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Sustainability and Small Communities in the 21st Century

Cover Image Credit: Murphy, John M. AstraLux Gallery

Michael LeClere The University of Oregon Department of Landscape Architecture Spring 2012 Master’s Project Professor Robert Melnick Chair Professor Deni Ruggeri Committee Member

D E D I C AT I O N I would like to thank my project chair Professor Robert Melnick and my project advisor Professor Deni Ruggeri. I would also like to thank Professors Roxi Thoren, Jenny Young, and Brook Muller for encouraging me to pave new roads through academia in order to get the most out of my education in order to equip me with the knowledge and skills that will enable me to dedicate my future to contributing to the greater good. I would like to thank my parents Doug and Mary LeClere, and whole family, for their endless support through out my whole education. I would also like to thank Ali McQueen for her patience, endurance, understanding, and tireless friendship.










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ABSTRACT future and to become self sufficient after the Title: Making Place: Sustainability & Small tenure of the program. This in depth analysis Communities in the 21st Century will assist such programs in becoming more effective and accessible to small towns. It will also serve as a resource for those comAuthor: munities as they seek to ensure their futures. Michael LeClere Research Committee: Professor Robert Melnick (Chair) Professor Deni Ruggeri Institution: The University of Oregon Department of Landscape Architecture Purpose of Paper: Graduate Master’s Project, Spring Term, 2012 Project Scope and Definition: This project seeks to illustrate the obstacles facing small communities in the United States, identify causes of their decline, and to initiate a directory of revitalization-based resources, strategies, and organizations that can be expanded through future research. This project seeks to explore whether or not existing revitalization programs adequately confront the realities of marginalized communities with limited resources and predominately working-class or senior populations. Most importantly, this body of research examines how these programs can improve to re-empower citizens to determine their own

Significance of the Project: There are 8,820 communities with populations under 1,000 in the United States. Together they comprise a total population of 4,386,450 people. Too often communities 5,000 or less lack attention by planners, architects, and landscape architects. Preservation and revitalization of the many small US communities have large implications affecting climate change, resource depletion, human health, and ecosystem quality. Methodology: Demographic and population shifts, changing rural economic structures, and changes in the agricultural and manufacturing industries are examined through statistical analysis of US Census data and literature review of related issues to illustrate why small communities are currently struggling. Historical analysis, literature review, and interviews provide further insight into existing revitalization programs that exist, what strategies they are currently utilizing to reach small communities, and what obstacles and opportunities exist to improve those efforts.


Interviews, surveys, questionnaires, and a small communities in place-making efforts series of photographic and visual prefer- that empower disenfranchised populations encing exercises were conducted with the to form creative partnerships and endure. case study community of Coggon, Iowa. These were used to analyze the public perception of town character, future concerns for the community, the community’s knowledge of existing resources, and the response to certain interactive interventions meant to cultivate community engagement. All the above methodologies have been employed to provide both quantitative and qualitative data to help illustrate population trends, business trends, public perception, and projections of environmental impacts. These methodologies also serve to narrate the story of present day Main Street small town America. Product: This body of work serves as the beginnings of a consolidated directory, or inventory, of the many revitalization programs and related resources for small communities. The intent of this directory is to advance and contribute to an easy reference for marginalized communities. This body of work will clearly illustrate the obstacles small communities face and the causes of their decline. The work also builds on the efforts of existing revitalization programs by providing strategies for those organizations and resources to engage


PROLOGUE “Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change - this is the rhythm of living. Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope. And out of hope, progress.� - Bruce Barton A community is a nest. It utilizes the best parts of the human environment and the best parts of the natural environment to create places of physical and social comfort that promote life.

Halprin and the phenomenologist, have prompted researchers to consider the human experience in addition to data. It is toward this trend that I hope to make a contribution. All research is biased, based on The nest that I am most familiar with is my the fact that the researcher is generally inhometown of Coggon, Iowa and for the terested in the topic he or she is researchpurposes of this paper this community will ing. I am equally biased towards a of love be used as a case study. This is the place small towns. My love of them inevitably that got me asking the bigger questions grows out of having been raised in one. and diving into the issue of small town revitalization and sustainability. It is also the For me, an intimate phenomenological conplace that I grew up listening to the stories nection to place is more than just a collection of old-timers and observing the gradual of stories. It helps to piece together a more way things change. It is the place where I complete picture than objective data alone have most closely been able to observe the can provide. It is an opportunity to work beinteraction between people and the land. yond the description of place and consider the values of place to answer the questions It is only in recent decades that the trend of why it matters and what it means. This retowards multi-method research strategies search is an investigation into the lives and has gained acceptance in professional and trials facing American small communities. academic practice. Pioneers that have em- It is both research and storytelling, as true phasized the human element, like Lawrence place-making is inseparable from the data


that describes it and the stories and histories that compose it. Wendell Berry writes: “In my teens, when I was away at school, I could comfort myself by recalling in intricate detail the fields I had worked and played in, and hunted over, and ridden through on horseback—and that were richly associated in my mind with people and with stories. I could recall even the casual locations of certain small rocks. I could recall the look of a hundred different kinds of daylight on all those places, the look of animals grazing over them, the postures and attitudes and movements of the men who worked in them, the quality of the grass and the crops that had grown on them. I had come to be aware of it as one is aware of one’s body; it was present to me whether I thought of it or not.

cus as a historian. The small town serves as a representative case study for small towns throughout America. Davie’s vividly and accurately depicts the history of small towns and their pattern of decline since the end of WWII. Davies writes, “This same book could just as easily have been written about many small towns, and the essential story would not have been all that different [...] The pages that follow attempt to relate this particular town to the broader themes of American history” (Davies, pg. 2)

Similarly, this research will employ Coggon as a case study and a different collection of stories and resources. This research differs from previous studies because it will examine the meaning of this decline through the lens of sustainability and explorWhen I have thought of the welfare of the ing the effectiveness of revitalization efforts earth, the problems of its health and pres- for these communities. In short, we have ervation, the care of its life, I have had this identified a consistent pattern of decline; place before me, the part representing the now what do we choose to do about it? whole more vividly and accurately, making clearer and more pressing demands, than any ‘idea’ of the whole” (Berry, pg. 5). Similar projects have been undertaken by historians such as Richard O. Davie’s Main Street Blues, and tells the story of the author’s hometown of Camden, Ohio. His research has primarily been limited to his fo-







“the only thing that does not change is the will to change� (The Kingfishers, Olson, Charles, and George Butterick, pg. 5, line 1). This makes it difficult to claim that culture ever stands at a great crossroads or the dawn of a new era that differs much from the choices we are faced with everyday. The real question that constant change brings to our daily life is: do we choose to seek a better life for ourselves and for our neighbors? This is inherently a question of sustainability. It asks us to consider the human experience and the legacies we leave behind. Do we choose to sustain and promote life beyond our own self-interests? This project seeks illustrates the obstacles facing small communities, identifies causes of their decline, and to creates a directory of revitalization-based resources, strategies, and organizations that can be built upon and contributed to through future research. I want to know if existing revitaliza-

tion programs address the realities of these communities with limited resources and predominately working-class and senior populations. Most importantly, it suggests how these programs might empower citizens to determine their own future and to become self-sufficient. This in depth analysis will assist such programs in becoming more effective and accessible to underserved areas. It will also serve as a resource for those communities as they seek to ensure their futures. As a culture, America used to share a common set of skills, knowledge, and design language that was much more prevalent than it is today. Since the first colonies of the New World settlers had to decide what places were most suitable for a colony and what resources were available to enable survival. Although these questions and their answers were regionally specific, their presence remained common discourse through westward expansion. Surveyors and explorers were careful to document new species, natural landmarks, and test known vegetation for their viability for survival. As


colonies grew into more stable communities these populations decided their needs, their form, and their lifestyles. [Reps, John William, pgs. 3-6]. As a young nation, placemaking used to be at the forefront of civil and political discourse. It was not that long ago that we had to consciously define who we are as nation, and as individuals decide where to call home and what kinds of places those were going to be. When the French engineer Pierre Charles L’Efant designed US Capitol grounds, he did so with city streets and avenues forming a grid with Baroque diagonals overlaid upon the grid pattern utilizes elements from the gardens at Versailles. The design of the Capitol building was open as a competition, which in turn raised the question and debate about what architectural styles best represented the US as a young nation (Capitol Construction History).

