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  • 15 Aug 2018 2:00 AM | 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)

    Thanks to the dedication of many people on the local committee, the VAF Potomac conference was wonderful. The success was in no small part due to our VAF Conference Planner, Michelle Jones, who you can meet in this issue if you didn't get a chance at the conference.  Included in this issue are essays from many groups of VAF Ambassadors: Boston University, College of Charleston/Clemson, Roger Williams University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and UPenn all of who share interesting insights and observations from the conference.  As is the tradition, the 2018 awards were announced at the conference with much fanfare.  You can see the list of awardees and click on each of the awards to read the full citation of the contributions each has made to the field of vernacular architecture.

    Also in this issue are two articles in the Field Notes section, where we get to hear about interesting documentation and field work that is going on around the country.  The first article is from Alison Stone who details the work of the Utah Legacy Project and the second is from Grant Gilmore who describes work on an African American wooden schoolhouse in Mt. Pleasant, SC.

    There are some great opportunities in this issue, such as a call for VAF conference organizers to work on future events, a call for Bishir Prize nominations, and a call for abstracts for the Preserving the Recent Past 3 conference.  There is an announcement for a symposium for Richard Longstreth that will be held in May 2019.

    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. 

    Hope you enjoy the issue!

    Christine Henry, Newsletter Editor

  • 15 Aug 2018 1:55 AM | Christine R Henry

    BU Ambassadors from left to right is Casey Monroe, Maddie Webster, Aaron Ahlstrom, Rachel Kirby, and Sam Palfreyman. Photo courtesy of C. Ian StevensonYou know you’re at the right conference when it starts off with a boat ride to Mount Vernon where you’re greeted with cocktails, stunning views, and basement to cupola access. From this auspicious beginning, the 2018 Vernacular Architecture Forum Conference only got better. For a Yankee such as myself, the tour portion of A Shared Heritage: Urban and Rural Experience on the Banks of the Potomac introduced me to fascinating landscapes and buildings. While touring the Upper Western Shore, I was delighted to see everything from beautiful Georgian mansions to modest farmhouses. In Alexandria, I investigated a new (to me!) urban setting with intriguing similarities and differences to the northern cities I’m familiar with. Overall, I was particularly struck by our tour of Galesville, a thriving community that cherishes—and safeguards—their past, as seen in their restorations of a Rosenwald school and the “Hot Sox” baseball field. Having a delicious lunch of fried chicken and fish outside the Galesville Rosenwald School with community members stands out as true conference highlight.

    Our Galesville tour reinforced what I value most about the VAF conference and the field in general: we study the relationships between buildings, landscapes, and people. That emphasis influenced all aspects of this year’s conference. In addition to visiting great sites and attending exceptional paper sessions, I was able to forge lasting connections with both established scholars and fellow graduate students. With the generous assistance from the VAF in the form of an Ambassador Award, my colleagues from Boston University and I were able to attend this conference and create new academic networks that we believe will strengthen both our program and the VAF.

    --Aaron Ahlstrom, PhD Candidate, American & New England Studies Program, Boston University

    Given the generous number of Ambassadors Awards this past year, it is clear that the Vernacular Architecture Forum is continuing to invest in and welcome the next generation of historians, preservationists, and other professionals working to better understand, interpret, and advocate for the built environment. I am very grateful for the Ambassadors Award that allowed me the unique opportunity to attend the VAF Conference in Alexandria with a cohort of students from Boston University eager and enthusiastic to discuss thoughts and experiences. This enriching cohort experience helped us to more naturally and comfortably network with other fellow VAFers.

    This year’s conference covered an extensive diversity of buildings and landscapes along the banks of the Potomac: rural and urban, agricultural and domestic, colonial and modern. On Thursday, I attended the Lower Western Shore of Maryland tour where I learned about corn cribs and smoke houses as well as mid-century modern homes framing rustic views of the Maryland countryside. On Friday, I explored the city of Alexandria with my Boston University colleagues while exchanging our findings and impressions concerning both the previous day’s tours and the sites before us.

    During the Saturday paper sessions, I had the honor of chairing the Religious Landscapes panel and attending three other vigorous panels. The Architecture and Identity panel procured a wonderful discussion about the varied roles of entrance orientation in modified homes along Arctic shores, suburban-like homes in mining towns, and Milwaukee gay bars. The late afternoon Issues panel provided a wide range of problems and opportunities that balanced a critical examination of the past and present with an optimistic vision for the future of vernacular architecture studies. It is a rare thing to see an academic community (really any type of community to be honest) discuss its shortcomings and seek to be more inclusive and open-minded about progressive change. I am glad to be a part of such a community and look forward to future participation and contribution.

    --Samuel Palfreyman, PhD Candidate, American & New England Studies Program, Boston University

    My first VAF conference experience was a positive one to say the least. Thursday's bus tour of the Western Shore was, of course, the highlight of the conference. Every time our bus arrived at a site, we had the requisite barrage of photographs of the front of the building, after which each person would attack the site as he or she pleased. Then, my favorite thing about VAFers: we would have a group of people walk immediately toward the main entrance, but the majority of people wandered off in divergent directions to go investigate whatever piqued their fancies: a decrepit barn, a shaded burial plot, a family-sized privy, a cooing peacock. The total environment mattered to VAFers. No rock went unturned. In that vein, I enjoyed chatting with some of the owners of the houses and then walking off to see how they've spread out their lives inside these structures—how they furnished the rooms, adapted them to fit their needs, and left other parts as they found them when they got there.         

