January 7, 2019
The ABCs of Historic Preservation at the Federal Level CLICK HERE TO READ
November 19, 2018
Dateline: San Francisco CLICK HERE TO READ
November 1, 2018
Preservation Activism: Being Proactive in a Reactive Environment CLICK HERE TO READ
October 17, 2018
Sandstone Curbs in German Village CLICK HERE TO READ
September 28, 2018
Small Cell Towers: Trick or Treat? CLICK HERE TO READ
September 26, 2018
Why Does This Place Matter Anyway? CLICK HERE TO READ
September 7, 2018
Trees and Green Space in German Village CLICK HERE TO READ
Aug. 1, 2018
Variances & How To Fight Them CLICK HERE TO READ
May 2, 2018
New Construction, Old District: Here’s What To Expect CLICK HERE TO READ
April 18, 2018
Columbia Gas: What You Need To Know About Gas Meters CLICK HERE TO READ
April 6, 2018
Great Night For Preservation CLICK HERE TO READ
March 21, 2018
Good News For Residents Needing To Replace Windows! CLICK HERE TO READ
March 9, 2018
Is it Time For A Citywide Adaptive Reuse Ordinance? CLICK HERE TO READ
February 22, 2018
Smart Preservation For A SMART City CLICK HERE TO READ
February 5, 2018
Certificates of Appropriateness CLICK HERE TO READ
January 24, 2018
It is 2018- Meters to the Rear! CLICK HERE TO READ
November 22, 2017
Notes from the National Trust Conference CLICK HERE TO READ
November 7, 2017
Demolition-By-Neglect: Do We Have The Tools To Stop It? CLICK HERE TO READ
November 1, 2017
German Village Society – Columbia Gas Post-Settlement Update CLICK HERE TO READ
October 12, 2017
Gas Meter Relocation Facts CLICK HERE TO READ
October 3, 2017
German Village Society and Columbia Gas Reach Settlement! CLICK HERE TO READ
September 29, 2017
Press Release: GVS, Columbia Gas Reach Agreement CLICK HERE
September 25, 2017
PUCO Sets Hearing Date, City Council Votes In Support of Historic Districts CLICK HERE TO READ
August 24, 2017
Another German Village Hero Just Says No! CLICK HERE TO READ
August 22, 2017
Re: Formal mediation attempt at PUCO: We were unable to reach a settlement today and will now work with our legal counsel and Columbia Gas to determine next steps.
August 17, 2017
AEP Utility Pole Replacement in German Village CLICK HERE TO READ
August 8, 2017
Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Blocks Columbia Gas Service Shut-offs CLICK HERE TO READ
July 26, 2017
German Village Historic District to Update National Register Listing CLICK HERE TO READ
July 13, 2017
Columbia Gas Update CLICK HERE TO READ
June 8, 2017
Exterior Gas Meters Aren’t Just Ugly, They Are A Violation of Federal Standards CLICK HERE TO READ
Previous Blog Posts
Welcome to the Advocates Blog!
The German Village Society is tasked with preserving and protecting the German Village Historic District. As the staff Historic Preservation Advocate for the German Village Society, I am honored to be the advocate for one of the nation’s premier historic districts, one we believe to be the third oldest in the entire country. In this blog I will speak to current issues facing the Village, news from the leading edge of Preservation around the country, current projects we are undertaking, trends influencing the field of historic preservation and some of my own ruminations on life among the bricks.
We recently celebrated Historic Preservation Month at our annual event, held in conjunction with the Historic District Commissioners, Caretakers of a Legacy. I was able to give a 15-minute speech at this event, as it also served as a formal introduction of myself to the community. Many thanks to all who attended, especially the winners! Below is a transcript of that speech that I hope you find of interest. I look forward to posting here regularly- please check back frequently.
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Happy Historic Preservation Month! Congratulations to all of those who won awards this evening, it was a pleasure to learn the stories behind each of the recipients, well done!
Here is a fact you may not be aware of: the State of Ohio has the third highest number of sites, buildings, and districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places…. in the entire country. Think about that. It is significant! Ohio recognizes the value of its cultural assets and strives to protect them.
Here is something else you may not be aware of, it appears, though I still have a bit more research to do, that the German Village Historic District might very well be the third oldest recognized district in the entire country. Pre-dated only by Charleston, South Carolina, which was protected by ordinance in 1931 and Savanna, protected in 1955. We pre-date the fourth oldest, New Orleans, protected by ordinance in 1975, by a full 15 years! We predate by a full 6 years the National Historic Preservation Act itself, which was the catalyst for the National Register of Historic Places!
German Village is one of this country’s pre-eminent historic districts. German Village matters. Historic Preservation in Ohio matters.
