The Society of Architectural Historians has created an encyclopedia of important properties on their website, called the archipedia. A work in progress, the goal is to have each state’s 100 representative properties compiled by 2015. It is not hard to argue that Ohio has an amazing history, with a rich built environment. Barb Powers has been coordinating a representation of Ohio’s 100 most notable properties. The list is created from input, suggestions, and discussions with professionals in the field. The list is organized chronologically from the Serpent Mound in Adams County, to the Glass Pavilion in Toledo (2006), Ohio’s college campuses, and entries open for Presidential sites or Courthouse entries.
Now that the list has been created, the next step is creating descriptions for the entries. The first 10% of entries are due to SAH at the beginning of April. Those 10 selected have the most information and are those bolded in the list. Contact Barb Powers at email@example.com if you are interested in contributing a particular entry.
Archaeology provides us with a neutral side to history. It gives us a glimpse into an untold or undocumented part of history at a certain location. There are many historic sites in Ohio that are well known for their post-European settlement importance. Many of these sites, in addition, have a rich history prior to European contact. One of these sites is the Rankin House in Ripley, Ohio.
The Rankin House
Reverend John Rankin owned the property from 1828-1865. Until 1863, the family and their neighbors sheltered over 2,000 slaves, sometimes up to 12 people at a time. The question at hand at the beginning of the investigation is, where would that many people hide without anyone noticing? From archival evidence, as well as interviews, we know that what stands today isn’t what stood before. We know that in the 1940s, the Ohio Historical Society [OHS] did extensive renovations to the site. Alterations included the demolition of a brick kitchen, alteration of two barns, the construction of an addition to the east elevation, and demolition of multiple outbuildings and fences. While some of the buildings can be seen from aerial photos around that time, buildings which were demolished before that were still a mystery. One of the mystery buildings, which was a focal point during this investigation, has been referred to as The Rankin Barn. Rev. Rankin’s grandson stated that freedom-seekers were hidden in a cellar under a barn 100 feet west of the house. Decades later, however, he claims that the building used to house fugitive slaves in an ample cellar was located 150 feet northwest of the house.
Pieces of the Puzzle
While it’s something which may seem obvious, let’s remember that during the Rankin-era occupation, trash collection didn’t occur. We can learn a lot about consumerism and daily life patterns through the material culture left behind. Additionally, more can be learned about both those seeking freedom, as well as those helping hide people during the Underground Railroad era. With this in mind, locating and research what was found in the previous kitchen, the cistern, and privy all would contribute greatly to better interpretation of the site.
Knowing the area described where the barn and kitchen could be located seems to beg the question, well, why not just look there? Shovel tests were performed and units were excavated throughout the site. However, due to the extensive remodeling of the site in the 1940s, the data remains inconclusive. The mixture of layers allowed modern day plastic to sit next to historic ceramic pieces. The remodeling also meant bulldozing many structures, so the layout of the buildings is also no longer available, as infill has occurred through much of the site.
Another important outcome from the research at the site came through “ground-truthing”, or the use of equipment like ground penetrating radar to determine whether there are any anomalies in the soil, like larger rocks, a change in soil, or metal. In 2010, a geophysical survey of the site took place. The area most impacted by construction, as well as a focus on the highest and flattest elevations of the site were the areas of focus. Until 1950, a major farm road ran through the site, in a north-west direction. The first area was closest to the house, and known to be most impacted by the site reconstruction. The second area was a curving linear ridge covering approximately 4.5 acres on an east to west sloping slope. The old farm road cut through this area, and a gas pipeline was present. Twenty-seven areas were focused on in this geophysical survey, particularly along the higher portions of the ridge. Far less iron anomalies were found compared to closer to the house, which would indicate less historic-era activity. Yet, there were a number of distinct anomalies, which resemble characteristics of features such as a prehistoric pit. These areas were further investigated; half produced evidence pointing towards prehistoric cultural activity, as indicated by burned earth, charcoal, and dark soil. In conclusion, there appear to be two distinct prehistoric occupations in this area of the site.
