Author Archives: mbagga

April Is A Time for Historic Landscapes

pond-viewing-carriage-house.jpg

View of pond at Wilcox Park , Westerly, RI.  the 2016 HALS merit award project. Image by Ben Congdon (URI BLA 2017)

by Elena M. Pascarella, RLA, ASLA of Landscape Elements LLC

This April, RIASLA focuses on historic landscapes.  This is an appropriate time to present information on historic landscapes for a number of reasons.

April 26th is the birthday of Frederick Law Olmsted.  Olmsted is considered the “founding father” of our profession and the body of his work presents a very impressive historic record of historic landscapes in the United States.  Consider that some of his iconic work includes Central Park in New York, the Fens in Boston, the Buffalo, New York park system, the Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina.  Locally Olmsted and his firm provided designs for Wilcox Park, Westerly, RI, subdivisions in Watch Hill and Newport, Blackstone Boulevard in Providence, RI and Goddard State Park, Warwick, RI. As we look to celebrate his 196th birthday (April 26, 1822), we might consider taking a walk through one of his local landscapes and take the time to really look at his legacy.

April 26 thru April 28 is the RI Historic Preservation and Heritage Commission (RIHPHC) 33rd Annual Historic Preservation Conference. This will be an Encuentro which joins the 33rd Annual R.I. Statewide Historic Preservation Conference and the 3rd National Convening of Latinos in Heritage Conservation. It also marks the 50th anniversary of the Commission. Save the date and plan to attend! Click here for more information and to register.

Also, the RIHPHC has been busy with national register nominations and they recently completed a nomination for the historic quadrangle and surrounding buildings at the University of Rhode Island. Joanna Doherty, Architectural historian, has provided us with an overview of this nomination project and its significance as a campus landscape.

The Providence Preservation Society has been working to raise awareness about threatened historic properties in Providence.  The PPS joined forces with RI Chapter ASLA in 2017 to submit the State House landscape for listing on the Cultural Landscape Foundation’s 2018 Landslide List as a “threatened” historic landscape. (https://tclf.org/stewardship/about-landslide.) PPS Executive Director, Brent Runyon has provided us with an article on the issues surrounding the State House grounds.

Brent is also spearheading a new Landscape Survey initiative for Rhode Island.  This initiative will start with an online survey for Newport and Providence and then expand to other communities in Rhode Island.  The rationale for starting with these 2 cities lies in the fact that they are both experiencing a great increase in new development projects that pose threats to existing open spaces and some historic properties.  The PPS hopes that this survey will help to fairly evaluate potential threatened properties and provide appropriate recommendations.

Please support PPS and their preservation efforts  at www.ppsri.org.

The Preservation Society of Newport County (PSNC) is in the process of restoring and renovating the landscape at the Breakers, one of their signature historic properties.  The PSNC mission is as follows:

The Preservation Society of Newport County is a non-profit organization whose mission is to protect, preserve, and present an exceptional collection of house museums and landscapes in one of the most historically intact cities in America. 

Kaity Ryan, assistant to the executive director at the PSNC has provided us with an overview of the work that is being done at The Breakers to restore it.

And finally, the RI Chapter ASLA is in the process of preparing another Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS) Challenge documentation.  Our chapter submitted a HALS Challenge documentation in 2016 with the assistance of URI Professor Richard Sheridan and his junior landscape studio.  The documentation was done for Wilcox Park, Westerly, RI which met the 2016 theme of National Register landscapes.  It was Rhode Island’s first HALS documentation and we earned a merit award out of 48 national submissions.

In 2017, RI Chapter ASLA submitted a HALS Challenge documentation for Eisenhower Park/Washington Square, Newport, RI.  The theme for 2017 was town and municipal parks. The documentation was completed with the assistance of Tanya Kelly and her staff at Place Studio as well as Jon Stevens (Cumberland, RI town planner and history buff) and his daughter Arcadia Stevens, a recent Wheaton College graduate in Classics. Out of 28 submissions, Rhode Island earned another merit recognition.

For 2018, the RIASLA will be submitting another documentation.  This year’s theme is Memorials of the Great War (WWI).  Tanya Kelly and I will be working on the nomination for Miantonomi Park, Newport, RI. If anyone would like to become involved, please contact me at emp@landscapeelementsllc.com

 

 

What is HALS?

