Celebrating 50 Years of APT International

Next week we are excited to be attending the hottest conference in preservation: APT International’s 50th anniversary celebration happening in Buffalo and the Niagara Region of Canada.

Fifty years ago, a group of preservation and conservation professionals from both the United States and Canada came together in New Richmond, Quebec to form a new organization called The Association for Preservation Technology International (APT).  APT is a is a multi-disciplinary, membership organization dedicated to promoting the best technology for conserving/preserving historic structures and their settings.

This joint American-Canadian organization has grown to include chapters around the world. It is only fitting that this year’s conference is held in Buffalo with events and celebrations on both sides of the border.  The conference bills itself as “a point of departure for our next 50 years”, alluding to the fact that at one point in history, Buffalo was one of the most important points of departure on the continent.

Vertical Access has had a long history of involvement in APT since our founding in 1992. Founding Partner Kent Diebolt served as President of the Board of Directors from 2001 – 2003. This year, Evan Kopelson is serving as Co-Chair of the Programs Committee, and also serves with Kristen Olson and Patrick Capruso on the Local Planning Committee.  We are excited that some of the events are being held at historic locations that we have personally played a role in revitalizing, including:

While there are many field sessions and education opportunities to choose from during this multi-day celebration, two that we had a hand in coordinating are:

What Do Buckingham Palace, Brooklyn Bridge, and Buffalo Have in Common? – Medina Sandstone

(Coordinated by Patrick Capruso): Quarried in Orleans County near the town for which it was named, Medina sandstone was prized by builders and architects for its inherent strength and beauty. Visit some of these iconic structures including site visits to the Richardson Olmsted Campus, Connecticut Street Armory, and stunning ecclesiastic landmarks.  During this session, attendees will explore Buffalo’s iconic Medina sandstone structures, including the Richardson Olmsted Campus (originally the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane).

Saint Louis Church, Buffalo

 

Preservation by the Pint: Revitalization and the Craft Beverage Boom

(Co-coordinated by Kristen Olson): Across the U.S. and Canada, brewers and distillers have successfully adapted many building types, from manufacturing and warehousing structures to former churches, into successful breweries, taprooms, and pubs. These businesses support local economies through purchasing local ingredients. Through “beverage-oriented-development,” the adaptive reuse of a structure can catalyze the revitalization of an entire neighborhood. But what role does infrastructure investment play in beverage-oriented-development?

Photo collage from www.thebarrelfactory.com, the landmark, newly-restored,
115-year-old historic factory in Buffalo’s legendary Old First Ward.

Whether you’re a Belgian beer person or an IPA “hop head,” a martini aficionado or a teetotaler, there will be plenty to see and taste on this field session. We’ll visit local craft beverage businesses, speak with owners about the challenges and of adapting historic buildings, and of course, taste some of their products!

We hope you’ll be joining us at this momentous event where we explore with our colleagues all that is possible in preservation for The Next 50 Years.

For more about the conference, visit: https://www.eventscribe.com/2018/APT/ 

Vertical Access is a Bronze Sponsor of the conference this year.

A View from a First Timers APT Annual Conference

Last October, the Association for Preservation Technology International (APT) and the National Trust for Canada held CAPITALizing on HERITAGE: COMMUNITY, GOVERNMENT and SAVOIR-FAIRE in Ottawa. The joint conference showcased 190 speakers and over 40 exhibitors. With roughly 1,100 attendees and more than 20 countries represented, the four-day event became the largest heritage conference ever held in Canada. CAPITALizing on HERITAGE was my first APT Annual Conference and fueled by a shameful amount of readily available coffee I made my way around paper sessions, banquets, and plenary discussions. Compared to regional APT symposia, the programming was diverse and immense with focuses ranging from the archeological unearthing and documentation of Nova Scotia’s built heritage to an exploration of Ontario’s northern wilderness in search of the rugged landscapes immortalized in paintings by the Group of Seven.

