those far away from aerial infrastructures and runways. This paper uses various sources such as aerial photographs, newspaper articles, and travelogues which help to shed light on the relationship between the growth of Ecuador’s flower export industry and the construction of Quito’s airports.

[1] Donna Haraway, “Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin,” Environmental Humanities 6, no. 1 (2015): 160,

Shaheen Alikhan – University of Virginia – “Building A Slave Ship: Planning A Floating Prison”

This MA thesis examines the slaving vessels built and used during the years of the height of the transatlantic slave trade, c 1740-1807. This study has a strong focus on British, especially Liverpudlian, vessels, but does include other English and European ports’ ships. This paper examines the evolution of structural elements implemented to counteract African resistance, and to mitigate mortality for the purposes of profit retention. Resistance, mortality, and customization are the key points discussed within the paper through the lens of the material structure of the slave ship.

Some elements of the slave ship were part of an increasingly standardized outfit, but each ship was unique and reflected the nation, owner, destination, builders, and the materials and workmanship available. A close review of primary source data also suggests that there is evidence for a significant number of ships to have been not only purpose-built for the trade, but customized to individual owners’ whims with captains’ and shipbuilders’ input. A study of extant ships’ logs, surgeons’ accounts, invoices, African companies’ records and testimony from the eighteenth century create a clear collection of both the trends and novelties which were unique to slaving vessels’ architecture. As one of the first studies dedicated to the architectural history of the slave ship, this MA thesis draws from a range of archival sources to formulate a clear progression of the evolution of slave ship structure.

Anne Steinert – University of Cincinnati – “Vernacular Architecture in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine: The Two Homes of Carl Fettweis as Evidence of Rapid Urban Change 1864-1880”

This paper will address a two-building complex in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and argue that Civil War-era industrial change is responsible for the architectural forms driving Over-the-Rhine’s successful redevelopment. The two brick buildings pictured below sit together on one L-shaped lot both built by German immigrant Carl Fettweis, but have little else in common.

The older of the two buildings, built in 1864, is a single-family, two-and-a-half stories, facing onto narrow Findlay Street. It was likely built by hand by Fettweis and his family and friends in something akin to an urban barn raising. The building’s orientation to the street, depth of merely ten feet, and massing are unique and unfamiliar in what is now a dense urban tenement district. The building contains four rooms, two per floor, separated by a nearly ladder-like stair and indoor laundry space in the upper half story. The details and forms are simple. The construction materials are inexpensive and locally sourced. Though single-family homes were the norm in Over-the-Rhine beginning in the 1830s, nothing similar to the Fettweis house survives today--the survival of this antebellum relic directly related to the ongoing profitability of the adjacent tenement building.

Fettwies built the second of the two buildings in the mid-1870s. Here he built a breezeway tenement, three-and-a-half stories with carved sandstone columns at the storefront level and brick above, clearly built by professional masons. The building fronts on busy McMicken Avenue. Typical of Cincinnati’s breezeway tenements, the building features separated commercial and residential entries with two apartment units per floor, one to the front and on to the read of the building each accessed by a central stair entered through the buildings residential side court. This flexible plan in which two apartments could be combined was perfect for Fettweis’ family of nine.

These buildings straddle and mirror a larger shift. Before the Civil War, Fettweis could buy a lot at the edge of town and build a humble home by hand. After the war the breezeway tenement became the dominant form, filling the urban landscape by 1890. In 1860 Cincinnati was the sixth largest city in the nation, an industrial powerhouse, heavily reliant on the Ohio River-connected trade with the south, and the center of the nation’s pork packing industry. By 1870, the Civil War had destroyed industrial relationships with the south, railroads had surpassed river travel taking pork packing with them to Chicago. The buildings Carl Fettweis built in Over-the-Rhine both survive today to illustrate change from Cincinnati’s DIY adolescence to the somber maturity of the post-war years.

Vyta Pivo – University of Michigan – “Cement and Cotton: A Dual History of Industrialization”

As late nineteenth century industrialists gawked with awe at Henry Ford’s efficient assembly line, cement industrialists found their future in the cotton gin. Thomas Edison’s elongated horizontal rotating kiln in particular was regularly compared to the seemingly ancient technology from a century prior: just like the cotton gin transformed the cotton-picking process and increased profits, Edison’s kiln likewise revolutionized the cement industry by increasing manufacturing capacity. Cement and cotton industries soon developed codependent businesses, manufacturing cotton sacks for the distribution of cement. It is no wonder, then, that Edison and Eli Whitney figured prominently in the public imaginary—in 1912, one newspaper even proposed that instead of a president, one of the two inventors should appear on newly issued paper money.

