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  • 02 Feb 2020 12:00 PM | Christine R Henry

    Welcome to the Winter Issue of VAN.  Feel free to use this link if you just want to scroll through all the stories directly on the website, or take a look below for highlights of the issue with links directly to each story.  

    We are gearing up for the annual meeting this summer in San Antonio, May 6-9 and registration opens February 3.  In this issue is a story on documentation from the VAF-Utah Legacy Project as well as lots of opportunities for conferences, manuscripts and tours that cover all sorts of vernacular architecture topics. In addition, we have lots of member news, from profiles of board members to honors, publications, and presentations.

    In publications news, the Winter Bibliography is packed with useful resources that contribute to vernacular studies.  If you are thinking of contributing to the scholarly conversation, consider submitting to the VAF Journal Buildings & Landscapes. Thanks as always for the contributions to the newsletter, love to share all the wonderful work our community is doing!

    Christine Henry, Newsletter Editor

  • 02 Feb 2020 10:00 AM | Christine R Henry

    The Vernacular Architecture Forum will visit Texas for the first time in 2020 for its annual meeting in San Antonio. The field days will introduce attendees to the diverse and rich history of San Antonio and its environs with tours of Fredericksburg in the Hill Country, the rural and ranching area east of San Antonio near Seguin and Gonzalez, and a tour of the border towns of Laredo and San Ygnacio. City tours will highlight San Antonio’s West Side and King William districts as well as the five colonial Spanish missions that constitute the San Antonio Missions National Park. The conference will culminate with a NIOSITA, a traditional fiesta in La Villita, a preservation success story in central San Antonio.

    Together VAF 2020 will celebrate the rich material and built heritage of central Texas and explore the complicated histories and migration, creolization, and cultural exchange over the last five hundred years.

    Registration Opens February 3, 2020

    More information see here. http://www.vafweb.wildapricot.org/San-Antonio-2020

  • 02 Feb 2020 9:00 AM | Christine R Henry

    by Alison Stone, Lead, Utah-VAF Legacy Project

    After finishing my presentation on the Legacy Project at the Preservation Utah Annual Conference last May, I was introduced to Ross Jones who is the Vice Chair of the Preservation Commission in Bluffdale, Utah.  Bluffdale had recently re-instated its Certified Local Government status with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) because of concern with the acceleration of housing developments in the area and the resulting loss of historic buildings.  Ross was specifically concerned about a building which was believed to have been a booster station for the electric railroads; the dominant mode of public transportation along Utah’s Wasatch Front from the late 1800s to the 1930s.  Eclipsed by automobiles, there is very little evidence of their existence left. Ross wanted us to help the Preservation Commission create some record of the building before it was razed for a new housing development.

    Exterior of Bringhurst Booster Station. Photo courtesy of Alison Stone.Ross and I met at the site in August.  Immediately, I was amazed by the size of the development and the amount of earth moving and grading equipment, dust, heat and lack of shade.  The building was on a level area backing against a hill surrounded by makeshift roads with work vehicles roaring by. On closer inspection, it did not look any more inviting.  In recent years, it had been used to house cattle in the winter and the floor was at least a foot deep in dried manure which would make measured drawing impossible if there was rain. Even better, there were three cow carcasses in various stages of mummification.  Prickly weeds grew along the exterior walls.  Clearly, this job would require hearty souls and a good reason for documentation.Interior of Bringhurst Booster Station. Photo courtesy of Alison Stone.

    With a little research, we discovered that the building was the Bringhurst Booster Station; one of four booster stations for the Salt Lake and Utah Railroad which was inaugurated in 1914 and originally ran 48.5 miles from Salt Lake City to Provo, Utah.1 The railroad ran on DC current and required booster stations along the route to keep the current at the necessary voltage. The stations housed Westinghouse generators equipped with 250-KW, 60 cycle, three phase, 750-volt rotary converters which operated at 1500 volts in series.2 Our research did not reveal any other known surviving booster stations; once a common sight along train routes.  We decided to move ahead with the project. 

