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BLAST FROM THE PAST, WITH THE BIDDLES

BLAST FROM THE PAST, WITH THE BIDDLES

I was able to break away from the computer last Friday for a trip back to the Baker-Biddle Homestead on Cape Cod to meet Steve Biddle and his wife, Lynn. Steve is the grandson of Francis and Katherine Biddle, who bought the home from Jack Hall in 1949. Judge Francis Biddle served as Attorney General under the Roosevelt administration from 1941-1945 and as the primary American judge at the Nuremberg war crime trials in 1946. Katherine’s accomplishments certainly compare to her husband’s; she was a highly regarded poet, lecturer, and civil rights activist. The Biddles purchased the Bound Brook Island home as a summer escape from Philadelphia, and a place to continue writing surrounded by literary notables. Their son and grandchildren spent summers on the Cape and have many stories of the property – I am so fortunate to have heard firsthand from Steve and Lynn Biddle about theirs.

Frances Biddle in the Gardens

When the Biddles first drove up the drive, I was not sure what to expect; however, as soon as we met, I could feel the energy returning to the homestead. Steve, who towered over most of us, first adjusted his sunglasses, took a quick look around the yard, and without a need for prompting, began to recall his memories of the property. Lynn, who I would succinctly describe as his name-and-date memory counterpart, also had many stories to share.

Daniel or Stephen Biddle with Daughter

The memories Steve unearthed at first reflected his experience as a child, spending long summers with his grandparents. We followed his around the property as he pursued is-it-still-here, I-remember-it-right-there, and other leads. We would take a moment and pause wherever we heard Lynn chime in: ‘Wait, Steve, don’t forget about the…’
During all of this, I took notes – unorganized, on maps and sheets, anywhere I could fit them and with feverish pace. (Once back in the office, I spent many hours working through the notes, updating my maps, revising the chronology of the site, and correcting proper lingo for site features.)


Here are a few of my favorite Biddle-family memories:

Steve’s grandparents couldn’t bear to see their grandsons succumb to the boredom of summer and waste their time, so they hired a tutor when they visited. Steve talked about having to sit inside and study Shakespeare. With a smile, indicative past adolescent angst, Steve began to recite the United States Presidents, in order, just as his tutors had required.

 

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Once we made our way to the Memorial Garden north of the Big House, Steve started to poke around in the toolshed. Not finding what he was searching for, Steve explained that a small dog statue sat in the center of the circular garden. They called him ‘Percival.’

 

Frances Biddle in Deck Chair

During the first site visit, the elm tree at the southwest corner of the Big House received little attention beyond a note of its species. Lynn and Steve explained the tree’s importance to Katherine, in particular, and the cocktail parties she held on the property. I learned that during literary gatherings or parties, wooden chairs and loungers were arranged in a circle under the shade of the tree. There, guest shared selections of poetry, but never their own! Even after Katherine’s passing in the late 1970s, her children and grandchildren continued to gather under the elm for parties, photos, and to enjoy the serenity of the Cape. When Hurricane Bob struck Cape Cod in 1991, the property lost a large number of trees and devastated the elm. Frances, Steve’s mother, never gave up on the tree and to her relief saw the tree gradually improve. Only after hearing that story am I able to appreciate the elms gnarls and scars, and its cherished shade.


Steve and Lynn provided an inexhaustible list of Biddle stories on Bound Brook Island, and my attempts to retell fall short to hearing them from the source. Whether its running down to the beach and building a boardwalk, watching meteor showers at dusk, or hearing the USS Biddle dinner bell ring out from the rugged landscape – those stories make the Baker-Biddle site alive.

Haley Arteaga Blog Post 4

For the past 2 weeks I have continued to work on the annual inventory of collections with the other intern, Rebecca. We have looked at foundry patterns, ship clocks, sheet music, augers, spirals and other significant objects. We’re slowly coming to a close on the inventories. The accessions inventory is the hardest because sometimes there are no descriptions, no locations, or no other information that can help us find a particular object or archive. Although I do not have any pictures of those specific objects I do have a couple pictures of me finding objects!

I was calling out the catalog numbers for the augers or spirals on the top shelf.

I was calling out the catalog numbers for the augers or spirals on the top shelf.

This is the art rack where signs, pictures, paintings, medals, plaques, and rosters are found for the inventory.

This is the art rack where signs, pictures, paintings, medals, plaques, and rosters are found for the inventory.

In other news, I did get to visit Fort Warren on George’s Island, a prisoner of war camp and fortification, Saugus National Historic Site, the site of some of the first ironworks in the colonies, the Adams National Historical Park, where the houses of John Adams and John Quincy Adams are found, and Salem Maritime Site.

Fort Warren on George’s Island

Fort Warren on George’s Island

The water wheel at Saugus National Historic Site

The water wheel at Saugus National Historic Site

John Adams’s birthplace.

John Adams’s birthplace.

The Old House at Peacefield- owned by John and John Quincy Adams.

The Old House at Peacefield- owned by John and John Quincy Adams.

First Blog Entry

First Blog Entry

By: Tyler Ball

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Hi Everyone! My name is Tyler Ball and I am interning with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management BOEM) this summer (Photo of BOEM headquarters in Virginia posted above). As the intern under the archaeology department, my responsibilities are focused on organizing nomination forms for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), specifically shipwrecks located in the Gulf of Mexico. These shipwrecks are important to me not only because they are historically significant, but because I am interested in focusing my future research on shipwrecks effected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Below is a photo of me working on analyzing shipwreck nomination data.

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My first week as an intern was spent getting caught up to speed on the specifics of each nomination case, specifically understanding the status of completion each shipwreck was currently at. This included reviewing several nomination bulletins from the National Register of Historic Places.  Another part of my internship is being included to participate in staff meetings with other branches within the environmental programs department. Below is a picture I took of my office between weeks 1-2.  Week 2 of my internship was spent in compiling information, editing, and drafting nominations. Later in that week I began working on mapping the sites in ArcGIS.

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Madeline Le Blog 4

In week 7, my projects managed to meet. The teen program we’re working with watched a 35 minute excerpt of THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT documentary I’m working on the community resource kit for. They got to meet April and Sara from the NPS and did some discussion activities concerning what it means to be American. They also got to talk to April and Sara about their jobs in NPS, so there’s a future career path that many had never thought about there.

Week 8 meant the start of filming for the teens. We went out to meet with interviewees and got B-roll footage.

 Here we have the teens’ outlines and interview questions! And a peek at the interview schedule in the back.

Here we have the teens’ outlines and interview questions! And a peek at the interview schedule in the back.

This is one group’s meeting with their interviewee

This is one group’s meeting with their interviewee

And to the right is one group in the process of interviewing!

And to the right is one group in the
process of interviewing!

Here’s that first group again, setting up for their interview.

Here’s that first group again, setting up for their interview.

The lighting in the room proved to be a bit of a problem, so good thing we had a lighting kit! The teens set it all up with no problems.

The lighting in the room proved to be a bit of a problem, so good thing we had a lighting kit! The teens set it all up with no problems.

One other thing that I got to do was go through the Mount Hope directory. CHSNE actually started because of a project to beautify the Chinese Burial Grounds at Mount Hope cemetery. The group that went to clean up the area realized that something needed to be done. So with the help of students affiliated with Asian American Studies (specifically the CAPAY program), they documented each grave and scoured government records to create a directory.