This presentation examines the surprising connection between cement and cotton in constructing modernity in the US South. By focusing on the intimacies between the two materials, the paper shows how this intersection shaped local construction labor and the erection of infrastructure, from concrete highways and bridges to farms, particularly in Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas. The introduction of concrete infrastructure suggested that the South was no longer culturally or politically backwards and instead displayed distinctly urban modernization patterns. Importantly, the cement industry also provided financial resources to open up cement plants and to employ thousands of workers, some of whom were Black carceral laborers who toiled in chain gangs constructing modern infrastructure.

3:00-5:00 pm  Paper Session Three


3.1  Heritage Practices Across Continents

Chair: Anna Nau, PhD, Ford, Powell & Carson Architects

Laurent Généreux – Marie-Josée Deschênes architecte  – Learning from the Missions: The Spanish Colonial Vernacular Architecture of the Indigenous Quarters at Mission San Francisco de la Espada in San Antonio, Texas

The World Heritage-listed San Antonio Missions form an outstanding group of eighteenth century Spanish colonial architecture. While most scholarly work has focused on the missions’ churches, the missions are inseparable from their secondary structures, living quarters, granaries, and farmlands that allowed them to fulfill their purpose and become self-sustaining communities.

Mission churches are monumental. By contrast, secondary structures are essentially functional. Built by Indigenous neophytes under the supervision of Franciscan friars and Mestizo master masons, they reflect the combination of European and local traditions.

This paper results from two months of in-situ work at San Antonio Missions NHP as part of the author’s participation in the US/ICOMOS International Exchange Program. Via the production of a Historical Structure Report, this research attempts to reduce the knowledge gap between studies of the missions’ churches and studies of the vernacular secondary structures by analyzing their construction and comparing them to other local colonial and post-colonial constructions. The remnants of the Indigenous quarters in the northwest corner of Mission Espada were selected for analysis and as a basis for comparison. As the mission furthest south of San Antonio, its location contributed to sparing it from urban sprawl. Moreover, it possesses some of the least restored structures at San Antonio Missions NHP.

The paper focuses on four key elements: historical context, construction methods, comparison with other structures and building preservation. Firstly, a general history of the San Antonio Missions and a timeline of the architectural interventions explain how the different techniques used result from evolving practices and locally available resources. The nineteenth century amateur restorations, the transformations following secularization, and the romanticized restorations are distinguished.

Secondly, the analysis of the quarters’ construction included a detailed architectural survey in addition to historical and archival research. A stone by stone analysis revealed different interventions made over multiple decades, helping to better understand the adaptive transformations. For instance, in an area presumed to have been a classroom, later masonry repairs indicate the addition of flooring, shelves, and windows.

Thirdly, the quarters are compared with the other colonial structures preserved in the park as well as with the Post-Colonial ‘‘Tufa’’ House at Mission San Juan and Casa Navarro.

Finally, the paper discusses different options for preservation in relation to the key findings. The challenges posed by the preservation of these vernacular structures and the opportunities they present for enhanced interpretation are discussed.

Pedro Namorado Borges – University Institute of Lisbon (Iscte-IUL); Visiting scholar at UC Berkeley Institute of European Studies – “Lead us not in migration: Improved Vernacular Architecture in Portugal Villages 1958-75”

The perspective that large population movements, aggravated by climate change, contribute to the perpetuation and extent of housing problems, makes the debate relevant from an architectural point of view.

Given the current need for solutions to migratory crises, managing rare and limited resources, it is urgent to seek answers for a sustainable future. It is therefore opportune to retrieve from history the ideas that were put into practice in an attempt to foster resilient communities. Throughout the 20th century, different public policies were created in several countries, like Portugal (Iberian Peninsula, Europe), in order to solve these problems and tackle their causes.

