“Ohhh, we’re half way there…”

This is it. We’ve reached the halfway point. Five weeks have passed. Crazy, I know.

It’s been a pivotal week for me because I have jumped into my individual project. I am working on AutoCAD sketches for comparable sites for the Chatham property in the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park in Virginia.

The short version: I am currently creating the line work for the selected features (circulation, vegetation, buildings, water features and topography) of 11 other estates with similar historical context and relative geography.

Snipit of my project

A snippet of what my screen generally looks like. All 12 sites are laid out (North up). The large plan in the lower left hand corner is the Chatham Property.

The long version: Chatham is a colonial property that served a important role during the Civil War (it acted as a temporary hospital with notable figures passing through). At a later time, under new ownership, a colonial revival garden was added to the property and remnants of it still remain today. Of course, there are other structural changes that have occurred as well, like addition and removal of porches. The big question: How should the Chatham property be restored? Should it be maintained in the appearance it had during the war, letting go of the revival garden? Or, since the revival garden is also part of the property’s history, should it be maintained? One of the first of the series of questions to answer is how true to the period is the revival garden. It’s implementation is unknown so that is why a comparison of other similar properties is being done; to roughly assess the legitimacy. Thus, similar early 20th century property plans have been selected, and, with uniform mapping characteristics for each one, a successful comparison can be made, further informing the future site plan decisions.

But enough about me and Chatham, there were plenty of guests this week. On Tuesday, the Branching Out team came by the OCLP. We gave a presentation introducing ourselves and the work we’ve done. We then went on the Black Heritage trail tour with the students, which was just right around the corner from the office! I had never known there was a Black Heritage trail let alone that it was right down the street! It was nice to be outside, learning about African American history and its relevancy to Boston’s and Massachusetts’ history. It was also fascinating to hear how progressive Massachusetts as a state was (and of course still is!). It was interesting meeting the Branching Out crew because I remember when I was in their shoes and I couldn’t imagine doing a summer internship like they were doing. In fact, I wasn’t even interested in the environment then! So I took what time I had with them to probe their mind a bit and understand what drew them to this kind of work (especially so early). Of course, they could be like me and totally change directions a year from now but I like to pretend I was a special case.

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Presenting our work to the Branching Out crew

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Active listening while on the Black Heritage Trail Tour

The other adventure I had this week was accompanying Ericka @eduym and Margie on a trip to Peddocks Islands to photo document existing conditions (as per usual) and meet the SCA crew that will be working on the island for the next three weeks. They are under the direction of the Boston Harbor Islands crew out there and will be doing some major fieldwork to help improve visitor experience in the long term as well progress on going projects for the island. Margie guided all of us on a walking tour down the island, sharing tips for plant identification and historical stories. We planned on it being a rather rainy day but, just our luck, the clouds receded and we were bombarded with the unforgiving rays of sunshine by 11AM. With a half day’s hike already under our belt, the exhaustion was setting in quick. Though I left the island early, I am glad I got to see Peddocks for myself. Like I’ve preached before, each island has something new to offer, encompassing its own unique ambiance. There so much potential for Peddocks as an even “hotter destination” spot in the harbor that I hope I can re-visit in 5-10 years to see what comes of it.

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Ericka and I posing by the welcome sign before the start of the adventure

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Margie loves it when I take photos of her

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The SCA Crew on Peddocks

And of course, meeting the field crew was wonderful. They were eager to learn more about the history of the island, especially since they were living on it for the next 3 weeks. Again, I still get fascinated when I meet students who know earlier on than I did about the environmental sector in general. I hope that they enjoy their experience and I will forever wonder where it will take them.

We had yet another brown bag lunch were we met Christine Arato, a historian in the NPS. The conversation she had with us was engaging because she asked us about our opinions on matters that she often deals with. It was a beneficial two-way street in that she got some outside feedback and perspective and we got to contemplate matters we wouldn’t have normally and figure out how to succinctly express our thoughts to her.

Lastly, representatives from SCA, Dave and Emily, came into town to see how we are doing and what we are working on. After our presentation, we had a great discussion on the significance of the work that the OCLP outputs. Dave was interested on how the Center deals with opposition, for example to a recommendation for the removal of trees in order to restore a historical view. He said that it seems to work against this idea of conservation, which is quite true in the natural resource sense. However, I realized during the discussion that the OCLP staff are still conservationist; they are environmental history conservationist. While also working to conserve what is already established today, the staff also wants to be able to insure a certain visitor experience at the site. A person may visit a park for an hour or two, and, in that one hour, you want them to get a certain experience that the site can encapsulate for the duration of their time; Where they feel like they are in Chatham in 1863 (for example)…that’s the real goal. It’s those experiences that will resonate…

And thus my fifth week concludes. Even though it’s halfway through, I feel like I’m just getting started.

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