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  • 23 Oct 2017 4:22 PM | Christine R Henry (Administrator)

    Welcome to the Fall 2017 issue of VAN.  As always, the newsletter has plenty of useful information including calls for papers and panels as well as some details on our upcoming annual meeting in the Washington, DC area to be held in May 2018.  The member news section is packed with updates from members about the great work they have been doing in the field and classroom.  There is an occasional section of member profiles, introducing you to the new VAF board members that began their terms of service in the summer.   We also have a remembrance of an influential author and architectural historian Paul Oliver.  There is a featured essay from the VAF ambassadors from Ball State who share their excitement for vernacular architecture after attending the meeting in Salt Lake City in June.  To round our the issue we have our bibliography packed with useful resources that span the disciplines that contribute to vernacular architecture studies.  Thanks as always for the contributions to the newsletter.  Hope you enjoy the issue.

    Christine Henry, Newsletter Editor

  • 22 Oct 2017 4:46 PM | Christine R Henry (Administrator)
    Mt Vernon, site of the keynote address

    VAF 2018 will take us back east to the Washington, DC region for A Shared Heritage: Urban and Rural Experience on the Banks of the Potomac, May 2-5, 2018. 

    Wyoming, Clinton, MD


    The Potomac River serves as the boundary between Maryland and Virginia, creating a cultural landscape that is simultaneously divided and shared. The tours will present the Potomac region’s urban and rural history, and highlight cultural, religious, economic, and agricultural resources while emphasizing cross-river connections. 




    Kenah House, MD


    A day of tours in Maryland will focus on landscapes from three centuries, illustrating evolution from a slave-based monoculture to a region of diversified work and leisure activities.





    King Street, Alexandria, VA


    Walking tours in Alexandria will showcase a city planned in the 18th century that has continually evolved and adapted to meet cultural and economic change while retaining a distinct historic urbanity. 



    Sites on both sides of the river will inform the following themes:

    ·      Plantation agriculture and riverine commercial settlements

    ·      Urban evolution

    ·      Intersections of black and white culture

    ·      Religious heritage: architectures of public and private worship

    ·      Modernity and whole place preservation

    The conference is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia at the Crowne Plaza Old Town, and for the keynote event we will travel by boat to George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Please note two important points: Maryland tours are limited to 100 participants each, so register early; the boat for the keynote event leaves at 5:00pm on Wednesday, so make your travel plans accordingly. 

    Questions? Contact Tom Reinhart at vafpotomac@vafweb.org.

    We look forward to seeing you on the banks of the Potomac!

  • 22 Oct 2017 4:16 PM | Christine R Henry (Administrator)

    The 2017 Advocacy Award went to the partnership of the MT Preservation Alliance, the MT History Foundation, and author/photographer Charlotte Caldwell for their “Big Sky Schoolhouses Statewide Preservation Project”. They have successfully advocated for the preservation of hundreds of rural school houses in Montana.  During the past six years this non-profit partnership has raised awareness of the significance of Montana’s historic schoolhouses, and they are now a leading a statewide initiative to save them. Inspired by the 2012 publication of Ms. Caldwell’s beautiful book of photography and local narratives, Visions and Voices: Montana’s One-Room Schoolhouses, the partnership launched a grant program for schoolhouse preservation and an ambitious county-by-county inventory of every standing schoolhouse remaining in Montana. To-date they have raised funds to support two dozen schoolhouse preservation projects, and their inventory has recorded over 200 standing schoolhouses, with only 40 counties still to go! Two leading members of the Montana Preservation Alliance, Executive Director Chere Jiusto, and Outreach and Education Director Christine Brown accepted the award at the 2017 conference in Salt Lake City.

    For more information on the VAF Advocacy Awards see our website.

  • 22 Oct 2017 4:09 PM | Christine R Henry (Administrator)

    Kellyn and Emily on the top of the Salt Lake City and County Building, VAF 2017Emily Royer:

    The Historic Preservation department from Ball State University attended the Vernacular Architecture conference for the first time this year. Three students from our program attended, introducing a new type of conference and a new strain of dialogue to enrich the professional nature of the program. Over the course of the event, Kelyn, Clint, and myself discussed the differences between VAF and other conferences we’d attended, ultimately concluding that VAF felt like a reunion of friends who shared a favorite passion rather than simply a networking event or educational conference.

    The overall energy of Two Utahs helped me to quickly meet and connect with others, whether they were fellow first-time attendees or VAF veterans. I am amazed at the variety of research and interests represented by VAF members, which lent perspective to my personal experience of the tours and made the entire trip a ton of fun.

