Latest Program News & Updates

SPK Tours "I. Kahn"-ic Bath House

(August 2012)

Most people go to the pool to swim. Sigma Pi Kappa members go to the pool to… look at architecture!

The preservation honor society toured the Trenton Bath House during an end-of-summer field trip. Designed by famed International-style architect Louis I. Kahn in 1957, the four changing pavilions and central service area underwent an extensive rehabilitation in 2009 to repair roof holes and buckling concrete floors and wall units.

Award-winning architect Michael Mills led the walk-through, explaining his thoughts behind the rehabilitation plan and sharing his understanding of Khan's special use of light and geometry. Though small in comparison to his best-known works in the Salk Institute and the Kimball Art Museum, Kahn has been quoted as saying, "I discovered myself after designing that little concrete block bathhouse in Trenton."

The complex is also a preservation success story: after suffering from years of neglect, Mercer County, Ewing Township, and private donors pooled resources to purchase the property and rehabilitate the complex. The Bath House is now the site of the Ewing Township Senior Center.

SPK members enjoy private tours, special lectures, and group activities as a privilege of membership.

Bridging the Past and Present

(August 2012)

Bridges do more than connect two sides of a river: they connect the past and the future. But whether they are here to tell their stories to the next generation is up to you. And time may be running out.

This fall, Bucks Preservation will continue its year-long historic preservation advocacy project to save bridges in Bucks County and raise awareness of the importance of bridges around the country. Never has the need been greater: following the "Great Recession" of 2008, the federal government poured money into transportation improvement projects to be administered by the states. Pennsylvania chose to put the cash into much-needed bridge stabilization projects. However, in many cases, the state has chosen to replacement over rehabilitation, posing threats to pedestrian safety, the environment, and the historic character of the hamlets that make our hometowns unique.

Bucks Preservation faculty, graduates, and students were on hand for the 200th anniversary celebration of the opening of the Burnt Mill Bridge in Tinicum Township, Bucks County- one of Pennsylvania's oldest and most historic bridges- last month. The celebration was the launch of our bridge advocacy effort and an important event reminding people just how vital these resources are to a community's historic character.

"The story of Burnt Mill Bridge embodies the story of the settlement of early Pennsylvania," said bridge advocate and Bucks Preservation instructor Kathi Auerbach. "You have an indentured servant who arrives here. He works off the debt AND saves money to buy his own land- and the mill. It becomes a destination for the area: so much so that a bridge is built to access it. For years, the community (without the help of the state) takes care of the bridge: repairing it and maintaining it. As a result the bridge has become this beautiful part of the community- evidence of settlement, the influence of culture on engineering techniques, local construction talent, community knowledge, ingenuity. It's a gift given by generations past that tells a story only in it's context. It's special and remarkable and deserves its place."

So far, Bucks Preservation students have attended meetings with PennDoT and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHC); organised volunteers; called their local legislators; worked to raise awareness of bridge issues among local historical societies; conducted outreach via fliers and word-of-mouth. This fall, additional documentation efforts will begin to determine where the most historically-significant bridges are and which ones may be targeted next for significant alteration or destruction.

If you would like to donate extra time (including student volunteer hours) toward the project, please contact Kathi Auerbach or program coordinator Pat Fisher-Olsen.

Artifacts Reveal New Slavery Story

(July 2012)

It's not what you find- it's what you find out.

That's just one of the handy archaeology insights picked up by 2011 Bucks Preservation graduate Matt Metcalf during his experience at the Monticello-University of Virginia Archaeological Field School this summer.

The six-week school, held at Monticello, the plantation home of President Thomas Jefferson and a UNESCO World Heritage site, blends classroom instruction with hands-on field work to give participants a well-rounded understanding of both archaeology practice and principles. Students apply to the program and are chosen based on their educational background and demonstrated interest in archaeology.

Metcalf and 13 other student archaeologists excavated at an area on the southeast side of Monticello Mountain known as "Site 6." To date, no written records have been discovered that show anyone lived in that area. However, test pits dug more than a decade ago found ceramics, glass, and brick: evidence of human inhabitation.

