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  • 08 Jul 2017 12:10 PM | Christine R Henry
    Welcome to the Summer issue of VAN (click on the bolded title if you prefer to read the entire issue from top to bottom or feel free to click on any of the sections below to access the articles) First I would like to call your attention to the special section we have on tributes to Abbott Lowell Cummings, the founding VAF president who passed away this spring.  Included is a link to an online article with remembrances and images as well as a resolution that was passed by the VAF board to officially acknowledge his contributions.

    Thanks to the dedication of many people on the local committee, the conference in Salt Lake City in June was spectacular.  Included in this issue are essays from the University of Oregon and the University of Virginia ambassadors as well as an article from Access Award recipient Emmanuel Falguières.  As is the tradition, all of the 2017 awards were announced at the closing banquet, and you can read the list of recipients in VAN and click on each award to read the recognition that was presented for each awardee. 

    Also in this issue is an installment of an occasional series called Field Notes.  This article comes from the Janet Sheridan who shares some concluding thoughts from the field work that was completed for the New Jersey conference in 2014 and supported by a Ridout Fellowship.  There is also an article about the collaboration in recent years between VAF and SAH.

    There are some great opportunities this issue, such as a call for new board members to serve the VAF chapters and announcements of conferences in places such as Cleveland and Lynchburg that will be of interest to our members. 

    The member news section as always is packed with updates on publications, awards and activities that our members are doing to advance the field of vernacular studies.  Please send me any updates you want to share for upcoming issues. And of course we have our fantastic bibliography.  Happy reading!

    Christine Henry, Newsletter Editor

  • 08 Jul 2017 12:06 PM | Christine R Henry
    As many of you are aware, Abbott Lowell Cummings was the first president of the VAF, and his passing this spring at the age of 94 was a big loss for the organization as well as the field of vernacular studies.   There was a tribute published online with some wonderful photographs and remembrances that I encourage you to explore.  Also, the VAF board passed a resolution in Salt Lake City that will appear in the meeting minutes to formally recognize his contributions, the full text of which appears below.  

    May 31, 2017


    Abbott Lowell Cummings (1923-2017) was the founding president of the Vernacular Architecture Forum,


    through his publications, particularly The Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay (1979), he established a high standard of meticulous research and rigorous fieldwork standard for the field of Vernacular Architecture studies,


    through his professional career as executive director of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, he transformed an antiquarian organization into a distinguished, nationally significant standard bearer for historic preservation and historical interpretation,


    through the establishment of the American & New England Studies Program at Boston University and in many years of teaching at Yale University, he brought the study of ordinary architecture and landscapes into the academy,


    through his generous, patient, enthusiastic and warm mentoring, he inspired and encouraged generations of students, colleagues and fellow VAF travelers,


    be it resolved and spread upon the minutes that the Vernacular Architecture Forum expresses its tremendous gratitude to Abbott and treasures his memory and legacy.

  • 08 Jul 2017 12:00 PM | Christine R Henry

    As has been the tradition at VAF, the 2017 awardees were announced with much fanfare at the banquet on Saturday night.  Each awardee was recognized for their contributions to VAF and to the field of vernacular architecture studies.  Please click on the links below to read the inspiring stories and view the evocative images of each awardee.

    Award for Advocacy: The 2017 Advocacy Award went to the partnership of the MT Preservation Alliance, the MT History Foundation, and author/photographer Charlotte Caldwell for their “Big Sky Schoolhouses Statewide Preservation Project”.

    Catherine W. Bisher prize: The winners of the 2017 Catherine W. Bishir Prize are Sarah L. Lopez, Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Texas, Austin and Margaret M. Grubiak, Associate Professor of Architectural History at Villanova University, Pennsylvania.

    Paul E. Buchanan Award: The winner of the 2017 Paul E. Buchanan Award is The Newport Restoration Foundation of Newport, RI for their 2016 conference Keeping History Above Water, exhibition, and publication Keeping 74 Bridge Street Above Water: Lessons from the City of Newport and the Point Neighborhood on protecting historic structures and neighborhoods from the impacts of climate change.