    We had to swing into high gear; the developer agreed to hold off on demolition for ten days.  I sent out a call for volunteers willing to help and got a positive response from seven people. Considering the size of the building, the number of people available and the time limitation of one day, we realized that we would not be able to thoroughly document the station with traditional measured drawing methods.  What presented was an unplanned opportunity to implement a more wholistic approach to modern documentation practices; adding a complementary technique and documentation tool.  To that end, we used laser measures for the trusses in the ceiling and other highpoints and a drone operator who created a 3D model of the building’s exterior;3 these added to the measured drawings we were able to create of the same views. We are proud of the archive we are able to leave the city of Bluffdale and SHPO of this piece of the vernacular landscape.Bringhurst Booster Station Drawings. Image courtesy of Alison Stone

    During the afternoon the developer stopped by the because he was curious about what we were doing.  On site Steve Cornell, Historical Architect SHPO, and David Amott, Acting Director, Preservation Utah, had an interesting conversation with the developer where he said that he had never considered saving the building.  It was always slated for demolition because he was focused on creating flat spaces for more homes and the station’s site was going to be raised to meet the top of the hill it backed onto. It was more expedient to add enough dirt to raise the entire area by 8 ft. than keep the building for offices or as a club house. It was an amicable conversation during which he was pleased to tell us that they were going to save some of the brick for the entrance gate and possibly some markers throughout the development and could he have copies of the drawings for the club house. The irony is that the name of this huge new development is Bringhurst Station.

    1. https://utahrails.net/utahrails/salt-lake-utah.php

    2. https://utahrails.net/utahrails/swett-salt-lake-utah.php

    3. Kellen Hatch, Bringhurst Station: https://sketchfab.com/3d-models/bringhurst-booster01-0d5c119b139a489c9160137f2abbda3b

  • 02 Feb 2020 8:00 AM | Christine R Henry

    The SAH Data Project is gathering quantitative and qualitative information about the status of architectural history as a field in higher education. The study is being conducted by the Society of Architectural Historians with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Data research and analysis are scheduled to be completed in December 2020; a full report of the findings will be available on the SAH website in early 2021.

    One of the most important components of the study, a group of online surveys for architectural history faculty, students, and academic program administrators, will launch within the next month. Virtually anyone in higher education today who has taught or taken a course about some aspect of the history of the built environment will be eligible to complete at least one of these surveys.

    Be sure to subscribe to the project’s email newsletter for regular updates. And feel free to reach out to the project’s Postdoctoral Researcher, Sarah M. Dreller, at any time: SDreller@sah.org.

  • 02 Feb 2020 7:00 AM | Christine R Henry

    New England Chapter of the Vernacular Architecture Forum

    Annual Meeting, Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, MA

    4 April 2020

    Details to Follow!

    For information on past NE Chapter Annual meetings, see the chapters section of the VAF website.

  • 02 Feb 2020 5:10 AM | Christine R Henry

    for more information, see the SAH Latrobe chapter website https://www.latrobechaptersah.org/ 

  • 02 Feb 2020 5:00 AM | Christine R Henry

    This coming June, the Historic Barn and Farm Foundation (HBFF) of Pennsylvania will be holding the organization’s 12th annual meeting and barn tour.  This will be a three day event in Westmoreland and Fayette Counties, June 12th-14th. 

    In addition to touring and analyzing barns, this year’s meeting will address the geography of farm-related industrial developments.  The theme is:  “The Mid-Youghiogheny Valley:  Where Farming Fathered Industry.” 

    The Youghiogheny (Yock-a-gain-ee) River has its source in West Virginia, just across a narrow ridge from the source of the Potomac.  While the Potomac flows southeast to Chesapeake Bay, the Yough (pronounced “Yough”) flows northwest toward Pittsburgh and the Ohio Valley.  Although it is better known today as a whitewater rafting river as it passes through the mountains, or for its relationship to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater on a minor mountain stream just off the river itself, early settlers saw a great possibility of using the Yough to connect the southeastern Mid-Atlantic to the Midwest.  The earliest effort to start settling English-speaking families west of the Allegheny Mountains began with a trial settlement in the Yough Valley in the late 1740s, a decade before the French and Indian War.  George Washington expected the Yough to be a canal route, and he began developing a 1,600 acre farm on that basis, essentially a wheat plantation, which later became the site of the small town of Perryopolis.

