• 29 May 2020 8:00 AM | Christine R Henry

    Like all of us, VAF has had to make a number of adjustments to adapt to the corona virus pandemic, and this supplemental issue of VAN is one of those efforts.

    Here we will provide substitutes for a number of the events that we would usually undertake during our annual conference.  First, our officers will provide brief reports that summarize the health of our organization and our plans for its future. Of particular importance is the report of the first vice president and the nominating committee, which will present the slate for officers and directors for election. Members can then vote electronically through our website, a first for our organization. Finally, we are pleased to announce the recipients of our awards and prizes, where we honor those who do the best work in our field.

    Through the hard work of its members, VAF has so far successfully navigated a path through these challenging times. We have shifted the work of the Board to the virtual space, and with this Annual Report and Election, we aim to keep the membership involved and informed about governance and decision-making. While we note a drop in membership in our Secretary’s Report, we had exceptional participation in our first time Virtual Conference and are hopeful that ‘guest members,’ having seen what we can do, will decide to join and swell our numbers.  As you will see in the Treasurer’s Report, VAF has not suffered financially during this period, primarily due to the security provided by our extraordinary anonymous donor. Although much remains uncertain, planning and research for our future conferences is moving forward, and we are confident that our organizers will be adaptable and creative in adjusting our signature events to the new normal.

    While these new circumstances absorbed much of our attention, VAF’s Board and committees moved forward with their traditional work, and most of our programs are proceeding apace. Our publications remain vibrant, and we are especially pleased with the response to our call for new editors for Buildings & Landscapes, and should soon have announcements for these. We are continuing assessments of our various modes of communication and are planning a survey to solicit input from the membership about how VAF is performing for its members. Paid support will soon improve our membership and event management and assist updates to our website.  We are also in a position to offer some assistance to those who have been so generous with us when we were forced to postpone our San Antonio conference.  The Board has voted $5,000 in donations to San Antonio organizations that are providing emergency assistance in the pandemic, to assist those in the hospitality industry and to selected local nonprofits.

    VAF thrives because of the hard work of its members, and at no time has that been clearer than during these recent weeks. So many VAFers have taken on additional tasks and new ventures, with humor and grace, it has been a privilege to be part of this extraordinary effort. My thanks go to them once again, and to you all for your patience and support.

    Claire Dempsey, VAF President

  • 29 May 2020 7:30 AM | Christine R Henry

    During the Saturday banquet of the annual meeting, the new slate of officers is approved by voice vote. Because we were not able to meet in San Antonio this year and our by-laws allow electronic approval of new board members, we are distributing this ballot via VAN. Please read through the text below and click the link HERE to go to the VAF website. Please log in with your email and password to reach the ballot page and cast your vote online.

    The Nominating Committee is charged with selecting candidates for Board service for the yearly board rotation, for President and Vice-Presidents in alternate years, and for Secretary and Treasurer as needed. Every year, four new Board members are appointed. In addition, this year our task was to nominate a new Secretary, Second Vice-President, and President-elect.

    We offer a heartfelt thank you to outgoing Secretary Bill Littmann for his excellent work.  Bill not only prepared minutes of our meetings, answered tons of emails and questions that came into our general VAF inbox, but also got the board organized in google drive, all with a smile and his wry humor.  Thank you also to outgoing board members Christopher Bell, Jobie Hill, Sally McMurry, and Ian Stevenson for their service on the VAF Board.


    Secretary: Paula Mohr (Independent Historian) 2025

    Second Vice President: Kim Hoagland (Michigan Technological University) 2022

    President-elect: Jim Buckley (University of Oregon)

    New Board Members:

    Vyta Baselice (George Washington University) 2023

    P.J. Carlino (Parsons School of Design) 2023

    Daniel De Sousa (Heritage Documentation Programs, National Park Service) 2023

    Philip Herrington (James Madison University) 2023

    Because of the early retirement from the board of Jobie Hill, Heather Barrett Heather Barrett (Maryland Historical Trust/MD SHPO 2021) was asked and has agreed to extend her term by one year in order to fill out Jobie’s three-year term.