    Abbott Lowell Cummings: The 2017 Cummings Award was given to Louis Nelson for Architecture and Empire in Jamaica (Yale University Press, 2016) a landmark accomplishment for the study of vernacular architecture.

    Henry Glassie Award: This year's recipient for special contributions to the field is Carl Loundsbury.

    Orlando Ridout V Fieldwork Fellowships: The five recipients of the Ridout fellowships for 2017 were:

    Travis McDonald, Field School Director, Poplar Forest Restoration Field School  - $1000

    Karen Hudson, Field School Director, Kentucky Field School, University of Kentucky - $1000

    Rebecca Fernandez, scholarship to attend Poplar Forest Restoration Field School - $500

    Jobie Hill, Preservation architect, Monticello – Thomas Jefferson Foundation.  Support of fieldwork to complete field survey of slave housing in Virginia and addition of results to the Slave House Database she created and maintains - $500.

    C. Ian Stevenson, PhD candidate, American and New England Studies Program, Boston University.  Support of field work related to dissertation “Army Tales Told While the Pot Boiled: The Civil War Vacation in Architecture and Landscape, 1880-1910.” $500.

    Funding still available – applications accepted until October 1, 2017

  • 08 Jul 2017 11:40 AM | Christine R Henry

    by Access Awardee Emmanuel Falguières

    "So, when do you leave?" my friend asked. As a foreign student who had come to the US just days before Donald Trump's inauguration, the vagueness of the question made me uneasy. Did she refer to the United States, or to Boston? I figured she meant "when do you leave this place?" and that was an easier question to answer. "On the 31st of May. I am going to Salt Lake City." I had never been to Utah, but had all the confidence in the world that it would prove to be a very different place than the well-kept lawns and brick buildings of Harvard Yard. She gave me a blank stare. I was a French student of History working on the cartography of the High Plains of Western Kansas, so when the topic of my geographical interests and actual travel choices were brought up, people around me had come to expect to not make any sense of them, and keep to the polite policy of smiling and nodding. My answer was then processed as odd but aligned with the bizarreness of my fascination for secluded places beyond the 100th meridian.1  I did not point out how much those two places were radically different, and merely smiled back.

    I remember standing on the Kansas-Colorado border, a year ago, looking west to the not yet visible Rockies —a little bit like in the shore of Western France when we casually say that we are looking at the United States. For the past few years, I tried to understand this portion of the Great Plains by focusing on the shift from the visible abstraction of space of the rectangular survey to the elusive organic local sense of place. I sighed, "Thank God I was not working in Utah or some other mountain state. What would I do with a landscape unyielding to geometry?" I could only imagine in dread, the cartographic mess, the impossibility of abstraction, how do you move in space like that? How do you study mental landscapes when every valley has its own set of characteristics? I rejoiced at my choice to work on this seemingly empty, clean, and flat space, this "desert" of sort which matches so well (and so badly) 19th-century aspirations of utopia and surveillance.

    For years now, I have not been able to resist the word "vernacular". Of course, the intuitive definition always struck me as a healthy pointer in our archival maze too often shaped by nexuses of powers and knowledge, but I cherish even more its ontological defiance of clear-cut boundaries. It feels like its fundamental failure to propose a sharp, easy-to-use, textbook-like category of analysis is actually a clever reflexive statement of what it is all about. I had never worked on architecture itself. I already had a hard time figuring out social interactions through cartographic traces - I sensed that I would properly get lost if I started to reflect on the type of limestone “my” courthouses had, or the kind of door they would choose, etc. I therefore set out to the VAF with only a very vague idea of what I was getting into. Looking at the program, the format puzzled me: a conference with field trips? And not just one field trip on a Saturday afternoon when no one wants to listen to papers anymore, but field trips scheduled all over the first two days.

    Landing late at night in Salt Lake City, after a full day of travels, I discovered a warm clear sky and the dark silhouettes of the mountains. I breathed the air, and felt the tension of the past academic week diminishing. Was that how wealthy Parisians or Londoners felt when they traveled to the Alps at the beginning of the last century? I paused to muse on the fairness of this comparison to Boston but rapidly I shrugged it off. Bostonians were happy with any comparison to Paris, they might not even notice that the association was about pollution and stress.