While the excavation provided some answers to questions, it also presented an entirely new set of questions and directions to take future research. The location of where Rankin hid freedom seekers, and how that many people would have passed through going unnoticed, are questions which remain unanswered. Having located the privy, cistern, and bottle dump, questions regarding consumer patterns and daily life may be able to be answered with further research. We know that a lot of site disturbance occurred in the 1940s; however there is more to the site than just the Rankin occupation period. With the location of many soil anomalies, areas with burned earth and charcoal, new questions now surface. What was the property used for prior to the Rankin occupation? How long people using the property and how many people were were there? This property continues to be an amazing research and teaching site.
One of my absolute favorite blogs is Preservation in Pink, so I found her post a few weeks back about young preservationists especially interesting. As you may be aware, Heritage Ohio has been active in working to help build a Young Ohio Preservationist movement, from developing a survey to get feedback about how 20-40 year old self-identified preservationists view themselves shaping preservation in Ohio, to holding one-on-one stakeholder interviews, to holding introductory planning meetings in Columbus this past January.
As the PiP author expresses in her blog post, preservationists in leadership positions have done a better job in recent years of actively engaging people under 40 to help shape the preservation movement. Although some bristle at the notion that a “Young Preservationist” appellation is even needed, preferring instead to seamlessly mesh with the rest of the preservation world, the concept of giving young preservationists special status within the preservation world has taken hold. A lot of Old Preservationists (myself included) are excited by the prospect of fresh ideas, and new ways of looking at (and saving) old buildings that young preservationists can bring to the table.
What do you think? Is there a place in the preservation world for groups of a specific age range?
Heritage Ohio is again offering a series of workshops to help individuals and communities understand the historic building rehabilitation process.
We will be offering four workshops during 2014. Participants will have the opportunity to visit with representatives from Ohio Development Services Agency and the Ohio Historic Preservation Office. We will have a building owner share their experience in using historic tax credits, and other professionals involved in successful rehabilitation projects.
The next workshops will be:
February 24 in Dayton
April 11 in Steubenville
August 8 in Findlay
October 13 in Portsmouth
The Appalachia Heritage Luncheon was conceived by Ohio’s Hill Country Heritage Area and Heritage Ohio as an opportunity to share the many diverse successes that highlight the past and future of Ohio’s Appalachia Region. Selected project representatives each present their projects’ story, providing exposure to many successes in Appalachia.
Nominations are now being accepted to present 3-minute success stories of projects which have created, enhanced, preserved and/or improved the value and understanding of Ohio’s Appalachia Heritage, and as a result improved quality of life, created meaningful employment or entrepreneurial opportunities to be presented at the 2014 Appalachia Heritage Luncheon, held in the Ohio’s Capital Building Rotunda.
To nominate a project fill out this form Appalachia Heritage Success Stories Nomination Form
When I started college, I initially went to school for historic preservation. I always wondered what it was like to live a century ago, loved looking at historic photographs and hearing stories from the older residents in my town. While in college, on a whim, I took two archaeology classes one semester and fell in love. Yes, history provides you with names and dates and beautiful stories; however archaeology appealed to me because it is void of any opinion when it comes to telling the story of the past. I could tell you that I eat yogurt and snack bars at work, and drink a lot of water. However, if you took a peak at my garbage can next to my desk, you would see many candy and cereal bar wrappers, a few yogurt containers, and a lot of tea bags. Does that mean I live solely on those foods? No, however, it does mean that when I’m at that location, that is what I tend to consume. Material culture (physical remains, artifacts) can tell us a lot about history, particularly the history which doesn’t have a written record. It can also confirm written record.
If you think about a historic site as a whole with a story to tell, the standing structures tell just part of the story. A house, for example, can tell a lot about both the people who built the structure, as well as the current function. However, the house has not been there since time began. The landscape and what is beneath the land also has a rich history. Perhaps the area was formerly a farm. You might find footprints of former buildings, construction materials, farming tools, or animal bones. If there was a building and it collapsed in on itself, it will look different than if it was taken apart piece by piece. The material that the building was constructed of will leave different evidence and could show a different history. It could also show a chronology on the site, and help with dating the site. Materials such as nails were manufactured in different ways during certain set dates. Local resources used for construction material can also help provide the earliest date. Perhaps limestone or granite was quarried and used for building foundations, but you know that that ceased in a certain year. That year can be used as a point of reference.
