SCA 46th Annual Conference Paper Symposium

Friday, June 2, 2023
Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel


7:45 Breakfast (provided)

8:15 Welcome

8:30-10:15 Session 1 – Road Trip!

Re-Routing: Driving the US Route System – Anastasia Karel
About 5 years ago I began exploring the backroads of America using the US Route system as my guide. Whenever possible I choose a US Route instead of an interstate, and this often causes my phone’s GPS to “re-route” as it tries to keep up with my wanderings. My goal is to drive at least a portion of every route in the system, but thus far my focus has been on the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern routes, namely US 6, US 20, US 40, and US 250. I write about these trips on my blog, Rock & Routes. My talk will include some of my favorite discoveries, such as the only covered bridge on a US route, and signs that mark the beginning or end of a route.

Survivors of the 60s: The Dinosaur Sculptures of Louis Paul Jonas – Greg Holmes
In 1961, Louis Paul Jonas planned to build a dinosaur park in Florida until Sinclair Oil came along with a better idea and Dinoland was born. Everybody knows about that 1964-65 World’s Fair Attraction, but the dinosaurs’ adventures didn’t stop there. From 1966-68 the Dinoland dinosaurs went on a tour of state fairs, and shopping malls, parking in front of now-defunct stores. The molds used to make them were reused to produce more statues for institutions in the US, Australia, Japan and Canada. There are at least 30 Jonas dinosaurs on display in the United States, 17 of which are in the Northeast, or states that border the Great Lakes. This is a journey via historic photographs that drip with the signs, styles and surroundings of the 1960s, never-published Sinclair internal documents, and my own photography of the statues in a variety of settings where they reside today. Included are tales or preservation successes and failures, and possibilities to come.

A Retreat for Middle-class America: The Motels of Lake Michigan – Izabela Pieniadz
The story of motels is intertwined with the story of the automobile. As the automobile became more readily available to the middle class, so did vacation options. From campgrounds to autocamps, overnight stay options steadily increased until the peak of motel construction in the 1960’s. Independent motels dotted the landscape along what is now the Lake Michigan Circle Tour and offered an affordable retreat with amenities and attractions for middle-class families within a closer proximity than either coast. However, like all good things, it came to an end. The building of freeways that bypassed local highways and small towns resulted in motels seeing a decline in visitors which eventually extended to a decline in building maintenance. Today these motels are increasingly endangered and although there is interest through shows like Motel Makeover these buildings are continuously being destroyed or altered beyond recognition. This presentation will examine hotels along the Lake Michigan Circle Tour and show changes, demolitions, and the fate of some of these buildings that once were a retreat for the middle-class masses.

Logs, Lakes, and Lighthouses: Michigan Through the Lens of Its Regional Commercial Signage – April Bryan, Exhibits and Interpretation Curator, Air Zoo
Coast to coast, regional signage speaks to America’s diverse historic, natural, and cultural character. In the Midwest, Michigan’s array of regional signage portrays its personality and priorities. From fish and farm animals to rushing rivers, log cabins and lighthouses, local signage helps tell the stories of the Great Lakes State. This presentation welcomes you aboard a Michigan slideshow road trip through the lens of the state’s regional commercial signage, both historic and extant. We’ll explore the state with a look at signs from Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas, big cities, and wee villages. Along the way, we’ll consider influences on the sign maker’s art and design. Sign changes through the years will reveal shifting values and materials. We will ask and answer the question, what do these signs say about life and leisure in this Midwestern state? Through a variety of vintage postcards and original photographs, we’ll catch a freshwater feast of figurative fish and explore Michigan’s maritime motifs. We’ll dip our toes into the neon blue waters of the Mitten State’s recreational site signs. We’ll hike through sign-based landscapes fit with pine trees and find out why some west Michigan signs feature windmills and wooden shoes! Our snapshot tour also includes barnyard friends, fruits, farmland features, and fun figural signs touting Michigan-made products. Plus, no survey of Michigan’s regional signs would be complete without a look at its automobile signage!

10:15-10:30 Morning Snack Break (provided)

10:30-12:15 Session 2 – What is the Roadside, and How Do We Save It?