Seven paper tracks covered topics as diverse as cultural landscapes, non-destructive testing, heritage advocacy, the economics of preservation, engineering, and sustainability. Program book in hand, I raced around the conference level to catch specific presentations, curating a personal agenda that offered talks on architectural diagnostics and documentation as well as those that were distinctly Canadian like heritage values and the rights of Canada’s First Nations people. Thanks in large part to programming arranged by the National Trust for Canada, the duality of Ottawa’s existence as both a modern capital city and the unseeded ancestral territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe was never lost on those who attended the conference. This constant reminder sparked conversations that are simply not being discussed in the United States.

For every learning opportunity CAPITALizing on HERITAGE offered there was an occasion to network and reconnect. It became apparent that the social aspect of the event alone was worth the registration. In Ottawa, I attended the first meeting of the Technical Committee for Materials, talked shop with a former employer, shared a bottle of wine with new contacts, and was introduced to several leading authorities in preservation. I was happy to catch up with familiar faces from previous APT symposia as well. For someone who is relatively new to the field and APT, the Annual Conference offered an unparalleled opportunity to network.

Between the paper sessions, banquets and cocktail hours, CAPITALizing on HERITAGE was nearly overwhelming. Fortunately breaks in programming provided time to get out and explore downtown Ottawa. Whether it was views of Parliament Hill perched high above the confluence of three rivers or beaver tails in ByWard Market (fried dough smothered in butter and maple syrup did not disappoint), Ottawa delivered. The city proved to be an ideal venue for a joint conference with an emphasis on the built environment and interpretations of its cultural significance. With my first Annual Conference behind me I am looking forward to celebrating APT’S 50th Anniversary at Points of Departure next year in Buffalo. (I’m on the planning committee and so far it looks like it’s going to be awesome!)

Reviving Hospitals and Asylums for the 21st Century

Abandoned hospitals and asylums may be a horror film cliche, but the statistics on vacant, threatened, and demolished institutional complexes are all too real. Search “abandoned asylum” and the first hit is an article on the popular website Atlas Obscura: “18 Abandoned Psychiatric Hospitals, and Why They Were Left Behind.” Of the hundreds of asylums built in the U.S. during the 19th and early 20th centuries, most became underused or vacant during the deinstitutionalization movement of mid-20th century. Some have been repurposed, but many more await revitalization.

Partial demolition of the New York City Lunatic Asylum. Library of Congress, call number HABS NY,31-WELFI,6–2

Psychiatric hospitals are challenging to reuse. Many of them are physical reminders of tragic chapters in the history of mental health treatment, and often include patient burials on the site. Some contain buildings that have been vacant for decades, subject to neglect and vandalism.

But there are many reasons why hospitals and asylums are historically significant and should be preserved. First and foremost, they are places of memory for understanding and recording the histories of the thousands of individuals who lived and died on their grounds. Former hospitals also serve as a record of the changing attitudes about institutionalization and treatment of mental illness in the U.S. during the 19th and 20th centuries. And, many are recognized as works by master designers and as examples of the prevailing architectural styles of their times. Tuberculosis sanatoriums, smallpox hospitals, and soldiers’ homes are among other institutional building types sharing some of the same challenges and opportunities for adaptive use as asylums.

The Richardson Olmsted Complex in 1965. Photo by Jack E. Boucher. Library of Congress, call number HABS NY,15-BUF,9-1

These complexes also contain durable building stock representing a significant amount of embodied energy. Many of the sprawling campuses were designed to be self-sufficient farms, so they have plenty of room for sensitive infill or new construction to meet accessibility standardizing. Buildings on the campus of the Richardson Olmsted Complex (formerly the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane and now a National Historic Landmark) have been reborn as Hotel Henry and the Lipsey Buffalo Architecture Center, while other buildings have been stabilized for future renovation. The campus recently hosted enLIGHTen, an outdoor concert by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra with a custom-designed light show projected onto the H.H. Richardson-designed main building.


