HALS Heroes Success Story

Potter's Field, Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery, Martinez, CA image: UC Berkeley students Annalise Chapa, David Koo, Yang Liu, and Mark Wessels

Potter’s Field, Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery, Martinez, CA
image: UC Berkeley students Annalise Chapa, David Koo, Yang Liu, and Mark Wessels

In 2011, the ASLA Northern California Chapter’s Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) subcommittee started the HALS Heroes initiative. Their objective was to encourage more members to create HALS drawings of culturally significant landscapes in Northern California.

The HALS program was created in 2000 through a tripartite agreement between ASLA, the National Park Service, and the Library of Congress. The program is modeled on the Historic American Buildings Survey, which began in 1933, and the Historic American Engineering Record, which began in 1969. Northern California has had an active HALS group since November 2004 and since that time they have held quarterly meetings, given talks to educate people about the program, organized numerous tours to historic landscape sites, and directly or indirectly been responsible for creating documentation for at least 65 California sites.

The HALS Heroes program offers a $1,000 stipend to anyone who produces a minimum one sheet drawing of a cultural landscape in California. The selected site must be approved by the chapter leadership and the drawing must conform to the HALS Measured Drawings Guidelines. Fred Rachman, a HALS chapter member who is trained as an architect, was the first recipient of a HALS Heroes stipend for completing a measured drawing of Rancho Los Alamitos in Long Beach.

In June 2015, I was asked to give an annual report of the committee’s activities at a chapter board meeting. I brought prints of the HALS drawings that the committee members had created the previous year to the meeting. After my short presentation, I was taken aback when then-chapter president David Nelson, ASLA, proposed that the chapter provide up to five $1,000 stipends to support the program. The board members were enthusiastic and asked me to submit a formal proposal outlining how the program would work. David also stressed that the program seemed ideal for students and encouraged me to seek opportunities to engage students to participate.

I left the meeting both elated and anxious. While thrilled by the unexpected exuberant response to my report, I felt daunted by this new challenge. How would I find a group of students to engage in the program and how much effort would it take on my part to oversee their work?

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From the Hungarian Empire to Ross County, Ohio

The Driapsa Farmhouse, 2015 image: David Driapsa

The Driapsa Farmhouse, 2015
image: David Driapsa

I have such an amazing family, and I am sure you do, too. My father is first generation American; my mother is a Daughter of the American Revolutionary War; and I grew up in a European culture on my grandparents’ farm.

The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) is about histories and sometimes about the family landscapes experienced. Sometimes little is known of the past besides the fact that the owners are related; sometimes there is a large cache of precious history known by the family.

My family is fortunate to know our family and farm history. My grandfather, Emil Driapsa, and grandmother, Helen Kraus Driapsa, were born in Upper Hungary, the present-day Slovak Republic, emigrated to the U.S. and married in 1912 in Columbus, Ohio.

The couple had a goal of owning land in their new country, a dream that was almost impossible in Europe at the time. Through hard work and saving their earnings, the couple realized their dream in 1914 when they bought the 68-acre farm near the village of Bainbridge in Paxton Township, Ross County, Ohio. The local terrain reminded them of their homeland, and they sponsored other European immigrants to move onto the adjacent farms in what became the Potts Hill European Community.

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The Sunset Headquarters Landscape

image: Gordon Osmundson

image: Gordon Osmundson

The Sunset Headquarters landscape, in Menlo Park, California, was originally designed by Thomas Church, with a building by designer and developer Cliff May. The property is historically significant for its building and landscape; however, it is just as important for its association with the magazine and publishing company. Still popular as a publisher today, its place as a tastemaker in post-WWII California and the Western United States cannot be disputed. I regret to say that the property has been sold and Sunset has moved out. Some sources assure us the property won’t be changed very much, but I am skeptical of this claim, given property values in the South Bay. At least there is documentation of the property, which will reside in the Library of Congress as a result of documentation produced for the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) for the 2015 HALS Challenge competition.

I’ve looked forward to each year’s HALS Challenge. I find it’s a timely spur to pursue the very satisfying and in-depth exploration of a significant landscape. Digging in to a landscape design, so to speak, gives me an excuse to spend time understanding a place—how it was designed, where it fits in our history of landscape architecture, what it meant to people at its creation, and what it means to us now. What I learn each year continues to resonate long after I am finished with the project.

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The 2016 HALS Challenge

Grandma Prisbrey’s Bottle Village, HALS CA-42, Simi Valley, CA image: Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey Collection

Grandma Prisbrey’s Bottle Village, HALS CA-42, Simi Valley, CA
image: Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey Collection

The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) was created in 2000 to document our country’s dynamic landscapes. Much progress has been made in identifying cultural landscapes but more is needed to document these designed and vernacular places.

We are pleased to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) in 2016. The NHPA is a cornerstone of American historic preservation. It was created in the belief that too many important historic places were being lost to post-World War II development and construction, and that the federal government could (and should) play an important role in protecting places that embody the United States’ cultural heritage.