    I did not sleep well. Without being exactly in a bad mood, I had that passive aggressive mind set where you just wait to be convinced. Our bus took off for the Sanpete Valley, the trip was called Town and Temple, Mormon Villages in the Nineteenth Century. Because of the travel and the lack of sleep, I dozed off for a bit. The next time I looked out of the window, my eyes widened and my brain woke up instantly. I did not expect the Valley to be so wide. Sure enough: Left and right mountains had the horizon safely hidden, but the landscaped between these two great walls looked to me like a piece of the plains slammed in the heart of the Rockies. The roads, the pastures, the fields, the grass, the houses, the fences… "Unheimlich, home outside of home," it was uncanny. I was in ‘my’ plains but really, I was not. We stopped and wandered outside. On the map, the familiar grid extended throughout the small town, but I was told that it had its roots in John Smith 1833 vision of the spatial organization of Mormon communities and not in the work of the Federal government through the General Land Office. The same, but different. Wandering in the streets of Spring City was like accessing a slightly bent reality: it felt familiar but then strangeness surged. For example, the division between work and domestic spaces had residences clustered around a "village like" structure with inhabitants cultivating plots they were not living on. I cannot think of a more drastic contrast to the Midwest homesteading model of land occupancy, but nothing would shake my feeling of somehow knowing the space without really knowing it.

    We entered the “Monson House”. An old man, sitting in a comfortable chair, welcomed us warmly. He apologized for the mess and we assured him that we were honored to be here and thanked him for letting us inside. He did not ask for names or profession, but inquired where every single one of us was from: Canada, China, Indiana, France, etc. He seemed glad about our  international answers and let us wander upstairs where he said they used to have dance parties. We walked upstairs and looked to the surprisingly vast room and unexpected high ceiling. I could see myself dancing here. What archive would ever have led me to this information? Had I worked on this community, how much would I miss not knowing that people would gather in this nice room and dance, filling the extremely quiet night of Spring City with muffled sounds of joy? I looked through the window and thought that maybe the neighbors were not too thrilled about the parties. I smiled and made a mental note: let’s do field trips in Western Kansas.


    1Every time this happened to me, I am reminded of the first line of “Kansas”, an essay by the historian Carl Becker, a student of Frederik Jackson Turner at Harvard, in 1910: “Some years ago, in a New England college town, when I informed one of my New England friends that I was preparing to go to Kansas, he replied rather blankly, "Kansas?! Oh." ” Nothing has changed.

  • 08 Jul 2017 11:30 AM | Christine R Henry

    Dear members of the VAF,

    Thanks to a generous award from the Vernacular Architecture Forum, five graduate students from the University of Oregon’s Historic Preservation Program took part in the VAF Two Utahs 2017 conference at Salt Lake City. We are honored to have served as VAF Ambassadors and were so inspired by the remarkable people, projects, tours, and ideas that we encountered during this action-packed week! As any veteran VAF member knows… it’s not your average conference. We are fortunate to have received this invitation to join a pretty special group.

    UO students Allison Geary, Kate Geraghty, Charlotte Helmer, Morgan Albertson, and Hayli Reff with UO Historic Preservation Program Director Jim Buckley at the VAF Two Utahs conference, May 2017

    University of Oregon students Allison Geary, Kate Geraghty, Charlotte Helmer, Morgan Albertson, and Hayli Reff kicked-off their VAF experience in Park City, UT. This small mountain city provided a fascinating example of how a significant economic change, such as the transition from mining to tourism and recreation, creates an opportunity to revitalize a historic downtown core. We crawled through old single-wall homes, heard about new projects envisioned by local developers, explored the city’s history museum, and sampled whiskey at the High West distillery. At Deer Valley Resort we got an eye-opening glimpse inside vernacular architecture of the 1%, a new interpretation of “vernacular” that was incredibly thought provoking. This resort town displays several decades of luxury apartments and houses that have fueled the economic revival of Park City. Our first day at VAF wrapped up with aerial ski jumping, cocktail hour, and insightful planning for adaptive reuse at the Utah Olympic Park. On day two we covered a lot of ground in Salt Lake City through a series of self-guided tours. We learned about historic commercial buildings downtown and saw intriguing rehabilitation projects in the Sugar House neighborhood. Throughout our adventures, our hearts were warmed but the generosity of the communities and homeowners that we visited for hosting our curiosities and acquiescing to our desire to look behind every door.