Binghamton’s “Castle on the Hill”
By Kfbill08 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11013391

Closer to our home office in Ithaca, the former New York State Inebriate Asylum in Binghamton (now also known as the “Castle on the Hill”) is a National Historic Landmark awaiting rehabilitation. It was chartered in 1854 as the first facility in the U.S. to treat alcoholism as a medical illness, but was converted to a mental hospital in the 1870s. Plans were announced in 2008 for SUNY Upstate Medical University to revitalize the complex, but the project was abandoned during the recession. In 2015, Binghamton University took over stewardship of the property, and exterior work is expected to begin in early 2018.

Vertical Access on site at the St. Elizabeths West Campus, U.S. General Services Administration. Photo by Vertical Access.

Another large campus currently undergoing long-term revitalization is the 346-acre St. Elizabeths in Washington, D.C. (also a National Historic Landmark), where Vertical Access recently completed a smokestack investigation working with Atkinson-Noland & Associates and Goody Clancy. The multi-phase project includes repurposing some existing buildings, mothballing others, and adding new construction in order to house the United States Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies. Architecture of an Asylum: St. Elizabeths 1852-2017 is on exhibition at the National Building Museum in Washington D.C through January 15, 2018.

 

Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island: Restoration of the Child’s Restaurant

In her Applicator cover story, “The Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island and the Seaside Park,” Architect Diane Kaese highlights the redevelopment and restoration effort at the former Child’s Restaurant. For Vertical Access Preservation Technician Patrick Capruso it was a thrill to see photographs of the finished façades. As a former finisher at Boston Valley Terra Cotta, Patrick helped to sculpt a number of the 752 terra cotta units replicated for the building.

As Kaese explains, ornamental elements of the maritime motif originally modeled by Sculptor Max Keck and produced by the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company were meticulously reproduced using undercutting techniques to accentuate shadows and hide the ¼” joints required for seamless assembly.

According to Patrick, shaping these elaborate snails, ships, and seashells was both difficult and immensely rewarding.

Congratulations to Diane Kaese, Boston Valley Terra Cotta, and the rest of the project team on a job well done!

Frame Raising the Champlain Canal Region Gateway Visitors’ Center

Over the weekend of June 17th-18th, 2017 I participated in the main frame raising of the Champlain Canal Region Gateway Visitors’ Center in Schuylerville, New York. The building was selected as the Timber Framers Guild Community Building Project for 2016. The timbers were cut to size and much of layout completed in the summer and fall of 2016 but delays in the construction of the foundation pushed the frame raising back until the summer of 2017.

From June 14th-16th volunteers and guild members assembled bents, prepared the worksite and raised the first two bents. On Saturday, June 17th additional volunteers arrived and the remainder of the Gateway Visitors Center frame was raised. The bents were raised “by hand” using an A-frame, that was guyed at two ends, as the focal point for the rigging. Once the frames were rigged, two lines, with about 20 people in each, pulled on the haul lines until the frame was upright and free-hanging. Workers on the deck then guided the posts into pockets in the flooring as the haul teams lowered each bent. The bents were then braced and floor joists installed, connecting each bent to the next. A crane was used to install the tie plates, purlins and rafters while workers straddled timbers or worked form scaffolding to receive each unit. Once each piece was lowered into to place a gang of hammer swingers went to work driving 7/8” or 1” diameter round pegs into the mortise and tenon joinery, tying the frame together. It was a long day but the crew managed to finish raising the main frame just before sunset.

This being my first experience working on a timber framing project I was impressed with the accuracy required in the layout and cutting of joinery. It is amazing how each piece fits perfectly onto the receiving member even when there are multiple connection points along a given unit.

I would be remiss if I didn’t commend project manager Neil Godden for a safe and efficiently run project and acknowledge all of the instructors for their hard work and patience with those volunteers who were unfamiliar with timber framing.

You can read more about the project on the Timber Framers Guild Community Building Project blog.