Serious Summer Fun

panning for gold as part of a history lessonSummer camp is a great way for kids to explore their world and discover new interests. There are literally thousands of programs out there these days, from computer and drama camps to good old overnight camps by the lake. Happily there are also camps that allow children to explore history and the built environment.

You never know what a week spent on a living history farm will spark, and of course, one of the great things about archaeology camp is getting to dig in the dirt!

From recent emails, Tweets, and FB posts, I’ve come across some programs that make me want to be a kid again. There are many more – a Google search will turn up plenty of programs in your area.

Colonial Williamsburg Archaeology – Learn how archaeologists work by joining a summer field school. Field school students learn proper excavation and recording techniques, as well as the identification of common eighteenth-century artifacts. They will also be introduced to archaeology’s specialties, including Conservation, Public Archaeology, and Zooarchaeology.

Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust – Programs and events for youths at the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio and Robie House, including a Prairie School Design Workshop.

Jay Heritage Center –  One-week summer camp programs, this year offering Real Archaeology For Kids for ages 8-12 and Real Architecture for Kids for ages 7-11.

National Building Museum – Campers experience the world we build for ourselves in new ways—through the building, visual, and performing arts! One, two, or three unique sessions of two-week, full-day summer camp. (Some sessions have already filled.)

If you’ve outgrown summer camp, why not try a volunteer vacation? That too can be a life-changing experience. Just ask Jessica, and Caitlin, two young women who were so inspired by their AiP volunteer experience, they’ve changed career tracks and gone to graduate programs in Historic Preservation. Find your own inspiration at

Do you have to be a “preservationist” to appreciate historic preservation? – PreservationNation

Do you have to be a “preservationist” to appreciate historic preservation? – PreservationNation.

Here’s a repost of a repost from Preservation in Pink, one of our favorite preservation blogs. With National Historic Preservation Month just around the corner, it’s a good time to reflect on exactly this question!

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