A Rose on Peachtree: Photography, Videography & Artifacts

August 28, 2013

Photography by Jason Travis

Photography by Jason Travis

From September 20 – October 10, 2013, the Atlanta Preservation Center, in collaboration with M.H. Mitchell, Inc., will present A Rose on Peachtree. This exhibit honoring the 1901 Rufus Rose House on Peachtree Street will feature photography by Jason Travis, videography by Michael Morgan and artifacts from the R.M. Rose Distillery. The opening on Friday, September 20, 2013 from 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm will include a talk with the artists and collaborators at 7:30 pm. Gallery hours are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm. The APC is located in the 1856 LP Grant Mansion, 327 St Paul Ave SE, Atlanta GA 30312.

One of Peachtree Street’s last remaining Victorian homes, the Rufus M. Rose House is a constant through decades of history on Atlanta’s most famous street. Travis and Morgan’s work will focus on the house in its present-day environment. Artifacts from the R.M. Rose Distillery including bottles, jugs, advertising materials and historic photographs will be on display courtesy of author and historian Jeff Clemmons. The Rufus Rose House has been on the APC’s Most Endangered Historic Places List since 2007. The APC and M.H. Mitchell, Inc. are celebrating the house through the arts to advocate for its preservation and to forge new connections within these communities.

The exhibition grew out of the summer internship of Jessica Sheppard with M.H. Mitchell, Inc. which was supported by the Atlanta Preservation Center. Sheppard is an undergraduate student of history with Dr. Scott Matthews at Georgia State University. She was charged with taking historical information about Rufus M. Rose and the historic home and “repackaging for a contemporary audience.” For her research she interviewed APC Executive Director Boyd Coons and APC member and tour guide Clemmons and examined APC’s extensive files on the efforts to preserve the structure. She shared what she learned with her colleagues who also became interested in the story of the house. Towards the end of the internship, Sheppard asked the APC to support her desire to continue to advocate for the house with an exhibit of Travis and Morgan’s art work. Clemmons then volunteered to lend his artifacts to enhance the exhibit.

Photography by Jason Travis

Photography by Jason Travis

M.H. Mitchell, Inc. is a non-profit that supports the preservation of Southern history. Led by David Yoakley Mitchell, the organization accomplishes this goal through education, protection, encouragement, research and promotion. Current projects include the Georgia Historic Marker Post Replacement Program and the restoration of Fort Walker in Grant Park.

The purpose of the Atlanta Preservation Center is to promote the preservation of Atlanta’s architecturally, historically and culturally significant buildings, neighborhoods and landscapes through education and advocacy. The LP Grant Mansion has been home to the APC since 2002 and features a 680 square foot gallery in its Drawing Room. This gallery is host to exhibitions that underscore the Center’s mission. Its purpose is to demonstrate that the preserved environment is a valuable and inspirational part of the present.

More information is available here.


Conversations in Preservation: Restoration Math 101

August 20, 2013

I didn’t do all that well when I took Algebra I.  I tripped over “variables” … big time.  Look, I was accustomed to constants, like numbers.  You either added, subtracted, multiplied or divided numbers, right?  Not any more because with Algebra there was a twist … variables!  Instead of friendly numbers, equations now started showing up with “x’s” and “y’s” as well as (a+b) = (c-d)!   Boy Howdy, we now have the alphabet co-mingling with numbers.  What is going on here?  This was Voodoo math!  I made it through Algebra, but I struggled.  More importantly though, I learned a lot about variables and it has served me well. [Ironically, after college, I ended up teaching Algebra I.  And at the risk of being boastful, I did quite well.  My supervisor once asked me why my students scored so well.  I remember telling him that I made sure they knew what a variable was and how it could change on a dime - move the goal post.  Once you understood variables and their function in an equation, things got a lot easier.]

 
The same can be said about restoration work.  If you don’t understand the variables in restoration, you too may acquire that “deer in the head lights look”.  One of the first things anyone buying or living in an old house better learn is just who you let work on the house.  Experience means a lot and in my opinion, is the most important variable you need to learn.  It can also come in different forms.  Allow me to explain.

 
Let’s say you need work on those old windows that last opened when Tennessee Ernie Ford sang “Sixteen Tons”, say about 1955.  Are you going to hire someone who’s experience level amounts to walking into a building supply house, walking out with a vinyl clad window set and slapping it into the hole he created with a Sawzall and a crowbar when he tore out your original 1907 double hung window?  I hope not.  I hope you would recognize the value of experience.  It may take a little longer but in the end, your restored original 1907 double hung window would look better than the vinyl clad peep hole that would be happier on the side of a double wide than your bungalow.  The takeaway point here is there is a world of difference between someone who has worked on new homes vs. older homes.  Ask questions, get referrals, call previous clients, do some legwork, get down in the trenches and do the due diligence.  Are you going to pay more money?  Probably, but put things in perspective.  You want someone who has experience working on, and familiar with, old house problems.  Not someone using your house as a test site to find out if they have a clue as to how to replace a termite damaged sill.

