VAF 2024 Conference Papers & Posters

8:15 AM to 9:45 AM: Paper Session 1

1.1: Transportation Tell-tales: Trailer Parks, Tolls, and Tiller-free Homes

Chair: Chris Bell, Oregon Department of Transportation

Langston Emerson Guettinger, Willamette Cultural Resources Associates, Ltd.— The Floating Homes of Portland, Oregon

The abundant waterways in and around Portland, Oregon, have long provided an ideal setting for the development of a liminal housing type; the floating home. Although contemporary viewers may think of floating homes (sometimes “houseboats”) as the domain of the bohemian wealthy, their modern glamor belies a turbulent history with parallels to the present day. This presentation will focus on the little-known history of floating homes in the Portland area with an emphasis on their role as a residential solution that developed outside the purview of local property laws. Ultimately, this research and the story it tells was a product of the Section 106 process. It highlights the role that publicly funded environmental compliance can play in the appreciation of un- or lesser-known resource types and draws upon one similar historic resources study conducted as mitigation for a Section 106 undertaking in Seattle. 

Although floating homes have existed in some capacity since time immemorial, those found across the American West Coast have their origins in the booming growth of the mid-nineteenth century. Housing shortages in many waterfront cities prompted those with little means to turn away from landlords and other land-based dwellings to the under-utilized spaces available on the water. With scrap materials, many individuals could construct their own dwellings in locations that were convenient to major business centers or industrial employers. Compared to similar efforts on land, waterways were less regulated and, if asked to leave, residents could unmoor and float their dwellings to a new stretch of shoreline. 

In time, the proliferation of these unauthorized residential units within city limits began to provoke local officials who sought ways to curtail their growth. Not unlike unsanctioned communities today, collections of floating home were accused of being unsanitary, lawless, and a threat to local property values. 

Only in the late twentieth century did floating home residents begin to form advocacy organizations intent on legitimizing their communities in perpetuity. Although these groups were largely successful in securing a future for their homes, the movement also marked the end of the housing type’s original anarchic appeal. Today, Portland retains the largest collections of floating homes on the West Coast despite more prominent groupings in places like Seattle and Sausalito. The size and comparative affordability of the Portland community has preserved elements of its origins including material fabric and trade crafts through to the present day. 

Hayli Reff, University of Oregon – For Whom the Bridge Tolls

Infrastructure construction funding has long been a complex issue across the nation with a built environment story that is passed by at a rapid rate of speed. Following World War 2, a tolling boom swept the nation, allowing for construction of thousands of miles of highway in the late 1940s and early 1950s, reflecting the population expansion of the era. Various strategies for collecting public payment have been utilized, ranging from the driver stopping to pay a toll booth attendant in a toll plaza to driving under cameras or magnetic sensors to bypass traffic stops. This paper analyzes the tolling structures affiliated with Interstate 5 at the Oregon and Washington border crossing the Columbia River, utilizing these built resources as a lens to examine the legacy of tolling in the region surrounding issues of equity, design, and infrastructure impacts. Methodology will include physical analysis of the Oregon Toll Administration Building that once overlooked an interstate expansive toll plaza to understand design articulation by inner-agency architect- engineers. Further, a thorough literature review of tolling practices and concepts in Oregon and Washington in the mid-twentieth century, including a study titled “Portland-Vancouver Interstate Toll Bridge” developed in 1955 by Wilbur Smith and Associates to inform the implementation of tolls at this crossing, will be conducted. Present-day toll conversations are often controversial with distinct commentary surrounding equity in transportation for road users. This paper will investigate how the lack of equity considerations historically impacted the use of infrastructure as well as how the built environment has been affected by the mass-collection of tolls. This analysis is supported through Section 106 compliance for a major infrastructure project and will consider how the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation’s Exemption Regarding Historic Preservation Review Process for Effects to the Interstate Highway System may preclude consideration of historic tolling facilities, where extant, in ongoing cultural resource management. 

Larissa Rudnicki, Oregon Department of Transportation & the University of Oregon – The Royal Treatment: A Review of the Royal Oaks Mobile Manor

If there is one thing folks are agreeing on at the moment, it is that the modernization of our infrastructure in the United States is a priority. While our minds are on the future, compliance laws, specifically Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, requires us to be cognizant of the past. And, as time marches on, so does our expanding view of historic resources, and our awareness of underrepresented histories, misrepresented communities, and dismissed narratives.

Every good narrative has an origin story. But I would wager that most origin stories do not begin with “As part of our federal obligations under Section 106...” And, yet...

As part of our federal obligations under Section 106, I embarked on surveying a project area with a prolific concentration of mobile home parks, a pertinent example of dismissed narratives. Staying consistent with National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) criteria, my immediate reaction was to box these resources into the “sites” or “districts” typology. However, research began to uncover another assessment trend that seemingly captured the nature of mobile home parks more comprehensively: the methodology to review cultural resources through the lens of cultural landscapes.

Reflecting on the four cultural landscape “types,” as defined by the National Park Service, and using the established 13 landscape characteristics, as modified by Parker Clifton Lawrence, in his graduate thesis “Home Sweet Mobile Home Park: Developing A Historic Context For A Modern Resource,” as guidance, I successfully determined the Royal Oaks Mobil Manor, a mobile home park, as NRHP eligible under the guise of a Historic Vernacular Cultural Landscape.

My proposed presentation focuses on the Royal Oaks Mobil Manor, located in southern Oregon, as a case study to the success and advantages of applying the cultural landscape criteria to a site reflective of human activity and patterns. This case study dissects the configuration of the Royal Oaks Mobil Manor through a discussion of its origins and influences (and history in general of mobile home parks), and offers an alternative approach to evaluating these resources often plagued with opinions of inadequacy and unimportance. As will be displayed, the fundamentals of cultural landscapes are easily applicable to these microcosms of the American dream. Adopting the cultural landscape language to evaluate mobile home parks combats the common misconceptions and stereotypes held about these resources, and confirms mobile home parks are representations of patterns of settlement, use, and development.

1.2: Roundtable Discussion, Documenting Black Life in Bellevue: Past and Present Visions of an African American Cultural Landscape Along the Chesapeake

Moderators: Michael J. Chiarappa, Center for Environment and Society, Washington College; Janet Sheridan, Down Jersey Heritage; Kathryn DeShields, Village of Bellevue Resident and Board Member, Bellevue Passage Museum

During July 2022 and July 2023, Washington College’s Center for Environment and Society, the Bellevue Passage Museum, and the Village of Bellevue, Maryland conducted field schools sponsored by the University of Virginia/Vernacular Architecture Forum’s African American Field School Initiative funded by the Mellon Foundation. These field schools trained students to use the venue’s cultural landscape to advance historical understanding and cultural conservation of an African American community whose aspirations and development were shaped by the Chesapeake estuarine environment. Students also became deeply involved in the process of community engagement, gaining ethnographic insight into how cultural landscapes serve as a constant, everyday source of local identity and memory. This roundtable discussion will provide reflections from field school students and staff—a working discussion that seeks to build on the potential of such field schools and community engagement in the future.

Led by field school co-directors Michael Chiarappa, Ph.D. and Janet Sheridan, M.A. and community coordinators Drs. Dennis and Mary DeShields, students were immersed in Bellevue’s historical/cultural resources and its contemporary cultural life. Residing and working in Bellevue for four weeks, students learned the skills required to document cultural landscapes—measuring, drawing, and photographing buildings, using historic documents and visual materials, and conducting oral histories with long-time residents. Complementing these approaches, students were introduced to new methodologies that employ geographic information systems (mapping) and digital technology that serve to gather and utilize information that can be used to present Bellevue’s history and its cultural significance along the Chesapeake Bay. The materials generated through these exercises is being used to create history exhibits and public programming for the Bellevue Passage Museum, as well as serving as resources for other African American heritage initiatives in the region. In addition to these outcomes, the field school exercises contributed to the design of a web-based presence for the museum and the community’s wider history, along with providing greater vision for how such documentary work can facilitate cultural conservation and community identity in Bellevue. Participants in this panel will include:

  • Marcus Smith, University of Massachusetts, Amherst: During this roundtable, I intend to discuss and contribute the following: (1) My experience as a two-time attendee of Black Life in Bellevue Field School and its contribution to my development as a Black Studies scholar and public historian whose work and research concern the historic preservation, documentation, and interpretation of Black communities, cultural landscapes, and historic sites. (2) My dissertation research focuses on how grassroots museums while preserving local history and celebrating cultural heritage, can operate as dynamic sites for education, social mobilization, and cultural revival as institutions that shape community identities, foster social cohesion, advocate for social change, and politically empower residents. In the context of Bellevue, I will discuss the necessity of landscape and placed-based study in both acquiring content for the development of grassroots museums and how methodologies such as oral history contribute to giving meaning to space and place.

  • Ebram Victoria, Morgan State University: When taken as a trilogy; methods, materials, and context, we can learn how to create a sustainable future from the survival skills of our African American ancestors. Though much has been disregarded, a rich supply of information remains buried deep in the memory banks and oral histories of the living elders. A cautionary warning: with each day, we step further away. We need to stop moving and go backwards; back towards the source of the knowledge. By astute discernment of necessity, an active practice of moderation, and a commitment to re-sowing seeds, generations of African Americans since emancipation have gone on to excel. We have moved strides, inconveniently away from subsistence knowledge. Like a garden unattended, without the maintenance of this crucial historical heritage, future generations are at risk of forgetting how to survive. The way back must be illuminated as the way forward. Now the purpose, as a preservationist and conservationist designer, is to recycle and reuse the legacy of survival until it literally dissolves back to the soil as a sort of slow-release fertilizer, and contributes to the vitality of the next generation. The need now is sustaining what has sustained us, both material and immaterial.  It’s time to “pre-serve”, meaning service in advance, thus intentionally keeping things in-tact for future generations. 