Among this summer's discoveries: creamware and pearlware pottery sherds, dark green bottle and clear table glass, brick, an iron farm implement, some buttons, and a bone-handled knife. The Monticello Archaeology Department has concluded these items belonged to Jefferson's slaves. Each piece, an exciting find- with it's own story to tell.

"The first artifact I found was a piece of transfer-print pearlware! I'll never forget that," notes Metcalf. "That is a piece of a plate owned by someone of whom we have no written record. They had no story to share with us about the way they lived- because no one knew they existed. But now we know they were HERE, living a life: part of a family, part of the plantation, part of a developing ethnic identity, participants in a struggle for power in the slave system, and members of regional social and economic networks. It's more than just a fragment: it proves in a tangible way that these people contributed to the America we know today. And we know that because of archaeology. That's huge."

Metcalf will give a special presentation on his experiences at Monticello on Friday evening, November 9th.

Project Identifies Forgotten Civil War Soldiers

(June 2012)

As a military man himself, Clayton Shepherd understands the dangers inherent in military service. He also understands what it means to be dedicated to a cause. When Shepherd learned that hundreds of Confederate soldiers lay unidentified and unrecognized beneath the gently rolling hills of Shockoe Hill Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, he knew he could make a difference. He knew he could use the skills learned in the Bucks Preservation program to memorialize these men who died for what they believed in.

In Fall 2011, 150 years from the start of the Civil War, Shepherd began his Preservation Internship with the Friends of Shockoe Hill Cemetery, in Richmond, Virginia. Shockoe Hill is the oldest public cemetery in Richmond. During the War Between the States, more than 300 Union soldiers were buried there; however, they were later disinterred and moved to the newly-established National Cemetery. Confederate soldiers did not receive the same treatment. It is believed that more than 200 Confederate soldiers are still buried at Shockoe Hill. But burial records did not always identify a soldier as such, and for many of those buried, incomplete or incorrect names were recorded.

Shepherd's mission: use war-time newspapers, military rosters, regimental histories and compiled service records maintained at the National Archives to find out whether men listed in the cemetery's burial record were indeed Confederate soldiers- and, if possible, determine their true identities and military affiliation. In all, he developed biographical sketches for 48 soldiers buried at Shockoe Hill (including two sea captains and an unknown soldier from Georgia) and provided identities for four Union and 41 Confederate dead.

This project was most satisfying because, as a direct result of my work, the graves of these men can now be marked in a manner fitting to their service and ultimate sacrifice for love of country," said Shepherd. "My work with the Friends of Shockoe Hill Cemetery has lead to a great rapport with members of its governing board and a commitment to continue the unfinished work of identifying the remaining soldiers."

Shepherd was one of nine graduates of the Bucks Preservation program in May.

Schultz Wins Award for Online Excellence

(June 2012)

When it comes to online education, Bucks Preservation instructor Ellen Freedman Schultz is among the best.

She has been honored with an award for excellence in online education. Quality teaching, dedication to her program, and an emphasis on student success were among the criteria by which Freedman Schultz scored high marks.

"We're proud of Ellen and her work," said HP program coordinator Pat Fisher-Olsen. "She experiments. She looks for new ways to improve her courses. She takes student feedback seriously. She does it right."

"Teaching excellence is more than what happens in the classroom. Ellen has pitched in to make the program a better one... and led the effort to move the program online. Her efforts have opened the program to a national audience," notes John Petito, Assistant Academic Dean for Social & Behavioral Sciences.

Previous winners from the Preservation program include Ray Tschoepe and Kathi Auerbach. Congratulations, Ellen!

Tyler Gardens Rehabilitation Project Complete

(June 2012)

The next time you're walking through Tyler Formal Gardens on the BCCC Newtown campus, you'll notice some changes! Work has been completed on a major, 6-month-long rehabilitation project aimed at preserving the gardens' architectural structure.

The stone retaining wall between the second and third garden terraces, what architectural historians call "the bones of the garden," had been deteriorating for several years. Concerns were raised that the wall could become a safety hazard to students using the Gardens as a place to relax and/or study, to wedding parties that use the Gardens as a backdrop for photos, or other groups that frequent the area.