Eisenhower JDS8

View of Eisenhower Park, Newport, RI – the 2017 HALS merit award winning project. Image by Jonathan Stevens

HALS IS NOT THE AI FROM 2001 SPACE ODYSSEY!

by Elena M. Pascarella, RLA, ASLA of Landscape Elements LLC

HALS documentation is one of three types of historic records maintained at the Library of Congress under the purview of the National Park Service. Other documentations include Historic American Building Surveys (HABS) and Historic American Engineering Records (HAER). HAER surveys have documented many historic roadways throughout the United States including the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut and Skyline Drive in Virginia.

HALS documentation was initiated because historians, architects and landscape architects working for the National Park Service realized that the HABS and HAER survey documentations were not adequately capturing the level of detail found in many historic landscapes.

Rhode Island has two documentations recorded with the NPS and in the Library of Congress.

During Spring semester 2016, Elena M. Pascarella, RLA, ASLA, principal of Landscape Elements, LLC worked with Professor Richard Sheridan’s Junior Landscape Architecture Studio at the University of Rhode Island to prepare a Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS) Documentation for Wilcox Park in Westerly, RI. Landscape Elements had previously worked on the master plan for Wilcox Park in 2006. This park is one of Rhode Island’s significant historic landscapes having been designed by two noted 19th Century landscape architects, Warren H. Manning and Arthur Shurcliff.

The 2016 HALS documentation submission for Wilcox Park was also entered into the 2016 HALS Challenge, a competition open to all landscape architectural firms in the US and Canada. Out of 48 submissions for 2016, the documentation for Wilcox Park received an honorable mention award.

The 2017 HALS documentation submission for Eisenhower Park earned RI its second merit award. Many thanks to the people who assisted with this project:  Tanya Kelly, Kate Dana, Jon Stevens and Acadia Stevens.

For more information about HALS, please visit

https://tinyurl.com/ybtdxnj4

 

 

ASLA National Advocacy Day April 26th

Jenn Judge, RI ASLA Trustee, and Melissa Bagga, RI ASLA President, will be attending the ASLA National Advocacy Day in Washington, DC April 26th, on behalf of the Rhode Island Chapter. This year, ASLA advocates will urge Congress to adopt legislation that encourages the use of green infrastructure and other natural systems to address coastal resiliency, stormwater management, and to adopt legislation that ensures environmental safety for all communities.

To learn more about this special day please visit https://www.asla.org/advocacyday2018.aspx

Preserving RI State House Landscape Character

State House black and white image

Title: 7. AERIAL VIEW OF SOUTH ELEVATION AND GROUNDS – Rhode Island State House, 90 Smith Street, Providence, Providence County, RI
Medium: 4 x 5 in.
Reproduction Number: HABS RI,4-PROV,180–7.  http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ri0370.photos.145799p/

by Brent Runyon, Executive Director of the Providence Preservation Society

The landscape around the State House is one of the most character-defining in Rhode Island. City and State leaders at the latter half of the 19th century embraced certain ideas that made little sense at the time but have come to define how Providence re-engineered itself nearly a century later. What they sought was a setting that would contribute to the perception of the State House as being set above and apart from everything around it. Viewed from the town side, it appeared that way. Not too far away, along Smith Street, was a densely packed neighborhood. In addition to the building’s unrivaled architecture, the open space around it and its setting atop a hill are defining characteristics that make ours the most beautiful State House in America.

Why then, if this landscape is so magisterial do elected leaders and their staffs continue to pave over it? That the potential of developing it, floated by RIDOT not too many months ago, landed the landscape on The Cultural Landscape Foundation’s version of our Most Endangered Properties list: Landslide 2017: Open Season on Open Space. Among landscapes in Rhode Island, the State House setting is significant in its entirety. While there is some argument about whether the current lawn is what was planned by the architects McKim, Mead & White, there is no doubt that what currently exists has gained important meaning in its own right, including the site for recent citizen rallies and protests that occupied much of that open space.

As historic preservationists, we believe deeply that our actions today should be considered in terms of their impacts on future generations. For several years, we’ve expressed concern about the State’s opportunistic taking of land around the State House in order to meet parking “demand.” The State House landscape, including the walls, lawn, paths, and hardscape, all contribute to the beauty and sense of place. They do what well-designed landscapes should do: define boundaries that separate as well as spaces to congregate, create sightlines for observation and pathways for circulation, enable sufficient storm water management and much more. Tinkering with a historic designed landscape such as this, whether with incremental increases in surface parking or with the installation of an intermodal transit hub, should be done with the careful, professional consultation of landscape architects and historic preservationists.