  • Monica T. Davis, Bellevue Passage MuseumFor far too long, the history and contributions of African Americans to our country have not been at the forefront of our consciousness, awareness, and education. The historic Village of Bellevue, founded as an African American maritime community, is combating these omissions and working to create a collective community narrative that empowers its historical representation and cultural conservation. When communities are left without organization, resources, and leadership to fight against encroachment on their homes, material heritage, and public access to nature and recreation, historians and preservationists need to assume the responsibility to explore people’s lives and trace their family history. Through oral histories, archival research, and architectural documentation, the field school not only uncovered what once was Bellevue, but also recorded and preserved the stories of the Bellevue that is and will continue to be. Serving as the Director of the Bellevue Passage Museum, it is my responsibility to cultivate critical pedagogy within exhibits and conversations.

1.3: Building Community

Chair: Sharone Tomer, Virginia Tech

Arijit Sen, The University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee – Three Readings of One Milwaukee Duplex: How We Write Histories Matters!

This paper examines how historical narratives of vernacular buildings can be blind to the existence of certain kinds of spaces. Vernacular architecture historians have employed concepts such as labor, authorship, technology, ornamentation, property, and plan morphology to interpret and explain working class domestic buildings. Hayden White calls these narrative strategies “modes of emplotment” where writers contextualize and organize data into coherent stories using time tested explanatory concepts. Over time our modes of emplotment have ossified into familiar tropes that perpetuate a certain way of thinking about the built environment. Historian J. T. Roane argues that spaces of Black communities often remain invisible to scholars. He calls them dark agoras, or, “insurgent Black working-class migrant formulations of social and geographic connection often at the edges of, or explicitly demoted and excluded from, state-sanctioned majoritarian publics.”My goal is to explore if the methods we employ to interpret and organize buildings tend to make us blind to these alternative formations. 

I will present three interpretations of a duplex building in an impoverished and racially segregated neighborhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The first two stories organize the history of this building in a chronological manner, a familiar method that architectural historians Bernard Herman calls initial performance (constructing the building) and subsequent performance (subsequent occupation and use of the building). The first form of emplotment is popular among vernacular historians who examine class, technology, and the politics of respectability in early twentieth century working class domestic buildings. The second story focuses on a mode of emplotment used by contemporary urban historians to describe decline, disinvestment, and injustice in impoverished African American neighborhoods in North American cities. The third story turns to the residents to document their interpretation of vernacular homes as historical artifacts. It is the third reading that alerts us to a lesser-known narrative organized around a shared understanding of the plot (a term used by Silvia Wynter) that radically reimagines land, property, and built form. This way of interpreting the physical scene allows residents to selectively assemble their memories in anachronic ways to create a radical world of hope. As we disentangle these intertwined historical accounts melded within a single scene, we recognize how vernacular architecture historiography is a deeply divided political tradition that needs serious critical inquiry. 

Michael Ann Williams, Western Kentucky University and Sydney Varajon, Western Kentucky University – Landscapes of Segregation and Oral Narratives in a Western North Carolina Town

In recent years preservationists and historians have made strides in rectifying the paucity of African American cultural resources documented in far western North Carolina. Transylvania County went a step further, adding an oral history project funded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to complement the survey grant received from the State Preservation Office. Tasked with completing both projects concurrently, Michael Ann Williams and Sydney Varajon found that conducting oral histories in conjunction with site survey aided in our understanding, not only of how landscapes of segregation were conceptualized, but also how they were experienced by individuals. 

Although the project included all of Transylvania County, much of our work focused on the community loosely referred to as “Rosenwald,” located in the county seat of Brevard. We soon found that this community consisted of many small, overlapping communities, defined by geography, networks of kinship, and function. Two major sub-communities anchored present-day Rosenwald. The first was the historic community of Rosenwald which was defined by its proximity to institutions of African American education, including an industrial school, a later Rosenwald school, and finally a public school named Rosenwald. Downhill, and on the other side of the track, developed a second community sometimes called “Greasy Corner,” which grew adjacent to the Transylvania Tannery, established in 1917. Despite its disparaging name, “the Corner” was the commercial and entrepreneurial heart of the African American community. 

Almost everyone who grew up in the extended community of Rosenwald used the same word to describe their childhood perception of the community: “safe.” Of course, as they aged, residents realized how hard adults in the community had to work to create this aura of safety. Children were discouraged from venturing outside their community to witness the exclusions of segregation, and their worlds instead pivoted between the Rosenwald school, the churches, the community center, and the homes of families and friends. Unfortunately, this relatively protected childhood ended early for the children of Rosenwald. Until desegregation, no secondary educational opportunities existed for African Americans within Transylvania County. After eighth grade, children either entered the workforce, lived away from home to further pursue their education, or, by the 1950s, took a long bus ride to attend high school in the neighboring county. 

In this paper, we will explore how using oral history in conjunction with cultural resource survey can enrich our understanding of landscapes of segregation in the Appalachian South. 

Jeremy Lee Wolin, Princeton University – “Elmwood's People Rebuild”: The "Citizen”-Built Townhouses of Detroit's War on Poverty

Within Detroit’s Elmwood Park sits a collection of 1960s and 1970s townhouse developments built when local community councils, informed by the Black Freedom Struggle, mandated that white liberal-led “citizens” development organizations not only represent them, but let them guide the neighborhood’s redevelopment. This paper draws from a broad archive of architectural media, newspaper reporting, and correspondence between architects, the Ralph J. Bunche Community Council, and the Metropolitan Detroit Citizens Development Authority in order to understand how a citizen-led architecture emerged from debates on both the definition of “citizens” and the extent of their participation. 

The townhouses these groups constructed lie between two major examples of well-known periods in architectural history. To the west, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe built modernist Lafayette Park on cleared land to stem white flight from the de-industrializing city of the 1950s. To the south and east, late-twentieth century private developers preserved and rehabilitated nineteenth and early- twentieth-century warehouses and single-family homes to promote an urban renaissance. In contrast, Elmwood Park’s townhouses tell the story of little-known Detroiters who remained after modernism’s most well-known proponents left the city and adapted the movement to their own goals of housing access, affordability, and cooperative ownership. Elmwood Park thus reveals a missing link between these two well-known historical periods, one marked by civil rights-influenced groups who used the War on Poverty’s mandate for citizen participation to redirect the country’s final urban renewal funding programs toward issues of racial justice. 

This local struggle also foretold a national story. The redevelopment of Elmwood Park revealed how Detroit’s residents and Michigan Governor George Romney disagreed over regional solutions to the state’s housing crisis immediately before Romney laid the groundwork for the federal government’s turn toward “benign neglect” as Richard Nixon’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Understanding the homes that Detroit advocates built in their fight to both retain federal investment in cities and expand accountability to local concerns points a way toward undoing the harm of this disinvestment. 

10 AM to 11:45 AM: Paper Session 2

2.1: Interior Meanings

Moderator: Paula Lupkin, University of North Texas

Jeffrey E. Klee, MCWB Architects – Jefferson’s Closets: Preservation in the Era of Orthodox Modernism

From 1952 to 1976, Professor Frederick Doveton Nichols directed a large-scale renovation of the oldest buildings at the University of Virginia, all designed by Thomas Jefferson and built between 1817 and 1826. These included the Rotunda, ten faculty houses, and 109 dormitory rooms. Lacking the demonstrative classicism of the principal buildings, the student accommodations have received relatively little scholarly attention, but they were a carefully considered part of both Jefferson’s designs and Nichols’s restoration. 

The dormitories had been treated roughly—damage to historic woodwork required annual repairs and occasional renewal, making them a miscellany of graffiti-inscribed original material and later replacements. Nichols refitted them in an aggressive campaign whose principal object was to remove their closets and mantels. He argued that stripping the rooms to their plaster walls restored them as Jefferson had intended but photographs, account books, and three remnant mantels reveal that most of the material he discarded was in place by 1826. Though conceived as a scholarly effort, the demolition of mantels and closets was not a restoration but an invention—one based not on evidence but on Nichols’s assumptions about historic architecture. 

His conclusions were guided by a novel conception of Jefferson as a “Revolutionary Architect,” whose reputation as a form-giver should derive not from his literate use of Palladian classicism, but from his manipulation of space and light. In this characterization, Jefferson was a proto-modernist, like the French neoclassicists Étienne-Louis Boullée and Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, whose work could be favorably judged according to the norms of mid-20th-century criticism. It brought Jefferson, like the hut-builders of Bernard Rudofsky’s Architecture without Architects, into an emergent canon of unwitting modernists. 

Historic preservation is often opposed to the priorities of contemporary design, as exemplified by the resistance of Jane Jacobs to the projects of Robert Moses. But Nichols’s work shows how close their relationship has sometimes been. His misreading of the student rooms in light of contemporary taste might be dismissed as an exceptional lapse of judgment if the evidence had been especially confusing; or if he had been alone. The removal of Jefferson’s closets is a vivid but commonplace illustration of how some historians and preservation professionals embraced the universalizing premises of high-modernist design. That embrace has had lasting consequences for the built environment. 

Kelley Robinson, Florida State University – Closets to Cabinetwalls: Evolutions in Housing in Tallahassee, Florida

This paper examines pre and postwar home construction and storage strategies implemented by a North Florida builder and compares their progression with a 1952 study affiliated with the University of Illinois’ Small House Council. In the study, authors Kapple and Lendrum developed an interior storage partition, which would be published with assembly instructions shortly thereafter. By the spring of 1952, an article appeared in newspapers across the United States where Kapple contended that regular closets were costly and resulted in storage and floor plan inefficiencies. The Council suggested that builders adopt the replacement solution, the “closet-wall” system, with flexible storage configurations. 