The rehabilitation work began late last summer. To facilitate the wall's removal and reconstruction, 24 arborvitae trees and about a dozen azalea bushes were removed from the beds above and below the wall. This spring, the arborvitae trees were replaced by holly 'Dragon Lady' trees, while the azaleas were replaced by Cherry Laurel shrubs, which will be easier to maintain and be less “deer friendly.” Behind the wall, a new, reinforced concrete footing and moisture vents were installed, which will ensure the wall's future integrity.

The Tyler Restoration Committee offered the needed guidance for this important project, which was generously funded by the Bucks County Community College Foundation.

Online Students to Graduate Preservation Program

(May 2012)

Hundreds of students have come through the Historic Preservation program since it began in 1991. And in three weeks, some of our newest graduates will have earned the Certificate without ever stepping foot on campus- a growing trend in the Preservation program.

In May 2010, Sterling Holdorf and Emily Harte became the first students to complete the program by taking all of the core course requirements online. Since then, online enrollment has increased as students take Historic Preservation classes to further their education and career potential.

"I didn't realize the online process was so new. That says a lot about the program," said Holdorf by telephone from his National Park Service office on the Channel Islands off California. "This was my first experience with online education. I was pessimistic, but it turned out to be a really good experience."

Holdorf began taking classes in 2008 after working for the Park Service for almost a decade in facilities management.

"I found myself doing preservation work as a coincidence. But I felt in order for my career to launch, I needed schooling to compliment by hands-on experience," said Holdorf, who has since been promoted to Preservation Specialist with the National Park Service. "This is now my career path. There's no looking back!""

The program first offered online courses in 2006 through the Distance Learning Center, but incorporated online learning directly into the program in 2007.

"Chances are every student will take at least one online class," said Patricia Fisher-Olsen, Preservation Program Coordinator. "That’s a good thing: the work world is changing and people need to know how to work with technology to share ideas and promote preservation. We're offering students greater opportunity."

The graduation ceremony will be held at Tyler Hall on Saturday, May 19th at 2:00pm. All are welcome to attend.

Garden Odyssey Takes Top Prize

(April 2012)

More praise for a new book published by a Bucks Preservation professor.

Tyler Elegance: A Garden Odyssey, written by Lyle Rosenberger, edited by Barbara Long, and featuring photography and layout by Rita Melmud, recently won a Franklin Award for Excellence. The book's publishers, H.G. Services, Inc. submitted Elegance to the Graphic Arts Association's Neographics Competition. The committee awarded them a Franklin in the Four-Color Book category.

The volume tells the history of the four-tiered formal gardens behind Tyler Hall that served as an outdoor parlor for George and Stella Elkins Tyler. Never-before published photographs and documents detail the gardens' layout and the role they played in high society.

The book is available in the Bucks bookstore.

Green Thumbs Go Green(er) at Annual Garden Lecture

(April 2012)

Your yard may already be lush with fresh spring grass and new leaves on the trees- but it could be greener. Environmentally-speaking that is!

Featured speaker, author and botanist Jenny Rose Carey, a graduate of Oxford University and Director of the Landscape Arboretum at Temple University, lectured on xeriscaping, a technique for conserving water while maintaining diversity and beauty in landscapes, at this year's annual Tyler Gardens Lecture.

A hot topic in landscape architecture and gardening circles where severe drought has forced cities to impose strict watering bans, xeriscaping has also been praised for reducing the use of fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides.

"Leave Your Watering Can in the Shed: Gardening with Less Water in the Delaware Valley" was sponsored by the Historic Preservation Program at Bucks, Lynn Bush, Lowe's Home Improvement in Hatfield, Morrissey & Associates in Lebanon, Newtown Hardware House, and the Tyler Gardens panel.

Forum Brings Local Historical Agencies to Bucks

(March 2012)

The Bucks Preservation program held the first-ever county-wide historical agency forum at Tyler Hall last month.

Themed "Building a Preservation Community," the event was designed to build awareness of preservation activities throughout the county and showcase the educational resources offered by the Historic Preservation program. More than 40 people attended, representing historical commissions, historical societies, Historic Architecture Review Boards, libraries and museums. Community preservationists and Bucks students were also encouraged to participate.
Preservation faculty members Kathi Auerbach and Vanessa Zeoli share a powerpoint presentation during their discussion on historic structures and landscapes.