    After the New Purchase of 1768, in which about 20% of modern-day Pennsylvania was acquired from Native Americans by treaty, a rush of settlers laid claim to tens of thousands of farming tracts in the area south of Pittsburgh.  About a dozen charcoal-fired iron furnaces were built near the Yough between 1789 and 1810.  In the charcoal era, iron was produced at a kind of farm in the mountains where huge numbers of trees could be managed and where water power was available to operate bellows.  These furnaces produced pig iron for forges and early mills, in or near Pittsburgh, some 50 miles away.  As the era of charcoal smelting was coming to the end, farmers just west of the mountain area mined coal and started refining it into coke (the coal equivalent of charcoal), which became indispensable when smelting became more common in urban areas and when the Bessemer converter was introduced at new mills near Pittsburgh.  By the 1880s, the initially agricultural landscape near the Yough was becoming a patchwork of mining towns, rows of coke ovens, rail yards, and industrial waste sites, side-by-side with thousands of farms.  Today, farming is back on the rise in the tour area, although many farms derive significant income from natural gas wells, especially shale gas.

    The HBFF event will begin at West Overton, a distillery village created by the Overholt family, who led a group of Mennonites from Bucks County west to this site about 1800.  Henry Overholt and his son Abraham Overholt developed a large distillery farm here with about eight worker houses and various outbuildings built almost entirely of brick.  Henry Clay Frick was born in a large stone springhouse at West Overton in 1849.  After buying out the coking operations of many of his cousins during the Panic of 1873, his company became indispensable to Andrew Carnegie’s growing investments in the steel industry, and the fortunes of the two grew, simultaneously, despite an uncomfortable partnership, until they were two of the wealthiest industrialists in America.

    Several of the brick barns at West Overton, as well as the four-story brick distillery building, will be open for tours on Friday afternoon, allowing those interested in framing and construction to study how they were built.  This will be followed by a guided tour in which the story of the village and the Overholt and Frick families will be interpreted.  The annual meeting will be held on Friday evening at the immense brick barn at West Overton, after which there will be a presentation on regional geography.

    The Lytle-Prentice Barn, a stop on the Saturday bus tour, has unusually tall trusses running longitudinally from hay mow to hay mow to support the purlins and roof ridge over a 50-foot-wide threshing floor. The barn was built by the Lytle family, either in 1876 when Joseph Lytle married, or in 1888 when he announced he was rebuilding the farmstead to specialize in raising Clydesdale horses. Photo courtesy of Terry NecciaiThe Saturday part of the event will be an all-day barn tour, stopping to tour the interiors of at least five barns.  Most of them are on the Glades Road, the first non-military route through the heart of the 1768 New Purchase area south of Pittsburgh.  About half of the barns on the tour have unusual truss designs that bridge over the multi-bay open areas at the center (threshing floors and/or wagon bays).  One of the stops will be at Searight’s Fulling Mill in Perryopolis, a water-powered mill built in the 1810s to process homespun woolens.  The mill has wooden hammers that were used to pound the cloth, driven by an undershot waterwheel in the lower level.  Similar to modern-day preshrinking, fulling is a process to remove lanolin and other substances from the wool fibers while simultaneously matting the fibers together to lock them in place.  Fulling mills were once very common in Pennsylvania, but Searight’s is believed to be the only freestanding fulling mill in the country to retain wooden machinery from the water-power era.  It is also a reminder that the area just west of here, from the Yough to the southeastern counties of Ohio, was the wool-raising capital of the United States for about half of the nineteenth century.  After visiting the mill, the group will tour the National Register-listed St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church where an Eastern European lunch will be served.  The area has a large number of people who came here from Slovakia around 1900 to work in the coal mines and coking complexes. 