In 1929, builder Horrie Culpepper moved from Birmingham, Alabama, to Tallahassee, Florida. Examples of buildings he constructed from 1940-1950 demonstrate experimentation with materiality and space configuration. Culpepper’s projects included client-designed homes, but much of his work consists of speculative 1940s houses. He built with concrete Dunbrik, a material manufactured by local plants with concrete machinery originating from H. E. Dunn Mfg. Co. in Holland, Michigan. He also utilized poured concrete and Superock block, both considered experimental for the region in 1948. These investigative methods led to further development and construction of the Capital Hills neighborhood. Marketing efforts yielded the 1949 Parade of Progress “Economy Cabinetwall” home, where he proposed the model of an efficient house for prospective buyers.

This research is part of a larger study that examined homes built in the early to mid- twentieth century in Tallahassee, Florida. More specifically, it aimed to understand who built the structures, floor plan configurations, alterations, and extant materials. This paper will discuss Culpepper’s projects in addition to a subset of houses discovered within the study—a group of homes with evidence of the “cabinetwall” system—documented by participant interviews and photographs. 

The author argues that Culpepper’s marketing methods and builders’ association connections at the national level positioned him at the forefront of the changing house type before and after World War II. He was poised to implement economical designs a few years ahead of Kapple and Lendrum’s “closet-wall” assembly. These “cabinetwall” homes reflect the Minimal Traditional style found in North Florida but express interior changes that preceded the Florida Ranch style home. This paper aims to discuss the spatial and temporal innovations through the lens of one builder’s decade of work as it progressed toward economical home design in this region. 

Rebecca Lo Presti, Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, University of Delaware – Smoke Alarms on Door Frames: Deaf Identity and Placemaking in a Massachusetts Home 

My paper presents a case study in placemaking and identity through a Deaf couple who modified their privately-owned home throughout their almost seventy years of residence. While there has been increased attention given to the material culture of disability, including Making Disability Modern and Building Access, this is still an understudied area within vernacular architecture. My paper, in contrast, shows how this Deaf couple adapted technology and hacked the home’s infrastructure to make the space work for them and their growing family. 

By framing this couple’s intentional alterations as an example of vernacular architecture, I showcase an explorative methodology to better understand and interpret disability narratives in architecture beyond that of public, medical, and educational spaces. The domestic focus of my paper is essential because it decenters the institutions that historically treated Deafness and other disabilities as illnesses in need of fixing. My personal experience in the home is another component, as well. My partner’s grandparents are the aforementioned Deaf couple who made the changes to the home. I do not shy away from my connection to this house, but instead use this to create a person-focused narrative of a vernacular home that exists beyond the purvey of any cultural heritage institutions. 

My major intervention is to emphasize the importance of objects and spatial arrangements when identifying disability presence in homes; disabled people constantly modify their built environment in ways that alter the space but are not reflected on floor plans. I advocate for the incorporation of oral histories, disability studies, and crip technoscience theory with the raw data of floor plans and elevations to best capture the temporal changes to spaces by disabled people. In the house of focus, for example, the father installed smoke alarms at eye level on door frames to amplify the visual, rather than auditory, component of the device. These door frames were altered in context and perception for the family as alarm systems, yet this imbued meaning is lost when examining just the floor plans of the home. Moreover, it was through such modifications and vernacular placemaking that the house came to be a deeply meaningful ancestral space to generations of one family. Ultimately, my paper situates Deafness within the built environment to challenge attendees to search for narratives of disabled advocacy, identity, and making within their respective areas of study. 

2.2: Instrumentalizing Vernacular Design 

Chair: William D. Moore, Boston University

Alexandra Masgras, Duke University – Sanitized Vernaculars: Designing and Building the Infrastructure of Rural Healthcare in Interwar Romania

In 1930, the Romanian Ministry of Health issued a sweeping legislation designed to modernize the public health system. One of the main targets of reform was the country’s underfunded, patchy rural healthcare infrastructure. Peasants comprised 80 percent of interwar Romania’s population and were not only numerically but also ideologically central to the identity of the interwar nation-state. Supposedly free of the “foreign” influences of cosmopolitan cities, the peasantry was often romanticized by eugenicists and nationalist ideologues as an ethnically pure reservoir of national character and strength. This romanticized picture, however, was thrown into question by mounting evidence produced by the emerging social sciences about the peasantry’s poor health. Romanian villages, experts argued, were blighted by “bad houses” and a lack of sanitary infrastructure, both of which led to weak bodies and corrupt morals. 

The 1930 legislation initiated an increasingly centralized building campaign, which culminated with the imposition of type-plans for rural dispensaries and public baths across the country. These designs combined functionalist planning and the modernist emphasis on light and air with vernacular elements such as recessed porches, hipped roofs, and decorative woodwork. The sanitized vernacular of the type-plan dispensaries represented the culmination of a long history of appropriating local architectural traditions in the service of state power and ethnonationalist ideology. These plans, however, were executed by local craftsmen who liberally adapted them to incorporate more familiar decoration or even to cut down construction expenses. 

Deploying visual analysis of extant photographs of rural dispensaries and a close reading of government archives, this paper discusses the invention of Romania’s “sanitized vernacular” as well as popular responses to this hybrid style, drawing out peasants’ resistance to the uniformity of the type-plan and their allegiance to local building practices. In contrast to the standardized type-plan, which promoted an invented tradition of Romanian nationhood and cultural expression, the local adaptations drew on the heterogeneous practices of historically multiethnic communities that sedimented local knowledge about native materials and the particularities of the climate. In their building practices as in their interactions with medical experts, peasants found ways to negotiate their autonomy and to discard state-driven material practices or ideological inflections with which the local community did not identify. Thus, by approaching rural dispensaries as material practices, not as reified objects, I parse out peasants’ responses to the mandated modernization of the countryside via the allied forces of standardized architecture, environmental hygiene, and Western biomedicine. 

Pedro Miguel Castelo Ferreira, Birkbeck College, University of London – Exploring the Survey of Portuguese Vernacular and Regional Architecture: A Critical Analysis of 'ARQUITECTURA' Magazine (1957-1974)

This paper delves into the Survey of Portuguese Regional Architecture as featured in the influential Portuguese architecture magazine, 'ARQUITECTURA', during its third series between 1957 and 1974. Commissioned by the National Secretariat for Information in 1955, this survey represented a pivotal moment in Portugal's architectural narrative, aiming to document and preserve the diverse and traditional architectural expressions of Portugal's rural regions, which were at risk due to modernization and urbanization. 

Through a critical analysis of the magazine's editorial content, articles, and other relevant publications, this study presents a comprehensive examination of the survey's planning, execution, and presentation. It argues that the survey marked a significant shift in architectural thought and practice, driven by a quest to understand and integrate traditional architectural expressions within the context of modern design principles. 

This survey was part of a broader multidisciplinary movement, drawing insights from anthropology, ethnography, and other fields, focusing on understanding and preserving the cultural heritage of Portugal's rural regions. It represented a pursuit of authenticity and spontaneity, capturing the essence of local building practices and materials, and constituted a search for a cultural "architectural identity." This was a period where architects and scholars navigated the tension between tradition and modernity, advocating for an evolving tradition and a dynamic approach to history that valued the past while looking towards the future. 

The paper further explores the discussions, disputes, and decisions that shaped architectural thought and practice during this period, shedding light on a transformative era that resonates with contemporary concerns about heritage conservation and sustainable development. 

The survey's impact was profound, offering new perspectives on the richness of the cultural and built heritage of previously unexplored regions. It contributed to social cohesion and the transmission of ancient knowledge. Additionally, it provided crucial guidelines for regional development, positively influencing rural living conditions, historical conservation, and ecological preservation through sensitivity to geographical specificities. 

Overall, this paper provides a detailed overview of the complexities and multifaceted nature of architectural thought during this critical period, highlighting the interplay of tensions, debates, and creative solutions in response to the challenges of preserving and integrating traditional architectural expressions within modern design frameworks. 

Laurent Genereaux, DFS Inc. Architecture & Design and Melanie Watchman, Jodoin Lamarre Pratte Architectes – The Peculiar Company Town of Sophisticated Log Houses in Bourlamaque, Quebec

The Village-Minier-de-Bourlamaque, built in 1934 for the Lamaque Gold Mines near Val-d’Or (valley of gold), is unique among heritage industrial settlements because of its stylish log houses. Why did the company build and maintain sophisticated houses in the style of temporary log cabins? We hypothesize that this choice, beyond considerations regarding local availability of construction materials, also results from a desire to adopt regionalism for the company’s image. Our methodology includes archival research, analysis of original construction documents and comparisons with other log constructions and company towns of Northern Quebec. We also analyze preservation challenges in Bourlamaque.

The site includes 69 workers’ houses, 3 opulent residences and 8 structures for unmarried employees. The spruce log houses included modern amenities unavailable in other logging or mining camps, such as indoor toilets and showers. This reflects the importance of satisfactory housing conditions for Canadian company towns to retain employees (Adams, 1917). While planned locally by company engineers and craftsmen who detailed this aesthetic, we argue that it nonetheless served the corporate image, like the aesthetic of centrally planned Arvida served Alcoa’s image (Morisset, 1998).

In Arvida, planners deployed French Canadian-style houses to cater for local families (Wake, 1926). We conclude that Bourlamaque log houses reflect a “picturesque” view of French Canadian architecture. Company executives perhaps believed these better suited to the local workforce. Providing the mine director with an Art Deco-style and executives with Tudor-style homes distinguishes the worker town from the executive town, also observed in Kenogami. Our research shows that regionalism and log constructions were trending elsewhere in Quebec, but mainly for opulent homes and hunting clubs.