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I got a call about finding a grave, so I went into the files and managed to find it easily thanks to the nicely organized directory.

RECASTING HISTORY IN A NEW LIGHT AT LOWELL

RECASTING HISTORY IN A NEW LIGHT AT LOWELL

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On a very rainy day earlier this week (The Scottish might have called it “dreich.” Look it up!), the Designing the Parks team drove out to Lowell, just outside of Boston, for a visit to the regional headquarters of the Archeology Program and Historic Architecture, Conservation and Engineering Center. Before ultimately deciding to pursue a master’s degree in architectural conservation, I had considered both archeology and objects conservation as alternate career paths, so needless to say, I was very excited about this visit as it seemed to combine all of my interests in one place!

Our morning began with a series of presentations by archeologists Bill Griswold and Meg Waters, historic structures conservator Rebekah Krieger, and objects conservator Joannie Bottkol. After breaking for lunch, we were given an in-depth tour of the conservation labs. The highlight was getting to hear the interns describe some of the objects they were individually working to preserve and restore and how they planned to treat them. I was in awe of their knowledge, skill, and patience to do such fine, detailed, and very scientific work!

One of the things I love most about working with cultural resources is that it is such an interdisciplinary field. You get to regularly work and collaborate with professionals from a variety of academic backgrounds and learn from their deep knowledge of highly specialized subjects. Although the Archeology Program and Historic Architecture, Conservation and Engineering Center at Lowell and the Olmsted Center in Boston each have different specialties, they all use in-depth examinations of the physical remains of the past to gain a better understanding of history. These examinations may, in turn, be used to inform how a park is managed, preserved, and interpreted for the public.

Research on newly acquired cultural resources or a follow-up investigation from a reframed point of view can sometimes recast well-known historic events, people, or places in a new light. During her presentation, Meg Watters explained how recent archeological investigations at Minute Man National Historical Park were able to locate the site of the Revolutionary War skirmish known as Parker’s Revenge that occurred just after the battles of Lexington and Concord. The discovery will help the park rework how it interprets the battle and bring greater focus to a previously overlooked event in the war’s history.

Rebekah Krieger had revelations of her own while working on a Historic Structures Report for the Thompson A.M.E. Zion Church at the Harriett Tubman National Historical Park in Auburn, NY. Through a close inspection of the church’s surviving historic fabric (including paint analysis) she discovered that the building – which some of her peers had considered a fairly plain, vernacular building – was actually designed by a noted local architect and still possessed elaborate painted details hidden underneath more recent coats of paint. These discoveries underscored the fact that the now shabby and deteriorated church had been an important community center in the 19th and 20th centuries, a place where every kind of social event occurred – from baptisms and speeches to clam bakes and the funeral of Harriet Tubman.

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Rebekah Krieger presents her research on the A.M.E. Zion Church at Harriet Tubman National Historical Park.

Meanwhile, a few doors away in the conservation lab, interns working to preserve the personal possessions of Mamie Eisenhower discovered pills in an old silver case that shed light on the former First Lady’s health. Her Pepto Bismol pink plastic telephone with its bespoke silver cover was another highlight of the tour which revealed more to me about Mrs. Eisenhower’s personal taste and sense of style than almost any biography ever could. Apparently, there is some speculation that it was her love for the color pink that may have led to its association with the female sex!

All told, our tour of the NPS facilities at Lowell revealed the vast range of methods and approaches that can be used to investigate the physical remains of the past in order to enhance our understanding of history as we seek to bring it into the present. An enlightening and inspiring, indeed!

Until next time,

Clare

SERVE OUR LAND AND SEEK ITS LEGACY

SERVE OUR LAND AND SEEK ITS LEGACY

The National Park Service is not just about preserving wilderness, hiking rural trails, or providing the quintessential American road trip. The Service – through preservation, interpretation, and collaboration – provides visitors a space to compose their own journey, from the past into the future. It is by far impossible to fully comprehend another person’s perspective or life story; however, public spaces allow people to share experiences and build an understanding together. The integrative qualities of the landscape may be subtle or awesome, but nevertheless make profound impacts on our lives.

I was reminded this week of the five tenets that guide the Designing the Parks experience: respect place, engage all, model sustainability, design beyond boundaries, and communicate clearly. I thought deeply on these principles; both, their application during my internship, and their application in my career.

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Respect Place

Respect, like preserve, is both descriptive and prescriptive. Initially the word might elicit a flashback to your childhood and the morals you learned then. (Make sure to give up your seat to your elder!) I like to think that ‘respect’ encompasses not just what you should do, but what you can do. You have the ability to express your gratitude and pay it forward.

Looking ahead beyond this summer, I acknowledge the fact that I feel subjectively connected the land and inherently separate simultaneously. (Now, how does that work?) I feel that my impacts – both good and bad – extend beyond my own experience; and therefore, my actions respect each conceivable impact.

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Engage All

This is one of my favorite principles because it is both a virtue and an ultimatum when working collaboratively. I quickly learned during my undergraduate career that group work was essentially ‘real-life’ training. No single person is able to know every fact, understand every perspective, or excel at every skill – that is completely ludicrous. But when you include every voice, you (collectively) imagine what you are capable of!

Collaboration is why I have chosen to remain in school and pursue studies in historic preservation. (Landscape architecture is often considered to be interdisciplinary field that incorporates plant science, earth science, design, psychology/sociology, architecture, and history. But after graduation, I felt that there were more leads to follow and connections to be made.) A landscape architect or preservationist has a voice to contribute to every conversation. I often feel that it would do the country wonders to have more preservationists in politics. Imagine that!

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Model Sustainability

Sustainability; now that is a buzz-word that I have heard thousands of times. But all in all, it boils down to a really important message: take only what you can give in return. Just because you can does not mean you should.

Right now, our world faces a lot of concerns, especially climate change/uncertainty/resilience. With ever-advancing technology, we have the tendency to look back and shame our past actions and choices. And while we might feel that acknowledging our past mistakes make their future impact less harmful, progress lies in the actions we take moving forward. As an intern, I feel it is especially important to hold myself to high standards and keep aware of my impacts.

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Design beyond Boundaries

Rules and regulations can be irksome, but are necessary to organize, unite, and guide our diverse community. When it comes to design, I like to think of myself as innovative; however, I know that unconsciously I follow invisible limits. (It is not an easy task to imagine what you cannot imagine could be imagined!) So, at the Olmsted Center where we use templates, office-wide systems, and follow a work flow, you would initially think that we stay happily confined. Wrong! We challenge ourselves not to dismiss a single question and to discuss every crazy idea. (If you join us for lunch, you would understand what I mean.)

At the same time, ‘design beyond boundaries’ speaks to the nature of our work and how its effects reach far beyond a site’s margin. This is a tremendous opportunity, often, to expand our scope of impact and collaborate with even more people.

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Communicate Clearly

Communication is the key! The success of your works relies on your ability to apply it, share it, and use it; therefore, it is half of what we do. (For instance, I am writing a blog right now so that I can begin a conversation with about why landscape preservation is important.) Preparing documents can be a tedious task, but they provide the initiative for future action.

