February 27, 2015

Heart Bombs 2015: Love Letters to Historic Places, Part 1

  • By: Julia Rocchi

Awbury Arboretum in Philadelphia signed, sealed, and delivered its heart bombs.

Posters. Ribbons. Markers. Stickers. Crayons. Balloons. Props. Digital art. No matter the medium, one message came through loud and clear this past month: America loves its historic places!

After we put out the call for heart bombs earlier this February (and shared what our historic sites did for Valentine's Day), submissions poured in from around the country, professing deep admiration and affection for every type of place imaginable, from lofty mansions to forgotten bungalows. No building was too humble, no state too crumbling, for devoted citizens to support. As photo after photo showed smiling faces and decorated spots, Heart Bombs 2015 confirmed what we at the National Trust have long known -- that love is the most powerful weapon for saving places.

Now we'd like to share some of these heartwarming heart bombs with all of you. Check out these love letters from coast to coast, and stay tuned for Part 2 next week!

Mark Twain House and Museum -- Hartford, Connecticut


"We’ll let Mark Twain explain why we love his house: 'To us our house was not unsentient matter -- it had a heart & a soul & eyes to see us with, & approvals & solicitudes & deep sympathies; it was of us, & we were in its confidence, & lived in its grace & in the peace of its benediction. We never came home from an absence that its face did not light up & speak out its eloquent welcome -- & we could not enter it unmoved.'" -- Letter to Joseph Twichell, quoted in "Mark Twain: A Biography"

Blaisdell Arena -- Honolulu, Hawaii


"A flying saucer-shaped Modern arena in Honolulu, Blaisdell Arena is very much under-appreciated and endangered. Originally a project of the Pacific War Memorial Commission, which also gave us the USS Arizona Memorial, this living war memorial was dedicated in 1964 to all of Hawaii’s war dead, only to be promptly forgotten as a war memorial, still unrecognized to this day. Elvis held his Aloha from Hawaii concert there -- [it was] the first concert beamed live around the world by satellite, [and] even President Obama’s high school graduation was there.

"As a child, I always wanted to see its mushroom-shaped dome painted with pink and purple polka dots -- my dream [is] finally realized with hearts! It’s difficult to find others who share a love for this arena, but its walls seep with history, and it’s truly the heart and soul of Honolulu." -- Tanya Harrison, Founder, Neil S. Blaisdell Center War Memorial Project

Monon Theatre -- Monon, Indiana


"Members of the Monon Civic Preservation Society joined National Trust for Historic Preservation members across the country in sharing their love of historic structures. Preservationists all over America were encouraged to "share the love" on Valentine's Day by showcasing a building they love. It wasn't difficult for the Monon group to choose a building to love. Restoring the Monon Theatre continues to be a labor of love for the group. The 'THEATRE' [sign] is part of the theater's marquee and the reels are from the projection room."

Leeds Center for the Arts -- Winchester, Kentucky


"Leeds Center for the Arts in Winchester, Kentucky, opened in 1925 as Leeds Theater and served the community as a single-screen movie house until 1986. At that time, the building had fallen into a state of disrepair. Winchester Council for the Arts purchased and renovated the building, allowing it to reopen in 1990 as Leeds Center for the Arts. Through the years, Leeds has seen many concerts, recitals, plays, and musicals on its stage. The beautiful Art Deco building sits on North Main Street and has been described as "the crown jewel in our downtown."

"Leeds has been loved by many generations in the Winchester community and continues to offer programming that draws people from all generations with a wide variety of interests. As with many older buildings, time has taken its toll and the theater is in need of repairs and renovations. We are pleased that, at this time, building needs do not impact our programming. We hope that all who enter our doors come to love Leeds and that she will flourish and grow to serve Winchester for years to come. #iheartpreservation #iloveleeds"

Gravois Park Houses -- St. Louis, Missouri


"Preservationists in St. Louis offered valentines for vacant, city-owned houses in south St. Louis’ Gravois Park neighborhood. Called 'heart bombs' or 'valentines for vacants,' the love notes for buildings draw attention to their potential for reuse and their irreplaceable architecture. Gravois Park’s buildings are part of the Gravois-Jefferson Streetcar Suburb Historic District, a National Historic Landmark district. The Gravois Park campaign highlighted over two dozen vacant houses owned by the city’s Land Reutilization Authority (LRA), the owner of last resort. The LRA lacks resources to market these houses to potential homeowners and developers, so a group of concerned preservationists decided to lend some help. Each house got a bright heart emblazoned with the candy heart message 'CALL ME' and the LRA phone number."

