Pratt-Pullman Yard repurposed

I saw this article in Atlanta Magazine about the purchase and repurposing of one of Atlanta’s largest historic sites to a couple who hope to make it into a mixed-purpose facility with shops, restaurants, hotels, and movie studios. In light of reading Hurley’s book about historic preservation in urban areas, this article seemed very timely. While the developers seem to understand the historical significance of this site and do not want to tear down the buildings, but rather repurpose them, I do wonder what their tangible experience is with projects like this one.

Pullman Yards is one of the most prominent historic sites in the city and I hope that they can succeed in preserving the buildings, while also giving the site a new purpose and giving the community of Kirkwood something that they can use and enjoy. I will be interested to see how this plays out. I hope they will be involved with the community as they begin this work.

http://www.atlantamagazine.com/news-culture-articles/one-of-atlantas-largest-and-most-historic-sites-now-belongs-to-hollywood/

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Southern Comfort Levels

This was an interesting reading.  The challenges that Richmond faced during the postindustrial era and efforts of the healing process from the Civil War and Jim Crow.  Just as some southerners had issues with the placement of the Lincoln statue with his son Tad, other groups took issue with the Robert E. Lee mural.  I recall whenever I drive through Richmond I see that it was once a city that had prosperity.  But now there are just ran down roads and buildings which do not speak to the heritage of the town.  But as more and more cities and towns are recognizing, tourism is a way to stimulate the local economy.  Museums that speak to the past, but also addressing concerns of primary stakeholders are one form of healing.  By Richmond being the capital of the confederacy, they are taking steps to heal.  But not without some controversy as is obvious with the decision of where to place the Arthur Ashe statue and the taking down of the Lee banner.

Broxton Harvey

 

 

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Interdisciplinary Collaboration

I enjoyed the fact that Andrew Hurley’s “Beyond Preservation” discussed the merits of public archaeology and how the discipline related to public history.  As someone who comes from an archaeology background, I find that public history and public archaeology have the same general goal – to involve living or descendant communities in the production of their historical narrative.  While public history and public archaeology may have originated from disparate fields of study, they employ the same methodological tools, namely, oral histories, material culture, the built environment, archival records, and ethnographies, to involve the public in the shared process of historical production.

One of my favorite parts of public archaeology that Hurley touched on is the power of artifacts to invoke past memories.  During the revitalization of the Old North community of St. Louis, public archaeologists used material culture excavated from local digs to incite memories among older residents about different aspects of quotidian life during the first half of the 20th century.  In my experience on public archaeology projects, material remains possess the ability to make people open up about past experiences – particularly among individuals who might not be keen to share past memories that may be contentious in the present.  They also have the unique ability to recall specific moments that otherwise may have been forgotten, particularly moments that were so commonplace – like playing with glass marbles in the backyard or drinking tea out of a porcelain cup in the parlor – that they do not always stand out as being notable or worth sharing.

 

As someone who has my feet in both disciplines (so to speak), I wish that public archaeologists and public historians would collaborate together on more interdisciplinary projects as they did in efforts to revitalize Old North St. Louis.  In my experience, public archaeology is advantageous in its capacity to highlight everyday life and mundane experiences that help to interpret a community’s social identity or a sociocultural group’s particular lifeway.  In summary, interdisciplinary collaboration is good for postindustrial cities and the soul.

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Beyond Preservation – Avondale Estates Considered

In this week’s discussion about Avondale Estates, I could not help but think about this past week’s reading in context to our project.

First and foremost is the consideration of the author who asserts that these types of programs applies “mostly to inner city neighborhoods” and the fact that it seeks to draw upon the experiences and insights of others as being necessary to understanding the unique challenges confronting residents of inner city neighborhoods.

I never gave much thought about the issue of buying an old home and the challenges that can confront residents when the value of their homes place them in financial hardships after their acquisition “value” adds to their debt to income ratio.  Its one thing to envision living in a historic district, but quite another to realize the goal only to find out that the assessment of increased property values may make remaining in the home economically feasible when property taxes levied are double and tripled that of what you were paying the previous years.

With respect to Avondale Estates, Hurley’s book talked about the problems and challenges confronting these preservation projects and the mandate that responsible preservationists pay attention to the “scars of racial discord,” “utilizing University resources effectively”, “balancing skill transfer and product delivery, and “wrestling with conflicting perspectives of the past” (94).  All of which are part of the challenges we are faced with regard to the AE project.

I also like their use of terms like “public archaeology” and “adaptive reuse.”  I thought about my trip to Philadelphia this past summer when I went to the site of Ben Franklin’s old house.  There were three plexiglass windows that when you look down upon them are supposed to show aspects of the “excavated” remains of his original home.  Its difficult to see through the windows now, but fascinating to think about it in terms of archaeological remains.

https://www.bing.com/search?q=ben+franklin%27s+house+philadelphia&form=EDGTCT&qs=AS&cvid=15ea8e594bff442db826b9ea53d34160&cc=US&setlang=en-US&elv=AY3%21uAY7tbNNZGZ2yiGNjfNbod5NVVGY7dRvHX8vCxm15MBYw0fVi*usz5NbPFmFbfTSQ5z3VjgztJFN%21j4yBfmlMrcB9rdu4GRm14XJF5nU

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Monuments as Part of The National Conversation

Coming from New York, it once felt like the discussion over monuments was “distant” for me, primarily because the discussion was over confederate statues, and since no Civil War battles were fought on Long Island, it just wasn’t something my neighbors would discuss.