    As preservationists we like to explore the built environment around us, but also as students we enjoy a good presentation and roundtable discussion. The Saturday paper sessions offered yet another way to engage with new architectural history and preservation topics as well as interact with our peers and mentors. With so many options throughout the day, the group split up and compared notes afterwards. The session entitled “Field Notes,” was particularly interesting for aspiring professionals to see in-progress projects utilizing emerging technologies and modern platforms [YouTube] to better understand architecture, design, and culture.  Another impressive session included “Situating the Urban House” where an interesting juxtaposition of old and new, yet still suburban, brought about a different lens through which to view preservation and residential dwellings. We also particularly enjoyed the “Establishing a Landscape” session, “The Particularity of Institutions” session, and “The Multiple Layers of Preservation” session.

    Above all, this experience taught us that the VAF community is a remarkably friendly, bright, and adventuresome group of people. We were motivated to set our goals high in our future careers while embracing the kindness of the community around us. In our capacity as VAF Ambassadors we have been inspired to bring that same energy and enthusiasm back home to the Pacific Northwest region where a fledgling VAF chapter, the Cascadia Chapter, is in the works. We held our first meeting just a few weeks after returning from Salt Lake. With guidance from the New England chapter and friends that we made in Salt Lake we are ready to carry on the VAF’s traditions here in Cascadia-- and we welcome you all to join us. We are delighted to have joined the VAF family and look forward to see you all again next year!

    With sincere thanks,

    Your UO Ambassadors

  • 08 Jul 2017 11:26 AM | Christine R Henry
    Three University of Virginia graduate students attended the 2017 VAF conference in Salt Lake City in June thanks to the support of the VAF Ambassadors Award program. The group was comprised of two MA Architectural History students and one MA Urban and Environmental Planning student with Louis Nelson serving as the faculty sponsor. The attendees documented the conference through social media posts and will share their experiences during the upcoming semester to help build awareness for the 2018 conference in nearby Alexandria, Virginia to fellow students. 

    Attending the 2017 VAF Conference was an eye-opening experience. The depth of knowledge and quality of research of the attendees instigated wide-ranging conversations and provided an endless source of learning. Having the opportunity to meet and listen to the leaders in the field was informative for my research and helpful to my professional development. I thoroughly enjoyed the various tours around the region and their accompanying guides, especially the high-quality booklets provided for each. The tour of Temple Square was a highlight for its importance to a uniquely American religion, while the Park City tour allowed for access to private houses and structures not otherwise available to visitors. Beyond the tours of the conference, my classmates and I took the opportunity to explore a western state that was “new” to us. We also visited the city of Ogden and continued north to see Robert Smithson’s 1970 work of land art Spiral Jetty at the edge of the Great Salt Lake. Many thanks to the VAF for their generous support of the Ambassadors Award and I am looking forward to the 2018 conference.

    —Andrew Marshall, Masters of Architectural History

    The VAF Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah was the first conference I attended not only as a UVa student but also as an international student in the United States. The discussions were effortless with the broad array of attendees and hosts. I met several people with aligned interests and I was relieved to realize that I was not the only planning student interested in preservation and vernacular architecture. The most interesting part for me was the visit to the major Mormon sites around Temple Square, including the Tabernacle, Lion House and Beehive House. The tours to the two houses were excellent and helped us imagine Brigham Young's life with his family. The quality of the tour made me wish that I had more time to explore Temple Square. Other highlights included the Library square's planning and the retrofitted base isolation system of the City—County building's foundation. Overall, it was a very interesting conference and I look forward to attending the next one.