"It's important to start a dialogue," said Historic Preservation program coordinator Patricia Fisher-Olsen. "The college has resources. The community has resources. When we all get together and understand the issues we're facing collectively, everybody wins."

Guest speaker Scott Doyle, a graduate of the Bucks program and Chief of Grants for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, gave participants a sneak peek at the statewide preservation plan to be unveiled this summer. The event also featured roundtable discussions on building conservation, preservation education, and historical architecture and landscapes.

Plans are in the works for another forum this fall.

PK Holds First Meeting

(February 2012)The Bucks chapter of Sigma Pi Kappa, the Historic Preservation honor society, is up and running again!

SPK held its "spring fling" kick-off meeting in March. A crowd of current members and future inductees mingled in the Tyler Hall Pub then heard a presentation from historian, author, and Bucks Preservation grad Kathryn McKenna on the James-Lorah Memorial Home in Doylestown.

In the coming year, the society plans to organize lectures, trips and walking tours, volunteer opportunities, community outreach activities, and/or tutoring and career counseling. This summer, the group will raise awareness about preservation issues with a booth at the Tinicum Arts Festival (volunteers are needed!).

Students from the last four Bucks Preservation graduating classes will be officially inducted into SPK at the graduation ceremony in May.

To join SPK, students must have completed the required core courses (not including the internship) with a GPA of 3.5 or better. To learn more, contact acting administrators Mirka Mancini and Vanessa Zeoli.

Bucks Relaunches Preservation Honor Society

(January 2012)

In celebrating the 20th year of the Preservation program, we're proud to announce the return of the preservation honor society, Sigma Pi Kappa (known as "SPK").

Sigma Pi Kappa is an international honor society for historic preservation students, faculty, and distinguished professionals, serving to encourage and stimulate scholarship, foster interest and accomplishment, and provide and promote leadership in the field of historic preservation. Sigma Pi Kappa has also been endorsed as the official honor society of the National Council for Preservation Education.

This year, our Eta Chapter of SPK will celebrate its 15th anniversary with an induction ceremony at Graduation 2012. Leaders also hope to organize work projects in our local communities.

"It's an honor society, but we really want to get into the community," said Vanessa Zeoli, Bucks Preservation Instructor and acting co-administrator for the group. "Our skills as preservationists are unique. Through service projects we can teach people about preservation and save historic resources at the same time."

To qualify for SPK, students must have completed four of the five courses required for the Bucks Preservation Certificate and maintain a grade point average of at least 3.5.

To learn more about the group, suggest one-day community (or online) work projects, or if you are a current member of SPK who would like to become involved again, please contact Vanessa Zeoli or Mirka Mancini by email.

Professor Completes Reign as Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year

(January 2012)

What makes a great teacher? Informative, well-presented lectures? Passion about a field of study? An ability to connect with students?

Dr. Roberta Mayer, Visual Arts area head and preservation professor, has those traits in spades! That's not only the opinion of her students, but two prestigious agencies who have recognized her for contributions to the advancement of teaching and for creating a model classroom. She just completed her reign as Pennsylvania Professor of the Year, an award given by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

"[Bucks is] a learner-centered institution that acknowledges and honors teaching," said Mayer. "One of the things I bring to the award is modelling a level of professionalism. Not only am I passionate about teaching, I've written articles in peer-reviewed publications and lectured about art history."

Mayer's classroom presentations go beyond the now-standard Powerpoint-based lecture to incorporate audio-visual materials from the Bucks library and popular Internet resources, small group discussion on three-dimensional objects brought in to illustrate a theme, and an expanded use of her blog and online course space, where she has been known to post "bonus" lectures and links that allow students to explore what interests them.

"That is the most important part of the award, the relationships with our students," said Mayer. "We have the availability of online course spaces, which I use to supplement my face-to-face classes, essentially bringing the learning out of the classroom and into students' homes."

