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  • 18 Apr 2016 6:00 PM | Christine R Henry

    by Gretchen Buggeln

    In just a few weeks, from June 1-4, we’ll be gathered in Durham, North Carolina, for the annual meeting of the VAF. We’ll begin hospitably with a Wednesday night reception at the Durham Convention Center and a plenary lecture by our very own Catherine W. Bishir, who will orient us to her beloved North Carolina piedmont region. Following Catherine, Jim Goodmon, CEO of Capitol Broadcasting, will talk about Durham’s remarkable transformation over the last twenty years thanks in large part to the repurposing of the city’s industrial landscape. I’m anticipating a spectacular program of tours on Thursday and Friday, thoughtfully planned by our conference committee chaired by Marvin Brown and Claudia Brown and guaranteed to hold up the VAF tradition of good fellowship, excellent local food, music, libations, and, of course, a wealth of wonderful buildings. You can read about these tours on the VAF website at http://www.vafweb.org/DurhamProgram/.

    I’d like to highlight a few of the events on Saturday, our day to engage each other’s work in formal papers sessions and colloquia. There will be ten papers sessions that each include three twenty-minute presentations followed by Q&A. The list of speakers and topics on the Saturday program can be found here: http://www.vafweb.org/DurhamPapers/.  In addition to these sessions and the book tables, there will be four new programs. First, a “User’s Guide to the VAF,” especially recommended for newcomers to our organization. VAF representatives will share ideas about how to get involved, give papers at conferences, develop membership chapters, propose conferences, and get published in our journal, newsletter, or book series. Second, a lunchtime organizational session for graduate students interested in a new grad student VAF chapter. Third, a lunchtime historic preservation program, “From Analysis to Action: Putting Vernacular Architecture Studies to Work,” led by innovative local and regional preservationists. And fourth, a “Field Notes” session, in which eight speakers will give short presentations about their current research methods and findings. Saturday promises to be a lively and fun day of scholarly and professional exchange and encouragement.

    And after all that, who wouldn’t want to celebrate with a party? Our annual meeting and banquet will be at the Durham Armory, and I am especially looking forward to hearing Mel Melton and the Wicked Mojos with 86-year old special guest John Dee Holeman play the blue – both traditional piedmont blues and the kind we can dance to.  Check out Mel and his band here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gi2TO12hI44 !

     Looking forward to seeing y’all in Durham.


  • 18 Apr 2016 5:58 PM | Christine R Henry

    Message from VAF President Gretchn Buggeln:

    As many VAF members know, on March 23, 2016, North Carolina’s General Assembly passed into law legislation known as House Bill 2 (HB2).  The leadership and members of the Vernacular Architecture Forum are troubled by this discriminatory bill. This law overrides local LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinances and bans transgender people from using certain restrooms.

    HB2 is highly controversial within the state of North Carolina and many citizens are fighting the law. The ACLU of North Carolina has filed a federal lawsuit and the state attorney general is a vocal opponent. Moreover, the city council of Durham, the site of our June 2016 conference, unanimously condemned the legislation:http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/counties/durham-county/article70554782.html.

    Please read this message from Durham City Council Member Steve Schewel:

    "The City of Durham and its people offer a warm welcome to the Vernacular Architecture Forum when you hold your conference here in June--and that welcome extends to everyone including especially members of the LGBTQ community. Our city council and our county commission have both unanimously passed resolutions condemning HB2 for its discriminatory intention and effect. Durham welcomes with open arms all people and recognizes their rights and liberties regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. While our state legislature passes laws that endorse discrimination, Durham stands tall for diversity and equality. We embrace difference in Durham, and we welcome all of you to our city."

    Best wishes,
    Steve Schewel

    Durham City Council

    Councilman Schewel recommends that those wanting to support the opposition to HB2, and the fight for its repeal, can contribute to Equality North Carolina at equalitync.org. They do great organizing work statewide.

    Claudia Brown, Marvin Brown, and their team have worked long and hard to prepare a marvelous conference for us. I urge you all to come to Durham and to spread the VAF’s message of concern and care for communities—their buildings, landscapes, but most especially their people—and our vision of equality, dignity, and justice for all.

    Gretchen T. Buggeln

  • 18 Apr 2016 5:30 PM | Christine R Henry
    Let’s keep it brief.

    For the conference details, go to http://vafweb.org/Durham-2016 and click on the bold program and paper sessions links. To register and book the best and best-priced room in town, click on the register and lodging links.