It Looks Like a Gas Station – Gary Wolf
Before Philip Johnson helped fund John Margolies’ “The End of the Road,” before he received the first Pritzker Architecture Prize, before TIME magazine featured Johnson holding a model of his postmodern AT&T building on its cover, before he walked the picket line protesting Penn Station’s demolition, before he designed his Glass House, before he spent years pursuing abhorrent goals of racial purity, and before he organized MOMA’s legendary 1932 “Modern Architecture” exhibition, 24-year-old Philip Johnson orchestrated the building of the first International Style gas station in America. My presentation tells the story of that station and illuminates how it, and stations that followed, rewrote the definition of the filling station and introduced modern architecture to much of the country. As early stations populated streets and roadsides with pagodas, windmills, non-descript sheds, cottages and giant scallop shells, the gasoline station was increasingly seen as a problem to be solved—a building type in need of an identity. Existing stations often violated City Beautiful values and those of an increasingly functionalist architectural community. Thus, gas stations were to be “improved” and given a proper identity at the same time that Philip Johnson was working to bring the International Style to the US. Johnson recognized the filling station as a modern building type that could legitimize modern architecture—and vice versa. Acting on Mies van der Rohe’s recommendation of 24- year-old architect Alfred Clauss—who had overseen Mies’ iconic Barcelona Pavilion — Johnson arranged for Clauss’ new firm to design a prototype for Standard Oil of Ohio. It looked like a gas station!

E Pluribus Unum?: Wrangling the Bestiary of Commercial Strips – Darrell A. Norris
Attempts at generalization about the genesis and form of the American commercial strip have stumbled by missing the contrasts in its key initial circumstances. Strips may or may not begin in a built-up setting. The Jakle-Mattson model presupposed such development but many strips can be traced back to development of vacant land. Strips may not have been parasitic to passing traffic. Instead, many evolved at first AS a traffic magnet, commonly a shopping plaza. Strips may hew to the age-old practice of bundling like trades along street frontage, or instead base their appeal on functional variety.  Both selling strategies are common. Strip development is little understood, combining as it does many individual decisions, which somehow yield outcomes redolent of systematic planning. ‘Dealership Row’ is a case in point. The strip’s sequential auto-convenience and efficient customer movement bode well for its future. The strip will outlast the mall.

Learning from Commercial Thoroughfares and the Development of the Recent Past: An Evaluative Framework for Historic Preservationists – Zachary Burt
Using the Sun Belt city of Las Vegas, Nevada and its thoroughfares as a location of analysis, this study presents an evaluative framework for observing and documenting the seen features and unseen aspects of commercial thoroughfares as cultural landscapes. Importantly, this framework incorporates physical features, as defined by the National Register of Historic Places program, while also accounting for intangible culture and meanings. This comprehensive approach is brought about by embracing cultural landscape theory, which allows historic preservation practitioners to get beyond traditional discussions of historic integrity and significance. This framework is meant to be flexible and is structured in a way that allows for preservationists to discover meanings that may be missed in a more traditional survey. Commercial thoroughfares play an outsized role in the American built environment and are the key to understanding dynamic urban and suburban landscapes as cultural landscapes. This is especially true in the cities of the Sun Belt region. In the 1960s through 1980s, the local and national retailers found along commercial thoroughfares primarily served a White, middle-income clientele. Since then, these cultural landscapes have been transformed by a social evolution, where longtime commercial spaces have been repurposed, and now cater to diverse and multicultural communities. This change, which typically includes physical alterations to the exterior and interior of commercial spaces, has been accomplished in-part through the inherent flexibility of these buildings and structures.

Don’t Chain Yourself to the Bulldozer…Yet! – Mindy Gulden Crawford
Every day we are faced with the potential loss of historic resources to make way for progress. In the case of roadside architecture, it is often a tough battle to win. Too close to the road, in the way of a new development, underutilization, deterioration, or lack of appreciation for their historic value, the path to successful advocacy can be daunting. Mindy has been working to preserve historic resources for more than 40 years and has learned many lessons along the way. This presentation will provide attendees with the tips and tricks to engage effectively in the work of local preservation advocacy, know when to accept defeat, and avoid having to chain yourself to the bulldozer in the process.

12:15-1:15 Lunch Break (on your own) + Podcast Karaoke

Everyone has a story to tell. During Lunch, The Everything is a Primary Source Podcast Host Eric Salmonsen will be available virtually to provide a platform for people to share their life experiences and how they connect to the overall story of our society and culture. The Everything is a Primary Source podcast is an extension of Eric’s social studies teaching method.  In the last 18 months the show has produced close to 90 episodes, about 30 of which were made by way of live exhibits dubbed “Podcast Karaoke.”  Podcasting equipment, pop culture artifacts and a stack of analytical questions have been set up in museums, craft beer tasting rooms, record stores, and festivals to encourage visitors to stop by, select an item that speaks to them, and discuss the historic value of the movie, toy, game, album, book, trading card, & etc. Instead of an in-person set up, attendees are able to visit with Eric and the podcast virtually and talk about what from our tours or conference they’ve found interesting or their interest in commercial archeology in general.