Dr. Mayer has presented lectures throughout the U.S. and Canada, most recently on "Lockwood de Forest and the East Indian Craft Revival" at the Richard H. Driehaus Museum in Chicago. Among Dr. Mayer's numerous publications is Lockwood de Forest: Furnishing the Gilded Age with a Passion for India. She also wrote Stella Elkins Tyler: A Legacy Born of Bronze, a retrospective of the sculpture by the woman whose estate became the location for Bucks County Community College.

Dr. Mayer teaches VAFW190: History of American Furniture online in spring semester. This course counts as an elective toward the Preservation Certificate.

New Course Teaches Hands-On Assessment

(January 2012)

Every historic resource has a story. To tell that story and save the resource for future generations, preservationists must be detectives, uncovering clues about its history. Want to learn how? This semester's Preservation Lab will teach you!

Preservation Lab: Introduction to Building Assessment will introduce a systematic approach to the examination of a historic structure and its condition, while teaching students how to prepare recommendations for repairs and interventions. Using a case-study building, the course will combine hands-on site work with in-class lectures. Lectures will address topics ranging from creating measured drawings to digital photography to structural failures in historic buildings; field survey work will include measurement, photography, mapping of deterioration conditions, and sampling of paint and mortar.

This is what many preservationists do in their jobs every day," says Instructor John Evans. "When you're in the field, it's never textbook. You need to know what to look for, and how to advise your clients to proceed."

Lectures will be held on Monday nights in the classroom, with Saturdays in the field. The focus building for this semester will be the Thomas Mansion, located on Wissahickon Drive in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park.

Register online by visiting the Web Advisor.  

Documentation Projects Focus of Bucks Preservation Internships

(December 2011)

The capstone experience for the Certificate program is the Internship in Historic Preservation, a hands-on field work experience in which students actively participate in the planning and execution of a preservation project, incorporating project management methods and best practices.

Last spring, eight students completed their internships and graduated the program. In this newsletter, we highlight the work of two 2011 graduates who worked on two very different kinds of documentation projects.

Patty Moore
John Milner Associates, Inc. at the Snyder's Mill at French Creek
Pikeland Township, Chester County, PA

"The French Creek Mills site on French Creek, in Pikeland Township (Chester County), PA, was selected by the Council of Safety of the Continental Congress as Pennsylvania’s only state owned and operated gun powder mill during the American Revolution in early 1776. The site continued to be used until the Crown Forces destroyed the gun factory and powder mill complex in September 1777 after the Battle of Brandywine. During the next 150 years, several mills were built to take advantage of the existing dam and mill race; the last standing survivor on this site is a linseed oil mill alleged to have been built on the foundation of one of the original mill buildings constructed during the time of the Continental Powder Works.

Unfortunately, attempts to place the Powder Mill site on the National Register of Historic Places have been unsuccessful.

The primary objective in my project was to work with team members of John Milner Associates, Inc. (JMA) to thoroughly research and document the existence of the Powder Mill/Gun Factory Complex and later industrial occupations. Phase two included applying for funding through grants in order to assist with additional archeological work, with restoration of the linseed oil mill, and with interpretive and self-guided exhibits at the mill site. So far, $7,000 has been received from the Schuylkill River National & State Heritage Area and $42,000 from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program."

Maureen Victoria
Heritage Conservancy
Doylestown, PA

"Old barns are difficult to date due to the lack of documentation on barn styles and farmers’ propensity to reuse materials from one barn when building another. The goal of my project was to identify barns with known construction dates so that they could be used to help identify other barns built during the same time period. My mentor for the project, Jeff Marshall of the Heritage Conservancy, provided a workbook that belonged to Joseph Overholt, a carpenter in upper Bucks County during the last half of the nineteenth century. The workbook contains the names of Overholt’s customers and sketches of their construction projects, some of which were barns.

Beginning with landowner atlases from the period, I located properties that Overholt potentially built a barn on, verified the existence of a barn by visiting the property and demonstrated by performing title searches that ownership during the relevant period was consistent with the information in the workbook. The existing barns were documented with photographs and sketches then compared to Overholt’s drawings. Although I could not unequivocally state that the six barns identified were the barns sketched in the workbook, I did make significant progress in locating potential properties of interest and eliminating many others. More barns remain to be identified before it can be determined if the workbook can be used as a barn dating tool."