What’s Not to Love About a Chocolate Factory?

Valentine’s Day brings to mind roses, heart-shaped notes, chocolates, and significant others. This year, it may also bring to mind preservation. And we’re not talking about saving the pretty box or tin your chocolates came in, we’re talking about the chocolate factories themselves.

Wkimedia Commons Photo by Rwendland

I first saw the Somerdale Cadbury factory from the train between Bristol and Bath. It was an image right out of a coffee table book: there were the quintessential rolling British hills in the background, field hockey players – or perhaps soccer –  on broad fields in the foreground, and between them, the stately brick factory. It stands five broad floors high at the tallest section of a conglomeration of buildings and wings. And at the top, swooping white letters read “Cadbury’s.” That building immediately found a place in my heart and every time I rode that train I watched for it.

It turns out that this chocolate factory has an important history, though its future may not be as bright. For nearly a hundred years, the Cadbury factory – known as Fry’s factory to most locals (the J. S. Fry & Sons business merged with Cadbury in 1919) – has been bread and butter to the community of Keynsham, a small southwest England town. Or should we say cocoa and sugar?

Keynsham Cadbury – also known as the Somerdale plant –  provided some 500 jobs to the local community and, to the rest of the world, Fry’s Chocolate Cream, the Double Decker, Dairy Milk and Mini Eggs, Cadbury’s Fudge, Chomp, and Crunchie.

In 2007, Cadbury announced plans to close the Somerdale plant, moving production to factories in Birmingham and Poland. No surprisingly, Keynsham was in for a great many changes.

The story is not over. Though the factory closed in 2010, the building retains a stately presence, providing playing fields for the people of Keynsham and a cornerstone view for the commuters between Bristol and Bath. It is not easy to forget. I am still thinking about it after seeing it four months ago. Hang in there, Fry’s factory.

If you want to read more or see what you can do to help, check out Save Our Somerdale, or view an update on the property from BBC News, Bristol.

– Susie Trexler

Ku’s House: the Survival of a Man, a Neighborhood, and a Historic House

This is the story of a man with a dream, a hit-and-run bicycle accident, and a beautiful old shotgun house in New Orleans. The man: Kweku Nyaawie originally of Central Texas, a carpenter and cabinetmaker. The house: an 1866 shotgun that is the oldest house on its block.

Kweku Nyaawie, known as “Ku” to his friends, went to New Orleans with his brother in 2005 to help with post-Katrina reconstruction of flood-damaged homes. Kweku Nyaawie decided to stay. He found 616 Port Street and it became a labor of love. He did research, found period architectural pieces to replace what had been lost, and began a preservation project that would become a well-loved home.

In summer 2010, Kweku Nyaawie was the victim of a hit-and-run bicycle accident. With no insurance to help with the medical bills, Kweku Nyaawie found his work on 616 Port Street difficult. What’s more, he was having trouble standing. Then came a complaint of blight, a city hearing and a fine for a house in disrepair. Kweku Nyaawie’s neighbors could see him trying to continue his work on the house, sitting in an office chair while sanding the front of his house. He could not continue the project by himself, let alone face the 500 dollar-per-day fine.

Kweku Nyaawie’s friends, neighbors, and others are stepping in to help. The house’s transformation is impressive, though much work remains to be done. “Ku’s House” is a story of preservation  – and perseverance – that will not quickly be forgotten.

Learn more:

Susie Trexler

Camilla the Castle Caretaker

Some little girls dream of living in a castle; Camilla Løntoft Nybye dreamed of conserving them, and her dream has now come true.

Camilla is a young and well-established conservation architect in Denmark who just received a remarkable acknowledgement of her talents. She has been named the Royal Building Inspector and will have the task and opportunity to work on several of Denmark’s royal palaces. Ms. Nybye is the youngest person to be named to this post and one of few women.

Camilla Løntoft Nybye and her brother in Gjirokastra

Camilla shows her brother, a journalist, the Gjirokastra she loves and shares her hopes for saving its historic architecture.