The housing public policies actions during the Portuguese Estado Novo (New State, 1933-1974), were mainly designed to urban areas but there were some initiatives, housing and others, specifically aimed at rural areas, assigned to the Junta de Coloniza  o Interna (Board for Internal Colonization). JCI, created in 1936 and linked to the General Secretariat of Agriculture, was responsible for planning and executing the agricultural strategy in Portugal. From the second half of the 1950s onwards, JCI stopped being focused on creating new economically viable and modern family farms and redirects its action to a program in the existing vernacular settlements across the Portuguese continental territory.

The JCI program, promoted between 1958 and 1975, became known as Aldeias Melhoradas (Improved Villages). At a time when the agricultural exodus was intensifying and creating housing shortage in recently industrialized areas, the State took some measures in order to reduce both problems by tackling the deplorable living conditions existing in rural territories.

The program aimed at the rehabilitation or construction of thousands of houses and public infrastructure, in more than a hundred villages spread across the country. In the search for the most suitable rural habitat, the agents from JCI (civil servants, architects, engineers, contractors, etc.) should act in the specific circumstances of the problems encountered, taking into account regional and local architectural characteristics. An attempt was made to combine erudite and popular architecture ideas and solutions, adapting them to the materials and techniques of local construction, in some cases through technically assisted self-construction processes. The interventions continue to mark the rural territories till today.

The paper presents a preliminary analysis of an ongoing PhD research (SFRH/BD/147213/2019), concerning the dialogue between vernacular and erudite cultures focused on this program. The understanding of these past actions can trigger new approaches to current problems.

Brannon Smithwick – University of Southern California – The Flooded Kampungs of Jakarta: Community Resilience and the Threat of Eviction

Developing countries have found themselves—now more than ever—focused on economic growth with global convergence continuing at increasing rates. The push for infrastructural development in emerging nations has gained momentum in the 21st century, with civic leaders promising populism and prosperity as industries like heritage tourism and technology catapult their nations into the forefront of modernity. Despite the fact that poorer countries are getting richer, access to wealth and welfare is often limited by governments to specific communities based on social, religious, political and economic status. Such is the case with informal urban settlements, whose residents find themselves excluded from mainstream distribution. More commonly known as slums, these are the places that primarily consist of migrant workers, unskilled-laborers, and other low-income inhabitants that have been marginalized from society as urban populations grow denser. In the face of displacement and resettlement repeatedly catalyzed by natural disasters, the response to which has been rebranded as infrastructural or public realm enhancement, informal residents continually find themselves at risk of losing significant heritage practices that sustain their informal ecosystems and everyday ways of life. This topic is scarcely mentioned in the context of globalization and yields little scholarship when it comes to conserving heritage for underprivileged communities.

Therefore, this paper is an analysis of the ways informal communities have adapted, often out of desperation, to renew fractured habitats via architectural enhancement and grassroots community organizing to preserve heritage against exclusionary policies geared toward urban development. Riverbank communities along the Ciliwung River in Jakarta, Indonesia, known as kampungs, were chosen as a case study example for my examination of displacement and heritage loss at the global scale. The paper is divided into four sections: The first introduces this topic at the macro-level and introduces kampungs communities as a micro-scale example. The second outlines the ongoing threats to kampung settlements resulting from the climate crisis and redevelopment threats and describes community resilience tactics to address them. The third section analyzes the critical need for additional community engagement from both a top-down and bottom-up approach and folds the narrative of heritage conservation into the pre-existing anthropological discourse. The final section concludes with my own findings that, based on the evidence in the case of Jakarta’s kampungs, redevelopment projects can no longer continue without including the active voice of marginalized, informal residents or else we risk losing valuable heritage practices at the expense of urban renewal.  

3.2  Spaces of Civic Associationism

Session Chair: Paula Lupkin, University of North Texas

Jessica Larson – CUNY Graduate Center – “Black and White Charity in the Tenderloin: Comparative Architectural Approaches to Benevolence, 1870-1910”

In 1901, a police precinct in Manhattan’s predominantly Black Tenderloin District leveraged the eviction of their neighbor, the New York Colored Mission, and had the institution’s building seized via eminent domain. The Colored Mission, founded by white Quakers in 1871, had been purpose-built to serve the city's growing Black population at a moment when nearly every charitable institution in Manhattan excluded the non-white from aid. This eviction was part of a long and increasingly aggressive pattern of intimidation directed by the police towards the neighborhood’s Black residents, which had resulted in the Tenderloin Race Riot the year prior. Following the mission’s forced relocation several blocks to the west, the city tried but failed to build a women’s prison on its former site.