    For the mise-en-scène, the terroir, the good old Southern sense of place, read on and peruse the attached photos. You’ll have the opportunity to see the places that define our traditional piece of piedmont North Carolina: tobacco barns and fields; packhouses, striphouses, ordering pits, and farmhouses; rural and urban mill villages and mills; African-American schools, big and small, public and private; meetinghouses and churches; slave houses and plantation seats. We’ll hear about the Quakers and the Germans; working-class white folks and a few wealthy ones; African-American North Carolinians—free black and successful, enslaved, toilers in the mills, pillars in their middle-class communities.

    You’ll also have the opportunity to eat and drink like a piedmont North Carolinian. We’re having a pig-pickin’ (with vegetarian options of course). Over the course of the conference, we’ll serve up collards, hush puppies, chicken pastry, black-eyed peas, cornbread, grits, banana pudding—all washed down by copious amounts of sweet tea. And a beer crafted just for us.

    There will even be traditional piedmont blues and some boogie-woogie to listen and dance to. For the Saturday night banquet, we’ve engaged Mel Melton and the Wicked Mojos with special guest John Dee Holeman. Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sM85ACbXSlY to see them playing together. (Watch the folks in this video: they should improve your dance-floor comfort level.) Mel is a nationally recognized blues harpist and Mr. Holeman is still going strong at 86, playing the piedmont blues as the Lord intended.

    We look forward to seeing you and showing you how the people around here used to, and in many ways still, live.

    Claudia Brown, Marvin Brown

    Durham conference co-organizers

  • 18 Apr 2016 5:00 PM | Christine R Henry
    Vernacular architecture scholars are trained in a range of departments and programs, including architecture, architectural history, art history, area studies, history, geography. Thus, the annual meeting of VAF is an important opportunity for such dispersed students to meet up, exchange ideas, and forge professional networks. More than 35 years after the forum's establishment, what can current students do for VAF as future scholars/professionals in this field? In turn, how can the VAF assist in shaping students' careers and their ability to contribute to the field? This student roundtable aims at collective brainstorming about student involvement in VAF. If interested (even if you cannot physically come), please complete a short survey (http://goo.gl/forms/o9Lz0VCVzV) and add your thoughts on Google Doc (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-mKc7vgFhDy_7CSOJlvr415RnbrnGOxfPyp4FOTYZeQ/edit?usp=sharing).

    For any question, please contact Yuko Nakamura (PhD candidate in architecture, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) at nakamur4@uwm.edu.

  • 18 Apr 2016 4:30 PM | Christine R Henry

    by Samuel Biggers

    The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia is an area rich in history marked by a unique settlement pattern during the mid-18th century by two groups: the Scots-Irish and the Germans. The valley in Virginia is bordered generally by Winchester on the north, Roanoke on the south, the Blue Ridge Mountains on the east, and the Alleghenies on the west. As opposed to the Piedmont region to the east, which was settled by the westward-traveling English from the Tidewater, the Shenandoah Valley was settled primarily by Germans and Scots-Irish from points northward. Much has been written

    Shenandoah Valley location. Photo: Virginia is For Lovers.

    on this settlement and the subsequent diffusion of the settlers’ cultural habits. This includes multiple studies on the architecture of the region, with particular interest given to how different styles and details defined certain cultures and how those styles changed over time. Over ensuing generations, the strong cultural traits that manifested themselves in the architecture of the area began to fade in favor of more generalized local architectural traditions. 

    "Augusta Expo House." One of many houses lost from the landscape in the Barterbrook area. The central log portion was believed to have dated to the 18th century. Photo: Virginia Department of Historic Resources

    At the heart of the Shenandoah Valley is Augusta County. When traveling on Route 608 in the county between Stuarts Draft and Fishersville, there is a small cluster of houses known as Barterbrook, and just as soon as you discover you’re in its center, you’ve already left. As is the case with many small communities, there are few vestiges of the once-thriving Barterbrook: old roads, locations of long-gone houses, old bridges. These traces on the landscape tell the story of what was. In Barterbrook, the old Route 608 is visible, which leads an idle mind to imagine how the community appeared before the road was straightened. A mile up the road from Barterbrook toward Fishersville is a ca. 1820 brick farmhouse, where I grew up. My interest first in local history, then later in historic preservation, led me to delve into the history of my house.  Through my research, I discovered that the house was once part of a 1,000 acre farm that stretched clear to Barterbrook. As I researched my house further, I expanded my focus to include the surrounding area, to provide the context necessary to tell the story of my house. I began to combine the observable landscape with historic documents and photos, which began to paint a picture of the history not just of one house, but of the community.