    —Haritha Bhairavabhatla, Masters of Urban and Environmental Planning

    I am very grateful for the opportunity to attend the 2017 VAF Conference for many reasons. First and foremost, it provided the opportunity to meet professionals, scholars, and students in this field. It was exciting to experience to hear the differing perspectives about architecture and preservation. The VAF Ambassadors award also allowed for my fellow UVa students and I to visit a city that is off of many people's radars. Salt Lake City provided an urban experience that was unique from any other American city that I have visited. This was the first conference I have attended and I look forward to attending many more in the future.

    —Kelsey Dootson, Masters of Architectural History

  • 08 Jul 2017 11:22 AM | Christine R Henry

    SCAD student and Simpson Fellow Mike Walker published article on his experiences in Salt Lake City in the open online platform Medium.

  • 08 Jul 2017 11:20 AM | Christine R Henry

    by Janet Sheridan

    In the Winter 2016 issue of the VAN, I presented some preliminary findings about four farm outbuildings I was studying in Salem County, New Jersey, with the help of an Orlando Ridout V Fieldwork Fellowship and a research grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission. In April, I completed the report, entitled “Salem County Farms Recording Project Vol. II.” Following are some concluding thoughts.

    Bassett-Allen-Waldac Barn

    My research revealed an example of a four-bay English barn in which a barn built in 1792 was copied twice more by 1860 as Quaker farmers named Bassett and Allen expanded their capacity to stable livestock and store fodder.  Two barns were moved end-to-end and a third was built some 13 feet away, all measuring close to 40x30 feet in plan, and all hewn oak frames with threshing bays. Immigrant Quakers from Bucks County, Pennsylvania named Cadwallader expanded the dairy operation in 1938, further adapting these old barns to their needs by connecting all three together, expanding two of them laterally (to comply with dairy regulations), and using the third for stabling work horses behind a separating sliding door. Though their milking days are over and the horses are gone, the barns continue to house heifers. These barns are a twist on the well-known three-bay English threshing barn, the traditional and ubiquitous Eastern idea having evolved into a taller, four-bay version between 1792 and 1848 and persisting into the late nineteenth century.

    Zerns-Wright Wagon HouseWagon houses seem to have been ubiquitous as English barns on the farmsteads of the county. Typically they are situated closest to the house of any outbuilding, have a gable-end orientation, a central bay with loft and sometimes a cellar, and two flanking side-aisles. They are reminiscent of Dutch, New England, Midwestern or Appalachian barns. But their use is distinctly different. These buildings are not the main barn, that is, the large one that was designed for threshing, animal stalling, and hay storage. They are multi-purpose storage buildings that hold corn, root and orchard crops, grain, sometimes meat, and wagons and implements, but do not house animals. They seem to appear by 1850, perhaps due to the early nineteenth-century expansion of farming and the need for more secure, and observable, storage space. Some are built of a piece (looking very Dutch with continuous roof slopes), and others accrue their side aisles over time with broken roof slopes. The Zerns-Wright wagon house is an example of the former type, built of a piece with a central stone cellar for seed potato storage, corn cribs in the central bay, and a granary loft finished with tight-fitting boards to keep out vermin.  A sturdy staircase and floor hatches facilitate loading and unloading of produce to and from loft and cellar.

    Stretch-Mulford Wagon House

    In contrast, the Stretch-Mulford wagon house grew out of a single-purpose one-story granary (the first I’ve found), originally 15x14 feet in plan, in multiple builds. It first grew upwards a half-story, adding grain bins to the loft (which survive), then it sprouted a side aisle below the main roof. It was converted to a wagon house with a 3-foot front expansion and by lowering the floor to the ground. Another side aisle was added, and both aisle roofs were raised to lay on top of the main roof, creating the distinctive broken slope. Only in the early twentieth-century was a corn crib added in one of the aisles. In several generations, it arrived at the common form that usually begins as a single-bay drive-in crib house versus a granary.

    Stretch-Mulford Carriage BarnThe 16x20-foot plan Stretch-Mulford carriage barn is a diminutive version of a ground barn built as early as the 1840s. Two structural bays accommodated a carriage and horse stalls. Like the wagon house, it is situated prominently in the farmyard, next to the wagon house with matching board-and-batten siding. Its appearance may be more of an urban phenomenon; I’ve seen few farm buildings that resemble this one. Its proximity to the City of Salem (only 800 feet outside its limits) may have influenced its affluent owner to build it.

