Historic Preservation Month

The month of May is dedicated to Historic Preservation. During Preservation Month we celebrate the nation’s diverse heritage through historic places and tell the stories of the American people and communities that those places represent. We invite you to share your stories of diverse heritage from around the world.

Color photograph, interior of a room looking diagonally across a long conference table and chairs to a recessed doorway. There is a chandelier above the table. The walls are painted and have built-in bookcases with glass fronts.
Wallace Conference Room, looking Northwest
Color photograph, detail view showing a painted cornice and frieze with the letters “USA”.
Painted cornice and frieze. The frieze features the letters “USA”.

U.S. Embassy Paris, Chancery
Paris, France

Wallace Conference Room
Painted Cornice and Frieze.

The frieze features the letters “USA”

Color photograph of wall painting

Triumphing Probity

The 1920s in Italy have been a period of great artistic rebirth, in spite of the political situation; the great artistic and technical tradition blended with an impulse for renovation and creativity that brought new, surprising developments. The beautiful wall paintings Giulio Bargellini decorating the grand staircase of one of the buildings in Tri-Mission Rome compound praise the fundamental values of human society and represent a period of hope in the future.

Color photograph, tables and chairs in a room with large map and a poster image of bottle of ketchup on the wall in background

Special Place in a Special Relationship

The basement pub and cafeteria of the US Chancery at Grosvenor Square, London, was a unique and memorable place. The informal atmosphere and playful Anglo-American art (seen in the photo) seemed to me, as a visitor, to capture the spirit of the “Special Relationship” between the US and UK. Places like this are organic, their character developing with the passage of time. 

©Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0. Photo by Ted Grevstad-Nordbrock.

Color photograph, wood house with stepped rooflines and gable ornament

The Norway Building

The Norway Building was designed near Trondheim in the early-1890s and shipped to Chicago for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Following the fair, the building was dismantled and re-erected at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, before being moved again to the town of Blue Mounds. There, it became the centerpiece of an outdoor Norwegian heritage museum. The stave church-styled building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. In the late-2010s, it was dismantled and returned home to Norway. It now serves as a community center in Orkanger.

©Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0. Photo by Ted Grevstad-Nordbrock.

When Dan Brown books became so popular I didn’t feel the need to read them, but then I finally did and fell in love, with The Da Vinci Code first, that took me to Paris, in the richest museum I’ve visited in my life. It felt like being there and at some point I had to go again, just for a refresh. I must admit the Mona Lisa is not my favorite, but lazily walking along the corridors of Louvre and take all that beauty in makes you see how you can easily get drunk by the overwhelming amount of art that stares back at you. When in Paris, I just have to go to D’Orsay, definitely my favorite, where I get emotional, literally, in front of my favorite impressionist paintings, but most especially when I find myself staring at Degas Little Dancer, the bronze statue, it’s like visiting an old time friend. At the end of the day I always feed exhausted, and I have this sad feeling because I know it will be years before I’ll be able to see all that beauty again. Back in Rome, I tackled Angels and Demons, and of course being set in Rome made it even more compelling. I felt privileged as people would book vacations to come and trace Robert Langdon’s steps around the city, while I walk by those churches every day, on my way to work! One morning I was reading that part that took the protagonists at Santa Maria della Vittoria and I asked myself “which one is that…?” — us Romans can be so ignorant about our beautiful city’s treasures!!! Once off the train, at a traffic light, right across the street at Largo Santa Susanna, on my way from the station to Via Veneto where AmEmbassy Rome is located, I see it, the name of that very church! Tears came down my eyes, and I had to go inside to take a quick look at my favorite Bernini sculpture, St Teresa Ecstasy. I remember studying it in high school, so controversial for its time and so modern, so real. Passion can come in various forms, art is definitely one of my favorite. I wish to say thanks to all those who work hard to preserve it. 