1:15-2:30 Session 3 – Designing Erie (From Advertising to Asphalt)

This SCA event will include several mini-presentations followed by a panel discussion. Topics will range from commercial and governmental signage to past and present infrastructure planning and decision-making. Environmental, social justice, and economic development frameworks will be addressed.

  • Lisa Austin – Welcome, Overview, Introductions
  • Shelle Barron – Remedies for the Typographic Landscape
  • Adam Trott – Erie’s Bayfront (& Viaduct) from RR to 2023
  • Autumn Parker – Redlining 101
  • Mark Osieck – Redesigning Erie’s Bayfront – Opportunities for Social Change
  • Jenny Tompkins – NEPA, Environmental Assessments, Categorical Exclusions & the 2020 EarthJustice Lawsuit
  • Derek Witucki, Mark Osiecki, Judy Lynch, Roland Slade – Panel Discussion 

2:30-2:45 Afternoon Break

2:45-4:00 Session 4 – Power of Place in Pennsylvania

Hazleton, Pennsylvania: Anthracite Coal and Roadside Commercial Development – Cynthia Drazenovich & Harold Aurand Jr.
Chester H. Liebs’s classic book Main Street to Miracle Mile: American Roadside Architecture described the migration of commercial activity in twentieth-century American communities.  From a starting point in central business districts, retail establishments, restaurants, hotels, and recreational facilities followed the population, first into commercial strips along streetcar and trolley lines, then towards the post-World War II suburbs, and finally into new clusters around interstate highway exits.  As they moved, businesses also changed their architecture and the way they advertised.  This was particularly true after the widespread use of the automobile put customers in motion and put a premium on parking places. Hazleton, Pennsylvania is the commercial hub of the Eastern Middle Anthracite Coal Field.  When the twentieth-century began it looked very much like how Liebs said communities should look.  There was a central business district on Broad Street.  The Lehigh Traction Company provided trolley service to several outlying communities, and soon commercial development spread along its tracks.  Anthracite production peaked during World Way I, leading to a steady decline in the regional economy.  Then, in the 1950s, the mining industry collapsed entirely.  In Main Street to Miracle Mile, Liebs showed that commercial development had continued through the Great Depression.  This paper looks at whether a longer, more protracted decline would lead to a different outcome.  Would Hazleton continue to develop like an average community, or become something different?  As this illustrated presentation shows, in some ways it was a little of each.

Before They Were Macy’s… – Alan Woodruff
Pennsylvania was a state with a major department store in each city – Watt & Shand in Lancaster, Horne’s in Pittsburgh, Leh’s in Allentown, Pomeroy’s in Philadelphia, and more. Each one of these brands had their own traditions, unique offerings, and special history.  I will share these as well as the magnificent flagship stores of each store as well as their expansion to the suburbs and malls.  It’s sure to be a wonderful overview, with complementary gift wrap.

Where Industry and the Appalachians Meet: Western Pennsylvania’s Amusement Parks – Jennifer Sopko
From Europe to the United States, amusement parks have historically served as community gathering places where folks of different heritage and social class enjoyed outdoor recreation, thrills, and entertainment. The confluence of several factors spurred the growth of picnic groves and amusement parks in post-Civil War America: developing industries, expanding transportation systems, evolving technology and increased leisure time for the middle and working classes. Western Pennsylvania was a prime example of this as dozens of parks sprung up along electric streetcar lines, on the outskirts of towns, and in scenic rural areas during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, serving as respites from the daily grind – and even grime – of cities like Pittsburgh, Johnstown, and Erie. These commercial enterprises were designed to attract a population boosted by Western Pennsylvania industry, many strategically plotted along transportation networks and among the diverse landscapes found in this region: Appalachian Mountain ranges, forested valleys, river networks and even rugged lake coastline. From rustic twig aesthetics and trolley station entrances that greeted visitors, to the riverside views and ravine roller coasters that delighted and excited them, writer and historian Jennifer Sopko will share fun and fascinating images of some of the architectural practices found at Western Pennsylvania’s lost and surviving amusement parks.

4:00-5:00 Membership Meeting + 5 Minute Lighting Talks

5:00-6:30 Dinner (on your own)

7:00-9:00 Waldameer Park (carpool)