Since the mine closed in 1985, the houses are privately owned, but well-maintained in part because local by-laws recognized their heritage value as early as 1965. In other boomtowns, the log cabins have long since disappeared (Gourd, 1991). Yet, many homeowners are now seeking improved building performance. Achieving these goals is difficult given strict rules to maintain specific characteristics such as a 4-inch-thick fascia, hindering roof insulation. We address this issue using a technical report we produced as preservation architects and by critically analyzing the current conservation framework. We argue that future interventions should not be mandated by outdated normative requirements, but rather inspired by the original specifications and values present in the initial design to allow these log houses to remain lived-in and resilient in the face of climate change. 

2.3: Living in the Keweenaw

Moderator: Kim Hoagland, Michigan Technological University

Michael McCulloch, Ferris State University – God and Land: Colonial Modernization at a Keweenaw Mission

The Keweenaw region’s copper and timber resources supported Great Lakes industrialization from the mid nineteenth-century through WWII. But before modern industries emerged in upper Michigan, and before the rail lines were laid, it was missionaries, fur traders, and government officials who set the cultural and legal foundations for modernization and resource extraction. This paper will focus on Bishop Frederic Baraga’s 1843 development of the L’Anse Mission, on the western shore of the Keewenaw Bay, to convert the region’s Ojibwe people to Catholicism. It will argue that Baraga’s project should be read through the lenses of settler colonialism and modernization, as it advanced Christian catechism along with Western lifeways and notions of land ownership. Baraga arrived at a precarious moment for the Ojibwe, as they began to navigate the implications of the 1842 Treaty of La Pointe, which gave the region’s land over to the U.S. government, who in turn had begun selling it in parcels. At the same time, the longstanding fur trading economy of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence watershed was failing. These dual crises threatened the livelihoods of Baraga’s prospective converts. 

Baraga was a prolific writer, and this research will foreground what the making of the L’Anse Mission meant to him through his own words, as captured in his collected diaries and his Ojibwe dictionary. This will allow for a nuanced reading that contends with the paternalism and cultural erasure of his colonial project without flattening out the complexity of his work. Baraga, for example, insisted on the construction of western houses at the mission from the very beginning, because, as his biographer put it, “as long as [they] lived scattered in the forests, in their wigwams, [the Ojibwe] could not be civilized and become accustomed to industry and cleanliness.” Along with this bracing lack of regard for indigenous culture, Baraga worked to advance indigenous land rights within the emerging modern system, helping and encouraging Ojibwe Catholics to purchase land for themselves. This research seeks to engage with the L’Anse mission both in a localized, material sense and in a global sense. It will engage with the Archives of the Diocese of Marquette to discuss specific mission buildings and their organization as a mission campus, while tracing the influence of the Leopoldine society in Vienna, Austria, who funded the mission, along with the American Fur Company, who provided building materials. 

Jo Urion Holt, Keweenaw National Historical Park; Ruth Mills, Quinn Evans; Dena Sanford, National Park Service; Brenda Williams, Quinn Evans – Polishing Keweenaw's National Significance by Drilling Into its Cultural Landscapes 

The Quincy Mining Company and the Village of Calumet were designated National Historic Landmark historic districts in 1989 as exemplars of the early United States copper mining industry. The Quincy and Calumet & Hecla mining companies dominated US copper production during the mid-19th century when copper technology helped transform the US from a dispersed agrarian country to a complex industrial and urban nation. Both nominations, while adequate for their time, required updates to reflect current scholarship and to re-evaluate their boundaries and associated resources in light of changes to the districts over me and evolving documentation standards. 

This session will narrate and analyze the renomination process for the Quincy and Calumet historic districts and discuss how the amended nominations support interpretation and decision-making by National Park Service staff in stewarding the historic resources of Keweenaw National Historical Park. Documenting the cultural landscapes of each district was a significant focus of the nomination process. Landscapes both tie together the districts and make distinctions within them. The Quincy Mining Company Historic District represents a complete mining landscape encompassing resources associated with extraction, transportation, milling, smelting and housing, as well as technological innovations that increased production and profitability. The Calumet Historic District reflects an intact cultural landscape representing the development of an industrial community and the practice of corporate paternalism in the United States. 

Both districts retain extensive vernacular buildings and landscapes containing evidence of the mining companies’ surface plants including shaft-rock houses (a characteristic Keweenaw typology), smelting and milling facilities, and support structures such as machine and blacksmith shops. They are also notable for the survival of distinctive housing “locations” comprising worker and management housing. The majority of housing at Quincy was company-owned, while close proximity to the independent village at Calumet provided comparatively more diverse housing opportunities while in practice the company maintained a high degree of informal control.

The updated nominations relied heavily on a cultural landscape approach to documenting and describing resources. They documented tangible and intangible aspects of the landscape missing from the original nominations, such as the spatial organization of buildings and their relationship to the underground lode, vegetation, circulation, views, and the characteristic “poor rock” piles of Keweenaw’s copper mining landscape. 

Laura Walikainen Rouleau, Michigan Technological University – The Finnish (American) Sauna: A Translation in Form and Practice

The population of the mining communities in the Copper Country, like many industrial communities at this time, were ethnically diverse. Finnish immigrants were the largest ethnic group in Houghton county in 1910, comprising 13 percent of the population. Finns brought with them their bathing practices that centered on their traditional bathing space, the sauna. Many Finnish homes in the area boasted traditional Finnish saunas, consisting of a wood-paneled room with a wood-fueled stove covered with rocks and a water source in order to throw water on the rocks to produce a steam bath. Unlike more modern saunas, there was no shower attached to these saunas, so the steam was the only method of bathing. Sauna bathers used small bundles of birch sticks to cleanse their skin, but soap and water were also used. For Finnish immigrants and their families, a weekly or bi-weekly sauna constituted their traditional bathing routine.

This paper will draw on oral histories and Finnish archival records to explore the difference and similarities between Finnish and Finnish American saunas by asking, “How did this form and practice translate?” For instance, while local community saunas often attracted other Finnish immigrants in these copper mining districts, other ethnicities also enjoyed them. And by the early 20th century, Finnish-American saunas appear to have been gender-segregated. But in the late-19th and early 20th century, many rural communities in Finland during this time offered communal, joint saunas for unrelated men and women. Although this practice diminished during the course of the 20th century, many Finnish families continued to sauna together across gender lines. The Finnish sauna tradition seems to have been assimilated to American life by the 1910s or 1920s, as these saunas were commonly gender segregated. The Finnish American sauna came to represent a traditional Finnish form, translated into novel (i.e. American) cultural practices and expectations. 

2.4: Liminality and Landscape

Moderator: Willa Granger, Florida Atlantic University

Bethany Bell, University of Virginia – Dismantling the Master’s House: How Freedom Seekers Claimed and Shaped the Built Environment During the U.S. Civil War 

In December of 1864, General William T. Sherman and his army made their headquarters at an ornate new mansion in Burke County, GA. Louisa, an enslaved woman laboring in this dwelling, told one of Sherman’s officers that the house ought to be burned down because of all the cruelty enacted against enslaved people in order to pay for the house to be built. Through her request, Louisa explicitly connected the conditions of bondage for enslaved people to the built environment and asserted what should happen to the physical space in response to their treatment. My paper attends to the logic that guided Black actors like Louisa as they sought to reshape the built environment of slavery. Scholars have studied the destruction of civilian property during the Civil War through the lens of military tactics and examined how ruination was experienced by military, civilian, and enslaved people. However, these works do not fully investigate the role of Black people as agents of destruction during the Civil War; neither do they fully account for other ways that Black actors sought to lay claim to physical spaces during this period, namely preservation and occupation. My paper considers their acts of destruction, preservation, and occupation as dimensions of a "landscape of liberation" during the war. Drawing on memoirs and narratives of formerly enslaved people, military journals, and records kept by Union officers of Black regiments, I argue that free and unfree Black people used the Civil War as a catalyst to claim and reshape the built environment in order to respond to past harms, attend to present needs, and prepare for the future. In doing so, I attend to how the motives of Black actors could align with but often diverged from those of White military and civilian actors. 

Ke Sun, Texas Tech University – Duality, Orientation, and Disorientation: A Queer Phenomenology of the High Line’s Post-Industrial Gentrification and the Embodied Right to the City

This paper explores the High Line in New York City as a cultural site that embodies dichotomous urban conditions of both queer and mundane, presenting it as a ruin of duality, a site of queer artifacts, and a place of socially charged inhabitation. It proposes a queer phenomenological reading of the High Line’s urban history, modes of everyday access, and the peripatetic and ephemeral bodily engagement to unfold the connections between the everyday built environment and the reclamation of rights and identity within public spaces. 

The paper argues that the High Line functions as a site of paradox that simultaneously orients and disorients bodily consciousness, in the process, dismantling and reclaiming publicness for the urban queer community. On one hand, the High Line dissimulates, conceals, and gentrifies the history of queer sites, activists, and remnants, thus becoming a materialized artifact of sanitized cultural ruination of once latent queer life. Conversely, the regenerated site invites walking modes engaging the city’s subconscious psyche in spatial and social dimensions. Consequently, it registers the site as a marker of queer memory and immediate presence that reorient spaces through embodied perception. 