I accepted this position in the late fall of 2016. Since beginning in early January I have discovered a very special community in the truest sense, one marked by two defining characteristics: adaptability, and diversity. Intellectual diversity. Socio-economic diversity. Political diversity. And certainly, with so many four-leggeds among us, diversity of species.
You may ask, how could such a diverse band of beings EVER co-exist peacefully in a mere 233 acres? What is it that holds us in some semblance of equilibrium? For a preservationist, the answer is obvious: we are bound by brick and by mortar. We share a space we call a village, a space-proven over nearly a century and a half to be conducive to, and embracing of diversity, embracing of life in community and embracing of the art of building relationships.
Let me now speak of the first defining characteristic I have found that marks this place: adaptability. Many believe the world of the preservationist resides in the tangible, fixated on styles, materials and landscapes of the past. In truth, the world of the preservationist does not wholly dwell in the cobwebs and ghosts of the past, it lies squarely and decisively…in the future.
Being a historic preservationist means that we must also be futurists, studying the manner in which a community, as evidenced in its buildings and green spaces, ADAPTS over time. This ability and evidence of adaptation becomes a powerful resource, capable of informing the future of a community.
There are examples throughout the world where buildings and landscapes should and must be preserved as artifacts in situ, in their place of origin. The story they have survived to tell can only be told in truth by actively freezing them in time. They exist as markers to the human experience. The birthplace of President Washington; the balcony upon which we lost Dr. King. The gateway at Ellis Island. They are relevant to understanding the human story, the American story, and therefore their ability to tell that story must be vigilantly guarded. This is the domain of the preservationist.
A predominantly residential historic district, the preservation of such, is fundamentally different, yet also the domain of the preservationist. Washington didn’t sleep here – that’s not our claim to fame. A historic district such as German Village is not to be frozen in time. The core teaching of a residential historic district such as German Village is one of adaptation over time. It is the teaching of survival- by remaining open to new ideas, Open to change and open to intelligent discourse about the relationship of the past to the future.
Our sole charge is to remain ever vigilant in protecting those attributes which allow the German Village Historic District to tell, to teach its story truthfully. In order to ensure this truthful telling, we, as preservationist, must identify and protect the elements that make up that story. Concurrently, we must allow the concept of adaptation to continue, for that too is a defining element of German Village going back through time. It is the ever-present tension inherent in this dance of creating the future while preserving the past that makes our lives so very dynamic in a place such as this.
To illustrate my point, consider this. My first assignment from the Board of Directors on Day 1 was to create a preservation plan for German Village. At the forefront of my mind as I work through, is that this assignment poses what one might consider quite a conundrum: how, exactly, does one develop “a plan” for a district already on the cusp of its sixth decade? I approach this assignment as the creation of a vision for the future, the unknown; a vision rooted in the past, what IS known. I have entitled it: German Village: The Next 50 Years.
The board asked me to create a plan based on a couple of simple wishes: German Village Society should LEAD on preservation in Columbus, and the plan should help stakeholders understand the positions we will hold when preservation questions arise.
It will identify, based on available historical data, clear trends in demographics, social constructs, land use, transportation routes and methods, green space use both private and public, emerging technologies that may present both opportunities and challenges and improved preservation methodologies with respect to the care and maintenance of our built environment. It will identify those historical trends, within these categories, which we will then project forward, hopefully revealing to us future scenarios we can prepare for and embrace, or prevent.
The ultimate goal of German Village: the Next 50 Years is to provide a space where we find common ground and a rational way forward between the need to preserve our districts ability to ‘tell its story’ through its physical presence accurately and the need to remain adaptable to the needs, desires, and rights of our residents and small business owners.
Today, as a district, we are faced with a direct threat. A threat that at first blush, may seem like ‘no big deal’. When it comes to protecting a structure’s ability to tell its story accurately, there is nothing more sacred that the facades of that building: the front and the two sides, those that are visible from the public throughway. This is what the public can easily see, so that’s where the accuracy of the story has to be upheld. For us to remain a relevant preservation leader, it is imperative that the historic integrity of those surfaces be vigilantly protected. The drip, drip, drip of poor preservation of those facades over time takes away what’s so very German Village about German Village. Any change to the primary facades is therefore required to come under review – at least for any property owner sitting in this room.
There is one subset though, whose proposed changes to our building exteriors remain immune to such review: a public utility. One would think that a public utility would demonstrate some sensitivity to the primacy of these facades. In the case of Columbia Gas, no such sensitivity has been demonstrated. ZERO. NONE. And Columbia is NOT subject to the same review through the Commission that you are. They answer only to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.