    Christine O'Malley, First Vice President, VAF

  • 29 May 2020 7:00 AM | Christine R Henry

    The tradition at VAF is to announce the awards and prizes at the annual meeting.  Though we did not meet in person this year, we are thrilled to recognize the 2020 awardees and honorees for their contributions to VAF and the field of vernacular architecture studies.  Please click on the links below to read the full inspiring stories and view the evocative images for each award. 

    Advocacy Award: In 2020 VAF honored Patty Gay for her lifetime of commitment to the historic places and neighborhoods that make up the unique and diverse city of New Orleans. 

    Please visit the  2020 Advocacy Award Recipient page for more details about about Patty Gay.

    Catherine W. Bishir Prize: The co-winners of the 2020 Catherine W. Bishir Prize are Michael J. Chiarappa and Andrea R. Roberts.  Their compelling articles on African American experiential landscapes in the mid-Atlantic and Texas open new avenues of critical inquiry with new, diverse, and model methodologies that fruitfully further vernacular architecture studies.

    Please visit the 2020 Bishir Prize Recipient page for more details about why these individuals were selected.

    Paul E. Buchanan Award: The Vernacular Architecture Forum’s 2020 Buchanan Award honors two exemplary projects that illustrate the highest standards for meticulous documentation and rigorous study of historic vernacular architecture and cultural landscapes.

    “Traditional Patterned Brickwork Buildings of New Jersey” by Architectural Historian Robert W. Craig, of the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office.

    “The Asian Americans in Los Angeles Historic Context Statements” and the associated National Register of Historic Places’ Multiple Property Documentation Form by the Los Angeles City Planning Office of Historic Resources

    Please visit the 2020 Buchanan Award Recipient page for more details about why these individuals were selected. 

    Abbott Lowell Cummings: The winner of the 2020 Abbott Lowell Cummings Award is C.J. Alvarez for Border Land, Border Water: A History of Construction on the U.S.-Mexican Divide, published by University of Texas Press, 2019, which tackles an original, ambitious, and timely project: interpreting the cultural landscape of the artificial line that both links and separates the United States and Mexico.

    Please visit the 2020 Cummings Award page for more details Border Land, Border Water .

  • 29 May 2020 6:30 AM | Christine R Henry

    This has certainly been an exciting final year of my five-year term as VAF secretary. Though the organization was faced with several challenges throughout the year—most notably the pandemic—I was allowed the chance to witness the board at its best as it came together to remake our conference schedule and create our first ever (and very successful) virtual conference. In addition, we held our first virtual board meeting in early May and, while it was sad not to see everyone in person, allowed us to come together and vote on important proposals and budget items. Our experiments with online tools during the pandemic will likely give the board more confidence to experiment with virtual communications in the future.

    The pandemic had an impact on our membership in the last year, with our total membership declining 12 percent to 749. I believe our membership numbers will quickly rebound to 2018 and 2019 levels in coming years after our conferences in San Antonio, Plymouth, and New Orleans. One can expect the large attendance at the recent virtual conference will also bring new members into the organization.  In addition, the secretary can report that the state with the highest number of members is Virginia, followed by Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New York, and California.

    The secretary is pleased to know that the VAF will soon begin to develop new initiatives to better serve its membership and improve the functionality of the website and our payment systems. I look forward to watching the current Executive Committee of Claire Dempsey, Christine O'Malley, Kim Hoagland, and Claudia Brown take steps to improve the VAF so that it continues to thrive in the future.

    William Littmann, VAF Secretary

  • 29 May 2020 6:00 AM | Christine R Henry

    Despite the coronavirus pandemic that resulted in postponement of our 2020 conference in San Antonio to 2021 and the worldwide financial turmoil of recent months, the VAF Treasury remains stable. Following a decline of approximately 8% (considerably less than the markets), our investments resumed growing in April. The VAF was incredibly fortunate to receive a very timely, tenth consecutive annual gift from our anonymous donor in March. A financial review of our fiscal year 2019 will be conducted by our accountants, Haag & Hill of Williamsburg, VA, by the end of June 2020.

