If you think homeschooling refers only to parents teaching their children, think again. In Portland, Oregon, some homeschooling of my favorite variety—the kind that has the best interests of historic houses at heart—will be taking place via an innovative holiday open house. The in-progress fire restoration of a 1937 Tudor is being opened up to the community to help answer questions about fire safety, home repairs and design, era appropriate materials and fixtures, researching house history—you name it. The project, called The Little Tudor that Teaches, is sponsored by local design firm Arciform, who specializes in period renovations, and is supported by a group of local sponsors like the reproduction lighting company Rejuvenation. I think it’s a really cool way to teach people about old houses. Have you seen anything like this in your community? If so, let us know--we're always interested in hearing about new ways to get people excited about old houses. You can find out more about the Little Tudor's offerings here Thelittletudorthatteachesinvite.pdf

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Comment by John Rodgers on December 5, 2008 at 1:33pm
Not as specific as that project, but we've been working with the local community college here to bring a Vo/Tech school to the City of Donaldsonville, which would specialize in training skilled crafts for the surrounding industry (welding, etc), but also have a specialized program in Historic construction skills--masonry, construction, plumbing, electrical, etc. As we all know, it is very difficult to find a qualified contractor to begin with, let alone one who is experienced in putting those skills to use on a historic home.

This school would be the first of its kind in the state of louisiana (there have been small workshops held in New Orleans and other areas, but never an established curriculum), and would be situated in the Donaldsonville Historic District for a hands-on approach to teaching. Being the 2nd largest historic district in the state behind the French Quarter, we have 50 square blocks and over 650 historic buildings, many of which have fallen into disrepair due to a lack of funding and a lack of qualified tradesmen. We hope that by opening this curriculum, we will accomplish three major things: first and foremost, we will educate those students who would otherwise not be attending college and not have any formal training to enter the workforce, a problem which has contributed greatly to the poverty in and surrounding the city of Donaldsonville. Second, it will assist those property owners who would like to see their buildings (many of them inherited through generations and still owned by descendants of the original builder), but have never had the financial means to do so--by offering their home or commercial building is a semester project building, the building could be restored while traning students, at little to no cost to the property owner. And third, we will add to the visual aesthetics and quality of life within the Donaldsonville Historic District--this will provide a source for reliable tradesmen, as well as providing another avenue through which to clean up blighted properties.
Comment by Demetra on December 5, 2008 at 3:49pm
Sounds like a terrific project. I would love to here more about it as it progresses. Is there a working timeline?
Comment by John Rodgers on December 5, 2008 at 4:17pm
we're working on it...It was a crazy idea that I had when I moved to town and started working almost a year ago. We got the support of the mayor and city council, and then got the support of our State Representative who also happened to be pushing for a tech school in the surrounding areas. We've recently put together a task force representing the school board, community college, surrounding industry leaders, and also the mayor, state representative, and myself. The school board has donated a building to the project (old high school that had been vacated), and we are now working to get the funding supported at the state level to take it to the next platform.
Comment by jane on December 7, 2008 at 3:47pm
I hope you will continue to report on this, as I have often thought such a project would be an excellent idea.

In answer to Demetra's question about similar projects to the Portland project (and on a much less ambitious level):
I attended the fall house tour in Oklahoma City's historic district for some years. One year an mansion on the edge of the district, fallen on hard times, in poor shape, was open to the public as it began to be rehabilitated. It was just my cup of tea, of course, to see the structure, the damage, the preliminary repair. Listening to those around me, I heard that everyone else was fascinated too. Some notes were available about the house, and people in strategic places to keep us safe, but no formal guides. I was very sorry that I missed the next year's tour and couldn't see what progress they had made.

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