For the 7th annual HALS Challenge, we invite you to document National Register listed landscapes from your region of the country. Authorized by the NHPA, the National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. Currently there are 90,540 total listings with 1,752,995 total contributing resources. Many of these listings represent or include landscapes. Search for National Register listings in your area here.

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The 2015 HALS Challenge Winners

Kaiser Center, Oakland, Alameda County, California image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, HALS CA-3-9

Kaiser Center, Oakland, Alameda County, California
image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, HALS CA-3-9

The results of the sixth annual Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) Challenge, Documenting Modernist Landscapes, were announced at the HALS Meeting that took place during the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in Chicago on Saturday, November 7, 2015. Congratulations to the winners!

1st Place:
Sunset Headquarters, HALS CA-115, Menlo Park, San Mateo County, California.
by Janet Gracyk, ASLA, Terra Cognita Design and Consulting; Chris Pattillo, FASLA, PGAdesign, Inc.; and Jill Johnson, Historic Preservation Services with bonus measured drawings delineated by Sarah Raube, Janet Gracyk, Lorena Garcia Rodriguez, Genny Bantle, and Chris Pattillo.

2nd Place:
Marin General Hospital, HALS CA-118, Greenbrae, Marin County, California.
by Denise Bradley, ASLA, with bonus measured drawings delineated by Janet Gracyk.

3rd Place:
Union Bank of California Plaza, HALS CA-119, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California.
by Hannah Dominick.

Honorable Mentions:
Six Moon Hill, HALS MA-3, Lexington, Middlesex County, Massachusetts.
by Pamela Hartford and Marion Pressley, FASLA, Principal, Pressley Associates.
&
Valley House Gallery and Sculpture Garden, HALS TX-10, Dallas, Dallas County, Texas.
by William Hartman, Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, Louisiana Tech University and Patrick Boyd Lloyd, David Rolston Landscape Architects.

Sponsored by the National Park Service, cash prizes were awarded to the top 3 submissions. This challenge resulted in the donation of 18 impressive HALS short format historical reports and 3 sets of drawings to the HALS collection.

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Historic Preservation in Chicago

The Arthur B. Heurtley House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, in Oak Park, Illinois, the subject of an ASLA Annual Meeting field session image: Alexandra Hay

The Arthur B. Heurtley House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, in Oak Park, Illinois–the subject of an ASLA Annual Meeting field session
image: Alexandra Hay

I look forward to seeing all our members and new colleagues in Chicago for the 2015 ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO, and I hope you will attend the Historic Preservation Professional Practice Network (HP PPN) meeting on Saturday, November 7 from 12:45 to 2:15pm. We will be sharing the new initiatives that the leadership group has been working on, and we hope to hear about the work of members as well.

Storytelling Your Project. Please consider submitting a brief paragraph describing one or more of your current or recent projects. We will a few submissions and ask that you prepare 3 images and present these in a brief 3-minute story to the members at the HP PPN meeting in Chicago. Submit your paragraph to Alexandra Hay, Professional Practice Coordinator at ASLA, by this Friday, October 23.

Share Your Perspectives in Chicago!

‘Perspectives,’ the theme of the Annual Meeting, is particularly relevant to our PPN’s collective work in cultural resources and historic preservation, providing multiple tours and sessions on landscapes of contrast and comparison. Please join colleagues and friends in Chicago for discussions and dialogue on current issues and ideas in our design and planning for historic places.

Many field sessions and events explore Chicago’s rich history and cultural development from ‘Paris on the Prairie’ to the ‘Second City.’ Education sessions offer insight into a range of relevant topics: cultural authenticity, maintenance and funding strategies, past successes that inform future needs, and more.

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The Gardens of August: Wyndygoul

Lantern slide of Seton’s manor house at Wyndygoul, Cos Cob, Connecticut, circa 1900 image: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ggbain-01507

Lantern slide of Seton’s manor house at Wyndygoul, Cos Cob, Connecticut, circa 1900
image: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ggbain-01507

Part of a Research, Reachout & Restore series on historic and cultural landscapes

A century after the start of the First World War and 53 years since The Guns of August was published, the garden where Barbara Tuchman wrote her Pulitzer Prize-winning work reveals itself.

Barbara Tuchman’s daughter once mentioned the garden to me in passing, recalling a Japanese maple—or was it a weeping cherry, with layered limbs cascading over stone walls onto the smooth surface of the pond? It was her grandfather’s, Maurice Wertheim’s, garden. This frugal recollection, like a grudging haiku, conjured an elegant landscape. I couldn’t shake it.

Since our conversation many years ago, I pieced together the few threads and clues that I remembered. Earlier this spring, I finally found the elusive garden and learned about its storied past. It remains extant, albeit threadbare. Originally it was the property of Ernest Thompson Seton, a wealthy naturalist and Englishman who bought up six old farmsteads in the village of Cos Cob, Connecticut, creating his country estate in 1900 and naming it Wyndygoul, Scottish for windy glen.

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