    The highpoint of Friday's walking tour—in addition to the apothecary that everyone loved—was the eclectic Murray-Dick-Fawcett House. The peak of that highpoint was the moment when I crawled through a tiny doorway to emerge in an inhospitable attic between the roof of the original 1775 structure, with the shingling still intact, and the 1790 addition. The joy I felt crouching there matched the euphoria my fellow VAFers reveled in when they got a glimpse of the brick bogging at Wyoming the day before. Admittedly, I couldn't see then what the hype was all about, but on Friday when I became giddy about the secret roof hidden beneath the addition, I knew I had drunk the Kool-Aid. By the time the paper sessions began on Saturday morning, I looked forward to sitting through a full day of papers. I see that enthusiasm as a testament to a few factors: how physically exhausted I was from the previous two days of excursions, how interesting I found the topics, and the camaraderie I shared with many of the presenters after having spent time together scurrying around old buildings.

    --Maddie Webster, PhD Student, American & New England Studies Program, Boston University

    As a student of art history and first-time ambassador to the Vernacular Architecture Forum Conference, I admit I felt a little out of my depth having only recently begun to examine the American built landscape in my scholarship. Any initial hesitation, however, was quickly assuaged by the myriad friendly and learned colleagues, esteemed scholars, and members of VAF who helped make the 2018 Potomac Conference one of the most enlightening and exciting conference-going experiences I could hope to have.

    Beginning with a river cruise from Alexandria to Mt. Vernon, I had to ask myself if I was at an academic conference at all. The following day on Thursday, I attended the bus tour of the upper western shore of Maryland, during which time me and fellow VAFers were treated to near-universal access of multiple gorgeous Georgian homes, including the imposing Tulip Hill and its enviable view. Galesville, nevertheless, was the highlight of the trip. It was a special experience to be invited into the homes of current residents to observe what was originally housing for employees of the nearby Woodfield Fish & Oyster Company. In addition, as a lifelong fan of baseball, it was thrilling to visit the ball field of the Galesville Hot Sox. Entering and observing that field helped further inspire thoughts about the vernacular usages of spaces, in addition to the formation of those spaces as well. This concept of vernacular usages, I believe, will be pertinent in my future scholarship. While the baseball field and the town itself were subjects of great fascination and inspiration, it is impossible to ignore as a high point the delicious fried fish and potato salad so generously served to us at the Rosenwald School. On Friday, me and my cohort of fellow Boston University Ambassadors explored the city of Alexandria, excited to share details about the architectural gems we had been shown. This walking tour reminded me that in Boston, as well, there are surely similar gems to be found—I simply must remember to look.

    Exhausted, I was ready on Saturday for an array of what proved to be enlightening, thought-provoking, and even challenging paper sessions. Topics ranged from such diverse subjects and distant locales as Inuit dwellings along the banks of the Arctic Sea, to the development of the familiar George Washington Memorial Parkway. It was encouraging, furthermore, to see a session devoted to the VAF itself and ways of adapting during an era of progressive change. I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity not only to engage and converse with admired scholars and colleagues, but also to deepen and expand my own understanding of vernacular architecture and the built environment. I look forward to coming years.

    --Casey Monroe, PhD Student, Department of the History of Art and Architecture, Boston University

    Having attended VAF two times prior, I am incredibly appreciative to have had the opportunity to attend once again for the 2018 Potomac Conference this spring. Though I am in school in Boston, I am both from the South and I study the South, so I was particularly grateful to be able to attend a conference that took me to Maryland and Virginia. Conferences are fundamental to the graduate student experience, yet the financial requirements can prove prohibitive during this stage of professionalization. The Ambassadors Award reflects VAF’s commitment to continuing its tradition of being an open and welcoming space for interested folks no matter where they are in their career. Thank you for investing in the next generation.

    As someone who has bounced around a bit with my degrees - studying art history, folklore, and American studies, respectively, I find VAF’s interdisciplinary nature refreshing and exciting. The tours and paper sessions alike offered opportunities to learn about different methods, approaches, and theories to studying vernacular architecture, encouraging me to seek out additional and complementary was of investigating different topics. This year I was particularly pleased to attend a panel on “The Continuing Role of Folklore Research in Vernacular Architecture Scholarship,” and to meet numerous individuals who share a background in folklore. The folklorists’ commitment to people and their stories - a commitment that seems to run throughout VAF at large - furthered my sense of belonging within the VAF community. This commitment to the people behind the buildings was most evident to me when VAF awarded the Advocacy Award to the Galesville Rosenwald School for their work restoring their building and, by extension, revitalizing their community. I was thrilled to have visited the school and spoken with men who have played on the Hot Sox field, but I was even more honored to be able to stand in applause of the strong women who have dedicated so much of their time and resources to this local treasure. Moments such as these are important reminders of both the great possibilities and deep responsibilities at stake in doing the type of work that VAF strives to pursue. I look forward to continuing this type of work both with and beyond VAF.

    --Rachel C. Kirby, PhD Student, American & New England Studies Program, Boston University

  • 15 Aug 2018 1:50 AM | Christine R Henry
    Clemson-College of Charleston VAF Ambassadors at Mt. Vernon

    Our small contingent got engaged with VAF 2018 early, in October prior to the meeting, when we spent our Fall Break documenting buildings at Hard Bargain Farm in Prince George County, MD that would be part of the Thursday field trip. Second Year students Matt Amis, Sam Biggers, and Lauren Lindsey and First Year students Rucha Kamath and Dana Marks accompanied Professor Carter Hudgins and Amalia Leifeste to Hard Bargain where we bunked in cabins used throughout the year by campers who participate in environmental education programs sponsored by the Alice Ferguson Foundation.  Over the course of three days, we completed site plans for the Ferguson’s house, its gardens and support buildings, the farm, and a mid-nineteenth century tobacco barn and stripping shed, corn houses, and modern equipment sheds that had sprung up around it.  At the end of our stay we had also completed field drawings for plans of the first floor of the Fergusons’ house and its outbuildings and the ground plan of the farm’s mid-twentieth century dairy barn.   All of these were translated into AutoCAD and sent to our pals with the Maryland Historical Trust for inclusion in the 2018 field guide.