Camilla has a degree from the Aarhus School of Architecture and a Masters of Science in Architectural Conservation from Edinburgh University. She is currently Associate Partner in the architectural firm of Rønnow Arkitekter A/S.

If your dream is to be able to work with building conservation professionals like Camilla, join a team of AiP volunteers at one of our projects! To meet Camilla in person, volunteer with AiP in Gjirokastra, Albania, where Camilla serves as consulting architect at the Skenduli house. She has donated many hours of her time assessing this remarkable stone tower house, and spent many more hours exploring the winding streets and paths of the historic town to gain a clear picture of the city and its architecture.

Conservation in Canada: Adaptive Re-use of Company Houses at Cape Breton

Cape Breton historic lighthouse travel Nova ScotiaNoted for its culture and scenic beauty, Cape Breton of Novia Scotia, Canada, has long been a destination for tourists (just check what National Geographic has to say). Off the northeast edge of North America, Cape Breton may look isolated and desolate, but it has seen centuries of history. John Cabot reportedly visited the island in 1497, a visit which is commemorated in the naming of Cape Breton’s Cabot Trail (which is over a hundred miles long). Since then, Cape Breton has seen Portuguese fishermen (sixteenth century), French colonizing (seventeenth century), and in the last few centuries, coal mining and steel-manufacturing.

Recent history, however, is a sad story. The century-old “company houses” of Cape Breton have fallen into disrepair. In fact, they made the Heritage Canada Foundation’s 2010 list of the 10 most-endangered historic places in Canada. But help is on the way.

Adventures in Preservation is one of several important groups working together to save the houses. AiP is partnering with Cape Breton University, Nova Scotia Community College, the HomeMatch program, and community members in a project called Historic Housing for the Near Homeless.  Connections formed with schools and students have proved invaluable as collaboration continues; students who worked on previous AiP projects have stepped into leadership roles in this new one.  (See the Cairo, Illinois, project, “Creating Affordable Housing From Shotguns”.)

historic house undergoing preservation and reuse as affordable housing Cape Breton

One of the houses benefiting from this new preservation project Photo: Tom Urbaniak

The house the AiP team will be working on is located in the Kolonia section of Whitney Pier, a multicultural community established in the early 1900s around the former Sydney steel plant. There homes were constructed from the dismantled Breton Hotel, which housed the workers who built the steel plant in 1899-1902. Preservation of the company houses is a nod to an important piece of Cape Breton’s history. This project will also provide affordable, durable, adaptive re-use homes for local families at risk of homelessness.

Take this exciting opportunity to join in the efforts! Learn more and join the project at our “upcoming adventures” page!

— Susie Trexler

One Tome or Two? Tea with a Side of History

historic buildings Bristol England

A "folly" built in the 1700s remembers an era when castles were actually lived in. Blaise Castle, Bristol. Photo: Susie Trexler

England is a country steeped in history. You can hardly walk a hundred feet without running into something that is older than the United States. In Europe, this is average. To a Nevadan (a state since 1864), this is fascinating. On my flight home I was sitting next to a young man from Stockholm, Sweden, who confessed that his parents had just bought a summer house that was three hundred years old.

And that was normal. Adaptive re-use of historic structures seems to be a burgeoning trend in the United States, where buildings are for the first time phasing out of their original uses. In Europe, adaptive re-use is not a preservation choice, it’s a lifestyle.

adaptive reuse, trail conversion, England heritage travel

A canal tow-path has become a walking and bike trail for locals and visitors. Near Bath, England. Photo: Susie Trexler

Reusing buildings that are already there is a given. They’ve served several different purposes since their construction; what’s adding another?