Phelps Mansion Museum -- Binghamton, New York


"The Phelps Mansion was built in 1870 for Sherman David Phelps, a prominent banker, businessman, judge, and fifth mayor of the city of Binghamton, New York. We love our historic house museum because it represents a time in our city's history of great change that would put Binghamton on the map. This house represents what living during the Gilded Age was all about."

Lindenwold -- Ambler, Pennsylvania


"Lindenwold was once home to Dr. Richard Mattison, and Ambler was once the asbestos capital of the world. The castle-like mansion and grounds behind these artful gates are the centerpiece of the story of Ambler (surrounded by the housing for his executives, his factory workers, the stone masons he brought from Italy to build the town’s buildings, the church dedicated to his daughter, the boiler house recently rehabbed into office space in an award-winning project, the garage, etc.).

"Developers propose building 400-500 units on the 45-acre gardens, and local residents want preservation covenants and conscientious discussion of the design plans rather than a carte blanche approach that could lead to environmental and quality of life issues for the community, as well as the loss of a local landmark, demolished or buried behind pavement and high density construction."

Gray House -- Portland, Oregon


"The Gray House [was] built at the turn of the 20th century. This modest false-front building is a significant reminder of Oregon’s role in the national black history story, exemplifying a century of cultural and civil rights struggles in inner North and Northeast Portland. As early as 1906, an African-American family, Henry and Katherine Gray, occupied the building. Mrs. Gray was a founding member of African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and founder of the Harriet Tubman Club. Katherine Gray served as vice president and her daughter, Edith Gray, served as secretary for the Colored Women’s Council.

"In the 1960s the building was the location of Black Panther riots and other local interactions with the national civil rights movement. The nationally known 1981 Opossum Incident, a racially charged conflict with Portland Police and elected leaders, led to marches, protests, and eventual firing of officers who unlawfully and symbolically left animal remains on the steps of a black business. Despite its exterior alterations, the building’s association with Portland history makes it significant.

"At the heart bomb were Ms. Raiford and her friends. It was Ms. Raiford's grandmother that owned the building when the Opossum Incident transpired. It is part of our beloved community that is vanishing in Portland."

Napa Franklin Station Post Office -- Napa County, California


"Napa County Landmarks and over 40 Napa residents showered the National Register-listed Napa Franklin Station Post Office with affection and devotion with heart bombs on Friday, February 20. We wanted to send a clear advocacy message to the United States Postal Service (USPS) that the City of Napa loves their beautiful, Art Deco post office building that has been in limbo since the South Napa Earthquake.

"The building was designed by local architect William H. Corlett (1856-1937), who also designed a number of other prominent buildings in Napa. The building was a project of the Works Progress Administration. The Franklin Station Post Office is a one-of-a-kind example in Napa of the transition period from Federal Style to Art Deco. The symmetrical front facade consists of smoothed surface golden brick, grooved pilasters that flank vertical windows, and an ornamental terra-cotta frieze of shields and ram heads. The interior consists of bas-relief gilt plaster, marble strips, and sculptured eagles.

"We hope that by showing our love for this building the USPS will make preserving and restoring this building [a priority] for our community and future generations to come."

Have a heart bomb you'd like to share with us? Email editorial@savingplaces.org with your best photo and one paragraph telling us about your special place.

Ed. note: Submissions were edited for length and clarity.

Julia Rocchi was the senior director of digital marketing at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and gawks at buildings.

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