July 4th, 1864 “Miss Agnes it has bin some time since I saw you and I would like to hear from you. I thought I would write a few lines to you I hav just com home from a trip on the Planes hunting Buffalo […] I liv four miles from Beatrice the county seat of Gage Co Nebraska or at least I hav a farm thare and intend to make it my home when I git thru rambeling Pleas write soon Daniel Freeman” Daniel and Agnes eventually married in 1865. He brought his new bride to his Nebraska homestead consisting of a small log cabin and some supporting horticultural outbuildings. They had eight children. As the Freeman family became more financially secure, they built a two-story brick house near the wooded edge of their claim, a barn, and other outbuildings. They grew an Osage Orange hedgerow to keep livestock out of the fields of corn, wheat, oats, apples, and peaches. Eventually they built the Freeman Public School located .25 mile west of the homestead claim. (U.S. National Parks Service).

Daniel Freeman was the first person to file claim under the Homestead Act of 1862. Freeman filed his claim the first day the Homestead Act went into effect, 10 minutes after midnight on January 1st 1863 at the Land Office in Brownville, Nebraska. Freeman came to Nebraska from Illinois and began to court Miss Agnes Suiter, a young woman living in LeClaire, Iowa. Freeman’s story helps to illustrate that it was never in doubt what kind of future would be made there, and it was never unclear what kinds of tools and resources made


that settlement possible. There surely were setbacks and lessons learned. Perhaps the pear trees would not take there, and the peaches grew a bit stunted yet still sweet. Daniel Freeman could not have had all the answers at the moment he laid his claim. Discovery was welcome, and from that a prosperous homestead emerged. As our culture becomes more specialized, we have largely lost this common language of place –making. With it we have lost a sense of responsibility over our built environments: It’s the planners jobs to plan parks. It’s the landscape architects job to design parks. It’s the cities responsibility to pay for parks. It’s the teachers job to teach. As the economic structures of rural communities shift, the way we understand these places needs to be re-examined. Ultimately we are left with two choices: One: We could conclude that the small town typology has become an outdated model. Time, economics, and society change, and will inevitably carve out their course leaving many of these communities behind.

FIG 1 (“Wonders of the Radio,” Norman Rockwell, The Saturday Evening Post, May 20 1922).


Two: We can begin to examine small towns through a lens of financial investment, embodied energy, social value, historical value, vital infrastructure, and sustainability. This project seeks to offer those interested in option two a series of tools that will assist with the survival of these communities.

FIG. 2 (“Home for Christmas,� Norman Rockwell, 1967).




Part One









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A community is a nest. It utilizes the best parts of the human environment and the best parts of the natural environment to create places of physical and social comfort that promote life.


appearing. These communities are experiencing dramatic losses of population The current population of the United States of up to 40.6 percent leaving them with according to the US Census resides around little skills or resources to help fill that gap 312,500,000 people (US & World Population (FIG. 4 Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America). Clock). Although the majority of that population resides in dense urban areas, much of our built landscape is still composed of rural towns and cities. The Rural Urban Continuum Map of 2000, from the US Department of Agriculture, indicates that this small town building tradition is still a fundamental element of our American landscape heritage. Roughly, 1/3 of the country is composed of communities characterized by: • An urban-population of 2,500-19,000 adjacent to a major metropolitan center • An urban-population of 2,500-19,000 not adjacent to a major metropolitan center • A rural population adjacent to a metropolitan center • A rural population non-adjacent (FIG. 3 Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America). If we compare the Rural-Urban Continuum Map to The Population Change Rate Map of 2000-2010 it reveals an unsettling trend. Our rural environments have been undergoing a great transformation. Small communities everywhere are struggling to adapt to the changing forces of culture and nature, and ever so gradually they are dis-



FIG. 3 (Urban-Rural Continuum: 2000 | Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America).



FIG. 4 (Population Change Rate: 2000-2010 | Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America).


“In all, roughly 760 of the nation’s 3,142 counties are fading away, stretching from industrial areas near Pittsburgh and Cleveland to the vineyards outside San Francisco to the rural areas of east Texas and the Great Plains. […] Common threads among the dying counties are older whites who are no longer having children, and an exodus of young adults finding little promise in the region and seek jobs elsewhere.”” (Yen, Raby.)

coupled with the increasing importance of college education resulted in outward migration from small communities. A destructive cycle for small communities gradually began to develop were younger generations moved away from these towns and those who remained began to age. (Davies, pgs. 137-141).

The following USDA maps illustrate economies that have historically been: Farm Dependent 1998-2000 (Fig. 5) and ManufacAt the end of WWII, the US economy experi- ture Dependent 1998-2000 (Fig. 6). These enced a boom that resulted from federal de- areas correspond closely to the largfense spending, the end of rationing, and an est areas of outward migration (Fig. 7): increase in consumer demand formerly stifled by economic depression and war. During At the turn of the 20th century 41 percent this time cities and small towns experienced of the U.S. workforce was employed in agsignificant growth and prosperity. There was riculture; by the 21st century that number a great increase in the demand for housing had fallen to 1.9 percent (Dimitri, Effland, & as soldiers returned home from war, and the Conklin). As the percentage of those embaby-boomer generation began. At the time ployed in agriculture and manufacturing The United States Housing Authority, under steadily decreases, the populations and ecothe Truman administration, estimated the nomic vitality of small towns is more at risk. housing need to exceed twelve million units. Today, the historic economic drivers for small Much of this new housing began occurring communities in the United States are shifting on the edges of larger cities. With sub- from agriculture and industry to education, urbs came supporting retail establishments, healthcare, service industries, and somewhich paved the way for the decentraliza- times recreation & tourism, or the small town tion of urban form and the creation of indus- lifestyle. Often it simply dissolves all together. trial parks and other edge-development. By the late 1950’s – 1960’s the post-war boom ‘“It’s a sad story being played out in the and economic expansion was concentrated heartlands of America,” says Richard Rathge, largely around urban centers. This shift head of the state data center at North Dakota



FIG. 5 (Farm Dependent 1998-2000 | Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America).



FIG. 6 (Manufacturing Dependent 1998-2000 | Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America).



FIG. 7 (Outward Migration 1998-2008 | Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America).


State University, “North Dakota is kind of a TELLING THE STORY bellwether for the Great Plains.” The state lost 2,200 farms in the 1990s”’ (O’Driscoll.) The future of small towns did not always look so bleak. Small towns and rural cities once played an important role as vital networks of The idyllic model of the 80-160 acre fam- agriculture and industry. These were places ily farm has become a thing of the past one could easily find work and settle down and has been replaced by widespread in- to raise a family. Collectively they were once dustrial-agricultural practices. The roman- known as “America’s Breadbasket” and as ticized hardworking American manufac- the “Foundry of the Nation”. Now it is not turer is being replaced through outsourcing uncommon to hear them referred to as Midand automated industrial processes. Ac- dle America and The Rust Belt. The lancording to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, guage explains the circumstance: the great the U.S. has seen a greater increase in the sheen and prospect of the American Dream concentration of agricultural productions. once present in these regions has tarnished. “In 2002, 144,000 farms produced 75 percent of the value of U.S. agricultural production. In 2007, the number of farms that produced that same share of production declined to 125,000.” In addition farms classified as, “Large family farms (sales between $250,000 and $500,000) and very large family farms (sales over $500,000) made up only 9 percent of all farms. Yet they produced more than 63 percent of the value of all agricultural products sold” (2007 Census of Agriculture).

The Iowa state quarter went into production on August 30th 2004. The reverse side of George Washington’s bust features an engraving by John Mercanti based on the “Arbor Day” painting by Iowa born artist Grant Wood. The image features a oneroom schoolhouse with three students and teacher outside planting a tree. The inscription on the quarter states: “A foundation in education” (Schubach, Eric).

With a population of over 300,000,000 in the United States, only 2% of that population currently lives on farms, and less than 1% claim agriculture as their primary occupation (Demographics | Ag 101 | Agriculture | US EPA).