On my visit to Bradford-on-Avon, we ate at a tea house  – the Bridge Tea Rooms – that has been standing (impressively) since 1675. The building had the appearance of being duct-taped together with pieces of metal. When we stepped inside we were offered space upstairs. I was not only impressed that the second floor could sustain a group of five, I was giddy at the thought of being in a building that was 336 years old. If there is anything that old on the West Coast of the United States, I can assure you it’s off-limits. You can’t touch it, and you certainly can’t use it.

historic buildings, Bath England travel

A 18th century statue commemorates the earlier Roman presence in Bath, England. Photo: Susie Trexler

The tea and scones at the Bridge were delicious, but I will always remember the building, itself. There is forever a debate in preservation, whether it is best to stop the historic clock to preserve its gears or keep it running… whether to let people walk on floors, touch things, use things. There is something to be said for continued use: these buildings were meant to be used, and it’s only through their use that you can fully appreciate them and the history they have witnessed. In a way these buildings have become windows, windows that let us leaf through the pages of history.

Author Susie Trexler is an ace intern at Adventures in Preservation.

Haunted, or Just History?

Here’s a timely post by ace AiP Intern Susie Trexler

Autumn leaves, by Susie Trexler

Autumn color in Walla Walla, Washington Photo by Susie Trexler

We have finally stepped into October: autumn foliage is in full bloom across the hillsides, pumpkins decorate doorsteps and fill produce aisles, apples are sold in heavy bags, and Halloween is just around the corner. Leaves crunch underfoot and the old mansion at the end of the street has a larger presence in the crisp, fall air… Perhaps because it is no longer hiding behind trees thick with green summer leaves, or perhaps because Halloween is a time for imaginations to run wild.

When I first began investigating haunted mansions and ghost tours, I had drawn a distinct line between paranormal stories and actual history as though ghost stories were an elaborate (and eerie) side-story. As I wove my way through websites, imagining lantern-lit tours of the Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson, and  dark strolls down the boardwalks in the Victorian Virginia City, Nevada, I realized supernatural stories are not the sole – or even the main – source of intrigue about these places. By letting our imaginations run wild – at Halloween and any time – we are connecting with the past.

Photo by Susie Trexler

Eerie opening, or a trick of light? Photo by Susie Trexler

NBC’s Syfy channel has named – by popular vote – the top three “most haunted” cities in America: Charleston, South Carolina; Savannah, Georgia; and Virginia City, Nevada. Sure, we may relish the thrill of a ghost story (and ghost stories are aplenty), but these cities have something else in common: they are all witness to vivid and important scenes in American history. They are witness to previous eras and societies.

There is something about people that extends across time and place: people like people-stories and gossip. People like things they can connect to, touch, and imagine. By some ironic twist, ghost stories bring history to light.

Are we preserving the ghosts, or are the ghosts preserving the history, themselves?

_______________________________

Use Halloween as an excuse to step into the past! Explore your local cemetery, or indulge in an eerie event at a historic house near you.

Here are a few we found:

Add to the list, if you dare!

A Peek at Portugal

Feast your eyes on this collection of architectural photographs taken by Hansel Hernandez. Hansel, who we met when he volunteered with Adventures in Preservation at the Bartow-Pell Mansion, spent a month in Portugal doing more volunteer conservation work.

He took a month’s vacation to do a professional internship in metal and wood conservation with Benfica, the most famous soccer team in Portugal.

His work focused on conservation of the team’s vast trophy collection, full of silver cups and wood pedestals in dire need of conservation. The work required skills he didn’t have in his repertoire as an architectural conservator, so he learned a lot. The private conservation firm from Lisbon that was behind the project has since asked him to help launch their architectural conservation department.

Hansel is off to Portugal this winter, once again proving that a volunteer vacation can be a life-changing experience!

        

See all Hansel’s photos

And the winners are…


We are pleased to announce the winners of Adventures in Preservation’s Historic Building Photo Contest!

Entrants were asked to submit a photo of a historic building that held particular meaning for them and explain why. We, of course, go gaga over historic buildings and could no more be asked to choose a favorite than a mother could choose a favorite child, so we turned to an expert to review the entries and select the winners.

Architectural photographer Raul J. Garcia did the honors for us, and we thank him for his time and effort.