    When we returned to Maryland, our Ambassador contingent consisted of First Year students Rucha Kamath, Kyunhea Kwon, and  Dana Marks and Second Year Students Sam Biggers and Mary Fesak, the recipient of one of this year’s Pam Simpson Presenter’s Award.  Following the cruise to Mount Vernon and the opening session, we organized in two groups for Thursday’s tours, one led by Professor Leifeste for the Tour I: Upper Western Shore, the other loosely organized by Professor Hudgins for Tour II: Lower Western Shore.  While the Tour I group (Biggers and Fesak) was keen on seeing parts of Maryland they had not seen in the Fall, our Tour II group (Kamath, Kwon, and Marks) welcomed the opportunity it gave them to see Hard Bargain Farm again.  Friday found us spread across Alexandria, our team coalescing and dissolving through the day as we made lists and checked them twice of the buildings Carl Lounsbury and other old VAF hands told us, “don’t miss this one.”  At the end of the day, we met at Virtue Feed & Grain for a social hour with graduates of our program now working in the Washington area.

    Rucha Kamath, Sam Biggers, and Dana Marks at the banquetThis was Sam Bigger’s second VAF conference (his first was the 2016 North Carolina meeting).  For the rest of his classmates, this first VAF experience was for them, they told us during the eight-hour drive back to South Carolina and by email, a great networking opportunity.  Told as they boarded for Mount Vernon on Wednesday evening that they were about to drop into what for many VAFers is an annual family reunion, our students, after the initial reluctance all newcomers feel, met familiar names and struck up conversations with other students that would continue through the conference.  “This really is a friendly group,” said one.  That conclusion, our students agreed, was easy to draw while sitting on the piazza at Mount Vernon, or figuring out who got to go first into the next basement or attic, or sharing what you knew about wall paper, or framing, or regional foods, or some other topic with someone who five minutes before was a total stranger.  Looking back at the conference, Rucha Kamath recalled her impression that VAF is “a culture in itself where architecture serves a medium and a platform for people to connect and  enhance their understanding of the historic past.”  Dana Marks, a Montgomery County native,  told us that she was grateful that the meeting offered an un matched opportunity to” get to know so many other preservation professionals while visiting a large variety of sites.”  There was between site visits, walking tours and paper sessions, Dana recalled, “much new information to absorb” that “gave me lots of ideas for potential research moving forward.”  

    VAF Ambassadors on cruise to Mount VernonMost of our students told us that they knew a good bit about Washington’s public places and spaces but nothing at all about rural Maryland or Alexandria.  In that sense, this group was not unique.  Kyunhea Kwon summed up her first VAF meeting this way: “I loved this experience beginning with our private tour of Mount Vernon with cocktails on George Washington's porch to the amount of time we spent in the field, climbing ladders and exploring basements and attics of tremendous buildings.”  Kyunhea was not alone when she said that VAF 2018 reinforced for her the centrality of figuring out “how the buildings have changed over time” to mapping out historic preservation strategies.   

  • 15 Aug 2018 1:45 AM | Christine R Henry

    RWU Historic Preservation Program students at Mount Vernon. L to r Chelsea Towers, Sarah Lasky, Olivia Jacinto, Matthew Papineau, Henry Feuss. Photo by Elaine Stiles

    Thanks to a generous grant from the VAF Ambassadors Program, five undergraduate and graduate students from the Roger Williams University Historic Preservation Program attended the 2018 Vernacular Architecture Forum conference in Alexandria. This was the students’ first introduction to the VAF and for most of them, their first experience with the buildings and landscapes of the Potomac region. As usual, VAF did not disappoint and a fine time was had by all. Students will be sharing their experiences with the VAF in Alexandria through a photography exhibit in the RWU School of Architecture, Art, and Historic Preservation highlighting conference sites and encounters. Here are students’ reflections on the Potomac meeting in their own words:

    I thank the Vernacular Architecture Forum for awarding my classmates and I the generous opportunity to serve as VAF Ambassadors. This irreplaceable experience has inspired me to apply the same energy and focus exhibited by the members of VAF to all that I aspire to encounter in the challenging, exciting, and rewarding field of preservation.

    We kicked off the conference with a wonderful journey on the Cherry Blossom to Mount Vernon. As the sternwheeler carried its passengers up the sunset kissed river, our group had the opportunity to mingle with the VAF community, quickly realizing that it is comprised of a most friendly, enthusiastic, bright group of people! The conference was a wonderful opportunity to see not only some of Alexandria’s rich architectural heritage but to meet other passionate preservationists with a wealth of knowledge and experience. For two days we explored the built landscape of Alexandria and Maryland, seeing fine examples of nineteenth estates and churches to a cool apothecary shop in town.

    The most rewarding experience was breaking off into groups on the final day for “Paper Sessions,” which provided examples of crucial efforts and projects in the preservation field to not only protect the buildings that is most often associated with the built environment but elements of of our rich industrial and cultural heritage as well. The “Field Notes” session in particular proved to be a moving presentation that explored the descent of our industrial landscape into obsolescence, the interpretation of our industrial spaces, and how inhabitants of non conventional dwellings are threatened by neglect and encroaching development on the water. 

    The Vernacular Architecture Forum Conference has introduced a network of great people that encourage and excite young and aspiring students of preservation.

    -Olivia Jacinto, BS Historic Preservation

    Driving into historic Alexandria, Virginia it was instantly apparent it was going to be a great weekend. The Vernacular Architectural Forum kicked of the event with a boat tour down the coast of the Pontiac River to Mount Vernon. The boat tour was beautiful and the people were even better. Everyone that is a part of the VAF was incredibly friendly and encouraging about my future aspirations in preservation. Meeting people in all areas of preservation was my favorite part. There is so much to do with my degree after school - I just have to figure out what makes me the most excited. The private tour of Mount Vernon was a one in a million opportunity. The bus and walking tours in Virginia and Maryland the following days followed suit. Getting the opportunity to visit private homes is an experience only the VAF can create.

