A Recap of the 2022 Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation Annual Conference
The Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation (AHLP) held its annual meeting in Natchitoches, Louisiana, from May 18-21 this year. Twice postponed because of COVID, the conference was entitled Natchitoches in the Red River Valley: A Confluence of Cultures. Over the three days we heard presentations and visited sites in Natchitoches and the surrounding area. From tenant cabins, to “juke-joints,” to churches and cemeteries, we learned about the unique culture of the Red River Valley and the Cane River.
The Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation is an interdisciplinary professional organization which provides a forum for communication and exchange of information among its members. It is dedicated to the preservation and conservation of historic landscapes in all their variety, from formal gardens and public parks to rural expanses. The conference, usually held every year, are a great way to learn about historic landscapes and experience in-depth exploration of the locations where they take place.
Our meetings were held at the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT), on the campus of Northwestern State University of Louisiana. NCPTT offices and some laboratories are located in historic Lee H. Nelson Hall, a former gymnasium. We learned about the history of the gymnasium and the long road to its preservation. Jason Church and Vrinda Jariwala, of NCPTT, conducted tours of the labs.
Visit any hospital or healthcare facility in North America and you are likely to find a “healing garden.” This may be a revamped courtyard or a purposely composed landscape designed to benefit patients and their caregivers. Preliminary plans are underway in the Dell area of Woodlands Cemetery in West Philadelphia for a healing garden and green burial site. At first glance, a healing garden in a cemetery may appear to be counterintuitive. However, the institution’s founders and early patrons believed in the therapeutic influence of nature and current plans build on those ideals. Close to the city and multiple healthcare facilities, the garden will serve as a place to learn, heal, and reflect. Aaron Wunsch, Associate Professor in the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation and Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, and Jessica Baumert, Executive Director, have been discussing this plan with Cherie Eichholz, PhD, a social worker at the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center. Outlines for such a scheme also appear in the cemetery’s 2015 master plan.
The Woodlands, a 54-acre historic cemetery and estate, is located near the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia VA Hospital (The Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center). The surrounding neighborhood is a mixture of students and professors, with a daily influx of patients and visitors to the nearby medical complexes.
At just under an acre, the ruggedly overgrown north-eastern corner of the Woodlands is known as “The Dell.” Steep sloping ground—20 feet in depth—discouraged burials here. A stream, Middle Run, ran through the area and held a water collection tank which fed an early irrigation line. The area is part of a buffer around the cemetery protecting the grounds from the surrounding commotion of city traffic and noise.