Preservation of historic landscapes includes protection and treatment of both natural and man-made resources. In FY2011, the Historic Landscape program focused on projects that addressed documentation, maintenance and protection of these varying resources.

Herbicides and the Built Environment

From vines and grasses to invasive species, unwanted vegetation can plague the grounds of historic sites. Resource managers and homeowners alike need methods to control weeds and plants without causing damage to surrounding historic features. Chemical methods are often used to control vegetation. But what are the potential interactions between herbicides and masonry materials? Are other methods available that are safer or better at targeting specific vegetation?

Caitlin Oshida is helping NCPTT answer these questions. Oshida, a graduate student at the University of Georgia, began research on the use of herbicides at cultural sites as a summer intern at NCPTT in 2010 and continued her exploration of the topic this year as part of her master’s thesis. Oshida completed experiments on the effects of the herbicides Roundup® and Garlon®4 on brick, limestone, concrete, and granite materials. Her studies show that herbicides can have negative effects, including pitting and efflorescence, on stone and masonry.

NCPTT is experimenting with non-chemical ways to control vegetation using a hand-held, filtered microwave system. A prototype design of the system is based on the concept that specific microwave wavelengths can disrupt cell walls, resulting in the plant’s death. Users are able to operate the system in complete safety as it generates less radiation than a conventional microwave oven. Heat generated by the radiation is filtered out to prevent damage to sensitive historic materials. Further research of the system is underway in partnership with Northwestern State University.

Documenting Historic Landscapes

Derek Linn documents the landscape at Hodges Gardens State Park, Florien, LA.

Derek Linn documents the landscape at Hodges Gardens State Park, Florien, LA.

Compiling thorough documentation is the first step in protecting historic landscapes. While a number of publications focus on nominating landscapes for historic registers or creating detailed cultural landscape reports, these do not contain the “nuts and bolts” information needed to research and document sites. NCPTT is working to fill this gap by providing a “how to” guide for documenting historic landscapes.

A two-fold landscape documentation project began during the summer of 2011 with the help of intern Derek Linn, a recent graduate of the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture degree program at Arkansas State University. He researched and documented the design history of Hodges Gardens State Park, a Mid-century style landscape in Florien, Louisiana. Using a variety of resources including the internet, archives, and oral history interviews, he pieced together information about the garden’s design history. Linn recorded the documentation process in real time on the blog, “Exploring Hodges Gardens.” The next step of the project is to incorporate his experience at Hodges as a case in the “how to” guide. The final product will be available in hard copy and on the NCPTT website.

Teaching Historic Landscape Maintenance

The Olmsted Center’s Jamie McGuane instructs a tree preservation workshop in Fredericksburg, VA.

The Olmsted Center’s Jamie McGuane instructs a tree preservation workshop in Fredericksburg, VA.

Maintenance workers charged with caring for cultural landscapes are faced with the complex challenge of integrating preservation practices with traditional horticultural techniques, while balancing the retention of historic integrity with the demands of contemporary site usage. Yet all too often, these workers lack an understanding of their role in protecting historic features.

In FY2011, NCPTT and the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation hosted a second roundtable discussion on the creation of a landscape preservation maintenance curriculum to address this deficiency. These discussions included site managers from the National Park Service and other organizations, as well as maintenance supervisors, landscape architects and educators. With funding from NCPTT, the Olmsted Center built upon ideas generated during the roundtable meetings and created a framework for the education program. The draft curriculum includes three core units incorporating the knowledge and skills essential to properly understand and care for all historic landscape resources. An optional specialization unit includes topics related to a variety of different landscape types, ranging from agricultural to ornamental landscapes. The next step in this project will be development of the first unit and an accompanying hands-on workshop.

NCPTT also partnered with the Olmsted Center to host a three-day historic tree preservation workshop at the George Washington Birthplace National Monument in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The workshop attracted thirty participants from across the country and addressed topics that included condition assessment, hazardous tree identification, and replacement strategies.

Mourning Glory: Preserving Historic Cemeteries

Terra Firma, Mourning Glory: Preserving Historic Cemeteries

Terra Firma, Mourning Glory: Preserving Historic Cemeteries

Historic cemeteries comprise some of our country’s most significant historic landscapes. Yet cemetery preservation efforts focus almost entirely on built features with little understanding or preservation of the landscape as a whole.

Through a cooperative agreement with NCPTT, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation produced “Mourning Glory: Preserving Historic Cemeteries” in FY2011. The publication provides guidance on cemetery landscape preservation topics such as establishing a preservation strategy, educating the public about character, and implementing best practices.

“Mourning Glory” is the tenth issue in a series, called Terra Firma, which addresses landscape preservation issues ranging from protection of historic roads to caring for mature trees. As part of the cooperative agreement, NCPTT both funded and contributed “best practice” sections on maintaining decorative iron fences and cleaning headstones. With further financial support from NCPTT, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation will host a one day training workshop addressing topics presented in the publication. The final publication will be released at the November 18, 2011 workshop and will be available soon after on the NCPTT website.

WikiProject Cultural Landscapes

This past summer, Addy Smith-Reiman joined the staff of NCPTT as an intern in a joint project between the Architecture & Engineering and Historic Landscapes programs. Smith-Reiman spearheaded a new initiative to grow the cultural landscapes section of Preservapedia.org, a wiki knowledge base for preservationists. To date the initiative has garnered the support of the Society for College and University Planning and The Cultural Landscape Foundation. With help from these partners, staff and volunteers will generate a library of project case studies to share lessons and best practices in cultural landscape preservation.