 

 

Encuentro – a National Conference on Latino Heritage and Historic Preservation April 26-28, 2018

colombian parade_MartaVMartinez

photo: Colombian Festival, Central Falls by Marta V. Martinez

by Sarah Zurier of the RI Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission

Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission, Rhode Island Latino Arts, and Latinos in Heritage Conservation are proud to present Encuentro 2018, a conference on Latino heritage and historic preservation. Scheduled from April 26-28, 2018 with programs in Providence and the Blackstone Valley, this groundbreaking event brings together the third national convening of Latinos in Heritage Conservation and the 33rd Annual Statewide Rhode Island Historic Preservation Conference.

For the first time, Latinos in Heritage Conservation is bringing a national conversation about Latino historic preservation to New England. Encuentro 2018 features guest speakers from across the country including Dr. Stephen Pitti (Yale)Belinda Faustinos (Nature for All)Eduardo Díaz (Smithsonian)Dr. Ray Rast (Gonzaga), and Dr. Ramona Hernández (CUNY), as well as opportunities to meet and exchange ideas with fellow practitioners and advocates for Latino historic preservation.

Rhode Island Latino Arts, Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission, and local partners have planned an engaging program of tours and special events to round out the schedule. Tours will feature Latino neighborhoods, historic places associated with other underrepresented communities, recent preservation projects, and public art. Sites will include Broad Street, Roger Williams Park, Downtown, and Olneyville in Providence as well as Pawtucket’s Slater Mill and places associated with the Colombian community in Central Falls.

We hope that you will join us for this landmark gathering that will bring together preservationists, scholars, students, design professionals, and community advocates for an unprecedented discussion of the value and future of heritage conservation in New England’s Latino communities and beyond.

The full program is available online, and registration is open at www.preservationconferenceri.com. Registration costs $30 (Thursday-Friday), $50 (Saturday), or $80 (Thursday-Saturday) with discounts for students with i.d. The deadline for registration is April 17.

 

URI National Register Nomination

Image 1

Olmsted, Olmsted and Eliot Landscape Architects, “R.I. College of A.; M. Arts /
Kingston R.I. / Preliminary Sketch,” March 6, 1895. Plan shows three existing
buildings (Taft, Davis and South Halls) and the planned drill hall (Lippitt Hall) in dark
shading, and a rectilinear, double-quadrangle plan with tree-lined paths.
Credit: Olmsted Plans and Drawings Collection. Job #01392. Frederick Law Olmsted
National Historic Site, Brookline, MA.

by Joanna M. Doherty, Principal Architectural Historian of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission

The core of the University of Rhode Island’s campus in Kingston was added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 9, 2017. In listing the University of Rhode Island Historic District, the National Park Service recognizes its significance to the history of public higher education in Rhode Island and its fine collection of academic buildings designed by locally prominent architects, centered around a quadrangle laid out by Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot.The campus traces its origins to 1888, when the state purchased the Oliver Watson Farm as the location for the Rhode Island State Agricultural School and Experiment Station; the ca. 1796 Watson Farmhouse survives as a relic of the property’s agricultural history. Three academic buildings were soon constructed: Taft Hall (E.A. Ellsworth, 1889), Davis Hall (Stone, Carpenter & Willson, 1890/1895) and South Hall (1890, not extant). In 1892, the institution’s name was changed to the Rhode Island College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, and two years later it was designated the state’s “land-grant” college (a status initially given to Brown).

Image 2

View looking southwest across the quadrangle, taken in 1900, showing Lippitt Hall
(center foreground) and, in the background, South Hall (left; not extant), Davis Hall
(center) and Taft Hall (right). The one-story buildings in the foreground do not
survive.
Credit: Bernon Helme Photograph Collection, 1895-1930. Mss. Gr. 125, Folder 13.
University of Rhode Island Library, South Kingstown, RI.