Another iteration of the experience variable is the DIY trap.  Whether you know it or not, there is a multi-billion dollar industry out there stroking your ego and taking advantage of your good intentions by telling you, “yes, Mr. Fixit, you can do it yourself”.   Well, I’ve seen the results of well-intentioned homeowners and it’s as rough as that road to hell that is paved with good intentions.  I saw this first hand recently:  A young, energetic homeowner called me to look at his bungalow in the Morningside area.  He had gone to a local big box, building supply store and had been told he could easily refurbish his ailing kitchen floor … all by himself.  He walked out with a rented buffer, synthetic pads, some sort of chemical stripping product and enough advice from the sales clerk to screw up his floors – which he promptly did.  He also got the stripping product on his baseboard and started peeling off paint.  When I asked him what the salesperson recommended he use to clean the product off the floor and baseboard, it was like I had hit the “pause” button.  He just stared at me and finally said, “uh, we didn’t get that far”.  His pregnant wife put on one of the best eye rolling exhibitions I have seen in some time, accompanied by a very patient smile.  The story has a happy ending; their kitchen looks fine now and “young mama is happy”.

 
I am all for a homeowner using his/her time, skills and money to maintain their home.  But when repairs need to be made, take a step back and ask yourself if you are honestly capable of doing this.  We know your heart is in the right place but it’s your hand/eye coordination and common sense I’m worried about.  I probably have close to fifty years experience around building trades.  Do I repair the plumbing in my house?  No.  Will I repair plaster?  No.  How about electrical repairs?  Since I don’t want to see my house burn to the ground, I don’t touch that either.  Why don’t we just put it in a different context?  Would you go up in an airplane if the last person who performed repairs didn’t even read (or have) the instruction book?  I think I’ve made my point.

My final variation on this theme involves compensation.  A lot of homeowners use the cost of new construction as a metric for what to pay someone for restoration services.  Big mistake.  To me, new construction is almost like “plug and play”.  Take the stuff out of the box, plug it in and that’s pretty much it.  When you are working on a 100+ year old house, the equation is many times more complicated.  This is where restoration enters into what I call the “sixth sense stage”.  Face it folks, there are times when a set of eyes that have been looking at old houses (thousands) for decades will see things your eyes will never pick up.  And if those eyes belong to a person who has a decent business, they won’t be the lowest estimate you get for the work.  Are they taking advantage of you?  Well here’s a simple test: did they drive up in a Mercedes, Lexus or slick BMW?  I doubt it.  Did they pop out of one of those tricked up, franchise trucks and show you the remote control that opens/closes the van doors and windows from across the street?  Probably not.  When my dad got out of the wood floor business in 1989, he was still driving his 1965 Chevy Sportvan – that had replaced his 1950 panel Chevy truck.  Aside from being a Chevy fan, he pointed out that most skilled workers he had met acquired experience, not money.  If you’re hell bent on joining a country club, stay out of restoration.

Variables in Restoration Math 101 aren’t nearly as hard as Algebra I, but they do come in different shades.  Part of the allure of buying and restoring older homes is learning those different shades.  My house only dates to 1920 but when I see work coming up, I follow the same guidelines as if I had never touched a hammer.  I know there is a wealth of information out there but if it’s coming from someone who’s skills are in writing or selling and not actually doing the work, I’m going to listen to the experienced voice – even if their sentences aren’t complete and low on multi-syllable words.
I am also going to exercise patience.  Restoration work marches to a very different beat.  In many cases, a good portion of restoration work is the reversal of well-intentioned but poorly executed work from the past.  And unlike new construction, you don’t get to set the parameters of the work.  You have to work with what has been there (possibly decaying?) for decades … or centuries.  Patience has always been a tough virtue to acquire but if you want happiness and peace of mind, it’s worth looking into.  It is time and effort well spent.  I wish you the best on your restoration adventure.

Michael Purser is owner of the Rosebud Co. here in Atlanta and specializes in wood floor restoration.  To learn more about Rosebud Co., the services they offer and view their projects visit www.rosebudfloors.com.  You will also find information on care and maintenance of wood floors, videos and slide shows of their services and an informative blog, Wood Words, to follow.  And of course, Rosebud Floors is on Facebook!