Columbia Gas wants to put gas meters on the front façade of our properties, some of which date back to 1840. This is a BIG deal. This desecration of primary facades in one of the pre-eminent historic districts in the country is an insult to individual property owners and your personal investment, often one made with the knowledge that the visual integrity of the exterior, and that of your neighbors, would be protected through review. It is an insult to all of us who have battled so very hard time and again to fend off anything that poses an adverse effect to the essence of what we are charged with protecting. It is an insult to those who came before us and painstakingly and with great sacrifice wove the American cultural fabric and it is ultimately an insult of deepest proportion to those set to experience this place in the future.
You are here tonight at an award ceremony called Caretakers of a Legacy because you are a caretaker of German Village’s legacy. You understand that decisions made today affect the caretakers of tomorrow.
Should Columbia Gas prevail, the truth of our past, as conveyed by our primary facades, will be utterly corrupted for the foreseeable future. As caretakers of a legacy, are we to stand by? Are we to allow the placement of these obtrusive meters at the base of every single building in the district? Does doing so constitute the pivotal point of visual erosion of our identity as a one-of-a-kind neighborhood, a national treasure?
The world is changing very quickly. To state that keeping up with technological change as an historic district is a challenge is an understatement. However, I would also say to you that it is changing no faster than it did for our predecessors, those who built German Village and occupied it over the past 150+ years.
Those who came before us had to face the onset of indoor plumbing, a technological development that required altering our interiors to accommodate it; They had to adapt to the invention of the automobile, requiring significant infrastructure alterations; They had to adapt to the installation of sewers. This required the digging up of roadways, sidewalks, and yards, all in the name of added comfort and convenience. They had to adapt to the introduction of electricity and all the physical changes that required. And, yes, they had to accommodate gas pipelines.
However, the tide has shifted when it comes to how adaptation to emerging technologies impacts the physical fabric of a historic district. For the first time since the onset of the industrial revolution, I put forth to you that physical impact of emerging technologies on historic districts is DECREASING.
Improved technology is set to reverse the trend of ever-encroaching physical impositions on the historic fabric of our district. In fact, we are witnessing the slow disappearance of required infrastructure components. How many still require a landline? How much longer will we need telephone poles and service wires? As transportation methods become consolidated through a shared economy (car-to-go) ride-sharing services, etc., the pressure to adapt to facilitate vehicles may go into decline, fewer discussions about garages, more parking for those still owning cars. As we rediscover what our previous residents knew about the economic and environmental efficiencies and of living in smaller spaces, the need to consider the effect of rear additions may also wane, retaining the original modest scale of lot coverage and allowing the tradition of personal green space for gardening.
Which begs the question: as we confront Columbia Gas, who and what are we really confronting? What are we being asked to accommodate? Are we accommodating the future of energy technology? Are we being asked to adapt to a new and improved technology? The truth is this: we are being asked to allow a depleting energy source, and a dated and cumbersome delivery system to deface our district for what may turn out to be a very long time. Must we consent to what is nothing more than a soon to be outdated and perhaps irrelevant delivery system, one posed to cause an adverse effect to that which we are tasked with protecting?
Instead, we must explore, encourage and embrace emerging technologies just as our predecessors did. We must work as a district – together, the Commission and the Society – to understand the impacts, both physical and visual of emerging energy and communication technologies in our district. We must be prepared to answer and accommodate the demands of our residents to live consciously and sustainably. We must study the successes of the past as we define the future. The use of cisterns for rainwater collection and storage. The retention of green space for water runoff and vegetable gardens. We have a new construction going into the village, marking a return to the efficient scale of dwelling, coming in at a whopping 800 sq. feet. And no it is NOT a carriage house!
We must patiently and intelligently navigate that ever-present tension between preserving the past and creating the future. But we must NOT allow any adverse effect on the historic fabric of this district. That is OUR job as Caretakers of a Legacy.
I learned last week, as I wrestled with Columbia Gas and their centuries-old energy delivery model, that the Tesla Corporation has released solar roofing tiles to the retail residential market.
Will corporations such as Tesla develop solar roofing systems that are compatible with design guidelines in historic districts nationwide? Just as cedar gave way to slate, and slate to asphalt….do they constitute the next iteration? When the future of infrastructure evolves to such a point that individual homes become self-contained energy systems, independent of a national grid, how are historic districts to embrace this future?
Such questions will no doubt be controversial. They will no doubt spur vibrant debate. As technology allows us to decrease the presence of supporting infrastructure, we must remain abreast of these opportunities, study, reflect, debate and support, or not.
It is the willingness of districts such as ours to uphold the tradition of adaptation that will allow us to be successful in navigating that tension of preserving the past while allowing the future to inform the lives we choose to live here in German Village.
For every problem there is a solution. Together, we will find it, sometimes by looking back, sometimes by looking forward, just as the residents of German Village have always done.
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