Vermont lost one of its agrarian and architectural landmarks this weekend when the historic Old Dairy Barn at Shelburne Farms was destroyed by fire. The 1891 landmark at 989 South Gate Road in Shelburne was a key part of the Shelburne Farms complex designed by the noted architect R. H. Robertson. According to a message posted on the Shelburne Farms website by president Alec Webb, the cause of fire most likely was lightning from an early morning storm on Sunday. The building burned to the ground. “This is an incredibly sad loss to the historic fabric of this place,” Webb wrote. Shelburne Farms is a non-profit educational organization located on a tract formerly owned by the Webb family. Its campus is a 1,400-acre working farm, forest, and National Historic Landmark. Shelburne Farms acquired the Old Dairy Barn, the nearby Breeding Barn, and surrounding land in 1994 from the adjacent Shelburne Museum, according to its website. “The Barn has been structurally stabilized with a new roof, foundation, and beams,” the site states. Robert Henderson Robertson (1849-1919) was born in Philadelphia and designed numerous houses, institutional buildings, and churches, many in partnership with William Appleton Potter. His work included summer cottages in Newport, Rhode Island, campus buildings at Brown and Princeton, and tall buildings in New York City. His 1899 Park Row Building at 15 Park Row, for August Belmont, briefly held the title of being the world’s tallest building. Other Robertson commissions include: the Brown University Library; Witherspoon Hall at Princeton University; Alpha Kappa Lodge at Williams College, the Commodore Charles H. Baldwin House in Newport; the American Tract Society Building at 150 Nassau Street in New York; Engine Company 55 firehouse at 363 Broome Street in New York, and the main lodge at Camp Santanoni, a national landmark near Newcomb, New York. Shelburne Farms, his most comprehensive farm complex, includes Shelburne House, the Breeding Barn, the Farm Barn, and the Coach Barn. He also designed the Shelburne Railroad Station. Megan Camp, vice president and program director of Shelburne Farms, told the Burlington Free Press that the Old Dairy Barn was being used to store lumber and Shelburne Farms planned to renovate it to house educational programs. “Losing one of these buildings is like losing a family member,” Camp was quoted as saying. “You don’t replace a building like this.” Webb said in his message that all activities and programs at Shelburne Farms will continue as usual except for a historic barns tour on Monday, which was canceled. “We are very fortunate and grateful that no animals or people were harmed in the fire,” he wrote. “It will take a while to assess the full impacts of the loss of this amazing building.” For more on the blaze, as well as images of the fire itself, see this Burlington Free Press article (page may have advertisements with noise).
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One of the Chicago area's last remaining homes by brothers and modernist architects George Frederick and William Keck faces likely demolition later this year, despite a long-running preservation campaign to save it. The 1955 Blair House at 925 Sheridan Road in Lake Bluff, Illinois could earn designation as a local landmark, but that distinction may do little more than delay the inevitable, preservationists said, since the Chicago suburb's landmark ordinance lacks legal teeth. In 1957 Architectural Record named the Blair House "A Residence of Exceptional Distinction.” Landmarks Illinois named it one of their most endangered places in 2012, citing the home's forward-thinking design and pristinely preserved interiors. The Keck's custom-designed many of their homes down to the furniture, experimenting in the Blair House with sustainable technologies that are now commonplace, such as double-glazing, abundant natural light and radiant heat. A travertine fireplace and elegant stairway are among the home's celebrated features. Ed McCormick Blair, the original owner, died in 2010. He left the house to his estate, representatives of which plan to demolish the structure and sell the land for redevelopment. The value of the property, which is part of a 19th century farm on the shores of Lake Michigan, has been assessed at $4.9 million. For four years the estate has sought $9,995,000 for the five-bedroom house and 27 acres of land, a price which has not been met by the market. The property's realtor did not return requests for comment. Owner Ed Blair Jr. submitted an application to demolish the building in December. Under Lake Bluff's rules, that permit was subject to a 90-day review because the building is more than 50 years old. If the building receives landmark designation, Blair will have to submit an additional request, but he is not prohibited from knocking down the historic structure after a 120-day period that Lake Bluff officials say provides for public dialogue. Speaking to the Chicago Tribune, Blair said the proceeds of the house's sale will go to charity. "The land is worth more without the house than with it," he told Genevieve Bookwalter. "The purpose is not to honor my father by keeping the house; it's to honor my father by following his wishes." But preservationists say demolishing the home would mar the region's architectural legacy. “The concept of this jewel of a house being demolished has just got us beside ourselves,” said Jack Schuler, a neighbor whose property shares history with the Blairs'. Along with John H. Bryan, Schuler and Blair Sr. purchased portions of the 250-acre Crab Tree Farm in 1985. The farm, currently in conservancy, is among the last working farms bordering Lake Michigan. Brandon Stanick, Assistant to Village Administrator of Lake Bluff, said the village's requirement for public dialogue balances property rights with preservation. “There's a strong property rights feeling in the village," he said. "The advisory review process in place is meant to be a compromise between the two extremes.” Schuler said the controversy lays bare the problems with the landmark provisions of Lake Bluff. The Blair House is one of several historic homes in the leafy, upscale suburb. Preservationists worry more will be demolished if the landmark ordinance remains merely honorific. “If this was Lake Forest this house would be preserved,” said Schuler.
By 2050 the city of Columbus, Ohio and its expanding suburbs could more than triple the city's footprint, according to a new study examining sprawl around Ohio's capital. The Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), Columbus 2020 and ULI Columbus hired the planning firm Calthorpe Associates to assess the development impact of current trends and make recommendations aimed at curbing patterns that could balloon the region's environmental problems and its residents transportation budgets. From the current city land area of 223 square miles, said the study, Columbus and its suburban jurisdictions could swallow up an additional 480 square miles by 2050 if current trends continue. The culprits include large lots for single-family homes and traditional suburban-style development. If population growth continues—MORPC said the region will add more than half a million new residents by 2050—the study warns Columbus will lose its ability to attract new residents and jobs. “These trends raise important questions about the vitality and competitiveness of our communities and region,” reads MORPC's website. The study is part of a larger effort dubbed insight2050 that hopes to chart a course for sustainable development in central Ohio. Calthorpe sketched out four development scenarios for projected growth in the region, which found effective planning could reduce that 480 square miles of new sprawl to just 15. Of course Columbus is not the only city to struggle with these issues. Last year The Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium made a similar assessment for the region emanating inland from Cleveland. Columbus' population and economic growth has come in part due to its expanding municipal boundary, which annexes small townships on the city's outskirts.
While rooftop farming has cropped up in a number of cities across the country, it has yet to take root in Boston. But this will soon change when founders Courtney Hennessey and John Stoddard launch operations of their new rooftop farm, aptly called Higher Ground Farm, located atop the Boston Design Center this Spring. According to CoLab Radio at MIT, the duo will start planting on a 40,000-square-feet segment of the expansive 55,000-square-feet roof within the next few months and be ready to sell the fresh produce by summer. The farm is coming at just the right time—the city is making a real push to encourage more urban farming. The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) has introduced Article 89, an urban agriculture zoning initiative that will “establish an environment in which all of our citizens—particularly the most underserved—have direct access to locally produced fresh food, the ability to produce food for themselves, and access to education and knowledge about healthy eating.” Hennessey and Stoddard have made a dent in their fundraising efforts through kickstarter and fundraisers, but still need more money to get the farm completely off the ground. They hope to secure more capital to reach their $300,000 goal with the help of loans and grants.