Still with Us, even when They’re Not

One of the largest challenges preservationists face is taking the time and effort to carefully document old structures that may not last forever despite their current owner’s best intentions. There is never a guarantee that a historic structure will stand the test of time and remain for future generations to study and explore.

The building known as the Trup House, number 72 in the Connecticut HABS list that was generated in 1939 is a perfect example. Located on Rock House Road in Easton, this 1700’s building still had “good bones” when it was documented in the late 1930’s. It’s owner, Rudolf Trup seemed to have every intention of restoring the structure to its original state. But it never happened. In the end, the old house was torn down and the land it sat on was sold and developed.

Without the photos, floorplans, and the descriptive letter seen here, it might be a distant memory for a few who might be old enough to remember it, or it might be forgotten for all time.

The Great Depression brought with it many hardships. But it also brought some innovative thinking by a federal government that was looking for ways to bring the nation back to the economic prosperity it had enjoyed after the Great War – WWI. With so many talented people not having enough work to put food on the table or keep a roof over their heads, the Roosevelt Administration enacted a series of projects that provided many of these people a way to continue in their chosen profession and earn them enough money to survive.

Some of those projects employed artists, photographers and writers. Others, like the HABS program described below employed professionals like the architects who participated in that project. In a time when little to no residential construction was going on, it kept these people busy and allowed them to use their expertise for the public good. In addition, it recorded many buildings of historic significance that were eventually lost to “progress” during the boom building years following WWII.

Historical societies such as the Historical Society of Easton work diligently to carry on some of the work started by HABS. By working closely with municipal officials, we help craft demolition delay ordinances that give us the opportunity to document those older buildings that can’t or won’t be saved. Then through our careful research, written reports, and photography, we can save at least part of what we will ultimately lose.

From the National Park Service: The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) is the nation’s first federal preservation program, begun in 1933 to document America’s architectural heritage. Creation of the program was motivated primarily by the perceived need to mitigate the negative effects upon our history and culture of rapidly vanishing architectural resources. At the same time, important early preservation initiatives were just getting underway, such as restoration of the colonial capital at Williamsburg and the development within the National Park Service (NPS) of historical parks and National Historic Sites. Architects interested in the colonial era had previously produced drawings and photographs of historic architecture, but only on a limited, local, or regional basis. A source was needed to assist with the documentation of our architectural heritage, as well as with design and interpretation of historic resources, that was national in scope. As it was stated in the tripartite agreement between the American Institute of Architects, the Library of Congress, and the NPS that formed HABS, “A comprehensive and continuous national survey is the logical concern of the Federal Government.” As a national survey, the HABS collection is intended to represent “a complete resume of the builder’s art.” Thus, the building selection ranges in type and style from the monumental and architect-designed to the utilitarian and vernacular, including a sampling of our nation’s vast array of regionally and ethnically derived building traditions.

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