    -Chelsea Towers, MS Historic Preservation

    The chance to appreciate historic architecture alongside a group of like-minded individuals is not an everyday occurrence. What struck me most about the conference was the overwhelming appreciation every attendee had for both the architecture and the experience. For example, the etiquette surrounding our approach to an historic structure during conference tours spoke of the respect and reverence attendees had for the experience: first admiring a structure for its physical appearance, and then converging on the building in hopes of discovering unique corks and charming finishes.  The tours were an excellent opportunity to learn about materials and methods of historic construction outside of our typical sphere of education surrounding Roger Williams University, and they provided the chance to encounter diverse cultural landscapes that are unique to the Potomac shorelines.

    -Sarah Lasky, BS Historic Preservation

    The chance that the VAF gave me was incredible and it was a once-in-a-lifetime trip that I will always remember. I learned so much from this trip from learning about other schools to the technical aspects of the field. What this showed me was that I really did choose the right major and I’m so thankful I will be doing this work in my life. The good this work will do for my community is unbelievable, and this trip gave me the opportunity to see what was possible.

    -Matthew Papineau, BS Historic Preservation

  • 15 Aug 2018 1:40 AM | Christine R Henry
    Associate Professor Arijit Sen, VAF Ambassadors, and Paper Presenters from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

    The 2018 VAF ambassadors included two undergraduate students and one doctoral candidate from the Department of Architecture at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (UWM). In addition, our team included another doctoral candidate who presented his paper on Saturday. Our goal was to bring two undergraduate students to experience this conference while being mentored by experienced doctoral students and faculty members. The selected students are funded-scholars who excel in their studies and show great potential to contribute to the study of vernacular architecture and everyday environments.

    We thank the Vernacular architecture forum for offering the UWM ambassadors a unique opportunity to observe paper sessions, learn about vernacular architecture, and engage with scholars in ways that only a VAF conference can offer. This experience has greatly enhanced the confidence of these young intellectuals and introduced them to ways by which they can “study, document, serve, and disseminate” their own community-histories.

    At UWM, we share VAF’s goal of attracting young and established scholars from underrepresented groups into our membership ranks. We received matching funds from the UWM Office of Undergraduate Research, Department of Architecture Doctoral Program Committee, and the Wisconsin Alliance for Minority Participation to achieve this objective.

    In addition to reporting conference events via social media, the ambassadors also promoted a project titled #WeAreVAF. Their goal was to poll a cross-section of conference-goers to gauge the impact of this organization. During the tours and between paper sessions, the students fanned out to ask participants what VAF meant to them. They disseminated these short surveys via social media. Selected examples from the #WeAreVAF pilot are listed at the end of this report.

    The students send the following messages to members of the VAF.

    A few months ago, I attended the 2018 Vernacular Architecture Forum Conference: Urban and Rural Experiences on the Banks of the Potomac in Alexandria, Virginia. This would not have been possible without the Ambassadors Award scholarship, which allowed me to attend the conference free of charge. As a sophomore undergraduate in Architecture and someone whose career has just begun, this was a great opportunity for me. The conference opened my eyes to the possibilities that the field offers and allowed me to interact with the top scholars of vernacular architecture, some of whose books I have read.

    This was one of the most exciting things for me about the conference. I could have open conversations with scholars much more experienced than I in the field. Very often, especially as a young woman with little experience, it is easy to feel inferior and that your opinions are not valued as highly as others. I did not feel this way at all at the conference, and I think the format and structure of the experience facilitated this openness and equality amongst age, gender, and race. Regardless of who you are and what your experience is, everyone went on the same tours, did the same things, and were all valued equally. The experienced scholars were not off doing more sophisticated things while the students were elsewhere; we were all climbing through hot dusty attics and running from peacocks. We were all doing the same things, and therefore all participants had the same amount of power. This made it very easy to have open conversations and share ideas without letting age and experience get in the way. I personally think this is a great and progressive model and many organizations could benefit from this type of equality and open communication. This specifically made the conference stand out to me and separated it from similar situations where top scholars hold all the power.

     Aside from the logistics of the conference and its structure, we also explored some great buildings. From an architectural perspective, and as someone who has studied physical and implied boundaries in the past, I was interested in seeing how class and labor boundaries were manifested in this type of building that I was not too familiar with. When I had previously researched boundaries, I was looking at primarily early 20th- century duplexes in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with which I have become extremely familiar. In these buildings, service and labor is usually visible through smaller back staircases, closed off kitchens, and milk chutes. However, the buildings we saw at the conference were not quite as clear as I expected. In most cases, the slave’s quarters were often ignored, removed, or refurbished, making the original layout and circulation difficult to understand. This is most likely because of the age of these buildings. Since slave housing was often built out of cheaper materials than the main house, they may have collapsed over time. The lack of slave’s quarters could also be attributed to the connotation of slavery vs. servitude that sometimes causes slave history to be erased. The place that the original slave’s quarters were best preserved was at Mt. Vernon. All the places and routes where they would have circulated were cast off the central property. The slave’s hall or dining area is on the west side of the property. Continuing west is the gardener’s house, salt house, spinning house, blacksmith’s shop, greenhouse, and slave’s quarters. I found the orientation and the accessibility of the slave’s quarters to be particularly interesting. They are brick, which says something about how Washington valued his slaves. However, the entrances face away from the main property and each room is only accessible from outside, forcing an indoor/outdoor living situation. This creates a separate living landscape for the slaves as compared to the life of the residents. This separate living landscape has evolved over time and changed scales, but is truly still present today, especially in the very segregated city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

    I truly thank the Vernacular Architecture Forum for giving me the opportunity to attend the conference through the Ambassadors Award. It was a very eye-opening experience for me, and I hope to attend more conferences in the future.