    The Pollins Barn at Sewickley Manor Farm will be on-tour on Sunday as part of the drive-on-your-own tour. It has lathe-turned posts supporting the forebay, and inside are “double Y” braces on the center bents. The property has been in the same family for seven generations, it is in a really idyllic spot in Westmoreland County's rolling farmland, with a mile of live-fence (osage orange hedges) and 18 extant historic buildings. Photo courtesy of Terry NecciaiOn Sunday, two more barns will be open, closer to the center of Westmoreland County, for a drive-on-your-own tour.  Both are at National Register-listed properties.  The Steel Barn at Hannastown Farm is frame, over 100 feet in length (5 bays long), and unusually large in overall size.  It is a short distance from the reconstructed village of Hanna’s Town, the seat of Westmoreland County before it was destroyed during the American Revolution.  The other Sunday Barn, built by David Pollins in 1849 at his family’s “Sewickley Manor Farm,” has lathe-turned walnut posts supporting the forebay.  The landscape surrounding the Pollins Farm, which is breathtaking, features approximately one mile of well maintained osage orange live fence.

    The HBFF visited Perry County, just north of Carlisle, in 2019, where long-time VAF member Jerry Clouse was tour host.  The group began as a result of a tour held in Berks County in 2008.  In other years, tours have been held in Chester, Lancaster, and about ten other counties.  In Washington County, the emphasis was on sheep farming landscapes and widely varied barn types.  In Franklin County, it was on brick barns, and in Schuylkill County it was on that county’s large inventory of log barns.  For each area the HBFF visits, a full color booklet is prepared with photographs and drawings of the barns, a copy of which is given to each participant.  In the last few years, the booklet has grown to about 60 pages in length.

    Extra copies of the guidebooks are available for purchase after the tour (by contacting Patrick Donmoyer, publications chair, c/o HBFF, 22 Luckenbill Rd, Kutztown, PA 19530;  the address is also listed on the organization's web site, at:  http://pahistoricbarns.org/).  

    The registration form for the event will be released soon.  Please watch the HBFF website, or contact Terry A. Necciai, RA, tour host at losghello@aol.com .  When writing to us, please mention that you saw this in the VAF News.


    Happy Travels, everyone,

    Terry A. Necciai, RA

    Reference List of HBFF barn tours in reverse chronological order:

    2019 - Perry County

    2018 - Centre County

    2017 - Union County

    2016 - Schuylkill County

    2015 - Lancaster County

    2014 - Washington County

    2013 - Saucon Valley/Northampton County

    2012 - Lebanon/Berks Counties

    2011 - Franklin County

    2010 - Chester County (the book is sold-out)

    2009 - Gettysburg area/Adams County

    2008 - Initial meeting/Kutztown Area

  • 02 Feb 2020 3:15 AM | Christine R Henry

    Using her vernacularist skills, Jennifer surveys outbuildings near Natchez. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Baughn.I’ve served on the VAF board since 2016, but my “real job” is as Chief Architectural Historian for the Mississippi SHPO, where I’ve worked for 23 years. I love the variety each day in survey and National Register-world brings; just in the last year—bowling alleys, African American boarding schools, tenant houses, free-range homesteads with tick dipping vats, suburban slave quarters, Elvis’s Circle G Ranch, 1960s apartment buildings, Freedom Summer sites, motels with fabulous Polynesian rooms, even a gas compressor station!  

    I came to historic preservation rather roundabout, but my love of common buildings goes back to my childhood in the red-dirt piney woods of the Florida Panhandle. My civil engineer dad spent two decades, beginning the year I was born, creating our house from decommissioned World War II triplexes moved from the nearby Navy air station. I enjoyed “helping” him as he laid up the brick veneer walls (using brick salvaged from the original chimneys) on homemade scaffolding.

    Only as a graduate student studying southern history at Florida State University did I hear about historic preservation. When I became Survey Manager at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, a colleague introduced me to the VAF, pulling out a conference brochure and remarking, “You need to go to this—they are hard core.” I had my first hard-core experience at the Columbus, Georgia conference in 1999. On my first VAF bus tour I came to realize this was a group of friends and colleagues setting out to see interesting places that included buildings that I could relate to in Mississippi and Florida. Suddenly I realized that architectural history could be about those buildings too; it wasn’t just about expensive, architect-designed buildings in big cities.