    I began my week with a tour of the Sanpete Valley. Not knowing what to expect except for the “busload of architectural historians looking at great buildings” I had been promised, I looked forward to seeing how Mormonism shaped the daily life of the early settlers. The first leg of our tour covered about fifteen stops, most of which were small homes in the area. I barely visited half of them, finding myself instead in long conversations with homeowners or their neighbors who were eager to talk about their town. By the end of the day layers of building, story, and growth composed a dynamic picture of life past and present in the small towns.

    The next day of tours was spent in the “second Utah”. A morning tour of the gentile city and an afternoon tour of the quickly re-developing streetcar suburbs showed a different Salt Lake City of change and cooperation.

    The final day of paper presentations put it all into perspective. The scholarship shared help me to reflect on the nature of my own interests and work, and conversations about the previous day’s tours helped me to make sense of the things I’d seen. Evenings at bars or dinners with new friends led to similar discussions.

    Kelyn Alexander:

    Overall, my first VAF showed me a group of people dedicated to listening and learning and ultimately reading and acknowledging the unique history of a place, and consequently a new way to learn from and with others. I look forward to incorporating more of this kind of work into my program, and can’t wait for the next gathering in Alexandria!

    I am extremely grateful I was part of the Ball State group selected for an Ambassador Award to the VAF Conference this year in Salt Lake City. As my first introduction to vernacular architecture, I couldn’t have planned a better learning experience. I found the organization of the conference to truly augment my understanding of how the built environment can influence social history and how the opposite also occurs.

    Salt Lake has such a unique blend of secular and religious influences, and I had the chance to see and experience how they interact. For the two days of tours, I chose to attend the Park City tour and the tours on re-urbanization in Salt Lake. I explored old mining shacks, million dollar resort homes, and the Olympic Park. I also learned about the founding, development, and redevelopment of these places.

    Additionally, in talking to veteran VAF attendees, their passion and dedication to the field was apparent to me. And that attitude pervaded the entire conference. I enjoyed hearing about fellow students’ and professionals’ work. The presentations they shared on the final day of the conference further showed me the extent to which this field of study can be applied. I will definitely be attending another VAF conference in the future and would recommend anyone interested in history to attend! Looking forward to 2018 and Alexandria!

    Clint Kelly:

    Being awarded a VAF Ambassador scholarship was a fantastic opportunity. I had never heard of the Vernacular Architecture Forum and was very impressed with the conference. I spent four days learning about Utah architecture, cultural heritage of the area, and meeting new people. I have attended a handful or national and state conferences over the past two years of graduate school. VAF was the only one that focused on architectural history. I will likely attend other VAF conferences.

  • 22 Oct 2017 3:22 PM | Christine R Henry (Administrator)

    Heather BarrettI have long heard about the importance of being a VAF member – through my work at the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office, graduate school at George Washington University (GW) and my subsequent work at the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT).  And, the VAF stories I’ve heard!  Over the years, I’ve learned a great deal from some of VAF’s founders and long-time members, including Catherine Bishir, Claudia Brown, Orlando Ridout, Marcia Miller, and Richard Longstreth. 

    I’ve been a VAF member since the late 1990s, attending my first conference in Williamsburg, Virginia in 2002. Orlando’s field methods class at GW further confirmed my interest in survey work. He emphasized the importance of conducting in-depth building analysis and research. Armed with that background, I began a decade-long stint as an independent preservation consultant in New Mexico, and in 2014, I was delighted to accept the offer to return to the East Coast and MHT as Administrator of Research & Survey.

    I welcome the opportunity to serve on the VAF Board and as a member of the Orlando Ridout V Fieldwork Fellowship Committee.  As a member of the 2018 planning committee, I hope you’ll join us for next year’s conference – A Shared Heritage: Urban and Rural Experience on the Banks of the Potomac – in Alexandria, Virginia and southern Maryland. 

  • 22 Oct 2017 3:17 PM | Christine R Henry (Administrator)

    It is with delight and some trepidation that I step into the shoes of our very capable past First Vice President, Will Moore. Membership in the VAF over the years has given me such joy and contributed so much to my growth as a heritage conservation professional and scholar of the built environment that I could not turn down the opportunity to pay it forward and follow Will as First VP. 

    Annmarie Adams and her students at McGill University introduced me to the VAF at its Ottawa meeting in 1995, when I was a master’s student supporting my scholarly habit with a part-time gig at the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. I swallowed my shyness and got acquainted with a handful of Dell Upton and Paul Groth’s students -- along with Dell and Paul themselves -- and just over two years later, made my way to Berkeley to enroll in the Ph.d program in History of Architecture. By then, I was a committed VAFer, with Portland recently under my belt. I have many fond memories of those first VAF meetings, but perhaps the most significant, in retrospect, was receiving Dell’s quiet advice at the Ottawa banquet, to “do what you love.” 