One of the most important data components in archaeology is where the artifacts were found relative to the surface and relative to other physical or material culture. As archaeologists slowly excavate, the story of the history of that 1-meter square comes to light. Perhaps you find a 1980 penny and some plastic toys on the top surface, and then the next layer below you find the remnants of a glass bottle you can assign a date to, and kitchen utensils and maybe a broken dish, and then a layer of charcoal and burned wood when you know there was a house fire on that site at a certain date. This would indicate an area of undisturbed soil. However, many times all of those artifacts are lying next to each other; the 1980 penny sitting right next to a wire nail from the 1890s. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it still provides us with a picture of site activity because it would indicate that at some point the ground was disturbed. Perhaps it because it became plowed field, perhaps a tornado ripped through, or maybe a road came through nearby and the soil was dumped there.
In the next year, I will be writing blogs about different archaeology projects that have occurred or are occurring in Ohio. I encourage you to think about what other history is below ground, or what questions could be answered/confirmed through archaeology.
We’re excited to start our 2014 Webinar Series with a nationally recognized speaker, Jeff Speck, author of Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time. His book delves into the practices that have become entrenched in our society, and he discusses what REALLY works to make out cities more livable. Speck is a city planner and architectural designer who, through writing, lectures, and built work, advocates internationally for smart growth and sustainable design. As Director of Design at the National Endowment for the Arts from 2003 through 2007, he oversaw the Mayors’ Institute on City Design and created the Governors’ Institute on Community Design, a federal program that helps state governors fight suburban sprawl.
Heritage Ohio webinars are a benefit of membership. Click here to join Heritage Ohio
Heritage Ohio members may register for the webinar HERE
A somewhat quiet, but nonetheless controversial, tax credit ruling erupted in August of 2012, when a court decision found that a development partner in a historic rehab was not, in fact, a bona fide development partner. What did this mean? Quite simply, this ruling had the potential to take redevelopment partners, often the development partners who put upfront construction money into a project, off rehab projects. And removing the funding source to make construction happen means stopping rehab projects in their tracks (this article from the Canton Repository shows how the Boardwalk decision hit home in Ohio.)
Without clear guidelines on how the IRS would treat development partners, active investment has lagged in the past 16 months. Fortunately, the IRS recently published guidelines to clarify development partners’ relationships, and how those partners can make use of tax credit allocations. The Preservation Exchange, a blog originating from Preservation Studios in Buffalo, NY, published a post providing analysis of what the IRS guidelines may mean for future developer partnership structures. You can read the PE post here.
You can read the IRS guidelines here. Heritage Ohio will continue to monitor the impact of the IRS guidelines and share updates as we learn of them.
The Capital Arts Committee has issued their recommendations to the Ohio General Assembly for Capital Bill appropriations for the 2015-2016 biennium budget. The proposed $33 million appropriation is projected to leverage $862 million in matching money. Click the following link to see recommendations. Ohio Capital Arts Committee Final Report
You are invited to celebrate Cincinnati’s Historic Buildings…
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
21c Museum Hotel
609 Walnut Street
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
The Ohio Development Services Agency invites you to this special event to celebrate Cincinnati’s preservation of historic landmarks. Speakers include David Goodman, Director of the Ohio Development Services Agency; Mary Cusick, Chief of TourismOhio; Stephen Leeper of the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) and Kevin Pape of the Over-the-Rhine Foundation. Join us for a presentation and tour of the award-winning facility, 21c Museum Hotel and learn about other Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit projects coming to fruition in 2014.
Questions can be addressed to Nathaniel Kaelin, Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program Manager, at (614) 728-0995.
Parking available via valet (for a fee) and at nearby garages