This paper investigates the displacement, disorientation, and dispatch of queer bodies from the gentrified urban site, asking how these bodies might reclaim the right to the city through the everyday phenomenon of embodied walking. Can urban walking become a method for spatializing justice in the everyday built environment that in turn remedies the paradox, conflictions, and contradictions? Employing a transdisciplinary approach combining phenomenology and spatial ethnography, the paper scrutinizes High Line queer history through visual materials, published interviews, oral histories, and manuscripts, notably those of Joshua David and Robert Hammond, co-founders of the Friends of the High Line. The research project positions the High Line as critical evidence that transcends the paradox into new orientations, horizons, and alignments that territorialize a spatial boundary of shared queer history. The transformation of the High Line reveals the connection between social fabric and place-making through the everyday narratives of ordinary places inhabited, traversed, and oriented by queer bodies. The phenomenon of walking registers otherwise neglected urban spaces, breaks socially controlled urban boundaries and juxtaposes memory with imagination through access, occupation, and experience. The paper contends that walking serves as a means to mark, index, and excavate the layers of an urban palimpsest, revealing the intertwined narratives of past interchanges and the present potential for reclaiming public spaces. 

Shaheen Alikhan, University of Virginia –Charleston, SC: Port Cities’ Liminal Landscapes and the Transatlantic Slave Trade 

The port city of Charleston, SC became the fledgling nation’s single largest point of entry for enslaved Africans during the transatlantic slave trade, disembarking at least 75% of enslaved Africans brought to the continental United States prior to 1808. Though the new International Slavery Museum, situated over the site of the former Gadsden’s Wharf, now memorializes that space, the stories of the other wharves involved- at least a dozen- along with the city’s two Exchange buildings, and the patterns of migration of enslaved individuals through the city have not yet been told. In addition to examining the racialized systems of restrictive access built and rebuilt into the waterfront, this paper analyzes the results of human displacement and the environmental impacts in Charleston and beyond due to the pervasiveness of the effects of the transatlantic trade on the built and natural environment. 

From the first importation to Charleston of enslaved Africans in 1671, to the construction of the original Exchange building half a century later, through the increase in shipboard sales along multiple wharves and the construction of a new Exchange, this paper examines the movement of an involuntarily displaced demographic through the access, confinement, and focus upon changing waterfront infrastructures represented by and written in the architecture of the wharf landscape. In tracing the urban migration of the majority of the ancestors of today’s black Americans, I hope to help humanize the early colonial narrative of enslaved Africans. And by understanding the intentionality of Charleston’s wharves and waterfront structures, we see the vital role architecture played in shaping the trajectory of tens of thousands of people. 

Archival information gleaned from colonial correspondence and decades of newspaper advertisements, along with a relatively comprehensive database of shipping registries, allowed me to analyze the relevance of various sites along the waterfront in regards to the transatlantic trade. Likewise, by comparing early plats, paintings, and archeological evidence, I was able to situate sites of cultural and national significance within the context of the current city. Several of the solicitors’ offices and private residences from which controlled lots of humans were sold are still standing, also uncontextualized. This paper is the first facet of a project aimed at recontextualizing and memorializing multiple port cities as heritage sites in the pursuit of an honest narrative about the largest human trafficking event in history. 

12 to 1 PM: President's Plenary Luncheon

1 to 2 PM: Poster Sessions

Eliot Heath, University of Oregon – “Ghost or Gay Town?”: Building an LGBTQ Vernacular in Guerneville, CA”

Historic preservation of LGBTQ spaces produces unique challenges for preservationists. In particular, the ephemeral nature of LGBTQ communities means that identifying and preserving historic places associated with LGBTQ communities and individuals is a messy and complex process, especially when those places consist of vernacular or “everyday” architecture that may not otherwise be considered significant. Guerneville, a small town located 70 miles north of San Francisco, is one such place. A former logging village turned riverside resort town, it attracted an influx of gay and lesbian vacationers in the 1970s; this budding community expanded over the following decades, becoming widely known as a “gay mecca” on par with gay resort towns like Palm Springs, Provincetown, or Fire Island. Many of the sites associated with this history have undergone changes in use since, making preserving these places for their connection to Guerneville’s LGBTQ history particularly challenging. Building off of my graduate terminal project research, this proposed poster illustrates the range of vernacular forms and typologies associated with Guerneville’ LGBTQ history, and the impact that history has had on the built environment. This research contributes to ongoing discussions on how preservationists can best address the unique histories of LGBTQ peoples and places.

Gretchen Pineo, Public Archaeology Laboratory – “Strangers and outcasts in a strange land:” the Struggle for African American Civil Rights in Rhode Island, 1652–1976”

Since 2018, The Public Archaeology Laboratory, Inc. has undertaken two rounds of survey under the auspices of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission to document more than 125 sites and buildings associated with the struggle for African American civil rights in the state. Documented sites include sites of resistance to enslavement, identified sites associated with the Underground Railroad, homes and businesses of African Americans, and places associated with the mid-twentieth century Civil Rights movement.

This poster will discuss the identification, research, and documentation process, including the types of resources that were identified and subsequently documented, and those that have been lost, and highlight some of the stories that are embedded in buildings and landscapes throughout the state. Illustrations will include maps and photographs of documented resources.

Verónica Rosales, Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg – “Heritage as Re-Source: A Study of Earthen Construction Revival in Times of Transformation in Central Germany”

In the midst of multiple crises and a pressing need for cross-sectoral societal transformation, the construction industry holds great potential as a catalyst for sustainability in the built environment. Concepts like the building turnaround (Bauwende) and the circular economy are becoming increasingly relevant at different levels within the European context. In Germany, the efforts to phase out coal in regions historically dependent on extractive industries, add complexity to ongoing transformations. Such changes pose multiple challenges but also opportunities, spanning the economic, technological and societal spheres. At this convergence, earth construction emerges as a prospect for innovation-based transformative change, by taking inspiration from the sustainable approaches found in vernacular heritage. This study looks into the case of a multi-stakeholder initiative promoting the revival of the centuries-old tradition of earthen construction and the reuse of the largest stock of massive earth buildings in Central Europe, as alternatives to the use of scarce, carbon-intensive materials, and new construction. This research work explores the intersections between earthen construction, vernacular heritage, and circularity principles, and seeks to identify the main enablers and constraints to mainstream such approaches.

Estrella Salgado, University of Delaware – “Collegiate Charism: An Examination of the Post-Vatican II Architecture of the St. Thomas More Oratory at the University of Delaware” 

In 1973, when he celebrated Mass in a dorm, Father Keegan violated a University of Delaware directive prohibiting religious services on campus. After a series of court cases, the campus ministry was spurred to build a permanent home adjacent to campus, St. Thomas More Oratory. While named for the patron saint of lawyers, a tribute to its litigious groundbreaking, the Oratory’s brand of vernacular modern architecture also registers the shifting attitudes of Catholic congregants following Vatican II. Relocating the altar to the center of the church, visually reaching out to the surrounding community through its horizontal massing, replacing rigid pews with flexible chairs, and subduing applied ornament were all responses to Pope John XXIII’s 1962 call to embrace “new forms of life introduced into the modern world.” Recently, however, a return to traditional liturgical practices is clashing with the building’s design logic; for example, seating is turned to face east, away from the once-central crucifix. Using formal analyses, legal documents, comparative studies, and oral histories, this research will ask how the campus ministry has employed architectural means to articulate its relationship to the university and the surrounding neighborhood in the context of a half-century of changing liturgical guidelines.

Jeffrey Stevens, New Jersey Institute of Technology/VERDENT – “Curating California Aesthetics Through HOA Approved Plant Palettes”

When residents buy a new house in Southern California, their Homeowners Association (HOA) provides an approved plant palette as part of their by-laws and aesthetic guidelines. On the surface, the plant palette is a list of botanical names and minimum sizes. On a deeper level, it defines what it means for a landscape to be Californian, and a close reading reveals a palimpsest and retelling of the state’s ecological and cultural history. A planting palette can have representative species from the pre-Colombian period, the Spanish colonial period, and the Mexican period, along with species introduced during distinct waves of gardening trends during the current American period. Therefore, curating the approved plant palette transforms the suburban residential lot into a contested site for remembering the past and imagining the future of California's vernacular landscape. My research dissects the planting palette of Orchard Hills, Irvine and examines the layered ecological and cultural histories embedded in its banal specificity.

Jenny Wilder, Oregon State Parks – “Advancing Preservation Practices: Investigating Linseed Oil-Based Paints for Wood Resources”

This research explores linseed oil paints in architectural preservation, merging material science testing with insights from a survey of preservation practitioners. It aims to rekindle interest in this traditional coating, connecting historical knowledge with current preservation needs to enhance preservation practices.

The study involves conducting outdoor weathering tests on wood sidings across four different National Park Units, evaluating almost 400 tests. These tests assess the durability and appearance of linseed oil paint under various conditions, including different climates, application methods, wood species, and paint formulations. The findings are vital for the preservation of historic architecture.

The survey component extends the study's reach beyond the Pacific West Region, capturing responses from preservation practitioners throughout the United States. The questions collect detailed, firsthand insights about the use of linseed oil paints, focusing on application techniques, effectiveness, and challenges encountered. This data is crucial in providing a holistic understanding of linseed oil paint's role in modern architectural preservation.

This research sheds new light on a traditional coating, adapting it to meet contemporary preservation challenges. The outcomes will offer evidence-based guidance for preservationists and architects specifying linseed oil paints in their projects.