“Serve our land and seek its legacy”

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It is a service; a calling to put forth your contribution greater than yourself. It is ours; to share, squander, memorialize, forget, construct, destruct, discover, retell, imagine, preserve, marvel, and cherish, together – so always respect. Land; not a parcel, property, or site, although legally understood; instead an ever-expanding network, blended borders, and intrinsically whole. Do not just seek answers; pursue selflessly those unquenchable questions, open yourself to frequent discovery and introspection, and connect with those who you encounter on this adventure. Reconsider how legacies carry forth our past into our future, and the irreplaceable lessons to be found within the world that surrounds you.

Aleck Tan – Blog 4

FERN CANYON

For the past 4 years that I’ve been living in Humboldt, I’ve always wanted to go to Fern Canyon, which is located in Prairie Creek State Park. It was only today that I finally did it.

I’ve always imagined that it would be magical, sort of mystical, to have ferns just growing on the sides of a canyon and to walk through creek flowing through it. And it was. It was magical and mystical, and more. Being there felt different than being surrounded by redwoods. It felt primitive, like you were in a different land.

At the beginning our hike, there were a ton of tourists. By the end of the day, the crowd just about cleared out of Fern Canyon.

At the beginning our hike, there were a ton of tourists. By the end of the day, the crowd just about cleared out of Fern Canyon.

The five finger ferns and sword ferns covered the walls, and small moss-covered waterfalls flowed into the stream. Plank bridges and logs allowed easier stream crossings, but it’s a lot more adventurous crossing the stream itself.

Tall fern-covered canyon walls

Tall fern-covered canyon walls

Stream crossings

Stream crossings

Close up of five finger fern.

Close up of five finger fern.

At one point, there was a large log jam, so you have to weave in and out of the logs to get through. This was where I fell from a log, feet first into the water. While my shoes are waterproof in the outside, they are not waterproof in the inside, nor do they prevent water from going in. My right foot and socks were wet and from then on out, I stopped caring if my right foot was in deep stream water. That made it easier to walk across the stream.

After walking for a little bit longer, we decided to turn around. We walked back to our car, where my sandals were waiting for me in the trunk. I am beyond thrilled to have experienced Fern Canyon, but next time, I will definitely just wear my sandals.

Fern Canyon and stream crossings.

Fern Canyon and stream crossings.

7/16/17 Update

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I went back to Fern Canyon to show my family around and wore sandals, which was the best decision in the world.

Aleck Tan – Blog 3

TALL TREES GROVE AND REDWOOD CREEK TRAIL

This summer, I made it a goal to go on a hike every weekend. I thought to myself, this is one of the greatest wonders in the world, and this might be the only chance I get to explore this national park for two whole months. So far, I have accomplished that goal, but I’ve mostly gone on short, easy hikes with my neighbors in park housing. However, my neighbor and colleague Joni has wanted to do a long hike in Redwood National Park for a while now. My fiancé was also visiting for the Fourth of July weekend, so I wanted him to go on a hike with us and also experience Redwood National Park. We decided that today was the perfect day for a long hike.

After getting recommendations and guidance from our cultural resource manager here at Redwood National Park, we decided to do the Tall Trees Trail which then leads to Redwood Creek Trail for a total of 9.7 miles. We parked one car at the Tall Trees trailhead, and one car at the Redwood Creek trailhead so we were only going one way (thankfully the downhill way), and could shuttle ourselves back to the start rather than going back around and hiking uphill for miles on end.

We started our hike at the Tall Trees trailhead with mosquitoes in the air and a nice cold breeze. The Tall Trees trail is a 1.5 mile hike that leads you to the Tall Trees Grove, where in a 1-mile loop, the redwoods tower at least 320 feet over you. We decided to hike to the Tall Trees Grove, which was an easy feat from the trailhead because it was all downhill, but it was an 800 feet elevation difference in 1.5 miles. We met some people climbing back up to the trailhead who did not seem to be enjoying that uphill climb, and we met some people who had great big smiles across their faces. Joni and I were grateful that we wouldn’t have to do the same exhausting climb and were smiling all the way downhill.

Hike to Tall Trees Grove consisted of many different types of trees.

Hike to Tall Trees Grove consisted of many different types of trees.

When we arrived at the Tall Trees Grove, it was overwhelming how beautiful the redwoods are. Their bark shines a magnificent deep red color, especially when it is illuminated by the sun. There are cobwebs that live between the bark, and seem to sparkle in sunlight: this is Joni’s favorite part about the trees. There is much to marvel at with redwood trees. While most people look up to see the redwoods, I tend to look down as I hike to avoid roots and rocks, but also to see my own favorite part about the redwoods, which is the understory.

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Spider webs in between the bark

Spider webs in between the bark

At the bottom of these tall redwoods, little plants cover the ground as part of the understory of the redwoods. My favorite plants are the sorrels. They look like clovers, in that they cover the ground and have 3 leaves that look like hearts. They are considered to be under the oxalis family. I describe them as fluffy, but Joni strongly disagrees and says they do not look fluffy at all. In my opinion, it’s almost as if they are so soft and almost cloud-like, and they could support your weight if you decided to roll around on them (but they most definitely cannot because they are so fragile). I just think they are the best part about these redwoods, which is surprising to some since you’d think anyone’s favorite part about the redwoods is the redwoods themselves. But the truth is, redwoods are part of a whole system that allows them to thrive, from the climate and elevation to the understory and the fires that they withstand. Each part plays an important role in helping redwoods grow.

 

Redwood sorrel that grows in the understory

Redwood sorrel that grows in the understory

We hiked around Tall Trees Grove for a half mile, and connected with the Redwood Creek Trail, which takes you to a summer footbridge across the creek. We decided to stop and eat lunch by the creek mainly because there were no mosquitoes hovering about but also because it was sunny and warm. After our lunch, there was about 7.7 miles left on the hike. For the first .7 miles, it was uphill, but for the rest of the hike, it was relatively flat and easy, with multiple small stream crossings and bridge crossings.

 

Lunch spot by Redwood Creek.

Lunch spot by Redwood Creek.

 

The 7.7 mile hike along Redwood Creek was beautiful. There were numerous swimming holes to swim at, which was very tempting, but we didn’t have enough time to stop and swim. On your left, there are young redwood trees and sword ferns growing, while on your right, there are hazelnut, red alders and maple trees growing. They were two drastically different types of forests living side by side, only separated by the trail. My favorite part about the tall and skinny trees is how the light shines through their light bright green leaves.

Sunlight through the bright foliage.

Sunlight through the bright foliage.

 

I’m not quite sure what this tree is called but it is covered in moss and reminds me of the scene in The Hobbit where the company gets swarmed by spiders.

I’m not quite sure what this tree is called but it is covered in moss and reminds me of the scene in The Hobbit where the company gets swarmed by spiders.

 

 

With about 3 miles left, I started getting tired, but kept trudging on. We crossed another summer footbridge to get across the creek, and were met with blackberry bushes and wild cucumbers on the other side. I tried a Himalaya berry, which is one of the plants that I map for my project, and it was sweet and juicy. The wild cucumbers were interesting because they had soft spikes on them.

The rest of the hike was easy, but we were glad to reach the car at the Redwood Creek trailhead. We were also very glad that we could take the car and drive back to the Tall Trees trailhead rather than doing the 9.7 miles back to the trailhead. After shuttling back to the car at the Tall Trees trailhead, we started on our drive back home.

