July 14, 2024

Historic Preservation Professor to Appear on Radio Program

Michael Spencer, assistant professor of historic preservation, will appear on the public radio show “With Good Reason” to discuss his class’s efforts to preserve a small church in Falmouth. The show, “Dreams of the Civil War,” will air beginning on Saturday, Nov. 2.

Michael Spencer

Michael Spencer

The program also will feature commentary from instructors from several Virginia institutions, including Christopher Newport University and Norfolk State University. Topics of the show will include life during the Civil War, the influence of slave culture and American colonial essayists. Audio files of the full program and its companion news feature will be posted online the week of the show at withgoodreasonradio.org/2013/11/dreams-of-the-civil-war/.

“With Good Reason” is a program of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. The show airs weekly in Fredericksburg on Sundays from 1-2 p.m. on Radio IQ 88.3 Digital. To listen from outside of the Fredericksburg area, a complete list of air times and links to corresponding radio stations can be found at http://withgoodreasonradio.org/when-to-listen/.

UMW Student Coordinates Historic Community Event

A University of Mary Washington student has taken her historic preservation studies far beyond the classroom with a historic Route 1 tour that kicked off Saturday, Sept. 7 at Riverfront Park in Fredericksburg.

Emily Taggart Frickner coordinated the Vintage Route 1 Tour on Saturday, September 7

Emily Taggart Schricker coordinated the Vintage Route 1 Tour on Saturday, September 7

“You have to start with a community that wants to preserve their history,” said Emily Taggart Schricker, a volunteer at the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, who has been an integral part of the planning process for The Route 1 Tour and Fredericksburg Community Day. Last year’s tour brought more than 1,000 participants, and even more were expected this year.

“There will be something for everybody who might want to come downtown,” said Taggart Schricker, a historic preservation major. The Route 1 Tour events included a classic car display, vintage fashion show, live music, children’s activities and food tastings. “They will definitely learn some hidden gems about the things they drive past every day.”

A majority of the events were free, with trolley and walking tour tickets available for purchase online and at the event on Saturday.

UMW student volunteers helped out at many of Saturday’s events. UMW faculty members also were involved, including Assistant Professor of Historic Preservation Michael Spencer and Adjunct Professor of Historic Preservation Kerri Barile. Three out of four event tour guides were Mary Washington graduates, Taggart Schricker said.

The idea for the event, now in its second year, started in October 2011 when Taggart Schricker started volunteering on HFFI’s event committee.

“I suggested doing a tour of Fredericksburg’s 20th-century buildings,” she said.

Her event became a focus on historic Route 1 after a suggestion from HFFI Executive Director Sean Maroney.

“Fredericksburg is a town rich in history, but the 20th century hasn’t always gotten a lot of focus,” said Maroney, citing the large emphasis that is often put on Fredericksburg’s Revolutionary War and Civil War past.

Many of Fredericksburg’s unique features came in the 20th century, he explained, when U.S. Route 1 went straight through Fredericksburg on Princess Anne Street and Lafayette Boulevard. Gas stations, hotels and lunch counters popped up to accommodate the travelers.

Taggart Schricker spent the summer working on the event, researching, organizing, finding sponsors, getting downtown stores involved and making phone calls.

“It’s a great way to revitalize downtown,” Maroney said. “It’s about raising and promoting awareness for the very rich history in Fredericksburg.”

More information can be found at http://www.vintageroute1.com/. Event proceeds will benefit the HFFI, which preserves, protects and restores the city of Fredericksburg and its history.

Andréa Livi Smith Hosts Preservation Education Symposium

Andréa Livi Smith, assistant professor and director of the Center for Historic Preservation, organized and hosted the second Undergraduate Historic Preservation Education Symposium (UHPES) on the UMW campus on June 20-22. Dr. Smith analyzed findings from the first symposium, held in 2010, culminating in an article published in the current edition of Preservation Education and Research. This second iteration of UHPES brought together faculty in historic preservation from undergraduate as well as graduate programs from around the country. Pedagogy, curriculum development, and student placement were the main topics of discussion. Findings from the second UHPES will be posted on the Center for Historic Preservation website. The event was held with the generous support of the Hofer Fund.

Pursuing Preservation

Students test latest technology to determine the historical character of a structure.

Historic Preservation Students Blend Humanities and Sciences

Historic preservation major Audra Medve is an intern at Mount Vernon

When Audra Medve first visited Mount Vernon as a child, she was struck by the timelessness of George Washington’s home, so much so that she returned dozens of times. She never could have imagined she would be an intern at the estate decades later as a senior in the historic preservation program at the university named for Washington’s mother.

Medve enrolled at the University of Mary Washington after the Navy transferred her husband to the Washington, D.C. area in 2008.

“There are very few undergraduate degrees in historic preservation available in the United States, and when I decided to return to school I realized I lived within 30 miles of a truly wonderful program,” Medve said.

Medve’s internship is one of a dozen this spring through UMW’s historic preservation department, regarded as among the best in the nation. Each year, internships range from local preservation organizations like the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation and the Fredericksburg Area Museum, to organizations in Richmond and Washington, D.C., such as the Smithsonian Institution, and even National Park Service sites across the country.

“Given our program’s interdisciplinary basis, we see internships with organizations representing all of our fields: archaeology, architecture, museums and planning,” said Doug Sanford, professor and Prince B. Woodard chair of historic preservation.

On the first day of her internship at Mount Vernon, Medve expected to work on a door from a barn, or cellar, or maybe a back room of the first president’s estate. Much to her surprise, the manager of the project led her to one of the main doors of the mansion.