2:15 to 4:15 PM: Paper Session 3

3.1: Productive Landscapes

Moderator: Jim Buckley, University of Oregon

Lincoln Lewis, University of Virginia –Tangier Island’s Crab Houses: Methods of Documentation and Vernacular Classification in a Tidal Environment 

This paper presents new methods for analyzing vernacular architecture in a tidal environment. The small island community of Tangier, Virginia sits in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay and is a home port for “watermen” who catch fish, mollusks, and crabs. The watermen’s seafood bounty has for many years driven Tangier’s economy for it to become the so-called “soft-shell crab capital of the world”.  This dominance has been enabled by a combination of the island’s geography, comprising three low-lying land masses surrounding a lagoon-like tidal basin, and the vernacular architecture of the watermen’s crab houses perched on poles over the basin’s water. The crab house typology consists of the following units found in varying spatial combinations: (1) houses, (2) molting tanks, and (3) decks. As wooden structures in the brackish tidal water, the structures face an extreme marine environment, including factors such as high humidity, rot, biofouling, and wave action. The bay’s geological subsidence, together with sea level rise and more intense storms caused by climate change, also works to shorten the lifespan of the structures. Because of their constant need for maintenance and component replacement, the houses are temporally mixed in terms of design, materiality, and craft.  The age of the structures precluded them from contributing to the designation of the Tangier Historic District. They remained undocumented—besides mainly tourist photos—until a recent Historic American Landscapes Survey was conducted in 2023.  Because of this, the Tangier crab house typology until now has not been thoroughly considered within Virginia and Maryland’s history of tidewater architecture.  To enable this research, vernacular classification and documentation methods suitable for the tidal environment have been borrowed from other fields or have been newly developed and tested. Logistical knowledge for conducting research in tidal working landscapes was also learned, together with several technical lessons, such as laser scanning not being a suitable method due the reflectance of the water surface. Overall, this research endeavors to better understand the vernacular crab house typology.

Eric F. Gollanneck, Saugatuck-Douglas History Center – Models of Agricultural Innovation: An examination of farm modernization in Northern Michigan and the changing rural landscape, 1920s-1950s 

A collection of fifty wooden models built by engineering students at Michigan State College (now University) provide evidence for the development and popularization of new building types across Michigan’s rural landscape from the 1920s-1950s. Through a material culture approach, this paper offers new insights into the role of land-grant universities in leading agricultural modernization through the New Deal and post-World War II eras. 

The interpretation of these architectural models is also grounded within the context of archival documentation from agricultural extension agents working in counties across rural Michigan, including the Upper Peninsula. Field reports document farm improvements and agricultural buildings constructed cooperatively by experts and rural farmers through the 1930s using narrative description, photographs, drawings, and newspaper accounts, all rich primary source material for vernacular architectural interpretation. 

The evidence for farm modernization comes through architectural models as well as records of completed demonstration projects built cooperatively by university extension agents and farmers across the state of Michigan. Students fabricated scale models of working farm buildings in the classroom with individual structural elements and joined them together in a miniaturized process they would repeat in demonstration projects across the state. Both model makers and farmers used recycled or secondary materials, “timber which had been cut for pulp wood,” to build modern wind-resistant structures in an era of wartime scarcity and ecological depletion of upper Midwest forestlands. 

This research demonstrates how mechanization and engineering transformed the agricultural landscape in the mid-twentieth century. Cut-away sections offered anatomical views of these new structures, revealing new spatial arrangements and systems for ventilation, insulation, and roofing. Structurally the development of laminated arch roof buildings parallels the work of wartime industrial designers Charles and Ray Eames and R. Buckminster Fuller, a surprising connection between Modernism and building practices in the Northwoods of the upper Great Lakes during the Great Depression. 

These sources provide new methods for identifying historically significant agricultural building types in the region. This research also shows the importance of negotiation embodied within cooperative projects that brought new types of barns, poultry houses, and machinery sheds from the research university to rural communities across the region. This evidence demonstrates the importance of collaborative public outreach, bringing together students and faculty with farmers to develop innovative engineering solutions to the challenges of rural life. 

Robert McKinney, University of Louisiana at Lafayette – Avery Island: More Than Hot Sauce 

Amidst the picturesque landscapes of Louisiana's bayous and live oaks lies a unique industrial legacy shaped by salt mining operations. This study delves into the distinctive vernacular buildings associated with Louisiana's salt, sulfur, coal, sand, and gravel mining industries, mainly focusing on the endangered structures at Avery Island. The state's geological composition, situated entirely within the coastal plain, has given rise to a rich history of mining activities, with salt domes forming a notable presence in the flat marshlands and coastal prairies of South Louisiana. 

Of particular significance is Avery Island, home to the iconic Tabasco brand hot sauce and the site of salt mining operations dating back to the mid-1800s. The closure of Cargill's salt mines at Avery Island in 2022 threatens the preservation of the unique vernacular buildings that have evolved over nearly two centuries. These structures, including the steam hoist, breaker buildings, engine houses, and warehouses, represent nineteenth-century industrial architecture that has endured into the twenty-first century. 

The specific thesis argues that these industrial buildings' forms serve utilitarian purposes and map the intricate processes involved in breaking, crushing, grinding, and storing rock salt. The break house, a timber frame structure at the heart of the mining operation, stands as a testament to continuity and authenticity, remaining largely intact and true to its original form after more than a century of continuous use. The study aims to contribute to the preservation efforts by analyzing the extensive documentation of these structures, with a specific focus on their forms and construction. 

This research aims to develop a comprehensive catalog of vernacular building forms in South Louisiana by meticulously examining archival materials, including photographs from the Historic American Engineering Survey. By understanding and documenting the architectural evolution of these structures, this study aims to provide valuable insights into the region's industrial heritage, emphasizing the importance of preserving these tangible links to Louisiana's past. The research will contribute to the broader discourse on industrial vernacular architecture and underscore the urgent need for proactive measures to safeguard these structures for future generations. 

Travis Olson, University of Wisconsin, Madison – Becoming Modern on the Great Plains: Farmhouses in Southwestern North Dakota 

Beginning in the 1880s waves of German-speaking immigrants from the Western Eurasian Steppe were enticed, mainly by land agents of railroad companies, to settle the American Great Plains. These immigrant groups brought old-world traditions which are reflected in the area’s farmsteads. Previous scholarship has emphasized the ways these groups retained these traditions by largely ignoring the ways they interacted with other groups in the region and how they integrated commercially-available products and materials to adapt to the landscape of the Upper Great Plains. This paper, developed from my dissertation research and fieldwork begun in 2017, demonstrates how these men and women made very deliberate choices about what elements of American culture would be beneficial, which could be incorporated into the design of their homes, and what building traditions were indispensable to maintain their way of life. This research suggests that the ideas of progress and modern American living at the turn of the century, promoted in period magazines and literature, and largely solidified in the scholarship of the last thirty years, fails to explain the experiences of the majority of those living in the middle of the country. 

My research question developed in response to existing literature on the practices of Germans-from-Russia and German- Hungarians (as these ethnic groups are locally known) which classified formal patterns in folk building. Through architectural survey and documentation, I have found many more outliers than I have examples of these forms, which has led me to ask how and why these houses don’t align with the scholarship. While some houses are simply formal variations on cultural traditions, or could perhaps be explained away as the result of generational changes and assimilation, the majority of the farmhouses studied here are significantly and interestingly different in the ways that they demonstrate how North Dakota families adapted to the harsh environment and adopted new building forms, materials, and practices available in American markets. I show ways that builders and farmers took both products and ideas from magazines, catalogs, and neighbors to make the concepts of convenience, comfort, and modern life work for their families without foregoing the cultural markers of their communities. 

Understanding the unconventional ways that those living in Southwestern North Dakota participated in the modernization of American homes (how the working-class home became modern) has the potential of creating new frameworks to reanalyze how rural America and immigrant groups contributed to/reacted against American notions of progress. 

3.2: Environment and Built Form in the Anthropocene

Moderator: Pollyanna Rhee, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 

Anna Andrzejewski, University of Wisconsin, Madison – The Miami Jetport Controversy and the Entanglement of Architectural and Environmental Histories 

During the late 1960s, a battle raged over the Miami Port Authority’s ambitious plan to construct a new international jetport on a 39-acre site roughly six miles north of the northern boundary of Everglades National Park. With the blessing of the FAA (which funded construction of the first runway with $500,000 in 1968), the jetport’s build out seemed inevitable, driven by South Florida’s booming tourist economy. By 1969, however, local environmental groups had come together as the Everglades Coalition to challenge the jetport’s development. 

Unsurprisingly, the debate pitted the economic benefits of building the jetport against the threat of ecological catastrophe. As Luna Leopold wrote in an environmental impact analysis of the project published in 1969, that “the collateral effects (of the jetport) will destroy the ecosystem.” Boosters of the project, meanwhile, insisted that South Florida’s tourist-based economy depended on expanding airline access to the region; the Everglades Jetport was planned to be strategically located between the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, where resort development had accelerated at a frenetic pace since the 1950s. As the battle intensified during the spring of 1969, an editorial in the St. Petersburg Times captured the tone of the debates: “Which are more important: alligators or people?” 

This paper investigates the jetport controversy to interrogate the separation of “environment” and “building,” an artificial division that remains at the heart of much scholarship in architectural history. While couched as a choice between “alligators” and “people,” the airport was situated in a place – South Florida – where building activity was deeply entangled with the more-than-human world. “Dredge and fill” had become standard practice in the region even as it wrought devastating changes to the natural flow of water in the region and the flora and fauna that depended on it. In discussing the rhetoric and debate around the jetport project and its eventual cancelation by President Nixon in 1970, this paper argues for the importance of bringing “nature” as a category of analysis into our scholarship. In so doing, we can account for the relationships between building and more-than-human nature, and in the process, bridge divisions between architectural and environmental history.