    With sincere thanks,

    Bella Biwer

    Bachelor of Architecture, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

    Thank you for gifting me with the honor of serving as an ambassador for the Vernacular Architecture Forum. As an undergraduate student studying architecture, urban planning, and Africology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be in the company of intelligent scholars from a variety of disciplines! Due to your generous invitation, I experienced the 2018 VAF conference—A Shared Heritage: Urban and Rural Experience on the Banks of the Potomac. I met a range of scholars who were extremely welcoming and willing to share their knowledge with me. This was an invaluable experience and I appreciate the VAF for being so versatile in your approach to learning about the built environment!

    During the conference, I learned about the history of many homes located on the Banks of the Potomac through a series of site visits. The places we explored provided an opportunity to engage with history and envision how spaces were inhabited in the past. Each site offered a new perspective on the built environment and how it has been organized to fit the needs of different people’s lived experiences. My favorite event during the conference was the boat tour on the first night. Later in the evening we had wine and an awards ceremony at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. It was the first time I had experienced a slave plantation in the United States. It was a very conflicting feeling, and I was oddly relaxed the entire time. The second day consisted of a bus tour where we periodically stopped and visited different homes. It was interesting to see how people have either personalized these old homes to make them livable, or how they have preserved them. I really appreciated the homes with the original art and/or furniture intact. It provided an opportunity to visualize the time in which they lived. The site visit to the historically black school in Galesville was very refreshing. The community members created a space to teach black children what they were missing from the educational system that existed prior. Members of this black community matched the amount of money allocated by the government and other partnering organizations, at a time when black people in America were at war with many of its citizens. The school is stand standing, and it was nice to witness that. The third day consisted of self-guided walking tours which enabled me to connect with other conference goers and enjoy the beautiful views the city offers. The paper sessions were unique in peoples’ ability to express new ideas and information regarding how they engage with the built environment. One of the sessions that I particularly appreciated spoke about women vs. gender, and the impacts these two variables have on social life, power structures, and power dynamics. The author examined how race, class, and gender created a trilogy of complex layers of information that intersect to influence architecture in a variety of ways. I found the approach very intriguing.

    As an ambassador of the VAF conference, I had the privilege of engaging in conversation with professionals about how they decided on their life path. People told me about some of the obstacles and opportunities they have encountered during their professional progression, and gave me advice on how to navigate my professional trajectory. I also interviewed conference goers using the Pixstori app, to capture different perspectives of the Vernacular Architecture Conference. The questions I asked were meant to capture the essence of VAF culture. Overall, I had an amazing time at the Vernacular Architecture Forum Conference, and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to be an ambassador.

    With sincere thanks,

    Teonna Cooksey

    Bachelor of Architecture, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

    My experience at the 2018 VAF Conference—A Shared Heritage: Urban and Rural Experience on the Banks of the Potomac gave me a sense of the field that I am growing into as a doctoral student. As an ambassador, I could survey current issues, as well as more deep-rooted subjects in both the tours and the paper sessions. The conference allowed me, as an attendee, to walk through the methods of study. This immersive research experience is crucial to understanding the built environment, and strengthens my readings of methodological articles. Most of all, being around other VAF attendees, I got a sense of the love everyone has for their field of study. Attending the conference is like tapping into the pulse of a constellation within academia, understanding what drives others in their areas of concentration, and the ardor is contagious.

    So, how is this ardor transferred to new attendees such as myself? Late in the heat of the afternoon, our bus pulled off the road, and we walked down an old country gravel road to find a grouping of barns with a complex but unified roofline. A few sets of gables stood facing different directions, lofted above airy rooms filled with slightly cooler air away from the sunshine. There were about 60 people milling about. We immediately exploring the floor plan, searching the uneven ground of the field behind to catch the perfect angle for a photograph, and filling the senses with the textures, structure, and getting a sense of the history of labor, agriculture, and culture in this building. As we did so, we’d catch a smile or a word from each other, a quick pardon or ‘after you’ in passing, and perhaps a deeper conversation about the place.

    There’s a sense of openness and kindness that really underlies the feeling the VAF conference, but it’s the enthusiasm that really draws me in. At first, as a younger academic, I had come to feel a little on guard at conferences, and a little reticent to immerse myself in getting to know the field, because my position within it was still amorphous and developing. Of course, there is also a sense of being out of my league and needing to ‘prove’ my mettle. Yet, with VAF, there’s such an enthusiasm about buildings, materials, textures, landscapes, and the act of exploring the two and three dimensional qualities of a place that invites me in with a feeling of camaraderie and wonder. This is a group that wants to share their love of place with those around them, and to foster that enthusiasm in its membership, in next generations of academics, and in those who join the exploration just for an hour. It can be quite a commitment to have this enthusiasm; it certainly can be exhausting to check all the locations of a VAF walking tour off in one day, but it’s a rewarding commitment.

    I’m grateful for my experience at the 2018 VAF in Alexandria, because I’m a doctoral student whose work sometimes blurs the line between architecture, geography, and history, my experience at this conference solidifies both the interdisciplinary work but roots me in the study of the built environment. The tours and the paper sessions help to orient me within the field and develop the relationships and patterns between my work and focal subjects within the field of vernacular architecture studies. My work looks at theories of power, specifically how race and class shape spaces at a range of scales; but I also look at how everyday practices are defiant actions that resist these powerful shaping forces. The paper sessions about indigenous landscapes, settler colonialism, as well as the exploration of agricultural, recreational, and home spaces allows me to think about this in new ways and think through sources and theories that I wasn’t familiar with. Overall, my ambassadorship allows me to test and reinforce my understanding of the field and perhaps find my place within it.

    Chelsea Wait
    Doctoral Candidate, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

    The UWM Ambassadors had a great time interacting with VAF attendees, and recorded many reflections with a tool called Pixstori.  The stories are wonderfully engaging! Please click on the name to listen to each story.

