Values > Cullen

Cullen, Mary. "The Impact of Enhanced Values in the Care of Historic Structures," CRM Volume 15, No. 6, p.__. National Park Service. Reformatted here to include numerical list of the principles. [Reformatted to enumerate 'value trends'. Bold added.]

The electronic world is developing an exciting new process. A simple message fed into a network is analyzed, combined, repackaged and comes out the other end different from what was fed in. This is the Value-Added Network (VAN) and its enhanced and massaged messages are requiring increasingly sophisticated users. At Canadian Parks Service-National Historic Sites (CPS-NHS), the concept of a value-added network is not a new one. Values in our historic sites have steadily changed over time, reflecting the perceptions of different contemporary observers. In recent years this process has accelerated and values have become more complex. Today our professional staff require greater effort both to sort out historic value and to integrate it into the planning and delivery of conservation programs.

Three value trends are evident:

  1. an increase in the diversity of values at any one site;
  2. a focus on the contextual value of built heritage;
  3. and an emerging consciousness of the value of historic structures as they relate to commemoration history.

The first trend, the diversification of values, has come from many sources. Official changes in value can be traced through the Historic Sites and Monuments Boar of Canada (HSMBC) recommendations for individual sites. Laurier House in Ottawa, for example, was originally designated in 1957 as the home of two prime ministers of Canada and, 30 years later in 1987, received recognition for its Second Empire design and its contribution to the urban landscape. At Dundurn Castle in Hamilton, Ontario, this layering of values is marked b three designations—one to owner/entrepreneur/politician Alan MacNab, a second to the house as an outstanding example of the picturesque aesthetic, and a third to the Dundurn Castle landscape.

The majority of National Historic Sites have acquired new values in the management planning, Federal Heritage Review (FHBRO), and other processes. Batoche was designated in 1923 for its association with the major battle of the North-West Rebellion where Metis forces were defeated by Canadian troops. Today it is also valued as the centre of Metis settlement and culture on the South Saskatchewan River. When the 1856 Quebec Customs House was designated for its historical and architectural importance in 1972, continuity of use was not a value integral to its designation. Yet, it was precisely this added value that FHBRO and Customs and Revenue used so effectively to save the building from museum fate.

Through the diversification process, old values have seldom been discarded. Like the connoisseur appreciating a fine Mozart concerto, CPS continues to discover new facets to savour in its old sites. Meanwhile, new sites are being acquired and budgets are shrinking. The program is in the process of applying CRM principles rank these values and to direct the greatest care to historic resources of the highest value. At Batoche, for instance, the church and rectory, already named National Historic Sites, would be level 1 resources. The Metis vernacular structures and ruins of the village would be level 2 resources and, as such, would compete with level 1 resources at other sites for funding. And what about the relationship between all the Batoche buildings and the landscape, never mentioned by the Board, but now seen as crucial to the interpretation of the Batoche story? Is this a level 2 resource and how will this determination be made? Are we in danger of entrenching the old values in this tearing and sorting exercise? To date, the full implications for the care of historic structures are unclear.

A second value-added trend and the dominant theme of recent years has been the increased focus on the context of built heritage. This is a strange new concern for a system now celebrating 75 years of commemorating historic places. What is problematic about today's accent on place, however, is the contribution of various structures to the whole, and the still more sticky issue of defining the whole.

In complexes where buildings define the context, the sheer number of deteriorating historic structures is raising questions about how many and which structures are needed to convey heritage character. This applies, for example, in industrial complexes like the McLean Saw Mill; agricultural complexes, like experimental farms; and in military complexes, like Department of National Defense bases with large concentrations of wartime structures. Architectural and Engineering Services (A&E) recently addressed this question in a proposed intervention to demolish 9 of 11 World War I hangars at CFB, Borden, Ontario. This hangar line has been designated to be of national historic significance and is a critical grouping, of early aviation architecture. Defense proposes to keep hangars 5 and 11, both in good structural condition, but far apart in location and perhaps the least typical in their existing fenestration and sheathing. A&E, in consultation with the Architectural History Branch, is recommending that a minimum of 7 hangars be kept to preserve representivity and the concept of the group. If the group or contextual values of this line do not prevail, a full photographic survey and salvage recording may be the only documentation left of this historic complex.