    "Stony Point." Built in 1852, the house represents the Gothic Revival influence in the Barterbrook area. Photo: Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

    In 2012, I began studying historic preservation at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. During my sophomore year, I decided to formally study the Barterbrook community. Under the guidance of Gary Stanton, I authored “The Evolution of Architecture in the Barterbrook Area,” which was my attempt at organizing existing archival, survey, and observational data into a coherent work. One of the more insightful resources was the house surveys completed by Ann McCleary during the 1980s for the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission. These surveys provided valuable information into the lost buildings in the area. Through my study, I quickly discovered that very few examples of “frontier architecture” survive on the landscape in Augusta County. This very fact tells us much about the nature of the first buildings constructed during the initial settlement period. The extant buildings in the Barterbrook area represent a trend that occurred in Augusta County during the antebellum period, which saw a marked increase in residential construction. In Barterbrook, this trend manifested itself through brick construction. The use of brick was a clear sign of permanence, and one in contrast to the more ephemeral log construction that characterized the frontier.

    "J.H. Stump House." Detail of a molded brick cornice, a common feature of houses in the Barterbrook area. Photo: author.

    I discovered that the architecture in the Barterbrook area, broadly defined as a roughly three square mile area, is varied in style, form, and material. I suppose this is to be expected from a farming community that developed organically, but there were some common features of the houses. Molded brick cornices seemed to have only been in style for a period of about six years in the 1820s, before the style shifted to the corbelled cornice. The single-pile “I-house” predominates in Barterbrook, though there are multiple double-pile houses included in the survey. Though examples of log construction exist, the vast majority of antebellum houses are constructed of brick, which is in line with the trends occurring in the county during that period. My conclusions have not been surprising or monumental by any means. Many of my discoveries do not distinguish Barterbrook from nearby communities, but rather tie the community into the surrounding area’s history.

    "Barterbrook." The 1826 house, named after the community, is one of two surviving 'three-part Palladian' houses in Augusta County. Photo: Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

    This detailed investigation has been complemented by interaction with local landowners and historians, who have graciously welcomed me into their homes, giving me valuable first-person insight into the area. Additionally, I was fortunate to have my paper included in the 2016 edition of the Augusta Historical Bulletin, a yearly publication of the Augusta County Historical Society. I have no idea what an end product to this study will look like, or if there will be one. Threats to historic communities are numerous and growing, with road projects, development, and neglect contributing to the rapid change occurring daily. Because of these and other threats, communities such as Barterbrook are in dire need of comprehensive studies. These communities will certainly change in the coming years, some drastically, but without a record of the past, we risk losing them altogether. Communities such as Barterbrook are superb laboratories for the study of vernacular architecture, which is a mutually beneficial endeavor: a community’s history is recorded and the researcher gains a new perspective on an area. In my study of Barterbrook, I’ve found this to be true. My study of Barterbrook has connected me to the past and has helped to uncover a largely forgotten community.

  • 18 Apr 2016 4:00 PM | Christine R Henry

    The two books published in VAF’s Vernacular Architecture Studies Series (also known as the Special Series) have been garnering rave reviews.  Thomas Hubka’s Houses Without Names (2013) was called “a highly significant contribution to the interpretive toolkits of archaeologists and architectural historians alike” (Hayden F. Bassett, Historical Archeology), while Thomas Carter and Elizabeth Cromley’s Invitation to Vernacular Architecture (2005) was termed “ideal for classroom use…a thoughtful, readable, and ultimately helpful guide” (Karen Duffy, Journal of American Folklore).  The two books have become core texts in the understanding of the built environment.

    And you, too, can be a part of this series.  We are seeking authors and ideas for future volumes.  The Vernacular Architecture Series, sponsored by VAF and published by the University of Tennessee Press, is intended to encourage and support the publication of short (100-page manuscripts), well-illustrated (100 images) books that introduce, clarify, and explore central issues in the theory and technique of vernacular architecture studies.  For more information, consult our website: http://www.vernaculararchitectureforum.org/Special-Series.  Series Editor Kim Hoagland will also be at the meeting in Durham, where she will happily meet with prospective authors.  You can find her at the “Users’ Guide to the VAF” session, or email her directly: hoagland@mtu.edu.  We look forward to hearing from you!

