The Bounty of Ballenberg

One of the farmhouses in the Bernese Midlands section of Ballenberg

Two weeks ago I visited the Ballenberg Open Air Museum, a place that had long been on my list of architectural places to see.

These types of open air museums, which are quite common in Europe, present wonderful opportunities to see a full range of architectural styles and be close enough to compare and contrast them. Though preservationists often shudder at the thought of moving buildings – their context, their context!! – we also have to admit that sometimes moving buildings is the only way to save them.

When they are curated as well as they are at Ballenberg, the buildings and their stories are preserved, and that’s a good thing.  Such museums also generate jobs for building conservation specialists, also a good thing!

Ballenberg Open Air Museum covers 66 hectares and contains approximately 100 buildings from all the regions of Switzerland. For such a small country, the styles are quite diverse, reflecting the variety of cultural influences that you see in the country even today.

Ballenberg also affords opportunity to examine architectural details – both construction and ornamental – up up close.  I really enjoyed being able to go into farmhouses similar to those I’ve sped by on the train and understand how their interior spaces are arranged.

Ballenberg is extremely well maintained. It was also nice to see that they stick to their principles – a house that burned is left as a foundation ruin since they do not want to introduce new materials into the scene.


The sawmill at Ballenberg, from Switzerland’s East Midlands

The museum offers plenty for industrial heritage fans, with fully functioning dairies, lime kilns, mills, and more, with demonstrations throughout the day.  I stayed and watched the water-powered sawmill for a good 20 minutes; it was fascinating to see how a single person could maneuver and cut the massive logs into planks.

A number of artisanal products are produced and available, from weaving, to sausage, cheese and bread making, and – most important for me – chocolate. It is in Switzerland after all!

If You Go:

Ballenberg is located in central Switzerland, easily accessible by car and public transportation. The museum is open year round. Interpretation is in German, French, Italian and English. For information see ballenberg.ch.

Caching in on History

Spring is a great time to get out and explore the world around you. One great way to get to know a place is via geocaching, essentially a GPS-assisted treasure hunt.

A number of tourism, park and land management agencies have created geocaching trails, taking the fun one step further and allowing you to explore a historic theme.

Finding the approximately 70 caches of the Delaware Geocaching Trail will take you to estates, gardens and sanctuaries at historical, agricultural and cultural sites of America’s First State.

Dahlonega Gold Museum courtesy Get Outdoors Georgia

Georgia’s History Trail takes you to fourteen historic sites. Each site, however, is the site of a multi-cache, a mini-treasure hunt requiring going to two or more locations within the site.

The Star-Spangled Banner Geotrail takes you on a multi-state journey commemorating the birth of America’s national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner. The trail links more than thirty sites that are part of the landscape of the Chesapeake Campaign of the War of 1812.

The Ohio Historic Society has placed caches at a number of its historic sites, such as Flint Ridge, Fort Ancient and the Zane Grey Museum. They are planning more!

While it is forbidden for individuals to place geocaches on US Federal lands, the National Park Service is itself getting involved in geocaching. They are a partner in the Star-Spangled Banner Geotrail; the Fort Smith National Historic Site, in Arkansas, has put a multi-stage geocache on their grounds.   Others are sure to follow!

Parks Canada image

Parks Canada actively welcomes geocachers and, with restrictions and procedures, allows individuals to place cases at national historic sites, national parks and national marine conservation areas. Their guide is available online. You can get started hunting for the six caches at the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site in Nova Scotia.

Now get going! Cache in on history!

Learn more about geocaching and set up an account to log your finds at geocaching.com. You will need an account (free to register) to see the locations and other details of the caches.

As with any visit to culturally significant sites, please tread lightly and respectfully.

Volunteers Master Plaster in Gloucester

Gloucester, Virginia, is the home of the Edge Hill Service Station, which faithfully served customers at the corner of U.S. Route 17 (Main Street) and Route 14  for more than fifty years. The Fairfield Foundation purchased it in 2010 and, with strong support from community members and Adventures in Preservation volunteers, is making great progress towards its full restoration and eventual reuse as a preservation resource center for Virginia’s Middle Peninsula.

The Plastering at the Pumps project began with a FedEx delivery of $1600 worth of plastering materials donated by Master of Plaster Finishing Systems. Beginning the following Monday, Gus Rhodes led the happy crew in working with the liquid plaster and quickly pronounced it “fabulous”.

volunteers experimenting with stilts
Checking out the view from on high. Photo courtesy The Fairfield Foundation.

The group had fun trying out stilts and other plastering tools. The report from Dave Brown, co-founder of the Fairfield Foundation, really sums up the experience:

We had a fantastic time and made great progress on four different rooms in the station.  Even better, it was the catalyst for other points of progress – from the repair of some of the iron window and garage door tracks, to the continued work on the exterior light fixtures, and many, many tours during the week and on the weekend.

This was a huge success and we can’t wait for next year at Fairfield!

See more photos of the work on the Fairfield Foundation’s Facebook page.

Sound like fun? Learn more about volunteer preservation projects with Adventures in Preservation.

Materials delivered and ready for application when volunteers arrived the next week – thanks to our friends at Master of Plaster. Photo courtesy The Fairfield Foundation.

Floating Home

Location, location, location. As any real estate agent will tell you, location is everything. What to do then with your house when that perfect spot is no longer what it was?

Cape Cod houseIf you were a resident of Long Point in the 1850s you would have faced that exact dilemma. Long Point, on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, was settled in 1818 because of its proximity to abundant fishing grounds, and by 1846 it had more than 200 residents, a school, a post office, a bakery and a lighthouse. Shore fishing became more difficult, however, and people’s livelihoods declined.

Residents, presumably practical and somewhat frugal, decided to move house, literally. Beginning in 1850, between thirty and forty of the houses were placed on rafts and floated across the harbor to Provincetown. Today these Long Point Floaters, as they’re known, are marked with a white-on-blue plaque showing a house in the water.

plaque indicating a Long Poing FloaterThere are small clusters of them on Atwood, Nickerson and Point Streets and a few on Commercial Street. Some retain their original simple form, while others have been expanded and made quite grand overtime. As you wander Provincetown, it is great fun to look for them proudly wearing the symbol of their journey.
Idyllic summer setting, Provincetown