I’ve had the chance to work on a variety of projects throughout the country, each of them fascinating in its own way. Enjoy this small sample of projects from recent years, most of them involving HABS/HAER photography and research. Feel free to contact me with questions about any other projects or to talk to me about what I can do for you.
Fort Kent Blockhouse: HABS Documentation
The Fort Kent Blockhouse is a timber fortification that was built in 1839 during the “Aroostook War,” a dispute over the location of the border between the British Province of New Brunswick and the State of Maine. The US/Canada border in northern Maine was disputed from the end of the Revolutionary War until 1842. The State of Maine authorized the construction of the Blockhouse in 1839 by a civilian posse as one of several fortifications to prevent the removal of timber and to establish an American presence in the region. A vernacular timber building constructed according to a traditional pattern, the Fort Kent Blockhouse has retained its original form and much of its original materials. It remains the only extant fortification from the Aroostook War and is an excellent example of vernacular log fort construction in the United States.
Following a heavy flood in 2008, the Town of Fort Kent secured funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to construct a new levee. Given the location of the Fort Kent Blockhouse at the junction of the Fish River and the St. John River, a portion of the new levee will be constructed immediately adjacent to the north and east sides of the building. The Maine SHPO determined that this was an adverse effect. Because the Blockhouse is a National Historic Landmark, mitigation required documentation to Historic American Building Survey (HABS) Standards. The Town of Fort Kent hired me to conduct the HABS photography and research. The National Park Service accepted my completed documentation package in 2018.
Missouri National Recreational River: Administrative History
While this site highlights my work as a photographer, much of it for HABS/HAER projects, I am primarily a historian. In recent years I have had the good fortune to team with Outside the Box, LLC in the preparation of Administrative Histories for the National Park Service. These are book-length studies of individual units of the NPS, which the NPS sees as management tools. Administrative Histories are designed to outline the legislative origins and subsequent management decisions in the formation and on-going administration of the park, all within an overall interpretive, analytical framework. As the NPS notes here,
Park managers bear significant responsibilities for decisions about park resources that affect how future generations will see this multifaceted natural and cultural heritage. Administrative histories inform them about the decision-making of their predecessors in the NPS, and about how NPS decisions have reflected and reflect broader social, economic, cultural, and political trends and interests.
From the summer of 2014 to the summer of 2016 I researched and wrote the Administrative History of the Missouri National Recreational River. First created in 1978, and then expanded in 1991, MNRR (as the NPS calls it) consists of two segments of the Missouri River where it forms the border between South Dakota and Nebraska, together with the lower sections of the Niobrara River and Verdigre Creek. These are challenging sections to manage, given that the US Army Corps of Engineers is required to be a partner with the NPS in the management of these components of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Program; the two agencies do not always agree on the management of rivers. In the Administrative History, I had the chance to explore in great detail the complicated origins of this unit of the NPS, the long background of federal involvement in manipulating the Missouri, and the ongoing challenges in its management since then. I found it to be a fascinating book to write.
Beyond the fascinating history, MNRR consists of sections of river that are stunningly beautiful, with most of it remaining nearly pristine despite being immediately downstream of major US. Army Corps of Engineers dams, constructed as part of the Pick-Sloan Plan. The boundaries of the MNRR also includes many parks and public access points that are owned and managed by various state and local entities. The gallery below shows a small selection from this vast and stunning landscape.
Kezar Falls, ME, Woolen Mill, MHBR Documentation
In 2012, I teamed again with my colleagues at Sutherland Conservation and Consulting on the documentation of the former Kezar Falls Woolen Mills in Kezar Falls, ME. I’m always grateful for the chance to work with Amy Cole Ives and her staff, who come up with fascinating projects and do great work. I was happy to do the large-format, HABS/HAER photography that accompanied their historic narrative for a Maine
The Project The village of Kezar Falls is located on the south side of the Ossippee River close to the New Hampshire border. The village is a part of the Town of Parsonsfield, which became the owner of the former Kezar Falls Woolen Mill after the last private owner of the mill, Robinson Manufacturing, abandoned the mill in 2005 and stopped paying its taxes. This is an extremely rural part of Maine, with a very small industrial and commercial tax base; the loss of this mill hit the Town very hard. The Town hoped to use the mill complex as a spur to development, and received a grant from the EPA to carry out the environmental clean-up of the mill, which was determined a brownfield site. The original woolen mill in Kezar Falls was built in 1880. The present mill complex was built in stages from the late 19th century into the late 1920s. At the time of our documentation, it consisted of multiple buildings, including several that were connected in a linear fashion–the main mill building, a 1929 concrete addition, a machine shop, a wood shop, and a generator building. Separate buildings included an office, a boiler building, and a picker house. In addition, the site included a small hydroelectric powerhouse, which received its water by way of a series of two dams on the Ossippee River: an upstream one that directed the flow to one side of a small island, and one at the downstream end of the island that directed the flow into a raceway leading to the powerhouse. While the powerhouse was not a part of our project, and thus I couldn’t go inside, I did record the water control system including the dams, the power canal, and the exterior of the powerhouse.