Like many small Iowa towns Coggon, Iowa is an agricultural community nestled in the bend of a river, Buffalo Creek. Coggon has a Population of 714, and it’s nearest urban area is Cedar Rapids, IA, about 28 miles away, which has a population of 128,000. Coggon


is one of 422 Iowa communities with a popu- high-school facilities shared outside of town lation of fewer than 1,000. Iowa is home to with neighboring communities to become an additional 210 communities with popu- the North Linn Community School District. lations between 1,000 and 6,000 people. Collectively, these small communities comprise a total population of 700,687, which is 502,227 more people than the state’s capitol city, Des Moines, IA. As a state Iowa contributes 3,046,355 people to the total US population. (Iowa Very Small Towns and Villages). In 1890 Coggon’s first town school was built at the end of Main Street replacing a number of one-room schoolhouses scattered throughout the rural countryside. Thus the Coggon Rockets were born. This was a simple two story wood frame structure. Nineteen years later a growing population, and several small fires, called for a larger and better-built school. In 1909 a three-story brick schoolhouse with a basement level was completed behind the original 1890 school. The original wooden school was then torn down to reveal the new brick schoolhouse as the centerpiece of the town. Subsequent additions to the building occurred in 1936 including a three-story north wing and gymnasium, and in 1957 a single story wing that flanked the gymnasium on the opposite side of the earlier addition. The school was originally used for all grades from elementary through high school levels. In 1969, the school was converted for use as a primary school with middle-school and


FIG. 8 (Main Street Coggon, IA | Authors’ Image). The picture above looks down Coggon’s Main Street. Main Street is home to many historic false front buildings, and is doublewide to frame the school as it overlooks the town. None of these properties are listed in the National Historic Registry even though many have been surveyed and evaluated as being eligible, and some, as “Contributing to District.” (Coggon Historic Inventory Report). On February 1, 2011 the North Linn School District narrowly passed a bond issue to remove the existing elementary school from the town to consolidate it at the school’s central rural campus. There is current discussion about demolishing the building and auctioning off the property. Like many communities, Coggon has experienced difficulty organizing and seeking out resources

“The biggest changes….hmm….from being a Main Street that was full of businesses on both sides of the street to a Main Street were they are fairly empty [… My fondest memories include] movies at the theater, Saturday nights and coming to town with my family. Harvest Home [Celebration] was a big part of growing up in this community. (She laughs letting her gaze fall to the floor as she recalls her past) So, I’ve only missed about one Harvest Home in Dolores McAtee has lived in Coggon her my life; I’ve been to a lot of Harvest Homes!” whole life. Dolores graduated from the school as a Coggon Rocket, and her three sons went Today, only one of Dolore’s sons remains to the same Coggon School as North Linn in Coggon. His children have also atElementary School students. She has short tended the Coggon Elementary School. wavy white-grey hair and sits with a posture that is strong but that has not been hardened “The school was always a very important by years of hard work. Like many women in part of the community,” she says, “[…] It the region she helped her husband work the was always an integrated part of the whole farm, kept up the farmhouse, and raised their community. We have in the past had chilboys with the occasional help from odd jobs dren come to visit [the historical society], such as working in the town grocery store. but it’s been a while. […] I feel that having Dolores and her husband have since retired the elementary children in town is very imand she dedicates much of her time these portant in keeping them close to their homes days as president of the Coggon Historical and families. […] I would like to see some Society. Dolores says she tries to shop lo- of the buildings used [on Main Street] that cally, but often finds herself traveling to larger are now standing empty […] something in nearby communities for many of her needs. them so that they don’t look abandoned” that are available to help their town grow and endure. Many of the resources that are available to assist rural communities remain unknown to the town’s population or there is uncertainty about how to utilize those resources. Coggon is not the town it once was. Main Street today, is mainly empty, and soon the asphalt and sidewalks will reach eastward to frame an empty school building.

When asked about the biggest chang- When asked about what value she sees in es she has observed in Coggon through the buildings on Main Street, Dolores reout her lifetime she pauses for a moment: sponded very concisely and pragmatically,


“Well, they’re there.”


Many people in rural communities share Dolores’ story. The town form of Coggon is also shared by many rural settlements. This shared history of American small town form is best illustrated by James Baker from The Center for Small Town Research and Design out of the School of Architecture at Mississippi State University. In his book The Small Town Design Book, 1981, he illustrates two imaginary small towns. He calls the first community Lineartown, Ohio:

“Chartered in 1795 as a settlement on the Black River, Lineartown’s existence depended upon the river. It provided the town’s reason for being. As river traffic increased so did the population of the settlement. A number of small industries, including a tannery and a boat yard, developed along the east bank of the river. It was this setting that the 1820 town form illustrates. The Black River was the major stimulus to which the town form responded. The linear character of Main Street and the location of its central district are physical responses to the stimulus of the river.

FIG. 9 (Lineartown 1820 | Baker, pg. 15).

FIG. 10 (Lineartown 1910 | Baker, pg. 16).

“The 1910 town form was not significantly different even though the stimulus shifted from the river to the railroad. The similarity in town form is due to the form and location of the railroad. The rail line is linear as is the river. Also, the location of the rail line beside the river to take advantage of access to the existing industrial district did little to shift the emphasis of Lineartown away from its linear form.

FIG. 11 (Lineartown 1981 | Baker, pg. 17).

“Lineartown is significantly different in 1981. Its form has responded to the current stimulus for change. Again, the form of this stimulus is linear. However, its impact on the town form is significantly greater than the impacts of the railroad in 1910. The third linear element to affect Lineartown is the Highway 6 by-pass around the central district of the town. The decision to build this by-pass was made in 1955 when traffic on Main Street was so heavy that it was affecting the quality of the environment in Lineartown. A majority of this traffic was thru-traffic moving between Lexington, KY and Columbus, OH. The traffic added congestion, noise, and pollution to the lives of Lineartown citizens. The decision was made to build the by-pass to protect the fragile Main Street environment and social interaction of pedestrians along this street. […] But in 1970 it became obvious that the removal of the thru traffic had also removed the one necessary ingredient for the survival of a shopping area—activity. The activity was now on the by-pass. Activity follows traffic and the traffic was on the bypass. The first indicator of this activity was a convenience store located on the by-pass. Next came a car dealership, a branch bank, and the most recent additions, a McDonald’s and mini-mall complex. These developments were encouraged to be located on the bypass because of the availability of large land parcels, convenience of parking next to the


business, and the proximity of new subdivi- focus. It developed a circulation system that sions being developed nearby. So, a decision radiated from this courthouse square […] made to save Main Street is slowly killing it. “Following the Civil War, Squaretown, along He then proceeds to write about a second imagi- with most Southern small towns, experinary small town, called Squaretown, Alabama: enced serious economic and social problems. Fortunately, a few of the leaders of “Squaretown’s origin can be traced to its the community had the vision to realize that agricultural heritage. It was chartered in the town had to develop a new economic 1807 with an emphasis on cotton produc- focus in order to survive. They decided to tion and shipping. Squaretown grew as the begin to direct the efforts of Squaretown to importance of cotton grew. The town was become a segment in the newly developplanned to have a courthouse square as its ing rail industry which was purchasing land

FIG. 12 (Squaretown 1830 | Baker, pg. 11).


FIG. 13 (Squaretown 1910 | Baker, pg. 12).

in Alabama to provide a major rail link from Boston to New Orleans. […] The 1910 town map shows Squaretown as a prosperous rail center. Its form at this time was significantly influenced by the railroad as a focus. The town’s form was being shaped in 1910 as it was in 1830—by the major economic, physical, and social forces acting upon it—in 1830 by cotton, and in 1910 by the railroad.

“In 1981 the focus of Squaretown changed again. The major stimulus which influenced this response in town form was the highway bypass. Squaretown is now dispersed over a wide area. It is currently growing away from its focus of the courthouse square. It is decentralizing. The two major generations of activity which influenced this physical response are the bypass around town and the suburbs. […] “In Squaretown today, there is little activity both physical and social in the courthouse square. Most of the action is on the strip development on the by-pass. The impact of this shift of emphasis is important to the sense of community. […] People still speak to one another, but it may be just a wave as two cars stop at a red light or it may be just a nod while passing a neighbor in the parking lot of the supermarket. The physical backdrop is not a good stage on which a true sense of community can be acted out. “The future of Squaretown remains uncertain […] However, there are several things that are obvious from this analysis. First, stimuli will change. They have shifted dramatically in the 174 years of Squaretown life as a community. Second, the future success of Squaretown will depend upon the prediction and response that the citizens make to future stimuli for change (Baker, pgs. 11-18).

FIG. 14 (Lineartown 1981 | Baker, pg. 13).


To some degree, rural communities across the US share the stories of Coggon, Lineartown, and Squaretown. Although every town has its own unique character and history the challenges they share today are the same. It is never a matter of populations not caring. For the purposes of this paper we will assume that people generally care about the places that they call home.

For Coggon, and presumably other small towns, the issue is not understanding what is important but rather what can be done to facilitate investment in the things that these communities cherish and with which they identify.