That is starting to change, however, because New Yorkers have started to have conversations on what our own monuments mean; recently, protesters defaced a statue of President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt is something of a local legend-he’s an “iconic” Long Islander, along with Billy Joel and Mariah Carey. His home in Oyster Bay is a landmark and major tourist attraction. However, he was incredibly problematic, especially with many of his international policies and views on race.

Although this isn’t the first time that this has happened, it is the first time after the events in Charlottesville. I hope that fellow Long Islanders/New Yorkers can start to have a real conversation about Theodore Roosevelt, and what his legacy has meant.

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I’m going to be honest. Our book this week, Beyond Preservation by Andrew Hurley, threw me for a loop. As many of you know, my main focus for the past few years has been academic history, and that comes with a collection of proficiencies and spots of ignorance. This post is about one of the latter.

As an academic historian, its hammered into you that your work will probably not be read by very many. Very few of us get read outside of the twenty other people who are interested in the same subjects we are. Unless you’re Robert Darnton or Eugene Genovese, the largest impact your books and articles will have is when Ken Burns asks you to help on a documentary or a pop historian like Eric Larson reads your book, takes a few facts out of context and propels you to the level of footnote in a book about a chicago-based serial killer during the Columbian Exposition. This is a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s pretty normal for a lot of traditional and untraditional academics to never expect to really impact the world except indirectly.

But even if you do write The Great Cat Massacre (It’s a book by Robert Darnton. If you haven’t read it, do so now. Skip class. Get no sleep tonight. Just raed it!) your motivation is probably to see history in a new and complex light by drawing emphasis to a particular moment in history or just trying to see an old one differently. In terms of impact, however, academics hope to encourage a more complete understanding of their topic, which can lead to increased empathy, a better understanding of the community dealing with that history, or a thousand other things, but generally they fall into the categories of intellectual or cultural change, not social, economic or urban change, except subtly.

Sorry for the long-winded paragraphs, but I’m trying to get you to understand my position. I never considered that history could alter the world around me in any way, but changing the hearts and minds of those who studied it. Even the Art of Relevance and Silencing the Past felt like intellectual and cultural approaches to public history, engaging with and shaping a community’s understanding of itself. However, Hurley’s ideas feel tangible. Revitalizing inner cities, gentrification, raising land values and huge demographic shifts can all come from a public history project. That is not to say that there aren’t other forces at work here besides historical preservation, oral histories or public genealogical workshops, but public historians do impact the communities we work in and for and the decisions we make have consequences, ones that we might love to see like badly needed revenue or a stronger and more inclusive community identity, or some ones that might be a little hard to swallow such as rising land values driving lower-class minorities into other neighborhoods.

We have power and I’m still getting used to that.

Posted in community based history, Discussion, Preservation, Public history profession, Urban history | 1 Comment

Can a White Supremacist Be Pacifist? What do I Do? 

So, I never expected to be confronted with my own “Confederate Monument” so-to-speak in the context of the American Peace Society but I did, and it blew my mind. I suspected there would be western exceptionalism but I never expected a peace advocate of influencing eugenic thought for Nazi Germany.

I was struggling with one of the articles and the papers concerning David Starr Jordan, former VP of APS, noted “pacifist” and professed “admirer of Japan.” In my thesis, I wanted to briefly touch upon his advocacy, but I grew increasingly disturbed as I re-read a 1906 article that was so orientalist and white nationalist, I started doing some background research to gain better understanding for my paper.

I thought about this in connection to our public history class and our discussion of truth and “white-washing” of history, especially with recent discussion on confederate monuments. Now I come to a cross-roads in my research re: “peace advocates” as something that should be questioned or documented historically in this paper. What does this mean that he’s touted as a pacifist” but his advocacy broaches a previously unconsidered “third” realm of pacifism (if it can even be called pacific) that his beliefs were not rooted in the “morality” or biblical doctrines against war but the fear over the decay of the Anglo-Saxon Nordic race through the deaths in war of its strongest men?

This attached article from last year was written in response to Palo Alto, CA referendum that sought to change the name of its middle school amidst the controversy of his influence in eugenics and subsequent “forced-sterilization” laws enacted in Indiana and California.

https://paloaltoonline.com/news/2016/02/19/guest-opinion-the-inconvenient-truth-about-david-starr-jordan

Swarthmore SCPC is NOT the repository for his papers, but it does makes me think about this “legacy” of peace history and our responsibility as historians. No mention is made of any of this information and I was a little sad. Does this Quaker school have a responsibility to truth in this matter, as say, for instance, the reconsideration of Confederate monuments? Is it my place to bring this “inconvenient truth” to their attention? Does this mitigate his “identity” as a peace advocate? I think I’ll have to think about proposing a paper for a conference on this matter.

Peace,
Wendy Giere Frye

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