      Joy Huntington   Matt Papineau
      Peter Morrill   Michelle Jones
      Laura Grotjan   Arijit Sen
      Bella Biwer  Philip Gruen

    More Pixstoris:




  • 15 Aug 2018 1:35 AM | Christine R Henry

    Aaron Wunch with UPenn Ambassadors Anthony Hita and Melissa Wei LuoAnthony Hita and Melissa Wei Luo were fortunate enough to attend the Vernacular Architecture Forum’s 2018 Potomac Conference thanks to a combination of funding from the Vernacular Architecture Forum’s Ambassador Award and the PennDesign Albert Binder Travel Fellowship.  As architectural conservators in training, out of classroom experiences play a crucial role in building our professional network and broader understanding of the built environment. 

    The conference’s opening reception aboard the Cherry Blossom rolling down the Potomac to historic Mount Vernon acted as an appropriate inauguration to the tours and topics presented in the following days.  In a sense, the trip ushered us into a mindset of traveling back in time in such a way that as we sat on the rear porch of Mount Vernon overlooking the river, we could almost imagine George and Martha Washington relaxing to the same views several centuries prior.

    One of the most incredible qualities of vernacular architecture is its ability to communicate the experiences of disparate groups through space and time.  This sense of transportation to another time continued the next day during the long but rewarding tour of Maryland’s Lower Western Shore.  The tour stood out in particular because it provided an opportunity to not only see historic properties, but in many cases also to interact with owners and community members who live, work, and gather daily in them.  Often, buildings are presented apart from the people who use them.  Yet, vernacular architecture cannot exist separated from those whose needs and desires helped shape it.  The buildings became not simply static edifices frozen in time, but living realms of humanity which are continually adapted to meet the challenges presented by continued use. 

    In particular, we quite enjoyed Kenah House for its sensible layout of interior space, secluded lower level bedroom, and quiet and comfortable work spaces.  The congenial atmosphere of the house was reinforced by the current owner who took time to greet each of us and share his experiences of living and maintaining the space.  His presence helped underscore the fact that the Kenah House is still a home.  Likewise, St. Francis Xavier Church was enhanced by the presence of many of the members of its weekly worshipping community.  The members shared their pride in their continued use of the historic building to meet the needs of their community. 

    We also benefited from the paper sessions on Saturday as they reinforced the fact that architecture is inevitably shaped by both internal and external forces.  Susane Haveika’s paper on her experience studying Inuit architecture on the banks of the Arctic Sea was interesting as it showed how members of the community creatively responded to the Canadian government’s attempt to regulate and standardize housing, resulting in a very distinctive vernacular style.  The session on Erasure in the Urban Vernacular Landscape was full of passionate voices regarding many social and preservation issues that plague American cities, such as gentrification, identity erasure, and loss of historic neighborhoods.  As preservationists we can utilize our professional knowledge to act as intermediaries to mitigate these issues and try to help people ensure the survival of their heritage.

    The conference was an exciting opportunity to be among seasoned professionals and discuss a wide range of topics relative to architectural history and preservation issues.  As ambassadors, we hope to be able to interface with other students and professionals back in the Philadelphia area to help others experience the formative lessons engagement the VAF has provided us.  We plan to take the issues and questions raised through participation in the conference back to our classroom and professional settings to encourage further connection between our peers and the greater field of vernacular architecture preservation.

  • 15 Aug 2018 1:30 AM | Christine R Henry

    Following tradition at VAF, the 2018 awardees were announced with much fanfare.  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.

    Advocacy Award: In 2018 VAF honored the Galesville Community Center Organization for their efforts in restoring the Galesville Rosenwald School, and the group’s long-term record of advocacy since 2003 for the preservation of vernacular resources in their African American community

    Catherine W. Bishir Prize: The winners of the 2018 Bisher Prize are Becky Nicolaides and James Zarsadiaz for an article published in Journal of Urban History titled “Design Assimilation in Suburbia: Asian Americans, Built Landscapes, and Suburban Advantage in Los Angeles’s San Gabriel Valley since 1970.”

    Paul E. Buchanan Award: The winners of the 2018 Paul E. Buchanan Award is Megan Springate, for the landmark publication of LGBTQ America Theme Study; and Michel Galan and Anthony Souther, for Caddo Grass House Reconstruction

    Abbott Lowell Cummings: The 2018 Cummings Award was given to Elizabeth Kryder-Reid for California Mission Landscapes: Race, Memory and the Politics of Heritage a tremendous accomplishment for the study of vernacular architecture.

    Henry Glassie Award: This year's recipient for special contributions to the field is Alison K. (Kim) Hoagland.

  • 15 Aug 2018 1:25 AM | Christine R Henry

    On April 26-27, 2018, the Utah-VAF Legacy Project held the first of three documentation workshops scheduled for 2018. The Project was inspired by the experience of organizing the 2017 VAF National Convention held in Salt Lake City which was a great success and generated a surplus.  Following the example set in Durham, the VAF Board agreed to donate a portion of the surplus to our new Legacy Project. The mission of the Project is twofold: first, to ensure the enduring collaboration established within the conference planning committee and, second, to teach specific documentation techniques which continue to spread the VAF’s view of the built landscape as a record of human behavior. We decided that teaching fieldwork, and more specifically measured drawing, would help us achieve both goals.

    In the process of launching the 2017 conference, the Organizing Committee members discovered the strength of belonging to a like-minded community with shared interests in old buildings, sustainability and human stories.  The committee members represented the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Utah Division of State History (SHPO), Preservation Utah, the University of Utah’s Tanner Humanities Center, the University of Utah’s College of Architecture + Planning, the Park City Planning Commission and several leading architecture and cultural resource management firms, including SWCA and CRSA.  This was the first time all these groups had worked together and no one wanted the collaboration to end when the conference did. It was just too much fun. So, after taking a short breather, we came back together to decide on a plan which would perpetuate the coalition. The group settled on the idea of a series of documentation workshops to teach the VAF style of looking at buildings and landscapes to the committee members who, in turn, would spread this knowledge to their respective organizations and the public.