As an intern, Medve performs the duties of an assistant to the Restoration Manager Steven Mallory, with her main task to restore a door from the 1750s to its original color and condition. The process requires paint analysis of dozens of layers of centuries-old paint with the assistance of conservator and paint analysis expert Susan L. Buck.

“[Her project] is the perfect example of the blending of humanities and the sciences,” Assistant Professor of Historic Preservation Michael Spencer said.

Medve is able to apply coursework from seven or eight different historic preservation classes to her internship.

“You can’t help but be in awe of all the stuff you learn,” she said.

LeeAnne Brooks uses infrared thermography technology at Shelton House

For senior LeeAnne Brooks, her three internships have reinforced her decision to pursue a career in historic preservation.

“The hands-on experience is helping me to prepare for the job market,” Brooks said. “I love that the reality of historic preservation is even more exciting than the classroom experience led me to believe.”

This semester, Brooks is volunteering at Richmond National Battlefield Park’s Shelton House at Rural Plains Plantation in Hanover County, using infrared thermography (IRT) technology to find original features of the historic house. IRT is the measurement of surface temperature distribution through non-destructive methods, Spencer explained.

Barbara Yocum, senior architectural conservator with the National Park Service, said she is grateful for the work of UMW’s historic preservation interns at Shelton House.

“The infrared thermography study has provided valuable insights on the construction of the house that will be included in an upcoming historic structure report on the building,” said Yocum, noting that the more than 250-year-old house sustained shelling during the Civil War.

“This is a leading edge interpretation,” Spencer, who advises both Medve and Brooks, said.

Brooks explained that the process helps minimize the hidden costs associated with preservation work, allowing for a more accurate estimate of the restoration process.

“I love the hunt, the hidden stuff,” she said. “It’s like finding Waldo.”

As an adult student, Brooks’ main motivation is a career she loves. She’s well on her way with the historic preservation program.

“Here was an opportunity to work in history; to do something that I can be passionate about.  I’ve always loved historic buildings and sites, and here is a career in helping to protect some of this country’s most valuable resources – it is a natural fit,” she said.

The fieldwork projects like the ones at Rural Plains and Mount Vernon are a way for students to take lessons learned in the classroom to a new level.

“This highlights the caliber of students that are graduating,” Spencer said. “We are always thinking ‘how can we set our students on the right track?’”

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By: Brynn Boyer

Chandler Site Studied for New Student Center & Dining Facility

Our university desperately needs a vibrant and modern student center and a new dining facility. Seacobeck and Woodard Campus Center are minimally meeting the needs of our students now, and new facilities will not only improve the quality of life at UMW, but also aid in attracting future students to keep the university strong.

The most critical facility deficiency on campus is the lack of a real central gathering place—a student center— for students and the larger UMW community, and our current dining facility is simply inadequate and not sustainable for the future. Most universities have a robust, centrally and strategically located, active, busy and energetic student center that draws students and serves as the hub for activities. These facilities have many common attributes such as housing student organizations, meeting rooms, auditoriums or theaters, retail outlets, substantial food venues and comfortable open areas for relaxing, visiting and meeting. They are the hub of a vibrant campus community.

With these facts in mind, President Hurley has decided to fast track a new dining/student center. He asked vice presidents Doug Searcy and Rick Pearce to put together a small, representative group to investigate the possibilities and to recommend a site. Assistant Professor Michael Spencer, Associate V.P. for Facilities Services John Wiltenmuth, an independent representative of the architectural and engineering firm Burt Hill that is conducting the UMW Master Plan process, a representative from the state’s Department of Historic Resources, and a UMW student representative made up the search committee.

This committee thoroughly vetted several sites on campus and narrowed the possibilities to two, Seacobeck and Chandler. Both sites provided excellent locations but neither building can be renovated or expanded sufficiently to accommodate a new dining/student center. Additionally, the historic value of the two buildings was examined and discussed at length. Seacobeck clearly possessed the greater value to UMW in terms of its place in the university’s history and in the degree that it maintains its original construction features and integrity. Thus, based on the strong response last fall to the suggestion of demolishing Seacobeck coupled with its historic place in the life of the university, Chandler Hall was the unanimous recommendation of the committee as the site for the new center.

Moving forward, a construction plan of this magnitude will have many impacts that we will have to plan for. Two of the university’s largest academic departments, Business Administration and Psychology, will need to be relocated. This was not included in the original draft Master Plan and will be an enormous undertaking. Committees from both departments as well as the Master Plan Steering Committee will be asked to thoroughly study all available options as part of the planning process. They will consider the short term impacts regarding temporary relocation as well as the long term and cascading effects on other offices and departments.

The web site which is being used to comment on the draft Master Plan will also be the location for comments on this new development. Work on the Historic Preservation Plan continues. The Historic Preservation Steering Committee led by Michael Spencer is expecting to complete their plan in September. This plan will be in place prior to moving forward with the Master Plan.

Doug Sanford

Douglas W. Sanford, professor and chair of the Department of Historic Preservation, contributed the article “Slave Housing” to the two-volume World of a Slave: Encyclopedia of the Material Life of Slaves in the United States, edited by Martha B. Katz-Hyman and Kym S. Rice (Greenwood, 2011). 

Much of the information for Sanford’s article developed out of a National Endowment for the Humanities grant project headed by Sanford and Dennis Pogue, of George Washington’s Mt. Vernon, on the variety of housing arrangements for slaves in Virginia, based on archaeological, architectural, and documentary evidence.