Dilruba F. Shuvra, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee – Living with Water - A Vernacular Response to Riverbank Erosion, Munshiganj-Bangladesh 

Bangladesh is often recognized as one of the world's most disaster-prone countries. The geographical location situates Bangladesh in the riverine and deltaic regions in South Asia which makes the country more vulnerable to climate-induced disasters. Floods, drought, cyclonic storm surges, riverbank erosion, salinity intrusion, and waterlogging are the extreme climatic events that strike Bangladesh frequently. Riverbank erosion is one of the most significant recurrent natural hazards of all. Shifting riverbanks have significantly impacted the physical, biotic, and demographic landscape of Bangladesh forever. Large riverbank overspills and erosion are common during the monsoons. The unpredictability of riverbank erosion results in land loss and even death for individuals who live along riverbanks. These people often resettle in neighboring areas away from riverbanks or migrate to cities, where they end up living in slums. However, despite facing significant constraints, these displaced people are constantly maximizing their chances and rethinking how to deal with riverbank erosion. This uncertainty forces them to reshape and reimagine their living space. People have developed a wide variety of innovative strategies to deal with changes stemming from riverbank erosion. This paper explores a unique traditional housing solution of Munshiganj, that has evolved to deal with the unpredictable nature of living due to river erosion and its consequent changes. Munshiganj, located on the bank of river Padma (Ganges), is one of the most affected districts of Bangladesh that faces riverbank erosion frequently. The widespread riverbank erosion in Munshiganj led to the innovation of a local technique of portable houses that can be disassembled and transferred in times of calamity. Taking the case of Khidirpara village of Munshiganj district—this paper investigates how specific geographic settings, recurrent natural disasters, and local initiatives all together generate disaster-resilient housing solutions with available resources that are adaptive in nature and sustainable for a local community. 

This is a qualitative inquiry taking a case study research approach. The research aims to study not only the local homesteads but also the settlement pattern, cultural landscape, and socio-cultural practices of the local people who are the key actors in innovating and continuing the tradition of portable pre- fabricated wooden houses. The research takes a three-fold design strategy to collect and coordinate data:

1. Mapping and analysis of individual house units using material culture analysis to understand the construction techniques, the significance of individual prefabricated elements, and space use in and around the houses by the users. 

2. Multi-sited participant observation in three settings: homes, neighborhood streets, and local markets to understand the everyday activities of village people and their cultural practices. Participant observation includes field notes, visual documentation through sketches and photographs, audio, and video recordings, and participation in informal conversations.

3. Interviews of (both non-structured and semi-structured) local residents and builders of the local house market to understand the perspective of users and local builders of these pre-fabricated wooden houses. 

Yuchen Zhao, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee – Cultivating Resilience and Resistance: Facilitating Everyday Food Practice on Garden Spaces in Milwaukee

This research examines the interactions between gardeners and the landscape to understand how the Black gardeners adapt and use Cherry Street community garden and surrounding food spaces in their own ways. Based on on-site participatory observation, oral history interviews, and ethnohistorical archives, I examine the various spatial and daily behaviors that frame the experience of the food site and how Black gardeners’ access, choices, and food consumption are bound by not only present conditions but also past traditions and personal memories. Serving as a central green space, Cherry Street Community Garden is located in Milwaukee's Midtown neighborhood. This garden, originally called the 23rd Street Community Garden, was established in 2000 by a group of senior Black women who transformed the empty lot that occupies an entire city block into a community garden as a community space to resist disinvestment and poverty in the neighborhood. The study explores how residents express care, love, and hope through the insurgent process of designing and planning the garden as well as the practice of growing, harvesting, and consuming food from the garden. 

It shows how residents navigate the food landscape in both physical and phenomenological concerns among the "geographies of self-reliance" where Black people display refusal and care to segregation, racial public policy, and governmental neglect. It continues traditions of writing in cultural landscapes and favors qualitative methodologies in studying contested landscapes to understand the intertwining complex between food, community, and place in our lived worlds and across time. The particular community garden space invokes the rich history and ongoing legacy of local communities' efforts at self-resilience and resistance carried out through intimacy and knowledge of gardening. 

This research aims to fill this gap in the existing knowledge by examining how gardeners take advantage of the food sites to forge everyday resistance to inequality and injustice in the garden and surrounding food landscape. Meanwhile, it is to explore how the physical characteristics and material uniqueness of spaces within food landscapes and the historical significance of such sites afford opportunities for community members to organize around daily food practices and social life in minority neighborhoods. 

Jessica Archer, PMA Architecture – The Splendid Destiny: The cultural and economic founding of Virginia State Parks 

In June 1936, Virginia welcomed outdoor tourists to its first state parks: Staunton River in Scottsburg, Seashore in Virginia Beach, Douthat in Millboro, Westmoreland in Montross, Fairy Stone in Stuart, and Hungry Mother in Marion. Governor George C. Peery commenced the festivities at Hungry Mother State Park, where he asserted to the thousands in attendance, “State parks are for the people... I believe these parks will contribute greatly to the national good as we go forward to the splendid destiny that awaits in the future.” During the economic turmoil and uncertainty of the Great Depression, Governor Peery’s words boldly connected natural places and tourism with the future of the American people. The “destiny” of the state park system has lasted through the decades, with the 42nd Virginia State Park, Sweet Run, dedicated in 2023. 

As much as the parks celebrate the unconstrained wonder of the natural world, they were orchestrated by politicians, landowners, conservationists, and the incredible efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps. As part of the government’s New Deal initiative to bring opportunities to skilled architects and able-bodied young men, the Corps created simulated natural and cultural environments: highly landscaped, engineered, and architecturally designed places that, to visitors, were seemingly natural and rustic. From walking trails and roads that framed specific scenic views to the carefully fabricated “rugged” cabins and park structures, the parks created a sense of place that tourists could escape to that alluded to the American frontier. The humanistic attraction of exploring the natural world was combined with a celebration of state and national heritage, a reminder of America’s Manifest Destiny, all within a planned user environment easily accessible by a car ride. 

The creation of the Virginia State Parks is part of the larger story of cultural and economic politics where state and national governments utilized architecture and wilderness tourism to help overcome one of the most significant national emergencies of the 20th Century. This paper will explore the inception of the Virginia State Park system and the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps within a cultural-economic methodology. It will compare previous concepts of outdoor tourism to the state park’s engineered wilderness and how this has prevailed as a popular form of tourism into the 21st Century. The paper is part of a larger project documenting the parks, their historic architecture, and their continued permanence. 

3.3: Architectural Transformation in Transnational Contexts

Moderator: Vyta Pivo, University of Michigan/University of Miami

Maura Lucking, The University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee – Reinterpreting the Vernacular, Producing the Pensionado: Deep Colonization Through School Building in in the U.S. Philippines 

U.S. occupation of the Philippines moved quickly from battlefield to classroom, as schools opened while battles with the Spanish and Filipino nationalists raged on. School building became central policy over the following decades, with thousands constructed–from the primary to university level– across the archipelago, particularly in rural areas. The strategy seems distinctly American: narratives of education as a handmaiden of democracy, key to self-exceptionalism in “reluctant” imperial entanglements. 

It was, however, a calibrated rejection of four centuries of Spanish rule through an embrace of a recognizably Filipino architectural vernacular. If Spanish had emphasized schools as tools for conversion, American-built schools would identify and modernize more ‘authentic’ styles in the hopes that they would model how measured self-determination could co-exist within the colonial apparatus. Their deployment of an architectural style from Luzon was part of a strategy to disseminate a standardized Filipino cultural identity to the provinces as a strategy to break up Spanish-aligned power in the capital and to cultivate a new, dispersed colonial elite. This paper argues that local architectural styles, materials, and labor played an important role within the U.S. political ideal of “Filipinization,” the eventual replacement of colonial officials at all levels with local technocrats. 

In form and massing, the standardized school buildings resembled the residential dwellings that had become popular for upper class urban Filipinos under Spanish rule, the bahay na bato style of non- structural stonemasonry concealing an elevated wooden post system, allowing flexibility for upper timber stories in tropical storms. Schools were detailed with indigenous hardwoods and capiz shell windows that celebrated U.S. forestry and agricultural development, yet the skilled carpentry work needed to integrate these materials into otherwise unadorned concrete construction almost entirely precluded the use of local labor in American eyes. It was only as workers became “Filipinized” as pensionados–exchange students trained in architecture, engineering, and building trades at U.S. institutions– that they appear in government records as foremen and laborers on school-building projects. These public works programs placed the primarily lowland Christian pensionados into indigenous and Muslim communities that had previously resisted unification. 

This paper interprets ethnographic notes and photographs in the papers of the U.S. insular architects, standardized school plans and specification documents, and records of the Department of Public Works on returned pensionados engaged in construction management. It uses the tensions between vernacular architectural styles and modernized construction practices in the school building process to unravel these layered colonial and settler colonial influences. U.S. presence in the Philippines was never formally recognized as imperial; school-building was, in fact, celebrated as an effort in decolonization. They represent sites of what Lorenzo Veracini calls “deep colonization,” attempts to supersede colonial practices by new powers that only further entrench their operation. 

Samuel Dodd, Stony Brook University— Bricks for Guyana: A Case Study in Postcolonial Building and Brick Futurity 

Bricks proliferate during periods of empire-building, both as physical materials used to construct state structures and as rhetorical objects used to delineate “developed” nations from “developing” ones. This paper demonstrates how tracking the use of brick helps us also track the everchanging conditions of modern imperialism in the Americas, even as those conditions have shifted from settler colonialism to more recent post- and neo- colonial forms of development. It does so by recounting an example from the South American nation of Guyana soon after it gained independence from Britain in 1966. Guyana’s first Prime Minister, Forbes Burnham, launched an initiative to increase brickmaking, stating that he wanted to “reconstruct the country out of brick.” Guyana had little history of brick building outside of a few 18th and 19th century colonial structures, including missionary churches, plantation houses, and forts. Nevertheless, Burnham saw brick as a symbol of postcolonial self-sufficiency and prosperity. 