    VAF Utah Legacy Project Participants, see below for full list of names

    The first workshop was led by Tom Carter and attended by 21 members of the Legacy Project Organizing Committee and a few invited colleagues. Tom gave an introductory talk about the VAF approach to documentation and why it is important. We made a video of the presentation with the intent of making it available for future workshops.  The entire next day was spent in the field learning to measure and draw a farmhouse which SHPO had brought to the group’s attention.  The small farmhouse, while no longer lived in, is still owned by the descendants of the original Mormon pioneer who emigrated from Scotland and built the house in 1884-85. The family treasures their heritage represented by the house and was very excited to have our group come and document it.  At one point, they had three generations sitting under the trees watching our group and telling stories.

    Three generations sharing stories with participants

    We chose the format of breaking into small groups of three with staggered starts which allowed Tom Carter to explain how to measure and draw and then set the groups free to work their way around the building at their own pace. 

    Measuring exterior wall with exposed lintelsAs each group worked around and through the building, we all discovered idiosyncrasies which raised questions about the people who lived there.  We found lintels in an exterior wall which clearly illustrated the home was meant to be added on to.  Why wasn’t it?  The hall was 6 inches narrower at the back of the house than the front.  The shadow of an addition was at the rear.  Why was it taken down? These discoveries allowed us to actively appreciate the VAF method of “reading” a building and engendered discussions of how different documentation methods could be used to complement each other.  By the end of the day, all the groups had a completed exterior, interior and detail; quite an accomplishment in a short period of time. 

    One day's work!As a result of the first workshop, the Legacy Project Committee members are already discussing holding a workshop for Park City Homeowners and Planning Commission employees.  The University is discussing adding a field documentation class.  One of our members would like to add a training at the American Planning Association conference in March/April 2019 and there has been discussion of adding a session to SHPO’s annual history conference at the end of September, however, that might be over optimistic for this year.

    Group Photo Caption:

    BACK ROW LEFT TO RIGHT: Rob White-Supporter, Preservation Utah; Kirk Huffacker- Executive Director, Preservation Utah; Cory Jensen- Natonal Register and Survey Coordinator, SHPO; Roger Roper- Deputy SHPO; Steve Cornell-Principal, CRSA Architecture

    SECOND ROW: Amber Anderson- Tax Credit Program, SHPO; Emily Utt-Historic Sites Curator, LDS Church; Rob Young- Professor- School of Architecture, University of Utah; Kate Hovanes- Architectural Historian, SWCA; Anya Grahn- Historic Preservation Planner, Park City Planning; Alena Franco-CLG Coordinator, SHPO; Liz Joerger- Executive Assistant, Preservation Utah; David Amott- Preservation Programs Director, Preservation Utah

    FIRST ROW: Alison Flanders- Public Outreach Director, Preservation Utah; Susie Petheram- Associate Principal, CRSA Architecture; Shundana Yusaf-Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, University of Utah; Mira Locher-Chair-School of Architecture, University of Utah; Elizabeth Jackson- Planning Technician, Park City Planning; Anne Oliver- Historic Architecture Team Lead, SWCA; Alison Stone (dozing)- Utah-VAF Legacy Project Organizing Committee

    FRONT: Tom Carter- Professor Emeritus, School of Architecture, University of Utah

  • 15 Aug 2018 1:20 AM | Christine R Henry

    In May 2018, Pat Sullivan, a local advocate for Gullah Geechee culture, indicated to Grant Gilmore that the Snowden Community (an un-incorporated entity bordering Mt Pleasant, South Carolina) located along Long Point Road was concerned with saving a school house located there.  They were planning to move the building as a developer had purchased the property.

    The researcher offered to assist by visiting the site and determining whether College of Charleston Historic Preservation and Community Planning students working with a Graduate Assistant from the joint College of Charleston/Clemson Graduate Program in Historic Preservation could document the building.  Grant Gilmore subsequently visited the site on 15 May 2018 and determined that a joint undergraduate and graduate student team could competently complete initial recording work in a reasonable time.  The recording documentation began on 17 May 2018.  Digitization of these drawings in CAD and Sketchup is ongoing at the time of this writing. A draft Sketchup rendering is included here.

    Site Overview

    The structure is located approximately 600 ft ENE of the intersection of Long Point Road (State Road S-10-97) and Interstate 526 on the north side.  It is located approximately 600 ft WSW of a Waffle House (at 609 Long Point Road.  The site is currently forested with trees approximately 20-30 years old.  The site is accessed via a small paved single lane road that runs from the site to the NW towards Seacoast Parkway.  It is part of a 3.17 acre parcel that appears to have gone into foreclosure in October 2017.  The area to the NE of the schoolhouse structure is relatively clear while the other three sides are shaded by extensive mature trees.  The site is level and the soil is a sandy-loam typical for the area.  There is a chain-link fence between the site and Long Point Road.  To the east is a manufactured home that is also slated to be moved from the site.  Vegetation was kindly cleared from around the building by Snowden Community volunteers prior to the commencement of documentation activities.

    Building Overview

    The wooden building is approximately 60 feet (18.2 meters) in total length and 21 feet (6.4 meters) in total width.  It currently consists of two separate apartments that have not been occupied for some time. These apartments were converted from a two-room school house sometime after 1954 when the school was abandoned after construction of nearby Jennie Moore Elementary in 1953.  The following sections provide an initial physical description

    Exterior Treatment

    The exterior is currently covered in pressure-treated T1-11 siding, a textured, vertically grooved plywood commonly used in less expensive building applications since the late 1960s. The T1-11 is applied over wood clapboard siding that covers the wood framed structure along both sides of the building. The porch ends are not covered in T1-11.


    The roofing material is zinc coated steel formed into sheet roofing panels.  In the case of this building it is a very common type known as “5V Crimp” that permits a sturdy overlap of panels and strong fastening to roof framing below.  The roof is in generally good condition and has been repaired on occasion in the past.  It is not painted.