Fulton County Funding for Arts & Culture Needs Your Attention

Due to a budget short fall, the Fulton County Commission is considering a 100% cut of funding for Arts and Culture. The APC has received funding from the Commissioners for more than 15 years to provided educational programming.

We ask that you contact the Commission and urge them to continue to fund Arts and Culture in Fulton County.

Following is a letter from the Fulton County Arts Council with further information and action items.

Arts and Culture are an important part of the lives of citizens throughout the County and Metro Atlanta.

+++++++

Dear Fulton County Resident,

As you may have recently read in last Sunday’s AJC,(attached) Fulton County is in a dire financial situation, looking at a possible $115m deficit.  We are reaching out to you to make you aware as a part of a proposed resolution to this deficit, the current Interim County Manager has proposed a 100% cut to the Department of Arts and Culture.  Long story short…We need your help!  As someone who is either in the arts or has a strong appreciation for what Arts and Culture means for this community, our Fulton County Commissioners MUST hear from you!

Over the past five years our budget has been cut an average of 14-20% annually, and since 2001 has been cut over one million dollars. Though these were difficult for the Arts in Fulton County, the cuts were proportionately aligned with all other departments within the County budget.  At this juncture, however, a 100% cut to the Department of Arts and Culture is in the County Manager’s top three recommendations!

Our plea to you, as someone who is connected to Arts and Culture in this community, is for you, your staff, board, attendees and friends to IMMEDIATELY let your Commissioner know of your concern.  To let our voices be heard, we ask everyone who wants this to continue to be a healthy cultural community to do one or all of the following:

1) Call your Commissioner and simply state that you are very concerned and not in favor of there being any cuts in the Dept. of Arts and Culture.  Leave your name, organization, numbers served by your group and the economic impact it could have  on your area of the County.

2) Send an email to your Commissioner stating that Arts and Culture is an important part of the quality of life for those of us who live, work and play in Fulton County and that you urge them not to support the County Manager’s recommendation to cut  the budget for the Dept. of Arts and Culture;

Note:  Email Addresses and phone numbers of Commissioners are below:

District 1 (At Large) Chairman John Eaves

Email: john.eaves@fultoncountyga.gov

404-612-8206

District 2 (At Large) Commissioner Robb Pitts

Email: robb.pitts@fultoncountyga.gov

404-612-8210

District 3 Commissioner Liz Hausmann

Email: liz.hausmann@fultoncountyga.gov

404-612-8213

District 4 Commissioner Tom Lowe

Email: tom.lowe@fultoncountyga.gov

404-612-8218

District 5 Commissioner Emma Darnell

Email: emma.darnell@fultoncountyga.gov

404-612-8222

District 6 Commissioner Joan Garner

Email: joan.garner@fultoncountyga.gov

404-612-8226

District 7 Commissioner William “Bill” Edwards

Email: commissioner.edwards@fultoncountyga.gov

404-612-8230

3) Attend the Board of Commissioners meeting (Wednesday, August 21st) where this issue will be discussed and voice your concern during the public comment section. The meeting will be held at the Fulton County Govt. Complex, 141 Pryor Street, Atlanta, Georgia.  At this 10AM called meeting, they are scheduled to introduce the recent recommendations to the full Board.  Please arrive at 9:30 if you would like to speak to the Commissioners to sign up. It is first come, first serve!  Your presence is critical and extremely necessary to ensure we maintain a healthy Arts environment throughout Fulton County.

Note: If you are an arts organization and wish to make some comments, please be prepared to share the impact of your organization (i.e. number of employees, number of attendees…especially if you can break those numbers down to number of seniors, youth/children, underserved, etc.)

We are encouraging all in attendance to wear green so our presence can be easily recognized by the BOC.  If you are speaking, please know the Commissioners will be impressed by the total impact your group has and will continue to make in Fulton County.  State your area of the County and how it improves the quality of life for the residents.  How many jobs will be lost by this move?

The Department of Arts and Culture, as well as the Fulton County Arts Council thanks you in advance.  This will be our only chance to communicate to the Commissioners the importance of Arts and Culture in our surrounding communities.

Our thanks, in advance, for all you have and will continue to contribute to  Arts and Culture.  Please ACT TODAY to help stop this action by the Commission and allow Fulton County’s quality of life for families, children, seniors and artists remain alive and vibrant!

See you on Wednesday, Aug. 21 at 141 Pryor St. Atlanta GA, Govt. Complex-Board of Commissioners meeting room at promptly 10AM (speakers be her at 9:30).  We hope to have a good amount of press in the room, so be prepared to speak to them, as well. Channel 2-ABC affiliate is covering the story, and WAGA will be there conducting interviews with Arts Leaders, such as yourselves.

Warm regards,

The Fulton County Arts Council