  • 18 Apr 2016 3:00 PM | Christine R Henry

    submitted by Society of Architectural Historians

    The Society of Architectural Historians is accepting abstracts for its 2017 Annual International Conference in Glasgow, Scotland (June 7–11). Abstracts may be submitted for one of the 36 paper sessions, Graduate Student Lightning Talks or for open sessions. SAH encourages submissions from architectural, landscape, and urban historians; museum curators; preservationists; independent scholars; architects; and members of SAH chapters and partner organizations. The deadline is June 6, 2016.

    Applications are open for the SAH/Mellon Author Awards, which are designed to provide financial relief to scholars who are publishing their first monograph on the history of the built environment, and who are responsible for paying for rights and permissions for images or for commissioning maps, charts or line drawings in their publications. The deadline is May 15, 2016.

    SAH invites nominations and self-nominations for the next Editor of JSAH to serve a three-year term: January 1, 2018–December 31, 2020. The Journal of the Society of Architectural HistoriansJSAH, is a quarterly, blind-peer reviewed international journal devoted to all aspects of the history of the global built environment and spatial practice, including architecture, landscape architecture, urbanism, and city planning. Published since 1941, JSAH has defined the field of architectural history, and is a pioneer in digital publication. Articles published in JSAH are historically rigorous, conceptually sophisticated, and theoretically innovative. The deadline is June 15, 2016.

    Registration is open for the SAH Field Seminar “Architectural Layers of a Southeast Asian Region,” December 1–13, 2016. The program will explore the fascinating architectural landscape of Vietnam, focusing in particular on the modern era from the nineteenth century to today. Participants will also visit the spectacular Angkor complex in Cambodia, capital of the Khmer empire from the ninth to fifteenth century. The SAH Study Program Fellowship deadline is August 11, 2016.

  • 18 Apr 2016 2:29 PM | Christine R Henry

    Picturing Milwaukee: Washington Park

    The Summer 2016 Buildings-Landscapes-Cultures Field School


    Class Dates: June 13 - July 15, 2016;

    Preparatory Workshop (attendance required), June 6, 2016, 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM, AUP 183, SARUP, UWM

    Final exhibit: July 29, 2016

    Check out student testimonials at: http://thefieldschool.weebly.com/testimonials.html.

    Field school is free for community volunteers. Students may decide to participate as community volunteers. However, if you decide to enroll in summer classes then you may take a maximum of 6 course credits.


    Choose up to 6 credits from the list below:

    ARCH 534 Field Study. –3 cr.

    ARCH 550 Buildings Types and Settings - 3cr.

    ARCH 551: American Vernacular Architecture, -3 cr.

    ARCH 553: Vernacular Buildings/Groupings -3 cr.

    ARCH 561 Measured Drawing for Architects. –3 cr.

    ARCH 562 Preservation Technology Laboratory. –3 cr.

    Course Description: This summer course provides students an immersion experience in the field recording of the built environment and cultural landscapes and an opportunity to learn how to write history literally “from the ground up.” The 2016 field school focuses on Washington Park, a racially, economically and culturally diverse neighborhood known for its artist communities and active neighborhood groups. This summer we will collaborate with ACTS Housing Inc., a local nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote economic self-sufficiency and homeownership. We will study a variety of homes in this neighborhood—everyday residences, boarded up homes, refabricated and reused homes, homes transformed into stores and workplaces, homes as works of art, homes remembered in family histories and homes as domestic worlds. This project seeks to employ the enduring creativity of storytelling, the power of digital humanities, and depth of local knowledge in order to galvanize Milwaukee residents to talk about their homes as repositories of community memory, spaces of caring and markers of civic pride.

    The five-week course calendar covers a broad array of academic skills. Workshops during Week 1 will focus on photography, measured drawings, documentation and technical drawings; no prior experience is necessary. Week 2 will include workshops on oral history interviewing and digital ethnography. Week 3 is centered on mapping and archival research. Week 4 and 5 will be devoted to producing final reports and multi-media documentaries. Students will learn how to “read” buildings within their urban material, social, ecological and cultural contexts, create reports on historic buildings and cultural landscapes and produce multimedia documentaries. Nationally recognized faculty directing portions of this school include Jeffrey E. Klee, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Anna Andrzejewski, Associate Professor of Art History, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Michael H. Frisch, Professor and Senior Research Scholar, University at Buffalo, Arijit Sen, Associate Professor of Architecture, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, and Matthew Jarosz, Associate Adjunct Professor of Architecture and Historic Preservation, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

    For details please contact Arijit Sen at senA@uwm.edu.


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