On August 28th 2011 roughly 80 Coggon citizens and surrounding members of the North Linn School District attended a community forum hosted at the local Zion Presbyterian Church. During this forum attendees filled out a survey and ranked the importance of certain community amenities. The purpose of this survey was to assess the quality of the community based on the hierarchical value of its components as perceived by those who live there. The survey findings indicate that the intuitive opinions of the Coggon citizens as to what makes a community strong, livable, and sustainable do not differ much from the opinions of planners, architects, and landscape architects. (Fig. 15) The top five ranked community amenities listed in descending order are: • 1. Local Businesses • 2. Public Libraries • 3. Streets & Roads • 4. Single Family Homes FIG. 15 (Coggon Community Quality As• 5. Schools In-Town sessment Survey | Produced by Author).



issued over the last half-century as another indicator that America is searching for more genuine way of living. According to Reighley, around 1965 was the golden age for the American barbershop with 360,000 licensed barbers scattered through out the cities and small towns of America. Despite an everincreasing national population, by the mid 1980’s the number of licensed barbers plummeted to 195,000. In 2008, that number was on the rise with 235,000 barbers taking back up the shears. Reighley is clear to make the distinction between barbershops and multipurpose hairdressers or unisex salons:

In 2008, the Ball Brand Fresh Preserving Products Company saw a 30 percent increase in sales of home canning supplies. This was not the result of a creative or aggressive marketing campaign. The Ball Brand company actually did very little to facilitate this growth in sales. Similarly in 2009,, a high-ranking food website, conducted a survey that asked visitors about home canning and found that 55 percent of those who participated planned on canning that year. Over half of those surveyed were under forty years old and lived in suburban areas (Reighley, pg. 26) “Barbershops are forums, bullpens, with everyone weighing in, and barbers serving as In The United States of Americana Kurt B. moderators. […] Are the fish biting? What are they building next door? Is my girlfriend Reighley argues: sleeping around? In the days before search “In this digital age, the Internet and other engines and chat rooms, our grandfathers media bombard us with new information, but sought answers to such questions with a not experience. When we actually engage regular visit to clean up the back-and-sides” directly with our world—raising, tending, kill- (Reighley, pg. 70). ing, butchering, and cooking a chicken in our own home, instead of simply picking up Despite the obstacles, not every small towns a package of fryer parts from Safeway—our is dying. Successful small communities have experience feels profoundly different. It feels had to become creative and pursue business real, authentic, and information alchemizes not-as-usual. Changes in the economic into something more like wisdom” (Reighly, foundation of rural communities require that they too must evolve and change. By revivpg. 10). ing long standing traditions of America’s past Reighley points to barber’s trade licenses and embracing the goods and technology


that fuel modern society, many small communities have reversed the declining trend to once again thrive. Today, technology and online shopping bring many opportunities to small town economies that have previously been limited to cities.

Mahon, Edward T.). Retail spaces are condensing, growing smaller, and rediscovering the importance of favoring the person over the automobile. Christopher Leinberger of the Urban Land Institute suggests,

“The largest redevelopment trend of the Despite the recent economic crisis, between next generation will be the conversion of the 2009 and 2010 fiscal year, dead or dying commercial centers in the the online retail giant, recorded a 46.2% suburbs into walkable urban places.” He gain in sales with 56.3% of worldwide sales focuses his argument specifically on uroccurring within the US. is ban and urban-fringe development, ranked as the 19th largest US retailer. The but acknowledges, “There are nucombined growth of the top 5 US retailers merous new or redeveloped walkable during the same fiscal year does not even bedroom communities” (Leinberger). equal half that of Amazon’s: Many retailers acknowledge this trend and No. 1 Wal-Mart Growth: .6% are shifting towards a newer business modNo. 2 Kroger Growth: 6.4% el known as inventory-centralized retailing. No. 3 Target Growth: 3.8% With inventory-centralized retailing inNo. 4 Walgreen Growth: 6.3% dividual retail stores no longer carry invenNo. 5 Home Depot Growth: 2.2% tory of the products they sell. Inventory is (2011 Top 100 Retailers). centralized at regional distribution facilities much like’s business model. Retail is restructuring. From the end of However, unlike, rather than WWII until the recent economic collapse re- eliminating retail stores altogether, the retail space was growing 5 to 6 times faster tail stores become showcases of products. than were retail sales. This growth mainly The customer still visits the retail store, inoccurred in suburban strip development. teracts with sales people, and experiences This pattern clearly is not able of sustain- the product. The customer then purchases ing itself, and as a result currently there the product from the retail store, but their are over 400 empty big box stores that lit- purchase is delivered to their home from the ter commercial strips across America (Mc- nearest regional distribution facility (Dr. Fou,


ers can predict demand with 100% accuracy which means that popular items will inevitaThis is a great opportunity for rural commu- bly be understocked and “dud” items will be nities and retailers alike. Rather than a store overstocked” (Dr. Fou, Augustine). like Ikea needing an average of 300,000 square feet, roughly the equivalent of five Even with a limited display-inventory in football fields, these stores can more selec- smaller stores, advances in technology such tively market their products to target audi- as the I-pad can allow sales persons to bring ences (Ikea: How the Swedish Retailer Be- up an image of an item they do not have on came a Global Cult Brand). By dissecting display for the customer allowing the conand condensing the large retail warehouse sumer can see the item on the screen, rotate and repopulating many of the vacant stores it in three-dimensions, compare it to other on our rural main streets retailers would be products, and instantly read consumer reable to reach a larger customer base. The views about that product before deciding to customers who live far away from the large make a purchase. retail stores visit them only on special occasions for the experience of shopping even These economic opportunities for small though they can find and purchase any of town retail are not limited to large chain the stores items online. One shopper com- stores. Many entrepreneurs looking to start mented: “Half my house is from Ikea -- and a business cannot afford the prime locations the nearest store is six hours away” - U.S. available in large urban centers. This usu((Ikea: How the Swedish Retailer Became a ally leaves them with little choice but to find Global Cult Brand). Dr. Augustine Fou points locations in the suburbs or the outskirts of out: downtown areas that are already experiencing decline. Some businesses may eventu“There are many components of a retailer’s ally save up to move downtown in order to cost structure that can be attributed to in- reach a greater number of consumers. Othventory -- 1) capital costs of acquiring the ers may open a second location. However, inventory, 2) logistics costs of getting the the large majority of start up businesses fail. inventory to stores, 3) real estate costs of Small communities can cater to beginning warehousing the inventory, 4) labor costs of entrepreneurs in order to facilitate reinveststocking and restocking inventory, and finally ment in their communities while giving entre5) costs of inventory risk -- i.e. not all retail- preneurs the opportunity to do business in a Augustine).


downtown setting that they can afford. Startup businesses are simply businesses that are in their infancy. They are not necessarily a new type of business, although the term gained popularity with the rise of dotcom companies. The term is sometimes used in association with venture capitalism, technology, or internal branching of a parent company. For the purposes of this paper a start-up business is defined as any business in its early stages of development. [Quittner, Josh.] Simply put, small towns can accommodate people who want to take the chance to start a business and be their own boss. Technology and online marketing and retail can help those businesses to still reach out to a consumer base that is not limited to the local economies of small towns. However, the presence of start-ups and online marketing, can attract consumers and visitors to these communities.

advantage of this exact scenario. They are defined as networks of resources, services, and support that focus on emerging businesses aimed at getting businesses started and on their feet. The way business incubators are run vary greatly. Some are run by local non-profit organizations, others by private businesses. Some are defined by the specific kinds of new business they serve, and others by the types of support they offer.