    The report, organized as a New Jersey Cultural Resource Survey, is available for viewing and/or downloading at https://issuu.com/jlsheridan/docs/salem_county_farms_recording_projec  (note this is a revised version). Full-size measured drawings are included inside the report. Volume I, a study of three farmsteads, can be accessed at https://issuu.com/jlsheridan/docs/farms_recording_survey_report.

    Many thanks to VAF for the fellowship support of this research!

  • 08 Jul 2017 11:15 AM | Christine R Henry

    by Gretchen Buggeln

    Since the fall of 2015, the VAF has been an official partner organization of the Society of Architectural Historians. The program at the recent SAH annual meeting in Glasgow, Scotland (June 7-11, 2017), presented ample evidence of this collaboration!  

    Arijit Sen (VAF member, director of the innovative Buildings-Landscapes-Cultures Field School at the University of Wisconsin) and Iain Anderson (Historic Environment Scotland) co-moderated a lively roundtable, “Reassessing Fieldwork Methods in Architectural History.” Speakers included VAF member Jeff Klee, and many VAFers were present and contributed to the discussion on a topic near and dear to our hearts. A local Historic Environment Scotland project inviting the public to submit images and stories about their favorite places raised interesting questions about “crowdsourcing” building history and the ethics of censorship of architectural history.

    The VAF co-sponsored a paper session, “The Global and the Local in Vernacular Architecture Studies,” chaired by Louis Nelson and Gretchen Buggeln. Speakers were Finola O’Kane Crimmins, who compared the landscapes of Co. Carlow, Ireland with those of St. Simon’s Island, Georgia; VAF member Veronica Aplenc, who presented her work on the Slovenian Vernacular in the city of Ljubljana, both before and after the rise of socialism; and VAF member Yuko Nakamura and her collaborator Kosei Hatsuda, who spoke about the temporary black market structures in Japan and the problem of defining the vernacular in a Japanese context.

    Kenmore, a model estate village at entrance to Taymouth Castle at the eastern end of Loch Tay, an example of the planned villages built for tourists by estates across the highlands. A broad square lined with estate cottages and an estate inn.

    A highlight of the conference was the Sunday, sold-out, post-conference tour, “Urban and Rural Vernaculars: Burgh, Village and Longhouse.” The VAF initiated and co-sponsored this tour. Our leader was Daniel Maudlin (Professor of Modern History, University of Plymouth), who enthusiastically introduced the participants to Scottish buildings and landscapes he knows well, including the burgh and cathedral center of Dunblane, the Victorian tourist village of Kenmore, and a fabulous preserved longhouse.

     At Moirlanich Longhouse, a traditional Scottish “blackhouse” featuring a cruck frame, interpreted by the Scottish National Trust to reflect rural life in the early 20th c.

    In addition to these three programs, VAFers spoke on other panels and persistently asking the questions of context, community, historic fabric, and preservation that mark our work. We also noted that three of the 2017 SAH publication awards went to VAF members: the Downing Award to Richard Longstreth, for Looking beyond the Icons: Midcentury Architecture, Landscape, and Urbanism (Virginia, 2015), and the Kostof Award to two of our members, Marta Gutman, for A City for Children: Women, Architecture, and the Charitable Landscapes of Oakland, 1850-1950 (Chicago, 2014) and Sarah Lopez, for The Remittance Landscape: Spaces of Migration in Rural Mexico and Urban USA (Chicago, 2015). Congratulations to Richard, Marta, and Sarah!

    All of the above events, interactions, and awards indicate a warm and productive intellectual collaboration between the members of both organizations, and we look forward to seeing more of the same at the SAH meeting in St. Paul next April.

  • 08 Jul 2017 11:12 AM | Christine R Henry

    Here are some upcoming conferences that are of interest to VAF members

    SESAH in Lynchburg, VA October 11-14, 2017

    SAH Latrobe Chapter in Washington, DC October 28, 2017

    SACRPH in Cleveland, OH October 26-29, 2017

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