 

 

On the way home, we stopped at the Redwood Creek Overlook, which is a scenic stop that lets you see the Redwood Creek and the surrounding redwoods. When we stopped though, the clouds and the fog were rolling in and we weren’t able to see much. We also stopped at the Lady Bird Johnson Grove, where there is a footbridge that crosses the main road, the Bald Hills road. The footbridge allowed you to see the redwoods about 30 feet off the ground, so it was a different perspective, especially as the fog rolled in and seemed wispy amongst the trees.

Redwood Creek overlook

Redwood Creek overlook

Lady Bird Johnson Grove footbridge across Bald Hills Road.

Lady Bird Johnson Grove footbridge across Bald Hills Road.

It’s one thing to talk about the park and show pictures of the park, but it’s another thing to experience it. Words can never describe how magnificent the Redwood National Park is. It’s no wonder thousands of people travel from across the world to experience it themselves.

 

Leah’s Blog #2

Week two at Saint-Gaudens was focused on curatorial and collections management. This entails inventory, catalogue, object labeling, rehousing items, and safety concerns/near miss reports. Our main project was inventory, we had to account for objects in the Collections building, Aspet, Little Studio, New Gallery, Atrium, Stables, and Visitor Center. To help us locate and document items we would log on to the computer and use Re-Discovery, which is a catalogue database for all the objects at Saint-Gaudens. It can tell you whether the item is out on loan or at conservation. Is gives a small description about the item, what the item is made of, and who made it. It definitely narrows down the search for certain items. Abigail and I made a binder that separates into sections that correspond to the building located on the grounds here at Saint-Gaudens. Best part of inventory was going through and cataloging all the books that were either bought, given, or written by Saint-Gaudens. Aside from cataloging we complete our weekly cleaning.

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The third week focused on conservation and preservation. Out project for the week was to complete annual cleaning for bronze statues and reliefs with the objective of learning basic conservation techniques for bronze objects. The techniques ensure protection against environmental factors such as pollen, dust, water, and insects. We started off with the Shaw Memorial. The SCA interns helped us since it was huge and very details with hard to reach places. The next day we cleaned the farragut statue and throughout the week all the bronze reliefs in the Atrium and the Diana in the Little Studio. We start off by rinsing then using a mild soap (orvus) we wash the piece. Once it is completely dry we apply a thin layer of wax and let it sit for ten minutes and then we buff it out.

c3c4c5Tasco is their security for the alarm systems throughout the park and they came to do a check and switch out the batteries for some of the artwork in the New Gallery. Abigail and I got to learn how to disconnect and change the batteries on the alarms, while also carefully moving and handling the objects. After we were done, we did a test on the items to make sure that the alarms would go off in the case of someone trying to move the art. We also got to visit a Paper conservationist who showed us her studio and some of the documents and pictures she was working on.

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GREENWAYS – IF YOU CAN DIG IT, DO IT!

GREENWAYS – IF YOU CAN DIG IT, DO IT!

Honest disclosure: if I could redesign a city, every street would become a park.

If there is one thing I learned during my time thus far in Boston, is that Bostonians love their parks. And that is no surprise; between Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace, the historic Boston Commons, and the Greenway, there is no shortage of urban oasis in Boston!

I have always found the Greenway particularly interesting; the project bridges between urban rejuvenation and cultural restoration. I had the absolute pleasure this week to meet Keelin Caldwell, an Associate Director of Programs with the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, and join her on a tour of the Greenway to learn a little bit more about its history and its future. We began the tour in Chinatown and made our way north, stopping here and there to admire sites and cool off in the shade. Many of the facts that Keelin shared with us surprised me: the Greenway hosts over 400 events each year and that it has been instrumental in the revival of food trucks in the city. Compared to other park projects in the last few decades, the Greenway leads the way using a 50-50 funding model between public and non-profit sources. The R.F.K. Greenway oversees the development, maintenance, and governance of the Greenway, but the city supports the Conservancy. I love how the Greenway is designed to accommodate the needs of casual, spontaneous use. Little things, like moveable furniture, are often avoided in parks because of the risk of misuse or theft; however, the furniture on the Greenway allows visitors to create their own experience of the place. Keelin also talked about how since the Greenway opened, it has been coined the happiest place in Boston. I totally agree. The Greenway hosts an impressive collection of horticultural variety; I was taken back by how well many of the large trees and plantings were adapted to a human-environment. Unlike a traditional park, the Greenway’s plants root into a highly engineered ground, because it sits above the tunnel.

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The Greenway from above. Source: Wikimedia.

The Greenway’s history did not start so ‘green.’ In fact, it was anything but. Before the linear park existed, the 3.5 miles long swath of the city was divided by an elevated highway (Interstate-93) that was constructed around the 1950s. Similar to many infrastructure projects of that period, cities sought highway project to alleviate road congestion, gentrify older districts, and divide city neighborhoods. When constructed through Boston, Interstate-93 cut through buildings, broke entire neighborhoods from the city downtown, and reconstructed the social space of the city – unfortunately for the worse.

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In 1982, a project began to revisit the existence of the elevated highway. The city chose an ambitious project: to put the highway underground. The Central Artery/Tunnel Project was the first of its kind, at least at its scale (and budget). In 1991, ground finally broke and the construction started; it lasted 16 long years. During the construction period, a call for proposals was released, to envision a new use for the restored land. The Conservancy, various architects and landscape architects, planners, and engineers collaborated together to compose a new park for the city of Boston. The design incorporated public art, social spaces, transportation connections, horticultural resources, cultural sites, play spaces, and venues, large and small. The many components of the park attach linearly above where the interstate traces underground. The park, as Keelin described, is a new type of park for Boston, because it focuses on ‘urban modern.’ Finally in 2006, Boston’s Greenway came to fruition.

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Big Dig planning. Source: Mass DOT

 

My interests in landscape architecture tend to focus around infrastructure and transportation. I believe streets and rails to be some of the most persistent construction in out landscapes and cities. They structure the development of cities, support the lives of millions of people over hundreds of years, and are often hardly given second glance. The Big Dig contrasts many of these emphases. At first, it was a highway aligned independent of Boston’s existing transportation network, and divided city life, rather than connect it. The Greenway gave the people back that portion of the city, but in many ways it is a complete reinvention upon a scar that will never truly heal. The highway incision was a city surgery gone wrong, but I think the Greenway exemplifies urban social resilience.

Learning about the Greenway reminded me of a project (currently underway) in my home city of Hartford, Connecticut. In the 1950s, Interstate-84 was constructed through the central core of the city. Similar to Interstate-93 in Boston, the elevated highway divided downtown from the northern districts, demolished entire ethnic neighborhoods, and turned the breadth of Hartford into a giant parking lot. Over the past half-century, the viaduct has aged, pressing Hartford to plan reconstruction.

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View of Hartford during the last few months of construction. Interstate-84 runs east-west through the city, narrowly avoiding Bushnell Park, the State Capitol, and Union Station. Source: Hartford Preservation Alliance

The Interstate-84 Project began to study different options for the highway and sought public input. I often dream about Hartford undertaking their own Big Dig project, reconnecting Downtown, and spurring a renaissance of city life. After following the project’s progress over the last few years, an Interstate-84 tunnel appears out of question and I fear a reverberation of tough times for Hartford.

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Construction of the Interstate-84 viaduct, with historic Union Station in the background. Source: CT DOT

So, how does this relate to landscape preservation? Everything!