Incubators are set apart by offering services, support, and resources to new businesses as opposed to simply renting them a space like a commercial strip-development or a research & technology park. In general business incubators operate much like a local area chamber of commerce but deal specifically with emerging businesses and placing them. They do not deal with any and all companies. Sometimes incubators acquire property to rent to emerging businesses and sometimes they simply facilitate connecting A welcoming and supporting community is entrepreneurs with property owners. Incua pretty strong argument for any business to bators often oversee the commercial/retail stay, and small towns are just that. However, leases for emerging business. that alone cannot combat the fact that if a business grows financially secure enough to Several leasing strategies are used to atmove into a central location within a city, that tract potential businesses into these spaces. it will likely be a more profitable proposition One such strategy is limited-leasing, which for the business depending on the type of only provides the lease to any business for services it offers. business incubators are around-five years. The intent of this strategy another opportunity for small towns that take is to continuously facilitate new business in a


The National Trust for Historic Preservation is one such non-profit organization that is dedicated to saving historic places and revitalizing America’s communities. The Main Street Program, is a subsidiary organization that operates under the National Trust. The program was founded in 1980, and has pioneered The Main Street Approach to community revitalization that is based on four A second leasing strategy is a reduced- points and eight guiding principles to “rerent lease. Under a reduced-rent lease, build the places and enterprises that create beginning businesses are offered reduced sustainable, vibrant communities.” […] rent for a limited time so they can establish themselves. At the end of this time period, The four points that the program uses to a business has the opportunity to remain guide communities in their revitalization efin that location by signing a new lease for forts provides an organizational framework full rent. A reduced-rent lease is handled in of committees around which a community various ways. Sometimes the agreement is can structure their efforts. They are as folsubsidized by federal small business grants. lows: Other times the incubator organization itself establishes a revolving fund that can facili• Organization- A group dedicated to tate this type of agreement. However, it is establishing consensus and cooperanot uncommon that the incubator organization by building partnerships among tion simply coordinates with property owners the various groups that have a stake who have no prospective buyers or renters. in the commercial district or property. This allows the property owner and getting • PromotionA group whose goal is them to offer a reduced-rent lease, the propto create a positive image that will reerty owner is able to generate some income kindle community pride and improve from an otherwise empty building. Beginconsumer and investor confidence ning businesses are then given a better opin a commercial district or project. portunity, and empty storefronts on the main • Design- The committee that overstreet get a chance at a new life. sees creating a safe, inviting environment for shoppers, workers, given area. By providing limited-leases new businesses are able to use the network of the incubator to establish themselves and create a steady clientele, then they move to different location under a more standard lease agreement, and they make way for another emerging business to utilize the incubator’s network of support and services.


and visitors in their community. • Economic RestructuringThe committee that focuses on strengthening the communities existing economic assets while diver- sifying its economic base and recruit ing new businesses.

for mobilizing and taking those initial steps. They provide ongoing support and access to resources. The programs themselves work much like business incubators at a larger scale; they serve as community incuba tors. They work to help communities create simple partnerships that help stimulate their economies, pool their resources, and conThese committees may each have their indi- nect with state and federal grant programs vidual focuses, but work collaboratively to- and partners. wards a shared effort that is guided by the following eight principles: As community organizations establish themselves, campaign, and host fund raisers the 1) Comprehensive money in the bank eventually needs de2) Incremental clared as something. Most community or3) Self-help ganizations end up declaring themselves 4) Partnerships as a 501C3 Non-profit organization. This 5) Identifying and capitalizing on status is allows the organization to be tax existing assets exempt from any donations, grants, or sav6) Quality ings. The IRS states that none of the organi7) Change zations earnings can be used for the benefit 8) Implementation of private individuals or shareholders. Their (About Main Street). amount of involvement in political and legislative activities are also restricted (ExempCommunities looking to save a historic prop- tion Requirements - Section 501(C)(3) Orgaerty or attract new businesses to a declin- nizations). More information, including how ing downtown often struggle with taking to apply for 501C3 status can be found on the initial steps: how to organize, where to the IRS website listed in the index. meet, what actions to take first, how to get the word out. In truth there is no one correct The US Department of Housing and Uranswer to all these questions, which further ban Development, more commonly known complicates any revitalization efforts. Pro- as HUD is a federal agency that often works grams such as these provide the framework alongside The National Trust and The Main


Street Program. HUD offers a large variety of grants and federally funded programs (HUD Grants). Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) are one of the sources that has been utilized by small communities seeking revitalization. CDBG’s was established in 1974 and focuses on issues ranging from homelessness to disaster recovery, and from rehabilitating polluted areas to ending housing discrimination. This grant program is administered by states CDBG were each state administers grants to smaller units of local government to carry out qualified development activities (Community Development Block Grant Program). Although this list is of sources is not exhaustive, it illustrates that there is a wide range of existing resources available to small towns. Sorting through them, understanding their acronyms, and figuring out where to start is the greatest obstacle most communities face. Too often it proves to be too much for a newly formed citizens organization. Identifying available resources is only a small part of the revitalization picture. Revitalization is more than grants and funding. At its core revitalization is about communities realizing that they matter, and that the environment of their neighborhoods also matter. Often revitalization efforts begin not through grants or outside funding, but through determination. Once that can be demonstrated and the or-

ganizations efforts documented, the opportunities to receive grants become greater. Bonaparte, Iowa is home to only 444 residents. It is located in Van Buren County in Southeastern Iowa, along the Des Moines River. Bonaparte can be described as a stereotypical one-horse-town, although it is not uncommon to see a couple horses trotting down Main Street or on the bridge crossing the river. Bonaparte is not located at a major intersection, the streets and roads are not paved, and the nearest interstate is fourteen miles away. Interstate 280 connects Bonaparte to the closest urban center, Iowa City, 67 miles away (Bonaparte, Iowa (IA 52620) Profile). Bonaparte has been successful in reversing the trend of decline and neglect. It’s annual calendar is full of year-round events, and it attracts out-of-state tourists. The town has a vibrant town center, and has held on to a historic school that has been refurbished and is still in use today as an elementary school. In September 1986, White’s Shopping Center, the last remaining retail store put up a “Going Out of Business” sign. The building itself dated to the 1800’s needed repairs, and it owners, Helen and Rollo White, were well past retirement age. The Whites had owned the building since the 1950’s, which included the Whitely Market, the town Opera House,


and four small retail shops out of which they sold groceries, hardware, appliances, clothing, and furniture. With the retirement of the owners, and little draw for new businesses, the buildings future spoke of abandonment and inevitable demolition. In a town of so few, the loss of one iconic building has dramatic effects, and its citizens were not negligent of this fact. A group of four citizens banded together to save the White’s Building from demolition. Each contributed $2.000 towards the purchase of the store under the name of Township Stores, Inc. They called a town meeting in which they approved the creation of a community based for-profit organization dedicated to attracting new businesses to downtown Bonaparte. The group provided a three-day window for other investors to join by matching the initial $2,000 investment per person for preferred shares. At a later date, lower priced common-shares could be purchased. In three weeks the town had raised $100,000 and purchased the White’s Building for $40,000 leaving the rest for the necessary renovations.

development had also attracted a law office and an insurance agency to fill the remaining spaces. Between 1987 and 1990 the ownership and lease agreements of these spaces were in flux as Township Stores found its footing as an organization and new businesses learned how to operate in the small town. Occasionally a business would pull out and Township Stores would take over operation of the store until another tenant was found. All of the initial investment in these buildings came from local sources and all the spaces created serve the local community (Gunn, Michael T.).

Since these early efforts Bonaparte has nurtured and grown from this initial for-profit coalition. This movement has spread throughout the town, and the community has joined together form a citizen’s non-profit (501C3) organization and has been adopted as an official Rural Main Street Community in 1990 under the National Trust for Historic Preservations Main Street Program. The organization is now 25 years old and continues to endure despite their claim as being the smallest Main Street Community in the US. They have succeeded in getting their downBy the following spring three new leases had town designated as a National Historic Disbeen signed for these spaces that included trict, started a Community Economic Prea grocery store, a hardware store, and a new paredness Program, created a town website, medical clinic. By 1988 the upper floors helped establish year-round activities, aswere converted into condominiums and the sisted with street and storefront beautifica-


Connie Meek and Gianna Barrow are both Bonaparte citizens who work with Bonaparte Main Street. I got a chance to sit down and interview them together in Bonaparte’s only restaurant, The Bonaparte Retreat located in the town’s historic Meek’s Mill Building. Connie is the town’s postmaster and Gianna has been active in assisting with downtown revitalization efforts. “Local Businesses are important,” Gianna shared, “but what’s as important is local ownership because most of the buildings downtown that are sitting vacant and empty are owned by absentee owners, and that’s a big problem because it’s out-of-sight out-ofmind. They don’t see it; they don’t see the broken glass.”

FIG. 16 (Ladies from Wisconsin Visiting Bonaparte, IA. Enjoying the riverfront park | Image by Author).

Connie adds, “Some towns this size might have a Tasty’s [restaurant] or something like that, but when you get to be as small as we are you don’t have other businesses coming in. They have to be local. That’s all you’re going to get.”