Photograph Credit: Creative Commons/Alvesgaspar

Four images, clockwise: crowd gathering in front of monument and flag; ruins of a monument pedestal; bronze monument in a park like setting, two statues pictured side by side

Rebuilding a Monument

A monument to President Woodrow Wilson erected in Prague in the late 1920s, destroyed by Nazi Germany in 1941, and recreated and dedicated in 2011, attests to diplomatic and cultural ties between nations and to the art and science of conservation. Pieces of the model for the original statue by Albin Polasek, a Czech-born sculptor, were found in 2008. With these as a guide, a contemporary artist was able to reconstruct the monument.

Photograph Compilation by Robert Doubek, whose efforts led to the monument’s recovery. 

Color photograph, decorative ceiling painting on woven structure of a thatch roof

Traditional building, contemporary living. 

Painted decoration on the underside of a thatched conical roof to create an ornamental ceiling for the round-room interior. The round shape and thatch roofing are characteristics of a tukul, a building type seen in East Africa, here at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa. 

Architectural Details of 1880 Wine Cellar

These hand-crafted wine shelves and polished wood door handle adorn the original wine cellar of the seaside villa north of Copenhagen that is now the residence of the U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission. While the villa’s most notorious resident was the head of the SS and German police, who lived here during the Occupation, the residence was originally built in 1880 for prominent Jewish merchant Lauritz Salomonsen. Salomonsen owned the villa until his death there in 1925, and much of the villa’s current footprint is attributable to his architectural vision. The wine cellar appeared in Salomonsen’s early plans for the villa; the details captured here provide a tangible link to the home’s 1880 origins.

Tionesta, Pennsylvania

Hometown Heritage Remembered 

To me Historic Preservation means many things. I come from a small town nestled deep in the Allegheny National Forest on the Allegheny River where once the Local Tribal Councils held meetings on the riverbanks led by the Seneca Nation. Eventually the Indians moved to Salamanca NY and the settlers moved in. The tribes left behind evidence of their existence in the arrowheads that continue to appear in gardens every now and then. They are acknowledged in the Pennsylvania markers in town and celebrated each year by the townspeople who to this day share a special kinship with our Seneca Nation brothers.

Oil was struck 15 miles away at Drake’s well in Titusville, PA in 1859. Oil and the logging industry brought the settlers to the area.

The courthouse was completed in 1870. Within the last 10 years or so, two frescoes found hidden behind some paneling have been restored by preservation experts.

Both my brother’s and sister’s houses were built in 1886.

My father worked for Cropp dairy delivering milk door to door leaving full glass bottles and picking up the empties to be washed and refilled. See the picture with the local van. My sisters who are older tell me stories of riding in that van sitting on milk cans – there was only a seat for the driver. No seat belts, nope, not even seats!

The local Dr. made house calls – first it was Dr Bovard. Pictured is his early office stocked with medicines and instruments. Then it was Doc Heasley with his black bag who delivered half the town. (It was much larger back then – 650 people.)

There are maps to be preserved, old implements and tools, items from businesses long gone, the names of the boys from the local high school who served during WWII, and the uniforms that they wore.

One thing that is the most difficult to preserve are the memories in the minds of those that lived during those times. We must strive to capture all that is available to pass down from generation to generation and even on to new townspeople as they move in. There must be a way to teach newcomers what Tionesta is and who we were as a people, who settled the land, who protected our freedom, and who are proud to say they hailed from Tionesta, Pennsylvania. Current population 350.

American Legation National Historic Landmark

Celebrating the bicentennial of the legation building in Tangier, a gift of the Sultan of Morocco to the United States in May 1821. 

Cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible, is tied to history, memory, and tradition. Binding people together through a shared sense of the past, it has the ability to unite and inspire.

Color photograph of building with exterior stair from second to third floors

Riddle’s Court

Old even by Edinburgh standards, the complex presently known as Riddle’s Court is home to the Patrick Geddes Centre of the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust. Geddes was a late-19th/early-20th century town planner active in his home country of Scotland and, later, in India. The oft-quoted maxim attributed to him, “Think global, act local,” became a rallying cry of community activists and environmentalists in the 1960s. Geddes’s worldview is captured in the Latin expression carved into the entrance lintel at Riddle’s Court: “Vivendo Discimus,” “By Living We Learn.” Historic places provide us the opportunity to understand the world through firsthand experiences–to learn in the course of our daily lives and activities.

©Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0. Photo by Ted Grevstad-Nordbrock.

The Byne House

In 2019, I volunteered for an internship with the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, Spain, which concluded in March 2020. This seven-month internship as a senior at Boise State University has expanded my depth of understanding yet again, familiarizing me with the Department of State and driving home the importance of strategic communications, even beyond that of customer service. As a recent example, Information Management Resources Department notified me that my work will be published and distributed because it adds “prestige” to the U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Residence, an icon of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Madrid. Each of these highlights from my life share a common theme. They were not just professional experiences. They were also deeply personal. They grew my understanding of the culture and life in Spain, as my great-great-grandmother would have experienced before migrating to America.

Color photograph of multi story building with cars parked in the foreground

Embassy of the United States of America

Designed by Midwesterners Ralph Rapson and John van der Meulen, along with local architect Anders Tengbom, the US embassy in Stockholm sits atop a rocky outcropping in the city’s Östermalm neighborhood. The structure was completed in 1954. Its stark design reflects the predilections of its modernist architects, all of whom had connections to the pioneering Cranbrook Academy of Art in suburban Detroit. It stands today as a reminder of the wide-reaching influence of Michigan’s mid-century design community.

©Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0. Photo by Ted Grevstad-Nordbrock.

Color photograph of abstract painting in a frame
Color photograph of abstract painting in a frame

Abdulmari Imao, the first Filipino Muslim National Artist, (sculptor, painter, etc.) to honor the many significant contributions of the Filipino Muslims to the predominantly Christian Filipino culture. Shown here are two of his paintings that I acquired from one of his sons, Joey Imao, who, himself is a portrait artist.

Color photograph of bars of soap

Aleppo Laurel Soap

Aleppo soap — widely considered to be the first soap ever made — is popular across the Middle East and far beyond. But the intense fighting is making business in Syria’s second city all but impossible — and the soap’s future is uncertain.

Aleppo laurel soap is named after the city in which it was first made — Aleppo, Syria. The centuries-old formula is revered by people from all over the world for its soothing benefits and all natural ingredients. Laurel oil is considered Syria’s “green gold,” every year the soap is manufactured from November to March after the olives and laurel berry fruit have been collected from the trees and turned into oil. Each soap bar takes one year to make. The olive tree is the symbol of Afreen — the hills are home to the largest olive tree orchards that supply Aleppo and other regions with fresh olive oil used for making soap and for consumption.

Here’s more historical information:

The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) “Seignouret-Brulatour House” Tricentennial Galleries

New Orleans is what you could call a little big city. With just under 400,000 residents, the City’s population swells into the millions during festivals such as Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras. What makes New Orleans so special, however, is not its outsized reputation but its palpable history. Nowhere is this history more visible than in the French Quarter—also known as the Vieux Carré.

The Vieux Carré is recognized as the first designated historic district in the United States. This celebration of the past also prohibits, by means of strict preservation codes, any modern or contemporary architecture at the street-edge. It is striking, then, that tucked back in one of the Vieux Carré’s courtyards are the historic “Seignouret-Brulatour House” Tricentennial Galleries, part of The Historic New Orleans Collection’s (THNOC). The contrast between new and old is heightened as the renovated architecture reveals itself at the end of the carriageway.

Founded in 1966, THNOC is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. 520 Royal Street, the site of its “Seignouret-Brulatour House” Tricentennial Galleries, includes a restored 1816 house with an historic courtyard, a newly built contemporary wing, and two parking warehouses.

The address began as a wine depot in 1816, later becoming the home of the Arts and Crafts Club in the 1920s and 1930s, and the home of the first television station in the City in 1949. After the most recent renovation was completed in 2019, THNOC premiered the largest built work of contemporary architecture in the Vieux Carré in generations, and the first to reach LEED Silver certification.

In a time of environmental and cultural change, the new museum facility stands to help define the Region’s history and values for generations of future inhabitants. Heritage is alive and well in the Big Easy, for what it was makes what it is even more enchanting.