Although, infrastructure projects of this scale often leave complete physical destruction in their path, they create a space to reconnect parts of the city previously severed. Landscape preservation is just as much about social memories and character of the environment, as it is about perpetuating existing elements. When you walk along the Greenway in Boston, you walk through dozens of neighborhoods simultaneously. The Greenway’s design expresses the culture and history of the city in subtle ways. Although, I would have to see more historical narrative sewn into the design, I think that Bostonians already recognize the park as part of their own histories.

PARKS FOR PAY AND PLAY

PARKS FOR PAY AND PLAY

This week, I got to check off two very different accomplishments. First, the draft history of the Saugus CLR is complete! While historical research and synthesis is a familiar exercise, thinking about the past in terms of landscape was largely new to me and a fun lesson in reading familiarly themed texts through an alternate lens. My real concern, however, was the mapping. When I started at the Olmsted Center last year, I’d only ever used QGIS (the free counterpart to ArcGIS), dabbled in the Adobe Suite, and never even heard of AutoCAD. Thankfully Professor Tim and the rest of the team at OCLP have a seemingly endless patience for questions and an endless supply of instructional literature.

 

There are a multitude of benefits to working with OCLP, but to me, the technical training is the most practically valuable. In a saturated job market for recent graduates, I’ve never seen another organization willing to hire someone who lacks independent working knowledge of their most heavily used programs. Even rarer is finding a job that’s willing to provide comprehensive training rather than redistribute responsibilities. This is especially important for young professionals and recent graduates in terms of software like CAD, ArcGIS, and the Adobe Suite that can be prohibitively expensive, yet are part of an increasingly required skill set. I still have a long way to go, but completing the Saugus draft maps is a great feeling.

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My other accomplishment came from taking a vacation from the park service to spend more time with the park service. On Thursday, I completed the Wild Caves Tour at Mammoth Cave National Park – an intense 6 hour, 6 mile cave hike that involves frequently squeezing through holes no more than 9 inches high, army crawling long distances under foot high shelves, straddling 20 foot drops, and scooting up vertical rock shafts. A good friend rates fun as Type 1 (fun while you do it, fun after) and Type 2 (terrifying while you do it, fun after), and it was a healthy mix of both!

 

What stood out to me more than the physical challenge, however, was how well the rangers balance adventure with natural and cultural resource history. Learning about the Mammoth Cave cultural landscape was especially interesting because there’s both a subterranean and surface history. Inside the cave, our guides described not only the geological processes that formed the cave, but highlighted the variety of individuals who explored and shaped what is now known as Mammoth Cave since as early as the 1800s. This included notable contributions from enslaved people and women, whose stories are not always highlighted. Above ground, we got lucky to catch a ranger talk highlighting the families who historically lived within the modern park boundary, their land use and impact, and ancestors’ involvement in the formation of the park. This, of course, made me think of everyone at OCLP! In the end, the ranger giving the talk revealed she was the great great great granddaughter of an influential caving family that lived on the property, one in a long line of cave professionals, and the first woman in the family to lead to cave tours. Experiences like these, and the enthusiasm of park employees to share their cultural and natural resource knowledge, are another reason I love working with the park service AND getting to be a tourist.

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Off to a great start at CUVA

Off to a great start at CUVA

by: Eric Olson

The first two weeks of my internship at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CUVA) have been a real whirlwind, leading me all over the park and meeting so many new people who keep the Park running on a daily basis. Within the first week I probably read about 200 pages! Some people read fiction in their free time, I read archaeological reports. I also got to go outside and see first-hand some of the sites I had been reading about. It is one thing to read about an archaeological site and see it on a topographic map, but it is a very different perspective in person.

The projects I will be working on at CUVA are playing to my strengths. Heading into this internship, I was coming off of a yearlong AmeriCorps service with the Ohio History Connection and the Ohio Historic Preservation Office. I had spent a lot of time over the past year documenting archaeological sites that had not been formally reported in Summit County. Some of the sites I had added had turned out to be in CUVA, though not in their management.

Using these skills I had picked up during my year of AmeriCorps service, my supervisor gave me two boxes full of artifacts that were recently discovered by visitors to the park. My task for the week was to analyze the objects and write short descriptions including temporally diagnostic attributes about each of the artifacts. I spent a lot of time in the lab using Munsell Color charts, calipers, and scales. It was a lot of fun since I enjoy delving deep into historical research and finding provenience to artifacts.

One of the artifacts I examined was a Woodland (1000 B.C.—A.D. 1000) gorget made of slate. The prehistory of the Cuyahoga Valley is diverse and rich, full of odd cultural patterns that sometimes do not conform to archaeological trends in Ohio. For example, earthwork building really takes off in the Cuyahoga Valley after the Hopewell culture (A.D. 1—400). Based on the location of this gorget, it seems likely that it was manufactured by someone during the Late Woodland (A.D. 400-1000) or Late Prehistoric (A.D. 1000-1650) periods.

Starting next week, I’ll be diving into the historical research and previous investigations a few new sites around the park.

DR. STRANGELOVE: OR HOW NAZI SCIENTISTS ENDED UP ON LONG ISLAND

DR. STRANGELOVE: OR HOW NAZI SCIENTISTS ENDED UP ON LONG ISLAND

Even sleepy weeks at the Olmsted Center prove to be interesting! While much of the office was conducting fieldwork in Maryland, I was mapping and continuing to research my site: Long Island (Boston Harbor: Long Island, not New York: Long Island). If you’re a history geek with a short attention span like I am, you too probably find yourself falling down a variety of rabbit holes while doing research. Lucky for me, Long Island has many rabbit holes to explore. I figured I should share with you one of my favorite rabbit holes which has to do with Long Island and ingloriousshrugOperation Paperclip (I prefer Project Paperclip, I think the alliteration is nice, however it’ll be many years before anyone puts me in charge of naming secret military operations).

As WWII began to wrap up, the US government began to address the question of what would happen to the alliance between the U.S. and the Soviet Union after the defeat of Nazi Germany. Quickly and quietly, the U.S. military began to whisk away key Nazi scientists in the hopes of keeping them and their secrets out of Soviet hands. The military absolved the scientists of their war crimes in return for help in gaining a military advantage over the Soviets. The scientists would be given new names and lives, and be allowed to settle amongst the American people.

One of the places the freshly recruited Nazi scientists would end up was…. LONG ISLAND. RIGHT ON OUR CITY’S DOORSTEP. Housed in Fort Strong and just out of public gaze, the scientists were smuggled onto the island in the dead of night. Living facilities were staffed by German POWs so that word of the operation would not spread to the mainland. Here, the scientists held debates and read papers, the constant chattering in German would lend the fort the nickname of “the German Hotel”.

 

One of the most infamous Nazi scientists housed on the Island was Wernher Von Braun (shown to the right), the scientist who helped us put a satellite into the sky and *almost* Wernher Von Braunwon a presidential medal of freedom until a close advisor reminded the president that such medals were not to be bestowed upon former Nazis. Von Braun was known as “the Professor” amongst leaders of the Third Reich and had always had ambitious dreams of space exploration. These dreams were realized in his successful career in the U.S. after the end of World War II.

The next time you have a chance, take a look across the harbor and contemplate the hidden histories our country has. One of my favorites is that Nazi infiltration did occur, ingloriousbut not as the American public feared it would. We ourselves brought Nazis to the shores of the United States. The more you know!