That same year, the school’s Board of Managers engaged Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot to assist with campus planning. The firm’s earliest schemes proposed a circulation system comprised of gently curving roads, but plans from the spring of 1895 showed a less romantic approach; a few roads still curved around the edge of campus, but a rectilinear double-quadrangle was at its core. The centers of the quadrangles would be open, with tree-lined paths defining the edges. Although the double-quad plan was never entirely implemented, the northern quad was established and survives largely intact, with tree-lined, perimeter paths and buildings arranged on the edges, mostly facing inward toward the green. (The perimeter of the quad was originally planted with American elms which, due to disease, were replaced with Japanese zelkovas in the mid-1980s.)

Image 3

Aerial photograph of Rhode Island State College, ca, 1946.
Credit: Carl R. Woodward Papers. Mss. Gr. 1, Box 62, Folder 170. University of
Rhode Island Library Special Collections and Archives Unit, South Kingstown, RI.

Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot’s design reflected a move away from the park-like campuses advocated by landscape practitioners earlier in the 19th century toward more formal plans that emphasized symmetry and geometry. By drawing on European precedent, the quadrangle served as a potent academic symbol for the young college. It also provided an organizing principle for the continued development of the campus. The three existing academic buildings were lined up on the western edge of the quad, and a new building, Lippitt Hall (Stone, Carpenter & Willson, 1897), was soon built on the northern edge. In 1909, the school was re-named the Rhode Island State College and new facilities were required to meet the needs of a growing student population and an expanding curriculum. Three buildings – East Hall (Leslie P. Langworthy, 1909), Ranger Hall (Clarke, Howe & Homer, 1914) and Washburn Hall (Eleazer B. Homer, 1921) – were erected on the eastern and southern sides of the quad, while Bliss Hall (Bigelow, Kent, Willard and Co., 1928) joined Lippitt Hall on the north.

Image 4

View showing Main Quadrangle, taken in 2013, looking southeast toward Washburn
Hall and Edwards Hall, showing double-row of trees along east perimeter of quad.
Credit: Joanna M. Doherty.

Other, mostly later buildings were constructed slightly off the quad, sometimes disrupting Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot’s double-quad plan; Green Hall (Jackson, Robertson & Adams, 1937), for example, was sited in the center of what was to be the southern quad. A Post World War II building boom, coinciding with the school’s designation as a university in 1951, resulted in the construction of over 20 new buildings, many executed in the Modern style, mostly away from the quadrangle. The historic core of the campus remains intact, however, embodying the university’s origins as a land-grant school and its growth in the first half of the 20th century.

The University of Rhode Island Historic District National Register nomination may be found at http://www.preservation.ri.gov/register/riproperties.php

 

Welcoming Spring at the Preservation Society of Newport County

by Kaity Ryan, Deputy Chief of Staff of The Preservation Society of Newport County.

The Preservation Society of Newport County (“PSNC”) is most known for its collection of architectural landmarks known as the Newport Mansions. Of equal significance are the 88 acres of gardens, parkland, and an arboretum that comprise the organization’s landscape collection. Over the past 10 years, the Preservation Society has renewed its commitment to landscape preservation and elevating public discourse about landscape history.

The majority of the PSNC’s landscapes were designed during the Gilded Age for affluent patrons for whom maintenance costs were no obstacle, in contrast to the present-day constraints of a not-for-profit steward. Today, a team of horticulturists, arborists, and gardeners tend to the 11 historic properties in the Preservation Society’s care. The PSNC’s Gardens and Landscapes department operates several greenhouses in which it cultivates trees, plants and flowers that are used in the  houses and grounds. The team also addresses the ongoing needs and challenges of the variety of landscapes in the collection.

One such challenge is succession planning, which presents a unique obstacle given that much of the collection contains non-native specimen trees that, in addition to the ever-present threats of climate conditions and disease, are nearing the end of their natural lifespan. Anticipating the need to replace the rare specimen trees that characterize properties like Chateau-sur-Mer and The Breakers – as well as the larger Newport tree canopy – the Preservation Society has established nurseries for cultivating replacements. The Breakers Greenhouse is home to a variety of species, including rare Turkish Oaks grown from acorns taken from the trees at Chateau-sur-Mer. In 2016, the Preservation Society created a beech nursery at Green Animals Topiary Garden in Portsmouth, where replacement trees are being cultivated in preparation for transplanting in the coming years.

In addition to the 30+ people who make up the organization’s horticultural team, the Preservation Society is committed to hiring local contractors whose knowledge and experience are critical to the success of our landscape efforts. None of this work could be carried out without the contributions of volunteers who dedicate time, expertise, and enthusiasm to helping the organization carry out its mission.