The Photography Several factors made this a challenging project. First, I did the photographs in the middle of August, and it was hot. Really hot. It was hot enough that I would not leave the extra box of negatives in the car for fear that the negatives would be ruined. Second, the condition of the buildings was, in many places, very poor. The buildings had not been maintained for several years, and water had got into the buildings. Many of the wooden floors were buckled, making their stability questionable, while the concrete floors had a lot of standing water, with moss and molds making things very slippery. Third, it was just a large and complicated series of buildings. Both the main mill and the 1929 concrete addition had four stories, with a lot of unique spaces, all of which had to be recorded. Given the way that they had been connected, it often was difficult to tell which building I was in. Over the course of a day and a half, however, I was able to get a very comprehensive series of photographs of the entire mill complex, interiors and exteriors. I’m really very happy with the way that the negatives came out.
New Croton Dam
In 2010 and 2011, I was invited to team with the Public Archaeology Facility to carry out a study of the New Croton Dam, just north of New York City, in order to assess the impact of some changes that the owner of the dam, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, had proposed. The New Croton Dam is the jewel in the crown of the vast, sprawling water supply system for New York City. Completed in 1904 after more than a decade of construction, it replaced an earlier Croton Dam, which remains submerged within the current impoundment. The dam spans a relatively narrow valley about three miles downstream of the original Croton Dam. This valley has a gentle earthen slope at the south end and a steep rock wall at the north end. The overall design of the New Croton Dam complex is fascinating. The masonry dam extends from the south end of the valley, and ends just short of the north end at a unique curved, stepped spillway that extends from the north end of the dam, and then curves sharply to the east and runs upstream, into the impoundment, parallel to the rocky north wall of the valley before tying into the north wall. The spillway allows water to flow through the narrow channel between it and the rocky wall of the valley, creating a beautiful cascade. An arch bridge then spans the channel, to connect a road at the north side of the valley to the dam, which has a two-land road across the top. It wasn’t a photography job, but I couldn’t resist bringing the large-format camera with me and getting some HAER-level photographs of this incredible structure.
School Street Hydroelectric Project: HAER Documentation
In 2008, while serving as the Senior Cultural Resources Specialist for Kleinschmidt Associates, I documented the Upper Gatehouse of the School Street Hydroelectric Project for the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER). The School Street Hydroelectric Project is located on the Mohawk River at Cohoes Falls. This area around Troy and Cohoes, NY, where the Mohawk drains into the Hudson River, was one of the most important industrial centers in 19th century America.
In the mid-19th century, the Cohoes Company used the falls of the Mohawk to create a remarkable multi-level canal system that powered a vast array of factories in Cohoes. Most of this canal system is no longer visible. The biggest remaining artifact is the upper gatehouse that controlled the flow of water into the power canal above Cohoes Falls. The original machinery to open and close the gates, from 1866, remained in the upper gatehouse until 2009 when they were replaced with modern machinery.
The remaining components of the Cohoes Company, including the Upper Gatehouse, the dam, and the power canal within the hydroelectric project contribute to the Harmony Mills National Historic Landmark District. As a National Historic Landmark, their alteration required documentation according to HAER standards. I prepared the historic/engineering narrative and completed all of the photography. These documents are now a part of the HABS/HAER collection at the Library of Congress.
Vermont Marble/Otter Creek Hydroelectric Project: HABS/HAER Documentation
The Vermont Marble Company came into being in 1880 under the leadership of Redfield Proctor, who consolidated several local marble companies including the Sutherland Falls Marble Company, which was based near the falls of the Otter Creek in what is now the Village of Proctor. By the turn of the 20th century, the Vermont Marble Company sought to derive more power from the falls of Otter Creek, and in 1904 built the Proctor Hydroelectric Station. That station is licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which opens the owners of the hydroelectric plant to Federal environmental review, including cultural resources studies in accordance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. I was fortunate to handle many of the Section 106 issues for the various owners of the plant over the past several years, including several projects involving HABS/HAER photography.