 

 

A few sources to check out (I promise I didn’t make this up):

http://legacy.wbur.org/2010/08/19/project-paperclip

https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol-58-no-3/operation-paperclip-the-secret-intelligence-program-to-bring-nazi-scientists-to-america.html

http://www.operationpaperclip.info/

Along the Canal: Caves, Dams, and Engineering Feats

While in undergrad, I was fortunate enough to attend a college that was what most would call a
“nature enthusiast’s playground”. This intersection of several different ecosystems was a wonder
for the biology students, and provided comfort for many other people within the campus
community. There’s something soothing about the collision of different natural elements: water,
wind, stones, silt, earthy soil, and all things in between. It’s as if the natural course of the world
was some specialized celebration created just for you, at that given moment.

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At the beginning of my second week at the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, I
was once again brought on introductory trips around the area. With 184.5 miles of vast terrain,
the park boasted many historical structures and sites, heavily encouraged by my park-counterpart
Sophie, to visit. The week began with a trip to Harper’s Ferry, a combination of natural and
manmade intersections.

It was at this location where the Potomac River and the Shenandoah River converged,
interlocking flowing waters down the spanse of the region. Along the rivers were large bridges
and pathways full of railroad tracks, still frequented by a selection of cargo companies on the
Eastern coast. Sophie and I accompanied many members of the park’s administration to discuss
the necessitation of the building of a pedestrian ramp that was within compliance with the
American Disabilities Act. As a public park and wonderful natural and cultural resource,
Harper’s Ferry drew in crowds of various creeds during most visitation seasons. It was only
logical that issues for many pedestrians, cyclists, families and disabled individuals be addressed
in this joint project. During this meeting I learned more about the extensive planning and
consideration these good-natured projects went through. Who knew it could be so time-laborious
to build something as practical as a ramp?

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The next week was peppered with site visits to a collection of dams in the area. Accompanied by
our resident geology intern Justin, I went caving for the first time. I learned about the various
criteria used to classify caves as well as a selection of facts revolving around preventative safety
measures. Sadly my excitement of potentially finding a family of bats or something was
unfounded, maybe next time perhaps.

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In regards to the formulation of the administrative history ethnography, I spent most of my
office-days engulfed in endless volumes of foundational history texts, superintendent’s
compendiums, and liken texts. There’s so much to take in about the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal
National Historical Park, and I’ve only just scratched the surface of it all.

Haley Arteaga Blog Post 3

Hi, guys! I’ve been pretty busy with my internship and other experiences outside of it for the past 2 weeks. I’ve explored so many different places, such as Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and visited the Harvard Semitic Museum and their Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, Longfellow House- Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site and the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. The diversity of National Lands is mind blowing. These two houses were amazing inside and out. So much history, so much culture all wrapped up in one house! It knocks me off my feet every time…

 

Nubble Lighthouse in Maine

Nubble Lighthouse in Maine

Harvard Semitic Museum

Harvard Semitic Museum

Longfellow House

Longfellow House

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I just had to visit the Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Vermont!

I just had to visit the Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Vermont!

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller House

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller House

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The annual inventory of collections has gone really well. I’m getting to see so many different archives and objects from around the Navy Yard and the different buildings within the park. I met the newest intern, Rebecca, and we work together on the inventory. We’ve actually gotten pretty far which is great because there are quite a lot pages within the 3 different inventories we work on (the accessions inventory, the random sample, and the controlled property inventory). I do not have many pictures of the inventory work I’ve been doing but I will have some for you all soon. I can show you a picture of the toolboxes we had to look through to find only two hammerheads out of what felt like hundreds. Foundry patterns are the next big task because there are shelves and shelves of them. Foundry patterns are the wooden pieces that they created to replicate the different parts and pieces of a ship so they wouldn’t have to make new pieces each time. Very, very interesting!

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PAMET PROGRESS!

PAMET PROGRESS!

We’ve been mapping like crazy here at the Olmsted Center. After a little over a week of diligent work in AutoCAD, I’m happy to report that the site plans for the Pamet Cranberry Bog at Cape Cod National Seashore are coming along nicely!

The process of mapping the Pamet bogs started out by following a paper trail of reports and other written documents from the NPS archives. These will come largely into play when I begin writing the Cultural Landscape Inventory report that will go along with my site plans, but they also formed the basis for my initial understanding of the site. The 1979 hand-drawn map below that was part of this research was a great starting point that really helped to clarify the layout and key features of the cranberry bogs as I prepared to start building my maps in AutoCAD…

1979

From this more traditional, “book-based” phase of research, I began to gather together photos and other geographic and spatial data that would help visually inform my site plans. The photos and field notes we produced during our visit to Cape Cod in June were a first essential piece of the puzzle, full of first-hand observations and measurements that I could reference for my drawings. Here are two of the notated site plans from our field work on the Cape that proved to be particularly useful (Many thanks to Melissa’s and Jill’s groups for these!).

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In my blog post last week, I expressed a longing for more traditional (some might say “old-fashioned”) ways of creating site plans, but the ready availability of detailed, accurate, and up-to-date geographic and spatial data online is one of the many ways in which computer drafting is such an improvement over older methods. Laser scans, property boundaries, and detailed aerial images – all of them were only a few clicks away.

Using websites, such as the Massachusetts Office of Geographic Information (MassGIS), I was able to compile a collection of aerial images of the Pamet site from the last 20+ years. Having access to images from a range of years and seasons has been invaluable to my drafting process. Images that were captured during the winter months offered much clearer views of features that might otherwise have been hidden by the dense tree growth (such as trails leading through the surrounding hills), while images taken during the summer showed the full extent of the tree canopy. Perhaps most importantly for the Pamet Cranberry Bog, these aerial photographs helped me to accurately locate the old drains and canals that had been used to irrigate the cranberry plants and flood the bogs during the winter months.

2005 Ortho Detail2015-ortho-e1500063541986.jpg

Topographic data has also helped me to locate key features that would have been difficult and time-consuming to find, such as a series of sand pits that line the perimeter of the bogs. These sand pits (outlined in red in the topographic image below) would have been used to periodically spread sand over the cranberry fields to control weed growth. Features such as these would have been a challenge to locate in person due to the site’s extremely overgrown condition and its large scale. With topographic contour lines, it only took a matter of seconds.

Sandpits

With these combined resources at my disposal and my unfamiliarity with AutoCAD quickly becoming a thing of the past, I’ve been able to complete my “CAD” base map. For someone who came into this internship having never used the program, I’m pretty proud of the progress I’ve made so far! Next up, I’ll be moving my base map into Illustrator to start making it look a little less like a sci-fi candy store and more like a series of overgrown cranberry bogs.

Until then, I’ll leave you with these little beauties!

CADPametLrgCADPametSml

MAPPING, IRON, AND GEESE – BUT NOT AT THE SAME TIME

MAPPING, IRON, AND GEESE – BUT NOT AT THE SAME TIME

I am still here, mapping Baker-Biddle, but do not worry. The end is in sight! I finished the existing condition mapping for the Baker-Biddle site this week and just in time to begin a planting design project with Saugus Iron Works! This week honestly had everything: site visits, webinars, AutoCAD mapping, Adobe Illustrator editing, visits to the Charlestown Navy Yard, and a visit to a landscape architecture firm.

