Tuesday, June 14, 2016

VAF Conference

This year's Vernacular Architecture Forum (VAF) conference was held in Durham, NC a few weeks ago!  That means I got to go for the first time :)  It was a wonderful conference and so cool to have so many folks from all over the country (and Puerto Rico!) right here in the Triangle!

second floor bedroom at Horton Cottage, late 18th or early 18th century, Durham County

The conference began with a great opening plenary session with keynote addresses by Catherine W. Bishir and Jim Goodmon. Then, on to the all-day bus tours on Thursday and Friday.

West Grove Meeting House, ca. 1915, Alamance County

The tour that I chose and assisted with was the "Piedmont Patchwork" tour which consisted of historic sites with Quaker, German, Scotch-Irish and African American heritage as well as multiple textile mill industries in the mostly rural areas of Alamance and Guilford Counties.

Spring Friends Meeting House, 1907, Alamance County

Our tour began with traveling from Durham to Snow Camp in southern Alamance County, where we visited two Quaker churches, the West Grove Friends Meeting House (1915) and the Spring Friends Meeting House (1907).

Rear and side elevations of Old Brick German Reformed Church

Then we visited the Old Brick German Reformed Church (1813, 1840 and 1946). We enjoyed lunch at Historic Jamestown, a Quaker settlement in southern Guilford County, where we toured the Jamestown Meeting House (1819), the Mendenhall Plantation (1811), Barn (early 1800s-1900) and Store (1824) and the Madison Lindsay House (early and mid-1800s). At this point (I had forgotten to bring my good camera with me on the bus) my cell phone ran out of storage space and I couldn't take any more pictures. Nooooo!!!

Next we traveled to the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum and Palmer Memorial Institute (1902-1971), an African American college prep and elite finishing school. To learn more about this historic site, please visit here.

We drove through the historic textile Mill Villages of Alamance (est. 1837) and Bellemont (est. 1879) on our way to the striking brick antebellum Hawfields Presbyterian Church (1852-1855) which also included a Session House and a large cemetery.

Finally, we ended our tour at the Saxapahaw Mill Village (mid 1800s-mid 1900s) where we were able to tour the rehabilitated mill complex and enjoy a fabulous local barbecue dinner at the Haw River Ballroom.

Former spinnng mill at Saxapahaw on the Haw River, Alamance County

Friday's tour focused on Durham County with the second half featuring some of the City of Durham's historic buildings. Our day started at Horton Grove and Stagville Plantation in northern Durham, an important early state historic site formerly belonging to the Cameron family with an impressive number of former slave dwellings that survive and allow for the interpretation of African American history in Durham during the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries. To learn more or plan a visit to Historic Stagville, click here.

Horton Grove former slave dwellings and tenant houses (ca. 1859-1960), Durham County

Large timber frame antebellum barn at Horton Grove, ca. 1859-1860. , Durham County

 Stagville Plantation House, ca. 1790 and 1799 addition, Durham County

Interior of main house at Stagville Plantation, Durham County

Then we toured the Umstead Farm and Store, a late 19th century restored frame "I-House" with outbuildings, one of which used to serve as a post office and rural store.

Umstead Farm former post office and store and farm buildings, Durham County

Umstead Farm main farmhouse, Durham County

Next we visited Russell School (1926-1927), perhaps the most well-preserved and intact Rosenwald School in Durham and Wake County area, and enjoyed a fantastic lunch provided for us by the ladies of Cain's Chapel Baptist Church.

The Russell School (1926-1927), a former Rosenwald School, Durham County

Interior of the Russell School with former alumnae of the school standing at left, Durham County

Interior of the Russell School, Durham County

In the afternoon we toured the Golden Belt textile factory and mill village (1900-1930s) in downtown Durham, much of which has been rehabilitated into other uses and preserved with the help of historic tax credits.

exterior of rehabilitated Golden Belt textile factory, Durham County

We saw more former tobacco warehouses that have been rehabbed at the former Liggett and Myers Tobacco Factory complex (1880s-1940s).

The Cotton Room, rehabilitated former Golden Belt Textile Factory, Durham County

One of the highlights of the afternoon was our visit to St. Joseph's AME Church (est. 1891) in the Hayti community, a thriving African American community in downtown Durham during the early 20th century.

St. Joseph AME Church in Hayti Community, Durham County

Friday's tour ended at Duke University where VAFers were given a chance to see the impressive newly restored Gothic Revival Duke Chapel (1930-1932). Exhausted from the busy all-day tours but energized about the wonderful vernacular forms of architecture right here in the piedmont and the Triangle, I left feeling incredibly grateful to be able to attend the conference and learn from so many professionals. I hope there will be more VAF conferences in my future :)

Interior of main house at Stagville Plantation, Durham County

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