Gianna explained “None of our businesses or our organizations survive with just the local participation. You have to do things to tion, and continue their efforts to this day bring people in from out of town. […] That’s (Bonaparte Main Street in the Villages of Van where the Main Street Program comes in. It kind of gave us an outline to follow, what you Buren County Iowa).


need to do to create an organization that is basically a citizen’s organization that works on downtown revitalization with an emphasis on historic preservation. We have things that we follow that give us improvement with design, and organization, and promotion. And so that’s basically been for the past nearly 25 years now… has been our strength to downtown.” “At that time, they [The Main Street Program] were not allowing towns our size,” added Connie, “We thought that we could kind of get our foot in the door, and so they decided that one of the first things to do was to get the downtown on the National Registry of Historic Places. […] Then once we got that on It was about the same time, like a year later, the Main Street Iowa decided that they wanted to adapt a Rural Main Street Program to smaller towns. […] They were going to pick five communities under 5,000 people from the state of Iowa. [..] How are we, at 450 going to compete against a town of 4,999? So we designed our own program around theirs, put in our application, went to Des Moines, we did a presentation….and out of all the communities, even the ones up to 5,000, we had the second highest points.” “When we went to do our presentation in Des Moines,” Gianna recalled, “I said, ‘It’s not really fair for us to have the same budget


guidelines as, say Burlington does.’ [Burlington’s a nearby city of 25,663 people as of the 2010 Census.] You’ve got to still break those down into what the community can afford, and if we can accomplish what we need to do with the budget we have….And we’ve been doing that for 20 years.” This is an issue that the Main Street Program is starting to address at the national level. It was discussed at the 2011 National Main Street Conference hosted in Des Moines, IA. In Bonaparte’s case, the program’s limited accessibility for communities under 5,000 was addressed at the state level. It is unclear how and when this issue may be addressed in the future by the national parent organization of the Main Street Program. However, as Gianna pointed out, it takes a united community that can demonstrate their efforts for these programs to make allowances for the particular needs of a community based on their small population. These programs exist at the state level to help make them accessible to local communities. The revitalization process can begin by picking up the phone and reaching out to such organizations, but a more critical component is making it a community-wide effort that works with and is supported by their local government.

P a r t Tw o

E N V I R O N M E N T 35

Good nests reflect their environment. They embrace and grow from regional amenities and resources.

DEFINING THE PROBLEM Between 2000 and 2008 a surprising US export to China surged by 916 percent. The export wasn’t capital goods such as aircraft/ motor parts or technology. It wasn’t industrial/chemical goods, and it wasn’t agricultural products such as corn or soybeans which we usually see as some of the top major US exports. The unlikely US export to China that saw this dramatic increase was US cast-off’s, namely scrap metal, waste paper, and the like (Allen, Jodie). In 2010, from New York and New Jersey ports alone, the US exported 6.6 million metric tons of cast off’s throughout the world with 3 million metric tons of that export destined for China (NY/NJ Exports to China Abound).

FIG. 17 (2010 Exports from NY & NJ Ports per Million Metric Tons | US Dept. of Commerce).


The need to conserve, reuse, and better manage our natural resources grows ever more critical with continued overpopulation and climate change. At the same time technology is enabling a more mobile, interconnected, and global culture. Today, our ideas, resources, and economies are more interwoven than ever before. With this paradigm shift we need to broaden our definition of what our resources are, and how we adapt to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It is becoming imperative that we evaluate the effectiveness of how we handle the resources that we already have, which we have significantly invested in to mine, harvest, produce, manufacture, distribute, and/or construct. Is it really in the best interest of our local and national economies to export reusable and recyclable goods such as scrap metal and waste paper then continue to mine and manufacture more of those same goods thereby gradually depleting our reserves of that resource? Is an existing building much different of a resource than a refined ore? The figure below illustrates typical energy end use profiles for residential and commercial buildings in 2011 as opposed to the nations energy consumption for transportation and industry. This study states that: “In 2006, the operating energy of residential and commercial buildings in the United States constituted roughly 39 percent of total

energy consumed nationwide, or about 39 quadrillion BTU – roughly the equivalent of 6.5 billion barrels of oil” (Preservation Green Lab, pg. 16).

settlement pattern. In many ways, the small town typology was sustainable long before the term gained popularity and was widely adopted by planners and designers in modern practice. As Wendell Berry argues:

“The “environmental crisis” has happened because the human household or economy is in conflict at almost every point with the household of nature. We have built our household on the assumption that the natural household is simple and can be simply used. We have assumed increasingly over the last five hundred years that nature is merely a supply of “raw materials,” and that we may safely possess those materials by FIG. 18 (2006 Energy Usage in the US | taking them.... And so we will be wrong if Dept. of Energy). we attempt to correct what we perceive as “environmental” problems without correcting Although this study includes heating, light- the economic oversimplification that caused ing, cooling, cooking, and other such activi- them“ (A Return to The Local). ties there is another part to the story. That is the embedded investment that constitutes Embodied energy is defined as: “The inithe piping, the wiring, the lumber, the brick tial energy investment required to produce and mortar, etc. This concept can even be a material or product. It includes the enerexpanded to a civic scale when we consider gy needed for the extraction of natural rethe roads, the sewers, and the urban grid. sources, manufacturing, transportation, and installation. Thus, the embodied energy of a Sustainability is often evaluated through building reflects the total energy needed to progressive urban planning, design, or oc- produce all materials or assemblies, transcasionally green retrofits of individual build- port them to a building site, and assemble a ings. However, preserving small communi- building” (Preservation Green Lab, pg. 20). ties, their historic structures, and promoting local production is inherently a sustainable


The way we calculate embodied energy differs throughout the world by the sets of data and standards used in these calculations. Although different countries may calculate this information differently it is generally agreed that if you are going to use a piece of lumber there are associated costs for planting a tree, fueling vehicles and equipment to harvest a tree, transporting the tree to a mill, processing the tree into lumber, transporting the lumber to a retailer, then finally transporting the lumber to a job site, in addition to the costs of labor and construction. Efforts to calculate these values are relatively new. In the United States it was during the 1970’s and 1980’s during the energy crisis that attempts began to quantify the environmental value of buildings (Preservation Green Lab, pg. 20). This thinking is evolving and maturing as we now begin to include in these calculations the added impacts of building operation, demolition, and disposal of common building types and materials. This more complete picture of the environmental impact of buildings is known as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), which creates international standards for these calculations set forth by the International Organization for Standardization or ISO (Preservation Green Lab, pg. 14).

ing: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse” points out how : “Many building and environmental scientists have been dismissive of the embodied energy approach to quantifying the benefits of building preservation; energy embedded in an existing building is often viewed as a ‘sunk cost.’ That is, it is often argued that there is no inherent current or future energy savings associated with preserving a building, because the energy expenditures needed to create a building occurred in the past, as did the environmental impacts associated with creating the building. In this view, the only value of building reuse is the avoidance of environmental impacts that results from not constructing a new building. This approach has given rise to the avoided impacts approach to understanding reuse, which measures the impacts that are avoided by not constructing new buildings” (Preservation Green Lab, pg. 20).

In much simpler terms we are still learning to refine this process, but it is critical to understanding and managing our resources to sustain our society into the future. The general idea is that we can calculate the amount of energy used in the creation of any object, including the materials it is composed of, then compare or convert that amount of energy The recent report “The Greenest Build- to its equivalent of everyday items, such as


gallons of gas, barrels of oil, or pop cans in order to better understand the data. We have already invested innumerable resources in the building of America. Those resources should be seen to have equal value whether they are an I-beam manufactured and waiting to be distributed to building site, or a historic building needing a new use.

TELLING THE STORY Coggon is composed of 31 commercial buildings, 7 institutional buildings, 9 light industrial buildings, 285 residential housing units (2000 US Census), and roughly 8 miles of streets and roads (Google Earth). These numbers do not include barns, outbuildings, or grain bins. Coggon is a small town. Yet if we look at the overall investment accrued establishing and maintaining a small town, its value and environmental impact do not seem so insignificant.

----------------- Equals --------------------- $28,500,000 worth of residential building stock (Coggon, Iowa.). This value is strictly a monetary estimate based on residential property values. This does not include any of the environmental impacts of the town’s building stock. The amount reflects only the costs associated with physical infrastructure. Maintenance cost are only a small portion of the value argument, but this does demonstrate that the general maintenance costs to support Coggon’s existing residential building stock is roughly 1.78% of the their overall value. The actual number would be less as this calculation did not take into account any of the commercial, institutional, light industrial buildings, or roads. Information for those contributing entities could not be found.

For the purposes of this paper these rough In 2002 the costs for maintaining Coggon’s estimates are acceptable. The goal with this infrastructure was $508,000. This does not project is not to calculate exactly the moninclude costs of human services such as po- etary value of town compared to its overall lice, fire, libraries, administration, or judicial maintenance costs, but to work beyond the expenses. The average value of a home in focus of individual buildings as presented Coggon is $100,000. The following is clearly in the recent report “The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of an estimate: Building Reuse” as well as other Life-Cycle $100,000 on average per unit Analysis efforts a bit further. Due to the time x constraints and focus of this paper perform 285 residential units


ing this study based on ISO standards is not feasible but should be considered for future research.