    I took that advice, and twenty years later, I am still doing what I love. Before making the move from California back to Canada, I detoured through Charlottesville, VA and Manhattan. I have been an architectural historian with the Archeology and History Branch at Parks Canada for the past seven years. The work I do every day, and the way I perform that work is informed by the culture of VAF. The organization’s emphasis on fieldwork and a broad view of the built environment, as well as the kindness and collegiality of its members set a high bar for professional conduct anywhere, and one I proudly promote at Parks.

    I have had two rounds on the VAF Board, serving as chair of the papers committee, the Buchanan Award, and the Cummings Prize, among other duties. I have also played smaller roles in preparing the New York and Gaspé conferences, which explored the breadth of what the VAF has to offer in conferences. As First VP, my principal role will be to find great people to fill board positions. If you are the kind of smart, committed, creative, convivial person the VAF seems to attract, I will likely be calling on you! 

  • 22 Oct 2017 3:10 PM | Christine R Henry (Administrator)
    Sally McMurrayI first learned about VAF when I stumbled on the Vernacular Architecture Newsletter -- a slim paper production back then -- in Cornell’s architecture library.  In 1985 I attended my first VAF conference, in San Francisco.  What a thrill to find a community of people who shared a common language, an engaged curiosity about buildings, and a delight in one another’s company!  Since then I have attended 24 annual meetings.  VAF has for me been a steady source not only for intellectual inspiration but for friendship.  Over the years I have served on the VAF Board; co-edited Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture; and organized the 2004 meeting in Pennsylvania.   It has been a pleasure to give back to the organization and I look forward to serving the VAF again in a second term on the Board. 


  • 22 Oct 2017 2:50 PM | Christine R Henry (Administrator)
    Ian Stevenson

    “Why are you taking a photo of my house?” asked a muscled, long-bearded, leather-jacket-wearing biker in West Medford, Massachusetts, on a brisk fall day in 2010.  “I’m a student at Boston University doing research on the historic development of your neighborhood,” I replied nervously.  Disarmed, the resident proceeded to tell me what he knew about his house, his neighbor’s (“it was moved”), and offered to share historic photos. It was my introduction to fieldwork, and as a newly enrolled master’s student in preservation studies, I was hooked.

    Since that day, I have relied upon fieldwork techniques developed by VAF scholars as well as their written scholarship in Buildings & Landscapes and books.  I began attending tours offered by the New England Chapter and later the national organization via my first annual meeting at Gaspe, Quebec, and have come to understand how invaluable the VAF is to students at all levels.

    Now a PhD Candidate in Boston University’s American & New England Studies Program, I am honored to bring a student voice to the VAF Board.  I have served as a bibliographer for the organization since 2013, getting to know the scope of VAFers’ interests in architecture, cultural landscapes, preservation, and related areas. The VAF offers outstanding support and resources for emerging scholars and practitioners, and I look forward to continuing to foster this role while acting as a liaison for the student constituency.

    My own interdisciplinary dissertation explores communal summer vacation cottages and campgrounds constructed by Civil War veterans in the late nineteenth century. Along with an MA in Preservation Studies from Boston University, I earned a bachelor’s degree in American History from Bates College. I also have over a decade of experience in the publishing industry.  Prior to entering the PhD program, I was Assistant Editor for the Humanities and Administrator of the Loeb Classical Library and The I Tatti Renaissance Library at Harvard University Press.  

  • 22 Oct 2017 2:14 PM | Christine R Henry (Administrator)
    Paul Oliver at the Vernacular Architecture in the Twenty-First Century held in Oxford in 2006. The conference was in held in his honor. A volume of conference essays was edited by Marcel Vellinga and Lindsay. Photo Credit, Simon Bronner. Paul Oliver (left) with leading lights of vernacular architecture study at the Oxford conference, 2006

    Architecture historian and music historian Paul Oliverfounding editor of the Encyclopedia of Vernacular Architecture of the Worldpassed away on August 14, 2017 at the age of 90. 

    The New York Times printed a well researched obituary with the first half focusing on his research on American blues music, and the latter part dedicated to  his contributions to vernacular architecture studies.

  • 22 Oct 2017 2:04 PM | Christine R Henry (Administrator)

    At the recommendation of 2016 Conference Co-Chair Claudia Brown, the VAF Board donated $2,000 each to Mendenhall Plantation and Preservation Durham. 

    Mendenhall Plantation

    Mendenhall Plantation (a stop on the Piedmont Patchwork tour) has considerable, as-yet-unmet restoration needs, including repointing of the ca.1811 brick plantation house built by Quaker James Mendenhall. 


    Preservation Durham needs funds to pay interns conducting oral history interviews in the College Heights neighborhood (a stop on the City of the New South tour) as part of the organization’s Preservation Equity Project. This project closely relates to the 2016 conference theme in its focus on preservation of the city’s low-income, largely African American neighborhoods. 

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