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A strawberry patch just off the nature trail; it will provide divisions to be planted along the stream.

To give a short introduction – and for the full story, please refer to Ella – Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site is a restored industrial landscape and visitor center retelling its manufacturing history from the 17th century. Truly the birthplace of the industry in America! The factory harnessed the power of the river and sits in a small valley. Visitors descend into the valley, and the town seems to disappear. It is a very introspective site. The forge and ironworks provide demonstrations occasionally, and pathways lead you throughout the site. The garden around the visitor center and the entrance are beautifully maintained, and as one gets closer to the river, the aesthetic shifts into a more natural setting.

A week before heading over to visit Saugus, I joined a phone discussion about the Branching Out project there in August and the need for a planting plan. The team is tackling the eastern riparian buffer between a stone wall and the pathway. Currently the grassy slope keeps erosion at bay, but attracts the local hordes of geese. (During our site visit, we saw plenty of them and their mess.) The planting design for the 230 feet of streamside needs to balance erosion protection, goose deterrence, and all without interrupting views from across the river. Another goal of the project is to use locally sourced and native vegetation.

 

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We measured the stone wall, distance perpendicular to the path, and determined the width of the planting bed.

Ella, Chris, and I (from the Olmsted Center) met up with the Saugus team, who gave us a tour of the house, visitor center, and site. Unfortunately, the rain made for a soggy, gray day. The site for the Branching Out planting measures approximately 5 by 150 feet. We determined that there will be four planting zone types within that space. The northernmost zone will need to be low growing herbaceous perennials and woody shrubs in order to maintain a view to the wayfinding signs and workshop. The next zone can have medium shrubs in the mix, and the third zone can accommodate small trees. The fourth and final zone is the most constrained; it is a 33 foot long segment directly between the path and the rock wall, which means that it measures less than 4 feet wide.
Although the planting design is not formal, consideration needs to be taken to ensure that it will be easy to maintain in the future. Design is not just about creating an aesthetically pleasing setting; the design must be practical and feasible.

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Planting Zones: This is the view of the stream-side, looking east from the wooden dock. The different planting zones react to the physical and visual limitations of the site.

We also had the opportunity during our visit to explore the collection of artifacts from the site. You will never see another group of people so excited about old wood!

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Taking a tour of what remains from past structures at Saugus.

So long for now,
Jill

 

ACE Blog – Jill Miller

Cape Cod National Seashore came alive this past week. A portion of the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation, Minute Man National Historical Park, SUNY-ESF (Environmental Science and Forestry), and Salem Maritime National Historical Site staff and interns participated in a 5-day field workshop – collecting and inventorying Cape Cod National Seashore’s mid-modern homes, Pamet Cranberry Bog, and Baker-Biddle property. Standing on the homestead and experiencing the landscape firsthand invigorates my interest in the site’s history and the narratives of its inhabitants.

My research of the “Cape Cod lifestyle” began before even arriving to the Baker-Biddle site. The readings I completed the week prior told of a rugged landscape that slowly morphed over centuries into the vacation destination recognized today. Once off Route 6, thick scrub oak-pine forests enclose pocketed, sandy drives; as one moves through, Cape houses of various ages peek out of thin openings in the vegetation. It takes a far stretch of the imagination to see the land that David Baker Jr., who built the Baker-Biddle main house, saw when he settled on Bound Brook Island in 1792. He saw cleared land, farms, and an active shoreline. A century and a half later, life on the Cape shifted from homesteads to the seasonal retreats of artists and intellectuals – Jack Hall included. By the time the Biddles called Bound Brook Island (by then, no longer an island) home, forests had replaced fields and gardens contained flowers and ornamentals rather than crucial subsidence for the family. I knew what to expect at the end of the swooping drive to the Baker-Biddle site, but I did not know how I would find it or what had faded into the past.

The entrance into the Baker-Biddle homestead.

The entrance into the Baker-Biddle homestead.

The connection of research-knowledge to experiential, firsthand-knowledge requires you to retell stories in your head. What was this? What was it before? And, why? I found the arrangement of the structures, buildings, and components of the landscape most interesting, because of the intention evident behind the spatial organization. Cleared of objects and all evidence of habitation, at times the site felt barren; nevertheless, there were many moments while in the space providing an ephemeral quality of place – immeasurable even by photograph.

When Jack Hall arranged the outbuildings, and later when the Biddles renovated them to conform to their lifestyle, great attention was given to tiny details that prevail today. We found many of these examples while inventorying the site. A mature catalpa growing from a private patio off the back of the Randolf Biddle Cottage engulfs the converted barn in a veil of privacy. An arbor in a garden hedge, overgrown with wisteria and honeysuckle, continues to create a passage from the main house lawn to the formal garden Katherine Biddle so lovingly maintained. Jack Hall’s reinvented whaling shed peaks out from the west side of the home, where in-between a brick patio shows signs of frequent use – for possibly both relaxation and lively gatherings. From the south side of the house, an overgrown meadow must have held gardens or pastures – possibly during the Bakers’ time, offered a clean view to Duck Harbor and the vats of their saltworks. These snip-its of the landscape anchor themselves in stories from the past – the inventory began to solidify and verify the many tales of Bound Brook Island.

: Debriefing the Inventory Team: Bill Burke (center, with brimmed hat) explains the history of the site to the group in the shade of a large tree-of-heaven. Behind him is the north façade of the main house.

: Debriefing the Inventory Team: Bill Burke (center, with brimmed hat) explains the history of the site to the group in the shade of a large tree-of-heaven. Behind him is the north façade of the main house.

Bill Burke, Cape Cod National Seashore Historian and Cultural Resource Program Manager, joined us during the site visit and provided interpretation and narrative, which helped to animate the stagnant aspects of the landscape. By incorporating specific research to the general Cape Code narrative, Bill described the history of the place as it was experienced by the inhabitants. We engaged in a historical photograph activity, which tasked teams to identify the location where historic scenes occurred and to recreate them to match the photographs provided. Although the heat of the day wore on us, the team discovered the photos’ locations and reenacted the (sometimes comical) scenes – family gatherings, lounging in the garden, a candid action shot, and even feeding some goats.

Photograph Scavenger Hunt: Nearly a half-century prior, a lively group posed for a photo in front of the Delight Cottage. Since then, much has changed.

Photograph Scavenger Hunt: Nearly a half-century prior, a lively group posed for a photo in front of the Delight Cottage. Since then, much has changed.

None of the photos depicted the homestead during the Bakers time prompting me to reflect on what I would have seen if such photographs existed. Bound Brook Island provided the Bakers ‘farmstead living,’ a means to survive, and a base for a functional, devoted lifestyle. I imagine Thankful Baker laboring day after day to tend to the needs of her large family, and David Baker returning to his wife after weeks on his packet vessel, but always relieved to find his children working on the saltworks and gristmill. The Cape Cod aesthetics that today we recognize for their sentimental qualities – millstones, split-rail fences, crushed shell drives, and weathered cedar siding –  lacked no amount of functionality 200 years ago and carried a far greater weight.