However, the Colored Mission was not the only institution of its kind in the neighborhood. Just several lots to its east was St. Philip’s Parish House, a mission founded and built in 1895 by one of the most prominent Black congregations in the city. This was a particularly remarkable feat –constructed primarily through donations raised by congregants, St. Philip’s Parish House was roughly triple the size of the Colored Mission and signified the development of a coordinated Black-lead effort to direct charity’s response to Black poverty. Curiously, St. Philip’s Parish House was able to thrive and expand into Harlem despite facing similar harassment as the Colored Mission. This paper examines and compares the architectural strategies employed by each mission and considers how the social services included in the institutions’ discrepant designs facilitated differing approaches to racial progress. Further, this paper positions the Colored Mission and St. Philip’s Parish House within a complex landscape of segregation and racial violence, as well as a broader network of Black reform in New York City. As such, I engage methodologies relevant to Black spatial practices, such as those developed by cultural geographers including Katherine McKittrick and Clyde Woods, architectural histories of reform by Marta Gutman and Paula Lupkin, and theories on the social production of space established by Henri Lefebvre.

Charlette M. Caldwell – Columbia University – “Documenting the Architectural History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church: A Case Study”

As part of documentation and research generated for the Historic American Building Survey, this paper examines the architectural history of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church through a local case study, the former Bethel AME Church of Germantown in Philadelphia. This church is also significant due to its connection to the Montier Family, a Black family whose ancestral ties to the first mayor of Philadelphia led to economic stability not afforded to most Black Americans living in the mid-eighteenth century onward. As the AME Church expanded during the nineteenth century, local congregations built their own church buildings, reflecting the church’s mission of Black liberation and self-reliance in the form of property ownership, thus complicating historical perceptions of Blackness. This case study represents an important episode in the Black American experience in the United States and how this experience relates to American building practices, landownership, questions of respectability, and class.             

The formation of the AME Church demonstrates the importance of Philadelphia and its environs as a crucible for Black self-reliance through property ownership and building practices. As has been noted in previous scholarship, Philadelphia was a vital center for Black life following the American Revolutionary War due to its active free Black community. This community provided the foundation for the Black Church to grow and spread across the continent with the creation of northern independent Black denominations and the eventual spread to the south, the west, and abroad. And while previous scholarship has documented the significance of the AME Church in political, cultural and economic realms, more work can be done in uncovering the architectural history of this institution and how this history is marred by the legacy of slavery, violence, and discrimination. The spread of the AME Church involved the work of both free and enslaved Black Americans, however the rhetoric explicated by the Church supported Black communities in their pursuit of respectability and acceptance within American culture, which included building practices. This applied to Black Americans from every social class, yet the rhetoric was most appealing to those with economic and political influence, despite historical limitations. This idea of Black respectability coupled with landownership is significant in the property acquisition and eventual founding of the Bethel AME Church of Germantown and its connection with the Montier Family.

Kevin Block – Thomas Jefferson University, College of Architecture and the Built Environment – “While We Live, Let us Live! Secularity and the Spatial Origins of Philadelphia’s Pyramid Club”

Between 1940 and 1960, the Pyramid Club at 1517 W. Girard Avenue was known throughout the Philadelphia region as the “Mecca” of the city’s Black middle class. For the lawyers, doctors, and businessmen of the Black bourgeoisie, the Pyramid Club was a true multi-purpose facility: a weekend and after-hours escape in a city of de facto segregation; a site for political organizing and cultural debate; a venue for family and community celebrations; and the first major exhibition space in Philadelphia that was devoted to the Black visual arts. While membership was restricted, the Pyramid Club did not exactly have a “closed door” policy, unlike many of the White social clubs in Philadelphia. Seemingly every major Pyramid Club event was covered by the local Black press, which recognized growing popular interest in Black celebrity and lifestyle. By the early 1960s, however, the Pyramid Club fell into rapid decline. In a new era of mass-oriented Black politics (the Civil Rights Movement), mass-oriented forms of Black entertainment (television), and the migration of Philadelphia’s Black middle class to the suburbs, the Pyramid Club seemed retrograde.