First Place

Nicolas Miquelon -The Kizhi Ensemble, Karelia, Russia

Nicolas Miquelon - The Kizhi Ensemble

Sitting under a pale grey sky most of the year, the Kizhi ensemble is located about 600 km south of the polar circle, on the tip of a small island (Onega) in a region of lakes separating Russia from Finland. Made out of local aged woods and covered in silver-colored shingles, it blends harmoniously with its environment.

Three religious buildings form the complex: a large summer church (Church of the Transfiguration), a small winter church (Church of the Intercession), respectively built in the first and second halves of the 18th Century, and a belfry erected in 1862. Exceptional for its scale, the Kizhi ensemble displays the aesthetic of a traditional wooden Orthodox religious ensemble.

It is also remarkable for its high level of craftsmanship, passed on from generation to generation: the main church is 37 meters high, includes 22 onion cupolas, and is entirely built without nails (except for the roof shingles). On the world heritage list since 1990, it has since undergone major restoration works.

Remoteness and monumentality gives this site a most romantic allure. Whether you are an orthodox pilgrim, a simple tourist or an onion domes enthusiast like me, this is a love-at-first-sight religious ensemble.

Second Place

Sean Maxwell – Liberty Hall, Quakertown, Pennsylvania, USA

SEan Maxwell, Liberty Hall, Quakertown, PA

This is Liberty Hall in Quakertown Pennsylvania. It was the home of the Liberty Bell for a night in September 1777. Part of warfare is to destroy the morale of the people you are fighting by destroying their precious icons that define who they are. This is a sort of psychological warfare that goes on while bullets are flying. The British would melt the bells and make bullets and then shoot us with our Liberty Bell if they could. The freedom fighters took the Liberty Bell down from The State House (Independence Hall) and on its long journey to be hid in a basement of a church in Allentown, PA, it rested overnight in a covered Ox cart behind what we now call Liberty Hall in Quakertown. Today, Liberty Hall is a part of the historic fabric of the city complete with a replica of the Liberty Bell.

Third Place

Emilie Sizemore – Old Stone Church, West Boylston, Massachusetts, USA

Old Church Boyleston, MA

The Old Stone Church of West Boylston, Massachusetts was built in 1891. The original town of West Boylston was flooded and ultimately destroyed to produce the Wachusett Reservoir (constructed 1896-1905), the largest public water reservoir of its time. The Old Stone Church remains as the last building standing from the original town of West Boylston.

I was impressed by this structure the first time I drove past, house hunting for my first home. There stood a lovely stone church capped with snow nestled along a picturesque curve of the reservoir preceding a road dotted with beautiful Victorian homes. From that first glimpse, I’ve dreamt of painting landscapes of the site in all four New England seasons. My recent photography trip produced this photo, from which I’ll produce the first image in the series.

Honorable Mention

Raul was so taken with the photos he couldn’t help but award an honorable mention for Mugwima Njuguna’s photo of the Prisoners of War Church in the Great Rift Valley, Kenya.

Mugwima Njuguna - Prisoners of War Church, Great Rift Valley, Kenya

This church was built by prisoners of war in 1942. They were at the time building a road in the most taxing terrain in the Great Rift Valley, Kenya. The church is timeless and for all people, not only of the Roman Catholic faith. Motorist stop to pray and wonder. It is situated in picturesque valley forming a great accent and vista. The Church is under the protection of National Museums of Kenya.

Our First, Second and Third Place winners receive discounts of 30%, 20% and 10%, respectively, off the price of an adventure in preservation with AiP. We look forward to having you join us in getting your hands on history!

Congratulation to our contest winners and our honorable mention, and thanks to all those who submitted photographs. We’ve enjoyed seeing more of the world’s historic buildings, and will be posting the other entries on our Facebook page and Twitter feed over the coming weeks so you can see them too.

Announcing: Adventures in Preservation Historic Building Photo Contest!

Do you have a historic building that is more than just walls and a roof to you? Maybe you’ve spent your life with it and know it floor to ceiling, or maybe you’ve only seen it in passing but are intrigued by its architecture and age. 