---------------- Equals ------------------- 13,082 Commercial downtown buildings in IA communities with populations under 1,000 Therefore:

13,082 commercial downtown buildings X 1,344,000 aluminum pop cans ------------------Equals ---------------------17,582,208,000 Equivalent number of aluminum pop cans FIG. 19 (Rypkema). represented by the If saving one downtown building is equiva downtown commercial lent to recycling 1,344,000 aluminum pop building stock in Iowa alone. cans (Rypkema) that means that saving and repurposing Coggon’s 31 commercial build- If this idea is expanded beyond Coggon, beings is equivalent to recycling 41,664,000 yond Iowa, and considered nationally sudaluminum pop cans. We can take this one denly we are talking about a lot of resources. step further. If Iowa is composed of 422 There are 8,820 communities in the United communities such as Coggon with popula- States with populations less than or equal to tions under 1,000, and we use Coggon’s 31 1,000 residents. The cumulative population commercial buildings as an estimate for the of these communities comes to 4,386,450 number of commercial buildings in towns of people (Towns Fewer than 1,000 Residents similar size: by State). That is a lot of people. It is also a


lot of houses, commercial buildings, streets, sewers, plumbing, wiring, infrastructure, inX sulation, bricks, wood, and steel. This cu31 commercial blgs. (estimate based mulative population is 593,829 more people on Coggon) than the city of Los Angeles, CA, which is the second largest city in the US. New York 422 Iowa communities under 1,000

holds the no. 1 spot with a population of To put these numbers in more of a compara8,175,133 people (Mackun, Paul). tive context, it is helpful to refer to the following graph “Energy Savings Per Ton Recycled” from a report by the EPA. This report Total # of American Towns under 1,000: compares the energy impacts of recycling a 8,820 ton of a certain type of material to the milCumulative Population: 4,386,450 lions of BTU’s, or energy, embedded in a Top 5 Largest US Cities by Population: ton of that material. For example, one ton New York, NY of magazines are equivalent to 1.1 million 8,175,133 BTU’s, which is the same as 137,500 gallons Los Angeles, CA 3,792,621 of gas (Fig. 21 & 23). Likewise, the table tiChicago, IL tled “Energy Consumed/Avoided from MSW 2,695,598 Houston, TX Management Options (Million BTU’s/Ton,” il2,099,451 lustrates the amount of energy saved or lost Philedelphia, PA 1,526,006 from recycling vs. combustion or landfill disFIG. 20 (Communities under 1,000 | Image posal techniques. by Author). Based on the earlier aluminum can approximation for small town commercial buildings, on a national scale we are looking at the equivalent of recycling 367,476,480,000 cans. This is just for commercial buildings, and just for towns under 1,000 people. Another way of looking at this number is that it is equivalent to: • 5,370,893 tons of aluminum (Can Manufacturers Institute) • 193,352,138 barrels of oil (Choate, Anne, Pg. 2) • 8,942,536,381 gallons of gas (Can Manufacturers Institute)

FIG. 21 (Choate, Anne, Pg. 2).


FIG. 22 (Choate, Anne, Pg. 3).


FIG. 23 (Choate, Anne, Pg. 6).

Perhaps the most striking thing about these numbers is how many of the materials listed constitute building materials. If we return to Coggon, we’ve established that just the 31 commercial buildings stock there is equivalent to 41,664,000 aluminum pop cans. The other 285 residential units represent the equivalent of:

• 68129 tons of aluminum cans or • 2,452,640 barrels of oil or • 113,434,587 gallons of gas

Together with the Coggon’s commercial buildings we are looking at a rough total for the entire towns building stock that equals:

• 68,738 tons of aluminum cans or • 2,474,568 barrels of oil or • 114,448,770 gallons of gas

The problems with all the numbers are that they focus on communities with populations under 1,000, when most communities up to 5,000 face the same problems as those around the size of Coggon. In addition, these numbers focus solely on the commercial building stock for communities under 1,000 when additional energy and investment has been made for the streets, roads, sidewalks, sewers, streetlights, wiring, and more. The lesson for this part of the investigation is that the invested energy and resources that compose these communities are significant. It is easy to focus on urbanity as centers of innovation and important nodes of commerce, but in doing so we too often generalize small communities as less important. However, as demonstrated, these communities are important investments of time, resources, money, and energy. They connect us to larger urban centers, and they are places that people call home.



the actual cubic yards of concrete and asphalt that are poured, the gallons of fuel used to run cement trucks and other construction equipment, and itemize the overall materials schedule by amount of material used and the distance it is transported. With this information, we would then be able to convert these volumes and amounts of material to their equivalent in BTU’s and MTCE’s: Metric Tons of Carbon Emissions much the same way that material usage is calculated into those same units for individual buildings.

To be able to more accurately assess the environmental impacts and energy footprints of whole communities a new form of calculator needs to be developed. The rough calculations used in the earlier section are sufficient enough only to gain a rough estimate of the environmental footprints within existing communities. Existing methods of calculation have focused more on materials by region and building type. The next frontier for Life-Cycle-Assessment should be to develop a set of standards for types of settle- These road calculations would then have ment and zoning per square-foot by region. to be correlated to types of zoning in order to include the types of buildings and uses For example, to construct 100 feet of a nor- that would occur on the lots adjacent to the mal city street, it should take roughly the streets. For example, would we be calculatsame amount of asphalt for the paving, and ing this for a residential neighborhood or for roughly the same amount of concrete for a downtown commercial district? It would sidewalks and curbs. However, the costs of be most helpful to mirror this against a zona normal city street vary greatly from flat land ing classification that goes into as much disto hills, and from how far a region is locat- tinction as possible. The advantage of this ed from the industries that manufacture the is that instead of just generalizing places as building materials and resources needed for residential or commercial, we can begin to construction. In addition there are the added distinguish between single family residencosts of embedding gas lines, storm sewers, tial and single family/duplex-two family or and other utilities into a streetscape. mixed-use commercial and area shopping center-commercial. All of these zoning tyThis should be easy enough to calculate by pologies are constructed differently, use mafollowing new construction in suburban ar- terials differently, and have different environeas or areas of new development. By work- mental footprints. ing closely with developers and contractors on new construction we can begin to track


By considering the zoning type, the streetscape, and the region a Life-Cycle-Assessment Calculator could be created that evaluates the environmental impacts of “X” square-feet of “X” type of development in a particular area. With such a tool, we would able to get a better idea of what types of energy investments our towns, neighborhoods, and communities represent. This type of tool

could serve as a plug-in or add-on to existing planning programs such as Google-Earth or Arch GIS, to help us compare, contrast, and better understand the significance, distribution, and relevance of the existing network represented by our communities in the terms of energy and the implications of reuse and preservation.

FIG. 24 (Environmental Impacts of Renovation as Percentage of New Construction. Preservation Green Lab, Pg. VII)


Jeff Geerts is a Special Projects Manager for Iowa Economic Development. He discussed two pilot projects in the small towns of West Union and Woodbine, Iowa that address environmental impacts through community revitalization and preservation. He discussed these projects in terms of strategic changes in the approach the state has taken to community revitalization of small towns with the intent that these pilot projects will serve as a statewide and national model. “I think it’s been the comprehensiveness of our approach because we kind of come in multifaceted …to really do a transformative impact in two communities [West Union, IA population: 2,486 & Woodbine, IA population: 1,459] where we can demonstrate lots of different sustainable community development approaches in one place so that they [other communities] will actually have a place on the ground, in Iowa, where they can go, and see, and touch, and learn from these approaches actually being utilized at the local level. […] Our green streets criteria got people thinking about sustainable design, it sent a message that the department is serious about it because of various mandatory requirements that we had within those guidelines. I think that kind of laid the foundation. Then I think


the most significant are our two pilot communities because of the extensiveness of what’s happening there and the buzz that’s generated not just in Iowa but across the country, and the number of places that those projects have been talked about, presented, and printed. West Union, for example, is a six-block area downtown Main Street Community where they have a 100-foot wide Main Street. So, it’s a very wide Main Street, and they’re replacing roads and sidewalks with completely 100 percent porous paver system that’ll be able to infiltrate, cleanse, and cool rainfall events up to three inches in a 24 hour period in their downtown, which right now really doesn’t have a stormwater sewer system at all. This will be a major improvement that will help some cold water stream water quality right there in town. But not only is it the porous paver system but its improved accessibility into the buildings by eliminating steps up into some of the buildings downtown. There’s native vegetation going in, there’s about 36,000 square feet of rain gardens and bioswells going into the project. There’s a district geothermal heating cooling system that’s dubbed to sixteen downtown properties, it’s under construction right now, LED street lighting, two electric vehicle plug-in stations on the town square, a new county performance plaza

area, a sort of amphitheater type space being built into the main intersection into the corner of the courthouse square, energy audits and energy efficiency programs set up for all of the commercial properties there in town. We did a series of ten classes on building greener affordable homes, and we actually had one of our home projects built there in conjunction with the classes.

ment of Public Health, Dept. of Cultural Affairs, Dept. of Transportation, Natural Resource Conservation Service, USDA, Center of Sustainable Communities, various engineering firms, office of Energy Independence, Iowa Utilities Board….there are lots of partnerships.”