    Brick Piers and Chimney

    The entire building is elevated on twenty-eight brick piers that are around 16 inches on each side.  There is a brick chimney stack visible from the outside at the center of the structure.  Both the piers and the chimney feature “running bond” brick courses.  The piers are one brick wide while the chimney stack is three bricks wide.  The bricks are the common American size of 7 5⁄8 × 3 5⁄8 × 2 1⁄4 inches (194 × 92 × 57 mm). 


    There are porches at either end of the structure which lead to doorways that pierce the center of each end. Concrete steps lead up to the porch on the end facing Long Point Road while wooden stairs lead into the porch at the opposite end.  At this, the northern end, the porch has been partially enclosed to form a storage shed currently containing typical household storage items including bicycles.


    The twelve window openings are currently covered by non-pressure-treated ½ inch plywood nailed into the window frames.  This was likely done at some point relatively recently as hurricane protection.  The wood window sash were originally six-over-six or six lights (or panes) over six panes.  These appear to be original to the school house.


    The interior space has been modified over time, however, the observable evidence indicates that much of the original structure remains intact.

    Through the documentation process it has been determined that there were at least four significant phases in the structure’s life thus far.  Each of these phases and supporting evidence will be described in the following sections.

    Four Construction Phases

    The first construction phase is reflected in a virtually intact framing system for a one room structure elevated on brick piers.  The frame is painted white.  The exterior was sheathed in white-painted clapboards that were 10 inches in width and covered all sides of the building. At least two fragments of this clapboard were re-incorporated in the roof structure of Phase II.  This initial room was 21 feet in width by 30 feet in length.  It was pierced by three windows on each long wall and a single door on the southern end.  During the course of recording an unidentified photo was shared by Robert MacDonald (Director emeritus of the City Museum of New York) along with a 1955 image of the Long Point Rd School.  Upon examination of the unidentified photo and the physical evidence, it can be said with great confidence that this is an image of Phase I of the Long Point Road Elementary School.

    The structure described here was likely built during the first quarter of the 20th century according to the documentary records currently available.  Ongoing research with the Charleston County School District archives may provide some evidence of an earlier build date. A sawmill operated close by on Whipple Road that was started in and it may be that the lumber used in this structure was obtained from the mill.

    At some point after the school was completed, likely in the 1930s or early 1940s the schoolhouse was doubled in size indicating a second phase in its construction history.  A room identical in size was added what would have been the rear of the structure.  The framing of this extension was not visible during the research period as it is completed obscured by later modifications.  It is expected that after the schoolhouse is moved in coming months that a more thorough investigation of this phase may be undertaken.

    Modifications of the original building were extensive at this point.  It is clear that the majority of clapboards were replaced as well as the roofing system during Phase II.  Other modifications also include the installation of beadboard on both the ceiling and the walls.  Beadboard was popular in urban contexts beginning in the 1870s and continued to be used in rural areas through the 1930s and thus is not unusual to find it on this structure.  The beadboard was removed in the Phase I area after a fire sometime in the 1990s as can be seen below.  A porch was added to the front during this phase and the original brick steps were moved to accommodate this addition. 

    Two additional phases were identified associated with two domestic occupations in the 1960s and 1990s.  These will be detailed in the final report.

    The historical significance of this structure for the history of education not only in the region but nationally cannot be overestimated.  It is a virtually intact artifact of one of the most pivotal periods in United States history.  It is a physical manifestation of the challenges faced by formerly unfree African Americans as they sought to improve their lives through education.  It is also illustrative of the facilities provided by the State of South Carolina for African American education.  The transition to the Jennie Moore School from the Long Point Elementary School is illustrative of the long struggle toward equal rights for African Americans in a political, social and economic environment that sought to restrict these rights at every turn through every means available.  The building itself tells these truths and should be conserved and preserved as a precious reminder of this very dark period in American history.  Every nail, every brick, every paint stroke is a historical marker for future generations to learn about where we as a nation have been and how far we still need to move to heal racial and social injustices.  There are no other similar educational buildings East of the Cooper.  This is the very last one.

  • 15 Aug 2018 1:15 AM | Christine R Henry

    Michelle Jones, VAF Conference PlannerAfter graduating from the master's program in Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi, I began a career in historic preservation with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History administering the Certified Local Government program (and many other things) for the past twenty-five years.  On the side, my husband and I have rehabilitated over 40 historic properties in my now hometown of Starkville, Mississippi while serving various civic groups such as the Convention and Visitor's Bureau Board, the Starkville Main Street Board, and the Starkville Central Neighborhood Foundation, that promote the recognition, protection and preservation of our community's built environment. I've considered myself more of a practitioner than an academic so I shied away from organizations that appeared to look more at the theoretical than the actual.

    However, my friend and colleague Jennifer Baughn is a long time member of VAF and I always enjoyed hearing about the conferences she attended (especially those tours!) so when she told me they were looking for a conference planner and suggested I apply I was quick on the draw.  Above all, I'm a planner at heart-organization, workplan, party- and I really felt like I found my people on the Banks of the Potomac this past May.  I'm so glad that the VAF Board has given me the opportunity to help them highlight and showcase the vernacular architecture at their conference sites and I'm enjoying working with the planners for the upcoming conference in Philadelphia and San Antonio. Not that VAF has ever had a bad conference, but these are going to be spectacular. I really do hope that this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship with VAF and its members.

    I've been recognized with 1998 Mississippi Heritage Trust's President's Award, a 2004 University of Miami School of Architecture Knight Fellow in Community Building, 2005 Top 50 Mississippi Businesswoman, 2014 TE Veitch Community Service Award, 2016 Starkville Rotary Club Service Award , 2018 Mississippi Main Street Association "Main Street Hero."  

    I'm looking forward to seeing you all in Philadelphia next May!

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