September 23, 2009
This story began a long time ago: 1933 when the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) was established for unemployed architects. Today the program is the only WPA program still functioning with University of Maryland students participating through the Peterson Prize Measured Drawings Competition.
The Peterson Prize is a wonderful scam. It allows students to DONATE architectural documentation classwork, if the work meets HABS' exacting standards, to the nation, to be housed at and curated by the Library of Congress, free to all. (Go to http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/habs_haer/ and search "University of Maryland" to look at the 24 Maryland student projects currently in the record).
The exciting news is that twenty sheets of documentation drawings begun by Maryland students a while ago, although not as far back as 1933, are now finished and submitted to HABS. All the projects were begun in documentation classes taught by adjunct faculty Judith Capen, Washington preservation architect, and are now brought to completion by her.
Fourteen drawings document the "Chevy" house: tiny, 1920s modestly priced, one- and two-bedroom houses in Garrett Park, Maryland, a late nineteenth-century railroad suburb. The Chevy houses were constructed on empty lots between the original Queen Annes, complete with Motorola radio, Murphy bed, built-in dining nook, and optional Chevy in the garage.
Begun in a 1993 graphic documentation class, twelve of the fourteen drawings were finished but the site plan was missing. This year cajoling, begging, and volunteer work saw completion of the set. One of the volunteers who helped finish the project is UMd Architecture graduate (with Historic Preservation Certificate) Stefan Zastawski who works in Ms. Capen's office. "Captive," he says, but happy to have the set, including four of his sheets, headed to the Library of Congress.
Six other sheets originated in Maryland's summer program at the Chalfont Hotel in Cape May, New Jersey. For over twenty years students spent three weeks for three academic credits and infinite hands-on experience working on and with the 1876 hotel building.
The old hotel was a teaching tool to introduce students to graphic documentation, resulting in years of measured sketches but no finished drawings until from 1997 to 2003 six students turned some of the accumulated field notes into finished drawings.
Two sheets describe a tiny metal building ("The Tin House") on the hotel grounds and another four document parts of the 230-foot hotel elevation.
Finally, a since-demolished historic house in Prince George's County was drawn and measured with the support of a Prince George's Heritage grant. The four sheets of ink drawings were ALMOST finished by a student for coursework in 1999.
Now the last little bits the various projects are complete and all the work is headed for the HABS collection at the Library of Congress, all credited to University of Maryland students.
The School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at the University of Maryland is home to four academic disciplines: architecture, urban planning, historic preservation and real estate development. Committed to educating its students and community about the importance of sustainability and smart growth, the School practices an interdisciplinary approach to education, research, creative work, and community and professional service. For more information, please e-mail us or call 301.405.8000.
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