Based on archival research and field inspection completed in order to nominate the Pyramid Club building to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, this 20-minute presentation, which is part of a larger social and architectural analysis of African American social clubs in the mid-twentieth century, will focus more narrowly on the origins of the Pyramid Club within the cultural landscape of the Great Migration, including its relationship to Black Y.M.C.A. buildings and the clubhouses of Black fraternal organizations such as the Improved Benevolent and Protective Order Elks of the World (I.B.P.O.E.). In the presentation, I will argue that while the Pyramid Club clearly represents a complicated spatial intersection of race, class, and gender, it also represents the emergence of Black secular space that both complemented and challenged the dominant institution of Black life before and during the Civil Rights era: the church. The motto of the Pyramid Club, “Dum Vivimus Vivamus” (“While We Live, Let Us Live”), was in this sense as much of a rebuttal to the moral and administrative constraints of the Black church as it was a rebuttal to the Jim Crow restrictions of the urban north. The motto suggested that the Pyramid Club was a place where a member or his family could have a drink, play cards, and socialize among one’s peers. To understand the secularity of the Pyramid Club, then, is to begin to appreciate its dual potential as a conservative bastion of the Black bourgeoisie and, at least potentially, a site of progressive resistance.

3.3  Rethinking Authorship

Session Chair: Charles Davis, University of Buffalo

Tara Dudley – University of Texas at Austin – “Masonic Rights: The Mason Family and Architecture in Travis County, Texas”

Samuel and Dicy arrived in Travis County, Texas, with their enslaver Thomas H. Jones in the late 1840s. Jones, a building contractor considered one of the founding fathers of Austin, is credited with the design and construction of important civic and commercial buildings in the 1850s, including the second Texas State Capitol building (1852-1855), the Travis County Courthouse and Jail (1855), and the Sampson-Henricks Building on South Congress Avenue (1859-1860). Samuel, along with countless unnamed enslaved laborers, was responsible for the actual construction of the Jones homestead (1848-1852) in addition to these Austin landmarks. A testament to his skill and self-identification as a stonemason, Samuel adopted the surname Mason upon emancipation, passing it and his trade to his sons. Three of Samuel and Dicy’s sons—Raiford, George, and Samuel—established Masontown, a freedom colony on the eastern edge of Austin, Texas, in 1869. Through their agency and network, the Masons acquired property in and around Austin to create a home place not only for themselves but scores of other formerly enslaved persons. Simultaneously, the Mason sons continued to contribute to Austin’s architectural identity and the state’s quest for stature through the built environment with their labor on projects such as the 1887 Texas State Capitol building.

I recapture and recast the story and contributions of the Masons after mining a variety of archival material and connecting clues from physical observation of built fabric, census enumeration, and probate records in tandem with historic context about the settlement of Texas. While chronicling the origins and story of the Mason family, this paper also presents my methodological process which, while not prescriptive, is necessary and, more importantly, makes it possible to specifically identify enslaved and free African American builders and craftsmen in the nineteenth century.

Bryan Norwood – University of Texas at Austin – “A Public for Architects: The Culture of Popular Lectures in the US, 1839-1860”

In the 1840s and 1850s, in benevolent societies, libraries, mechanic institutes, and lyceums across the US, hundreds of thousands of people heard public lectures every week. Amongst the lecturers were architects and their supporters. As they were for lawyers, physicians, and ministers, public lectures became a way for professional architects to establish bona fides and pursue clients, to construct and bolster their profession’s reputation, and to lure new initiates into their ranks. This paper gives an account of architects’ place in the expansive popular lecture culture in the US between 1839 and 1860 and argues that several of the apologetic techniques that architects used to defend the necessity of their profession developed in these institutions. I will describe how a network of popular architectural lectures spread across New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Baltimore, and several other cities in the Northeast and Mid- Atlantic United States. And I will explore how these lectures were embedded in a larger culture of public intellectual performance and the formation of bourgeoisie civil society.

I will argue that at the heart of the public intellectual exercise of defining architecture through its history was an attempt not just to explain architecture’s importance but also to create a common body politic for which US architecture was to be designed. The lecture was a place to articulate the vision of a profession as an important piece of the project of culture and nationmaking, and one that could be carried out in, but was never reduced to, market exchange. Architecture was purchasable by amateurs, lecturers argued, but they also aimed to instill faith that architecture was more than its monetary value—it was a historical-moral force. In order to understand the formation of the architectural profession in the US, we need to attend not just to explicitly architectural institutions, but also to the many other civil institutions in which the public articulation of architecture’s moral force took shape. It is in the 1840s and 1850s, between financial panics and two attempts to form the American Institute of Architects, that a public vision of architecture’s relevance was shaped, a vision that embedded a classed and racialized notion of architecture’s public—of architecture’s body politic—into the profession’s public presentation and vision of itself.