Jack Hall’s head swirled with modernist designs and Bauhaus architectural theory during his occupancy on Cape Cod; nonetheless, his passion for authentic, resourcefully constructed Cape Cod homesteads prevails in the modifications he made on the Baker-Biddle site. The Baker-Biddle home anchored him to Cape Cod and, conversely, allowed him to engage in the intellectual society prominent during the mid-twentieth century. The modern houses Hall designed, like the Hatch Cottage that we visited during the trip, reflects an intentional, deliberate organization of space and functionality. He incorporated this organization, prior, in the way he developed the Baker-Biddle site. Adjacent to the main house, he sited a guest cottage (Delight Cottage); to the north, he placed a barn to be used for his hobby farm; and nearer to the drive, he rebuilt a barn that housed his studio. I journeyed through the Baker-Biddle homestead, just as I had the Hatch Cottage just a day before: feeling an intimate validation of space to its use. The site is cohesive and complete. Additionally, it lends a feeling of expanse and vastness; I cannot imagine living there alone, as Jack did; so, I trust he was the host to many social gatherings, just as the Biddles had in the years following his occupancy.

As the site’s final owners, the Biddles sought to live their golden years (well, just the warm seasons) in the place they could find both respite and entertainment. The Biddles prominent social influence brought numerous “grand…large, and lavish” parties to their residence. However, Katherine and Francis Biddle also allocated a large portion of their time on Cape Cod to a collection of literary novels and poems, which they composed in their barn ‘writing studio.’ Although hardly recognizable today as a formal garden from where Katherine would have gazed out her studio’s window, the landscape is no less than inspiring. I am amazed at how quickly, 50 years, the succession of vegetation in Cape Cod reverts landscape back into wild – a transformation frequently noted by Thoreau during his visits to the Cape.

An Old Road Trace: A popular Bound Brook Island road passed to the west of the homestead, but presents today as only a grassy trail through the forest. We found wooden posts along the trace that marks out a fence line.

An Old Road Trace: A popular Bound Brook Island road passed to the west of the homestead, but presents today as only a grassy trail through the forest. We found wooden posts along the trace that marks out a fence line.

The Baker-Biddle site prepares to enter a fourth era of occupancy, in a culmination of visitation and adoption as a part of Cape Cod. With its transfer to the National Parks Service, the homestead was spared by the culturally destructive forces of subdivision, and protects a window into the evolving lifestyle of Cape Code settlers.

So, Baker-Biddle site? What lies ahead for you?

That is the conversation on the table, often followed by the inquiry of ‘how?’ An inevitable side effect of time includes not just our changes to the landscape, but also the changes and maturation of the land independently. Duck Harbor is gone, the vibrant fishing industry dried up, and the Baker’s parcel (once 180 acres total) has been reduce to a mere 10 acres. These changes add challenge to the interpretation and reenactment of history.

I left the Baker-Biddle homestead inspired by the essential ruggedness only found in the Cape Cod National Seashore – whether you fought it for your survival, you explored it with creative vigor, or sought it as your haven. Tomorrow (figuratively) we seek to balance the site’s future between remnants of the past and tangible narratives of today.

The Baker House (ca. 1792): The front of the main house faces south, a feature of a traditional Cape, and is perched on a slight terrace above a wetland meadow. A millstone serves a step and intricate carvings adorn the framing of the door.

The Baker House (ca. 1792): The front of the main house faces south, a feature of a traditional Cape, and is perched on a slight terrace above a wetland meadow. A millstone serves a step and intricate carvings adorn the framing of the door.

DIRT IS DIRT IS DIRT IS DIRT

DIRT IS DIRT IS DIRT IS DIRT: A LOVE STORY ABOUT ARCHAEOLOGY AND LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE

When people ask what I’m doing for the Olmsted Center over the summer, I often get a quizzical look followed by a pausing, halting question “but… don’t you do… archaeology?” Yes. Yes. I do.

Although landscape architecture is a completely different field, it overlaps with archaeology in so many ways. Landscape architecture and archaeology both set out to understand the deep relationships that human beings have with their environments. Across time and space, we are drawn to manipulate, incorporate and design our surroundings. From the Mounds of Cahokia to the lawns of Central Park, the U.S. offers a host of different human altered landscapes to explore. Landscape architecture and archaeology use clues embedded in the landscape to tell human stories.

Before coming here, I sat in the Florida Museum of Natural History’s Historical Archaeology lab, attempting to create a map from a mission site that had been dug in the 1970’s. Many of the coordinates were slightly off and the map making itself was something with which I had little experience. Three weeks later, I had cobbled together something resembling a map in Adobe Illustrator. I was very proud of my map, despite it being… humble (it was not very good). Four months later, I am sitting in the Olmsted office. Once again trying to cobble together a map, this time in AutoCAD. One workshop and several confused weeks later, I am becoming slightly more proficient.

For such different fields, the questions we ask and the goals we pursue are resoundingly similar. Using landscapes to tease secrets from the land, landscape architecture and archaeology use visual and geospatial data to better understand our histories and our futures. Sitting here, putting together these maps, I could definitely be doing archaeology. Both fields embrace humanity and seek out untold stories, and most importantly: both fields include a healthy dose of dirt.

SEE, RECORD, MAP

SEE, RECORD, MAP

The first week of July turned out to be short and sweet. I spent the 4th of July holiday in Maine, and returned to the office ready to finish the existing condition mapping for Baker-Biddle. I enjoy the process of mapping and incorporated it into many of my undergraduate projects. (I just graduated in May with a BLA (Bachelor of Landscape Architecture) from Virginia Tech.)

Mapping follows a general workflow: define your scope/boundaries, consolidate existing maps/data, inventory and photograph the site, review and analyze field notes and photographs, digitize data in ArcMap or AutoCAD, and refine using a design editing software (like Adobe Illustrator). Looking back to where I started the Baker-Biddle map – with an orthophoto, a park boundary layer, and LiDAR contours – from the progress I have made, I am amazed.

Baker-Biddle Inventory Maps

Baker-Biddle Inventory Maps: These are just two of the inventory maps I referenced when composing the digitized one.

Sometimes map making feels like a detective story. You build a map from the evidence you have, sometimes this means double-checking your leads and comparing different sources. During the Baker-Biddle site field inventory, teams recorded the physical environment by annotating printed maps, making notes, and photographing elements of the landscape. Once back in the office, I dug through these maps and transferred the notes onto AutoCAD, where I organized them to be easily navigated.

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Photo from the Field: The photographs from the site visit proved invaluable when working on the map, because they helped me to define elements unclear in orthophotos.

I worked in “three-dimensions” by comparing orthophotos (aerial photography) to map notes to field photographs. I placed the element by the aerial photo, noted its characteristics by the notes, and verified its association to surrounding elements by cross-referencing photos. Next, I needed to decide how to represent different types of elements on the map. Although I am yet to begin the ‘illustrative’ component of mapping, it is important to consider how you want the map to read.

AutoCAD Map-in-Progress

AutoCAD Map-in-Progress: This is how a working AutoCAD file appears; the colors translate to different shades and line weights once plotted to PDF.

The final AutoCAD document appears at first to be a tangle of colored lines and shapes; however, the lines will take on specified properties once plotted and can be edited individually in Adobe Illustrator. After the many hours put into the AutoCAD Baker-Biddle map, I cannot imagine relying on hand-drafting to produce the map. The ‘undo’ feature (as I have discovered) is a blessing.

oc-04.jpg

Plotted Baker-Biddle Map: The map that I will import into Adobe Illustrator looks like this; however, I will be able to work with each layer individually to create layer styles and organization.

Until next time,

Jill

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