    In June 2000, I attended the VAF Field School called “Building Archaeology,” led by Myron Stachiw at Roger Williams University. This was my first formal education in how to examine and describe a building, with sessions on materials—nails are worth documenting! who knew?—structural systems, and floor plans. We learned about architectural photography and perspective control from David Ames, longtime HABS photographer, and we enjoyed visits from other VAF luminaries such as Orlando Ridout—it felt like a master’s program in architectural history crammed into three weeks. I returned to Mississippi to a statewide survey of historic schools that I had begun in 1999. Our office previously approached schools through the lens of architectural style, but the lens of vernacular studies highlighted the floorplans as the most significant feature. This vernacularist approach allows these common buildings to tell important stories about education, racial segregation, agriculture, rural culture, and progressivism in a southern context. In 2019, with the help of several VAF members including Carl Lounsbury,  Ed Chappell, and Brent Fortenberry, we began a survey of 19th-century outbuildings around Natchez, one of the wealthiest districts of the Cotton Kingdom in the antebellum period, using methods I learned in VAF Field School to work out the evolution of these deceptively simple buildings, which taken as a whole inform the study of slavery and class in the Deep South.

    Although a rural state with little political power, Mississippi is at the center of the national conversation about race, slavery, and civil rights. Working at the SHPO has given me access to the buildings that tell these stories; attending VAF conferences and field schools gives me the skills to analyze and interpret the stories they tell.

  • 02 Feb 2020 3:10 AM | Christine R Henry

    Chris Bell (right), with bridge preservation engineer, Mats Halvordson, evaluating what Chris believes is Pacific Northwest take on the Corinthian Order, "The Pineconian." They recorded and subsequently replicated this light post to replace ones removed during WWII on a bridge near Crater Lake. A free signed ODOT Historic Bridge Field Guide (at the San Antonio Conference) to the first VAN reader who can identify the location. Photo courtesy of Chris Bell.How were you introduced to VAF?

    Picture yourself sitting in a classroom on wintery Wednesday, it is 6 pm and you are about to start a 2-plus hour seminar in a windowless room with a post-burrito food coma coming over you. That was when VAF landed in my lap. Professor and long-time VAF member Howard Davis at the dais teaching American Vernacular Architecture. A class he largely fabricated months earlier having just assumed the role as the historic preservation program interim director. VAF went from 0-100 in under two slides.           

    How has your experience with VAF shaped your career, methods, and views?

    Following graduate school, where I learned at the knee of many VAF masters, I went to work for what one of them called “the Dark Side” – that of a DOT.  But conversely, working for an agency that often begets massive change in the landscape, I have had the great fortune of informing that change, and studying, avoiding and telling the stories of Oregon’s vernacular landscape in a way that very few jobs might have allowed. What is more, I have had the great fortune of teaching that viewpoint for a decade at the University of Oregon’s program in Historic Preservation, and subsequently hiring some of those students with whom I now work. VAF has not only shaped those who taught me, who then informed my perspective and work, but then allowed me to pass that on to the next generation. In sum, VAF is an infectious disease for me, and one that I happen to like.

    What is one of your favorite VAF moments and how has it been being a part of the Board?

    Foremost, the Board is an excellent group of passionate VAF folks, from all walks of our field, that I feel very fortunate to have been part of the Board for the last almost four years. It is both a practical bi-annual meeting in developing awards, preparing conferences, detailing budgets, but also a high-minded chance to think about how this organization has evolved in the last 40 years, and how it is responding to issues of the day without losing a sense of its original purpose and putting it on a path for success for another 40 years. It is a top VAF moment, that of serving and working with the Board. But beyond that, coming up with one is hard, since I find that every conference includes some transformative moment when you are in some church, grange, or fill-in-the-blank venue, eating lunch with and often prepared by a set of remarkable locals showing us their “place,” who are as moved as you are by this mutual passion for what they see, and you see, as the unsung. But I will close by remembering the time I walked with a handful of long-time VAFers, Kingston Heath among them, down a long dusty road from the bus in North Carolina, getting deeper and deeper into the tobacco fields, talking about what they saw, and collectively patching together the physical pieces of the undulating landscape, the buildings, and the remnant material culture. I came away with an entirely new sense of that working landscape. Plus, as I later found, a tick. But it stands out to me as one of my favorite memories and a reminder that with VAF, the learning never stops.

    Thanks to all of you for letting me serve as a Board Member and I hope to see you in San Antonio!      

    Editor's Note: move cursor over image to see photo caption for contest to identify location!  Send submissions to Christine Henry, VAN Editor.

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