Recognition of the contributing value of myriad secondary structures to sites and parks is another context issue. These structures do not emerge as cultural resources per se in the various CPS evaluation processes and are therefore not part of the identified inventory for protection. About 55% of the Rideau Canal structures evaluated in the Federal Heritage Review process fell into this "contextual value" abyss. Missing from present planning processes is an overall heritage character statement for the site or area as well as a linking statement describing the contribution of these structures. The program needs to articulate the salient characteristics of these structures, such as form, siting, materials, as well as the dynamic forces that make them fit their context so well. It can then use this statement to guide care and development and to ensure the long-term conservation of distinctive areas.

Canadian Historic Sites have been very successful in creating a sense of place but very few of them have been designated for that reason and the integration of overall character statements in management planning is only beginning. In some sites, either for administrative or other reasons, overall character is either unclear or will clash with public/tourist expectations of what the landscape should be. We learn, for example, that television crews recently traveling to Dawson expected to find a theme-park style frontier gold-rush town; instead they discovered Klondike National Historic Sites scattered amid a town of vacant lots and trailer parks, a town whose frontier flavor was mainly demonstrated in the liberal interpretation of municipal design guidelines. Similarly, pilgrims to Green Gables, the inspiration of L. M. Montgomery's famous story, see the house as an element in a literary landscape, a contextual value which perhaps never can be linked to care under current CRM standards.

At CPS-NHS the increasing diversity of values and the focus on contextual issues have been enjoined by debate on the merit or the value of historic structures as they relate to commemorative history. In a recent evaluation of 1937-40 reconstructed buildings at Fort George, the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Committee identified historical value in their association with 1930 commemoration as expressed in the frontier aesthetic. This value, which is only an element in the overall CPS determination of value, has been variously interpreted by CPS staff. Some see the assigned 1930s commemorative value as a material or artifactual one proscribing major changes in the buildings. Others see it in terms of its symbolic or message value, intended to convey the meaning of the historic place but having no intrinsic value itself. This view would argue that it was the Fort George site that was designated of national significance in 1921 and the reconstructions are simply an interpretive tool.

The reconstruction discussions raise the contentious issue of values that impact on other values. Its outcome could have particular import for Louisbourg, the site of the largest French fortress and naval base in North America and Canada's largest reconstructed historic site, completed in the 1960s. About one-fifth of the original town and fortifications have been reconstructed to the 1744 period and the complex is widely recognized for the knowledge it conveys of 18th century building techniques and materials. Issues to be addressed will be safeguarding the scholarly integrity value while improving physical condition and letting the site evolve as part of the interpretative mandate.

While debate on the value of reconstructions continues to influence interventions, and consensus on the issue remains to be achieved, the long-term survival of many reconstructions will probably be determined on a case-by-case basis and by other values. A case-in-point is the Officer's Quarters at Fort Anne, an eclectic blend of military, maritime and residential colonial revival architecture which was the 1930s response to the rehabilitation of the 1797-98 structure. Sited on a rise of land, the Officer's Quarters with its amazing chimneys and surprising 1930s garb has become the symbol of Fort Anne and it is this landmark value which more than anything may influence future interventions.

The enhanced values of our National Historic Sites then are stimulating new questions about the neglect and the care of historic structures. That care will relate directly to the clarification of the values at each site. The challenge will be to avoid the entrenchment of existing values inherent in the assessment of individual historic structures. Only by redefining the significance of the entire site, will levels of care respond adequately to changing conceptions of value.

1 For additional reading about reconstruction in the Canadian Parks Service, see CRM, Vol. 15, No. 5.

Mary Cullen is chief, Architectural Analysis Division, National Historic Sites, Canadian Parks Service.

 

 

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