Judith Hull – True North Tours New Hampshire – “Designing Clergymen”

Abbot Suger is an unlikely starting point for a paper taking up mid-nineteenth-century American vernacular architecture. Yet he is a prominent example of clergymen who were responsible for the appearance and function of their churches, to the extent that some, like Suger, are credited with their design. Along with other medieval men of the cloth,[1] Sugar represents a tradition of designing clergymen active at a time well before the profession of architecture had been formulated. By examining the contributions of several mid-nineteenth-century Episcopal ministers of the northeastern United States, I will

1. Demonstrate that rather than an anomalous occurrence centuries after Sugar, these clerical designers have been overlooked as architectural historians have searched for “true” architects,

2. Establish the significant contributions they and others like them made to the cultural landscape,

3. Show that by defining the roles that a group of Episcopal clergy played, we can take seriously long-standing attributions to them in the design of specific churches,

4. Emphasize that despite the special claims that modern architects have as experts in design, there are pre-modern circumstances in which a minister provided the details defining the appearance of a church,

5. Present situations, as Upton has for eighteenth-century Virginia, in which church design was collaborative,[2]

6. Position the clergyman architect as a phenomenon due equal consideration to the gentleman architect and the builder architect in the nineteenth-century building world,

7. And draw attention to the pervasiveness of Gothic for Episcopal churches in the decades between c. 1810 and 1850 in the Northeast.

I will develop these points through specific reference to four Episcopal priests credited with church design and four others who contributed in varied and important ways to the appearance of their churches in the first half of the nineteenth century. My research on Gothic before Trinity Church, Wall Street (Richard Upjohn, 1839-46) has brought to light the material for this paper and documents the ecclesiastical context, because during these decades, Trinity Church promoted High Church doctrine and ambitious church design throughout the Northeast.                       

[1] In his Essay on Gothic Architecture (1836), the author, Rev. John Henry Hopkins cites several English medieval counterparts to the nineteenth century clergymen I discuss..

[2] Dell Upton, Holy Things and Profane: Anglican Parish Churches in Colonial Virginia (1986), chapter 3.

Windy Zhao – Louisiana Tech University – “Seattle’s Single-Room-Occupancy Residential Hotels and their Chinese Roots”

This paper builds upon the paper I presented at the Vernacular Architecture Forum’s annual meeting in 2017, which examines three different forms of shophouses in south east China. The 2017 paper argues that the introduction of western building traditions not only altered the building material and exterior appearance of Chinese shophouses, but also changed how architectural spaces were allocated and the spatial relations within the building. As a result, the shophouse in south east China changed from a two-dimensional and single-story construct to a multi-level building, or qilou, with a clear vertical spatial hierarchy. The earlier study was designed to serve as the preparatory study for a larger project that I collaborated with Thomas Carter, which intended to study “shophouses” in western North America and their representation of Chinese identity.

As the second phase of the study, this paper focuses on selected Chinese-owned single-room- occupancy residential hotels, also known as SROs, in Seattle’s Chinatown, their unique design features, and their representation of Chinese culture and identity. Drawing upon limited fieldwork and archival research, this paper attempts to argue that these Chinese-owned SROs in Seattle represent a continuous development of the Chinese shophouse, or qilou, in the United States. Responding to local historical, economic, and social conditions, these SROs, with extended spaces and programs compared to qilou, housed Chinese immigrants and helped them survive and thrive on the foreign land by providing a wide range of commercial and social services. The design of these SROs inherited certain architectural elements and spatial quality from qilou, the kind of shophouse popular in regions of China where the early immigrants called home. In other words, these Chinese-owned SROs not only embodied the idea of shophouse – a structure serving both commercial and residential purposes – but also became an abstract depiction of qilou – a familiar residential built form in immigrants’ hometown – a representation of their culture and identity, and “home” away from home. This paper contributes to the existing study on the history of racial and ethnic diversity and the built environments of ethnic groups in the western United States by presenting new perspectives on how cultural identity can be concealed and revealed.

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