    We finished fiscal year (FY) 2019 with a total net worth of $1,368,767.67, including $1,326,747.07 in an endowment held in a Vanguard brokerage account that experienced steady growth in 2019, particularly towards year-end. For FY2019, VAF had $237,794.92 in income and $83,305.97 in expenses, for a net income of $154,488.95. The sizeable positive difference is largely due to the major gift from our anonymous donor, other donations, and an unexpected increase in membership dues, as well as several expense categories finishing the fiscal year under budget, particularly Buildings & Landscapes production and mailing because VAF had not been billed for the second 2019 volume. The major gift was transferred to the endowment.

    The net worth of VAF as of 4/15/2020 is $1,448,626.70, including VAF’s endowment investments held in a Vanguard Brokerage Account valued at $1,382,053.49. Our FY 2020 operating budget is on target, with income as expected largely due to steady renewal of memberships. A highlight of the year thus far is receipt of the tenth large annual gift from our anonymous donor, which has been transferred to the investment account. Expenditure categories are either on track or may be less than budgeted due to the substitution of a virtual conference for a traditional conference this year. The VAF incurred minimal additional expense as a result of postponing the San Antonio conference.

    The VAF has met with good fortune financially, yet we remain in an indefinite period of uncertainty as a result of the pandemic. Financial concerns to keep in mind include our investment policy, planning for the 2021 budget, and maintaining income levels from memberships and other revenue streams.

    Claudia R. Brown, VAF Treasurer

  • 29 May 2020 5:30 AM | Christine R Henry

    Unable to meet in person, VAF held its first virtual conference on May 9, 2020.  Presenters gave 28 papers in three concurrent sessions, assisted by Zoom.  The presentations were prerecorded but the question-and-answer periods were live—and lively.  In addition, VAF had planned its first-ever poster session for this year, so that too was moved to virtual.  Eight presenters posted their PDFs, then had live discussions with viewers.  The viewers turned out, with 345 people registering for the conference, including 64 students, and 123 attended the conference as guest members. The sessions were informative, intriguing, and stimulating, reassuring us that good work is still being done and shared.

    As with much of what VAF does, volunteers made it happen.  Brent Fortenberry marshaled the resources of Texas A&M and served as the host and mastermind.  Andrew Dolkart chaired the papers, Phil Gruen organized the posters, and Zach Violette worked out the logistics.  Hayley Field and Nicole O’Donnell, along with Brent, provided technical support for each session.  We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all of these VAFers!

    While many of the essential parts of a VAF conference did not occur—such as seeing a real building, touring a new landscape, catching up with old friends, eating local food (and shouldn’t there have been a margarita in there?)—the virtual conference proved that VAFers are smart, dedicated, flexible, and insightful about the built environment.  Thanks to all who participated. We are looking forward to the conference next year and hope to see you all there.

    Kim Hoagland, Second Vice President, VAF

  • 29 May 2020 5:00 AM | Christine R Henry

    Pandemic permitting, next year VAF will meet in San Antonio, as we had intended this year.  Mark your calendars for May 19-22, 2021, when we hope to be back to our usual schedule of two days of tours and one day of papers, plus other gatherings and events.  Ranging from in-town San Antonio to the Texas Hill Country, from missions to the border, the tours will offer a look at Texas’s vernacular heritage.   And if the coronavirus gets in the way, we will once again work around it.  For more about the conference, see the website.

    Thanks to the flexibility of our hosts, VAF meetings planned for the future have all agreed to push back a year.  In 2022 we are looking forward to visiting Plymouth, Massachusetts, followed by New Orleans in 2023.  Seeing people and places in person is what we are destined to do, so let’s hope we can get back to doing it.  See you in San Antonio!

    Kim Hoagland, Second Vice President, VAF

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