With Adventures in Preservation’s Historic Building Photo Contest you can share your favorite historic structure with other history lovers.

AiP is dedicated to the preservation of historic structures in the U.S. and around the world. This contest will help save our amazing and diverse architectural heritage, which we are losing with each passing year.  This is your chance to contribute to the cause and share your special building’s story.

The contest is simple.  To enter just snap a picture of the historic building you love.  Send it to info@adventuresinpreservation.org with an explanation of 200 words or less, explaining the building’s history and why it means so much to you.  Your photograph should have a minimum size of 200KB and minimum 72 DPI. Entries will be judged by a panel of professional photographers.  First, second, and third place photographers will be awarded prizes – 30%, 20%, and 10% respectively off their next AiP trip! – and their photographs will be displayed on our website. 

Share your vision of the world!

Begin submitting 8/1. Deadline for entries is 8/31.  Winners will be announced 9/20.

Haitian tragedy highlights traditional treasures

Haiti’s 2010 earthquake lasted only 30 seconds but proved so disastrous the country’s loss cannot be measured. While the rubble of destruction and tragedy still litters Haitian landscape and memory, some surprising victors stand stylishly among the collapsed concrete: Gingerbread houses.

Not the Christmastime confections. Not the cutesy Martha’s Vineyard constructions (closer, though!). Turn-of-the-century structures unique to Haiti, the Gingerbreads were nicknamed by 1950s tourists for their architectural flourishes and intricate, lively details. The Gingerbread style is an amalgamation of international styles, but the Gingerbreads were built in Haiti – for Haiti.

The detailed funk and flair inspired the Gingerbread name, but the major architectural features make these buildings  specific to Haiti. High ceilings let hot air rise and residents breathe easier. Large, tall windows and doors can be opened for cool cross breezes or shut and shuttered to protect against stormy tropical weather. The designs of the Gingerbreads are so mindful of Haiti’s natural conditions that executive director of the Haitian Education and Leadership Programme, Conor Bohan, praises them for embodying “green designs 100 years before the green movement” and inherently being “extremely efficient.”*

On top of anticipating the “green movement,” the Gingerbreads also anticipated the “local movement.” While the designs incorporate elements from all over the globe, Gingerbread materials – usually a combination of timber and masonry – were largely local. Unfortunately, many local materials have now been depleted (or banned from construction use due to a history of fires destroying wooden buildings). But their use in construction supported local industry and supplied builders with, for instance, wood that had developed resistance to potential damage by indigenous pests…

In addition to being pest-resistant (in some cases), the Gingerbreads were also unexpectedly and impressively earthquake-resistant. As Olsen Jean Julien, project manager for the Haiti Cultural Recovery Project recognizes, “Their architecture shows us that the people who built them had the memory of hurricanes and the first earthquake in 1770. They respected seismic codes even before they had been written.”** With local materials, and often mindfully-engineered, pliant partially wooden structures, the Gingerbreads were able to roll with the punches, sway and bend with the earthquake, and remain standing.

Without discounting the seriousness of the earthquake’s effects, Haitians might embrace the silver lining threaded throughout the country. The Gingerbreads shine with their fanciful facades, their hybrid building structures, and their representation of Haiti at its most culturally rich and cosmopolitan. They showcase the staying power of Haitian tradition, but if they are going to keep Haiti going, Haiti (and others!) must keep them going. This is the time for Haitians – Gingerbread owners and enthusiasts alike – to take charge of their heritage in the long wake of this disaster; to restore their cultural history and construct their cultural future, so that the Gingerbreads can continue in what they do best: sheltering and celebrating Haiti.

*from Architectural attention seekers by Rebecca Knight for Financial Times: http://on.ft.com/p7XEkJ

**from The Gingerbread Reclamation by Marisa Mazria Katz for Wall Street Journal: http://on.wsj.com/lObZgi

Photo credit: Sasha Bezzubov for Wall Street Journal