PSNC_Article_Images_2018.003Recognizing the need for a curatorial vision to guide landscape stewardship and interpretation, long-time Green Animals Topiary Garden director Jim Donahue was promoted to the role of Curator of Historic Landscapes and Gardens in 2014. In this capacity, Donahue draws on his horticultural background and design experience along with historical research and scholarship to devise creative ways to engage visitors in the Preservation Society’s properties. In 2015, Donahue spearheaded the accreditation of the Newport Mansions Arboretum, which was recognized by the Morton Register as a Level II arboretum. In addition to interpretive efforts like the restoration of the rose garden at Rosecliff (currently underway), Donahue helps guide public education through programming such as the 2017-18 lecture series highlighting the evolution of The Breakers landscape along with an adult education series that is being offered this spring.

Integral to these interpretive efforts is the generosity of supporters like the van Beuren Charitable Foundation (vBCF). In 2017, vBCF awarded the Preservation Society a grant of one million dollars which provided transformational funding for The Breakers landscape. For the first time in over a century, the original design, conceived by noted landscape architect and engineer Ernest W. Bowditch, will be reestablished so that the property reflects the original design intent. This gift will enable the Preservation Society to implement site improvements and design recommendations informed by a master plan by landscape architecture firm Reed Hilderbrand (Cambridge, MA) and a cultural landscape report (CLR) by consulting historian Judith Robinson and Associates (Washington D.C.). Together these resources provide a blueprint that will guide landscape treatment moving forward.

The master plan presents an opportunity to rehabilitate and restore elements of Bowditch’s design that will activate the landscape and unify the entire site as a cohesive experience. The master plan outlines site improvements based on eight “character zones” or designated project areas to lend a phased approach to the 13-acre property over time. With a total cost of over $4 million, the Preservation Society has raised $1.1 million and continues to seek funding that will enable us to execute the entire plan. The first phase of implementation is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2018.PSNC_Article_Images_2018.002

The CLR formed the basis for Reed Hilderbrand’s design recommendations and it is a critical tool for the future stewardship of The Breakers as it provides a comprehensive history of the landscape that will guide treatment and interpretation for years to come. The report can be found on the Preservation Society’s website and all are encouraged to read it.

Beyond its own gates, the Preservation Society has forged public-private partnerships that support landscape preservation in the local community. In 2015 the Preservation Society partnered with The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF), the pioneering national organization dedicated to landscape preservation and advocacy. Together the two not-for-profits organized a free, weekend-long program called “What’s Out There Weekend: Newport County” in which local experts (including many ASLA members and affiliates) led free tours and guided walks of 28 landscapes throughout Newport County. With support from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, Bartlett Tree Experts, and others, TCLF and PSNC published an accompanying guidebook which remains available to the public through the TCLF website.

Another public-private collaboration involved the Preservation Society together with the Aquidneck Land Trust, Preserve Rhode Island, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Brought together by a shared focus on preserving and enhancing the visual quality of Aquidneck Island’s historic and natural places, this group dedicated more than five years to building support and raising $1.2 million to restore one of Rhode Island’s most significant scenic resources: the coastline of historic Paradise Valley, more commonly known as Second Beach or Sachuest. The partners worked with the Town of Middletown and National Grid to bury the utility lines and eliminate the utility poles adjacent to Second Beach in Middletown. This project not only restored the historic views that inspired artists like John LaFarge and George Bellows to paint the landscape, it also increased coastal resiliency, enhanced pedestrian safety, and improved utility infrastructure for the cyclists, surfers, beach-goers, birdwatchers, and others that visit Second Beach, the Norman Bird Sanctuary, Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge, St. George’s School, Purgatory Chasm, and other nearby sites.

Collectively these internal and external initiatives represent an important chapter in the Preservation Society’s stewardship and interpretation efforts. Beyond the value of contributing new scholarship, elevating awareness of Newport County’s landscape legacy and design history, and increasing engagement, these efforts support the breadth and depth of talented designers, contractors, horticulturists and scholars in and around Rhode Island. As we welcome all the harbingers of spring, the Preservation Society welcomes the next chapter in landscape stewardship and looks forward to the growth it will bring for our organization and the broader community we serve.