In late 1970, Burnham asked Guyana’s largest ally, the United States, to support his brick initiative. The US had backed Burnham’s regime for years – first by helping push out Britain, then endorsing his corrupted elections, and providing his administration with loans. Hoping to maintain pro-capitalist, pro-American goodwill in the Caribbean, the US Agency for International Development sent George Black, a 92-year-old North Carolina brickmaker, to lead a six-week instructional building tour in Guyana. Soon after Black’s visit, however, Burnham used partnership with the Republic of China to pivot Guyana from its allegiance to the US and to establish himself as a leader within a growing forum of “non- aligned” nations who sought autonomy from the Cold War blocs. China, for its part, looked to apply its own developmental methods in order to gain a political foothold in the West. Subsequently, China’s first foreign aid project in the Western Hemisphere was a brick factory built in Guyana in 1972. 

What was it about the brick – one of architecture’s oldest, most ubiquitous materials – that made it an appealing instrument of contemporary regime building? When Guyana, the US, and China each took up the brick, what types of futures were they, respectively, building toward? This paper centers the brick within late modern building cultures to explain how systems of economic supremacy, neocolonialism, and reproductive futurism accrue material form and force. 

Kateryna Malaia, University of Utah – Rural Mass Housing in Ukraine: Agency, Change, and War

In Eastern Europe, rural housing built according to the universal state-manufactured designs is one of the most peculiar, yet overlooked inheritances of the Soviet era. Rural homes that emerged at the intersection of state policies and functionalist design, have since largely transitioned into the realm of modern vernacular, as they were extensively modified over the decades of use. In Ukraine, they range from the Stalin-era idyllic appropriations of the folk tradition, Khrushchev and Brezhnev-era utilitarian apartment blocks, pragmatic brick homes of the late USSR, and their post-Soviet eclectic modifications. 

Ordinary Soviet architectures are often neglected because post-Soviet public views the as a product and painful reminder of the Soviet colonial rule. While this popular view is not without substance, the strictly colonial nature of these architectures is highly debatable. Similar to other former Soviet states, Ukrainian rural built environment preserved its uniqueness despite the decades of homogenizing rule; this distinctive built fabric, a combination of the broad Soviet approach, and local design expertise, should be recorded and preserved. Soviet mass-built architectures are not the same everywhere, especially when it comes to rural housing. Despite the universal emphasis on prefabrication and shared code limitations, rural architectures around the USSR diverged based on local climate, materials, construction expertise, local demographics, and other variables. These architectures should be understood through their unique qualities, rather than blindly rejected because of their construction under the Soviet rule. 

This study of Ukrainian-Soviet rural housing is a two-stage process. First, it catalogues four decades (the 1940s through 1980s) of mass-built, omnipresent rural housing types in Ukraine, an important task in the face of damage inflicted by Russia and the lack of recognition for the local style and expertise in Soviet-Ukrainian rural mass housing. Second, it documents and analyzes changes that took place inside rural homes throughout the late Soviet decades, and since the collapse of the USSR in 1991. Similarly, to urban homes, the transformations of rural dwellings reflect social continuities and upheavals of the late 20th and 21stcentury. While a modest amount of research exists on the change in urban homes and environments since 1991, very little has been written about the rural built environment. Methodologically, this study relies on Ukrainian archives, all-Soviet professional and popular media, field documentation of rural homes, and interviews with their residents in Ukraine’s Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Lviv regions. 

3.4: Power, History, and (Re)Presentation

Moderator: Nicholas Vann, Washington State Office of Equity

Elizabeth Donison, University of Pennsylvania – Overlooked History: Social Effects of Urban Renewal on Portsmouth New Hampshire's African Americans

Scholarship at the intersections of urban renewal, historic preservation, and race currently relatively limited; this is even more so the case when focusing on small cities with small minority populations. This paper examines such history in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where the minority African American population has been integral to the city’s history and culture since the 17th century. Urban renewal shaped Black history in Portsmouth via residential displacement and the loss of familiar sites and businesses. This paper documents the material and social effects of urban renewal on African Americans in Portsmouth from the 1950s-1970s through an analysis of redevelopment plans, census data, city directories, oral histories conducted by Valerie Cunningham from 1989 to 1991, and new interviews. The oral history interviews were valuable for their insights about Portsmouth’s social atmosphere and displacement experiences, which revealed patterns of quasi-segregation and discrimination. The newly released 1950s census data was a particularly valuable resource to understand early patterns of displacement and settlement in the city. In all, Portsmouth’s three urban renewal projects displaced nineteen Black households, four Black-owned businesses, and two Black churches, resulting in social and physical dislocation. Research found that despite the small population of African Americans in the city, displacement compounded on existing tense social issues and led to a form of amnesia about Black history. 

By documenting and mapping the African American experience, the project expands our understanding of the transformative federal program that continues to shape the city’s civic identity and collective memory. Prioritizing the perspectives of those who lived in and around affected neighborhoods reveals a more nuanced story of erasure in Portsmouth’s built environment within the history of urban planning and historic preservation. This paper 

recommends future public history projects and further engagement to diversify the narrative of the mid-20th century Black experience and build upon existing restorative justice initiatives. 

Phil Gruen, Washington State University – Cultural Land(scape) Acknowledgment: Decolonization or Dispossession on Campus?

Can buildings and landscapes participate in the decolonization process? Opened in 2017, in part, to acknowledge the land dispossession of Indigenous peoples, the Elson S. Floyd Cultural Center at Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman, Washington draws upon the everyday spaces of marginalized peoples to recognize their cultural resilience. And yet its construction on stolen lands for a settler colonial, land-grant institution fundamentally belies its inclusivity. The cultural center--—named for WSU’s first, and only, African American president—is thus emblematic of our time: a paradoxical cultural landscape that offers a step towards a healing process yet one that cannot fully divorce itself from the legacies of conquest which it implicitly, and explicitly, questions. 

Indeed, cultural, or “multicultural” centers at institutions of higher learning in North America confront a conundrum: often intended to be spaces of equity and belonging on lands historically shaped by genocide and systemic racism, they remain entrenched upon the very lands that discriminated, and discriminate, against the peoples they are meant to acknowledge. Like the “land acknowledgement” statements adopted by universities everywhere in the late 2010s and early 2020s, campus cultural centers could be justifiably critiqued for providing token gestures of three-dimensional assistance: to fully repair past injustices, compensation must be provided in scholarships, tuition waivers—or the actual return of land. 

Yet campus cultural centers are hardly without merit. Few building types maintain inclusivity as central to their programming and design, and several such buildings have been completed on college grounds in recent years that demonstrate efforts to recognize the historical trauma faced by peoples of color and the dispossessed. At WSU, campus administrators and a professional design-build team listened to Indigenous leaders, student multicultural groups, and a planning committee comprised of an ethnically diverse group of faculty and staff which recommended a decolonized building whose design would emerge from non-western epistemologies. To help ensure that the center was not a work of western cultural appropriation, the ground-“breaking” ceremony featured instead a ground “blessing” hosted by the region’s Nimiipuu peoples and the artwork, sculptural program, landscaping, and volumes were either determined by peoples of color or designed collaboratively to de- emphasize singular authorship. Furthermore, the building’s formal articulation consciously defies the prevailing campus architectural language of western antiquity. 

It is not enough. With reference to other campus cultural centers in North America, this paper explores the cultural center paradox in an allegedly decolonial age. 

Elizabeth Shultz, Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office – Towards the Center: Rebalancing the Documented Cultural Resource Landscape in Pennsylvania

In a burst of national fervor for American history around the 1976 Bicentennial, all 67 of Pennsylvania’s counties spent roughly the next decade documenting 87,000 historic buildings. Each piece of the landscape documented in this effort included a compilation of photographs, maps, and historic narrative details. This information was submitted to the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (PA SHPO), and, until 2020, was cemented as the collection that made up the overwhelming majority of records contained in Pennsylvania’s official state inventory of historic places. Over the course of the intervening thirty years between 1989 and 2019, professional recognition of the patterns of ethnic and architectural bias documented through this earlier cultural resource survey effort grew increasingly loud – as did concerns that these patterns had an outsized contribution to the perpetuation of a too-narrow understanding of Pennsylvania’s history. These 87,000 historic resources overwhelmingly represented the highest styles of architecture extant in Pennsylvania as well as the most traditionally Western European-centric histories. Accordingly, in 2020 Pennsylvania launched a new statewide, multi-year effort to rebalance the universe of knowledge of Pennsylvania’s historic landscape by centering vernacular architecture and more diverse geographies, histories, and storytellers in the largest scale cultural resource survey effort in Pennsylvania in forty years. 

This project used an analysis of the existing body of knowledge held by the PA SHPO, contemporary public social data provided by federal agencies, historic census and other primary source information, and collaboration with diverse communities and stakeholders to identify a new methodology to effectively research and document vernacular and underserved architecture and histories on a statewide scale. This methodology gave the PA SHPO the necessary tools to uncover the cultural resource data, through fieldwork and documentation, that confirmed expectations for a more balanced history than was previously supported by a dataset impacted by stylistic and ethnic biases. Coupled with 21stcentury technological advancements implemented in Pennsylvania for cultural resource survey, Pennsylvania has been able to recenter its body of knowledge towards a more accurate depiction of vernacular and underrepresented architecture to the tune of 25,000 previously undocumented resources added to the official inventory of historic places over three years. This methodology has led to fascinating revelations related to patterns of ethnic heritage and identity in Pennsylvania as well as confirming the continued path forward for shaping a more balanced, vernacular- history-and-culture-centered understanding of the built landscape of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a whole. 

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