It’s just been a very thorough expensive large project where people will be able to go and see LED street lighting and district geothermal, and porous paver systems, and rain gardens, and all those things. There’s a small green roof going into one of the buildings. So there’s a place where you can go see all this stuff in one little town of 2,500 people in northeast Iowa. […] So that’s been one piece of it. And then to take the lessons learned and approaches used into other communities. […] So it’s really been taking a comprehensive and integrated approach really focusing on sustainability in everything we do. […] with the West Union case the partners that we’ve worked with on that 10 million downtown revitalization effort is quite extensive and exciting. We’ve worked with Department of Natural Resources, Dept. of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Depart-



Part Three






S 49

A house is not the same as a home. A good nest encourages interaction and participation.


gather a lot of enthusiasm and civic spirit.”

Francis Boggus is a community & urban planner who has worked for the Iowa Great Places Program under the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs at the state’s capitol city of Des Moines. The program has existed in Iowa since 2005, and Francis has been with the program for the last five years working on a wide range of community development projects. Most of the projects he has worked on have been through partnerships with individual communities, the Iowa Main Street Program, Iowa Economic Development, the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Public Health, and the Department of Transportation.

The majority of the programs projects have been related to parks and plazas, educational programs, museums, and public art. Since 2005, 28 Iowa communities have participated in the Iowa Great Places Program. Of the first nine places studied in this program, projects have resulted in 1,012 construction jobs and 707 permanent jobs. The cost of job creation has been $9,000 per job, or return investment of 300% annually (Great Places at a Glance-2011).

“Communities are encouraged to plan comprehensively and to take a look at the entire community to do a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats analysis, and to address those strengths and weaknesses through a comprehensive plan that pulls in a diverse cross section of the community in a plan that can be implemented within three to five years,” explained Francis, “[This is] a change from a lot of comprehensive plans that are 10-20 year projects that end up on a shelf and don’t get implemented. The difference of our program is that it allows direct implementation of community projects that are exciting to the community and


Francis explained, “Any time a community has fallen behind, and there is nothing to meet that need, it’s a challenge. It’s a disappointment. […] It’s always going to be a challenge for small communities to keep going and to make stride. […] Communities over 5,000 have full time professional staff and city planning. Communities under 5,000 typically have a city administrator, and that’s it. And that person does everything. Small communities really have trouble. […] This adds another year or two bare minimum [to any planning project.] […] I just really seriously doubt that communities under 1,000 have the capacity to successfully apply for our program.

“When I first started, I went out and I contacted the communities and recruited the communities to apply for the program. It’s not so much the knowledge of the program; it’s the knowledge it takes to implement a project, to build a park, to do revitalization work, a streetscape. That takes expertise, money, and know-how. It takes a lot of skills and small communities just don’t have that capacity. […] The communities themselves decide the project. It’s a bottom-up program that we have. They decide themselves what projects they want to do and we implement it. That’s the beauty of it. […] It’s like lighting a fire: You can light one match to get a spark, and get a flame going or maybe a twig going, but unless you have some other combustible material in a community who want to get going, who want to move forward the flame will fall out. It will die out.”

anywhere. I think the program will be allowed to peter out over the next twelve months.” Francis has since established his own consulting firm Francis O. Boggus and Associates, LLC Community Planning and Development. More information about his current projects can be found at:

Funding is among the greatest concerns for any program that survives with government subsidies. This concern continues to grow as we increase efforts to address our budgets and federal deficit on both national and state levels. Francis seemed to hit on something poignant as he talked about the spark of a community…. something that is perhaps more implicit to community revitalization than simply government funding. Although funding is an essential pillar to any revitalizaFunding for The Iowa Great Places Program tion effort, and inevitably is what sees a projwas just recently cut in 2011, when Francis ect to fruition, perhaps it is not the keystone. spoke with me. At the time he gave this interview he was currently looking for other plac- The NAEP, or The National Assessment of es that could use his talents and experience. Educational Progress, is a branch of the National Assessment Governing Board “When our program first started up we [of- that was established by Congress to defered many] $300 grants. Our grant budget velop assessment methodologies, testwas $1 million annually. Plus the budget ing standards, evaluations, objectives, and for our administration was cut […] When I goals for the US educational system. The first started it was $350,000, and now it’s at NAEP recently published the report “Civ$150,000. […] [This focus] won’t be shifted ics Framework for the 2010 National As-


ic Dispositions, refers to the inclinations of ‘habits of the heart,’ […] In a constitutional democracy, these dispositions pertain to the rights and responsibilities of individuals in “If the polity would survive and thrive, citi- society and to the advancement of the idezens must have adequate knowledge of its als of the polity” (Winick, Darvin M. Pg. X). principles, institutions, skills in applying this knowledge to civic life, and dispositions However, it is interesting that even though that incline them to protect individual rights our language in regards to Civics educaand promote the common good. Therefore, tion has not changed over the years, the sound civic education, the effective prepara- approach to it has changed significantly. tion of citizens to fulfill their responsibilities The below images are excerpts from two elto sustain and enhance self-government, is ementary school textbooks from the turn of an essential condition of any constitution- the 20th century. Figure 25 is on the coval democracy,” (Winick, Darvin M. Pg. VII) er page of a textbook titled The New Civics, dating from 1917. It is of the Horace This is a philosophy with which most Ameri- Mann High School Building from Pasadena, can’s probably agree, and certainly this is CA and is the first image presented to the the idea on which the United States was student. The caption of the image states: founded as a nation. More to the point are the three components that the NAEP “As civics is a matter of collective citizenreport uses as their assessments frame- ship rather than a study of government in work: Civic Knowledge, Civic Skills, and the solution of problems of the citizen and Civic Dispositions. The report states: the public, education must have and does have at least as large a share as legislation “Participatory skills enable citizens to or the administration of law,” (Ashley, pg I). monitor and influence public and civic life by working with others, clearly articulat- Figures 26 & 27 come from another eling ideas and interests, building coali- ementary textbook from 1913. It depicts tions, seeking consensus, negotiating before and after scenes from beautificacompromise, and managing conflict. […] tion and park creation efforts undertaken in Enid, Oklahoma. If we look closely at The third component to this framework, Civ- the before picture, one can see volunteers sessment of Educational Progress.” In this report they define the importance of civic education under the following framework,


and service persons clearing and managing brushy woodland to make way for the park. This represents a strikingly different stance to how we have approached civic education in the past and how we approach it today. If we compare these images to the first image we see in a modern-day elementary social-studies textbook this change in focus is perhaps more apparent: FIG. 25 (Elementary textbook: The New Civics, Roscoe Lewis Ashley. Cover Page.)

FIG. 26 & 27 (1913 elementary textbook: Preparing for Citizenship, pg. 102 | Enid, OK. Before & After the Park was built.)


“CHAPTER 15: The Promise of America pg. 522 • Lesson 1: xx The Struggle for Equality pg. 524 xx History: Women’s Rights Movement pg. 528 • Lesson 2: xx The Struggle Continues pg. 530 xx Biographies: Champions for a Cause pg. 536 • Citizenship Skill: Resolve Conflicts xx Apply Critical Thinking pg. 538 • Lesson 3: xx Democracy and Citizenship pg. 540 xx Citizenship: Volunteers pg. 544 • Chapter 15 Review pg. 548”

FIG. 28 (Viola, Herman J. Foreword. 2005 Elementary Social Studies book cover.)

The back of the book does include a reference section titled “Citizenship Handbook,” and this section includes The Pledge of Allegiance, Character Traits, Historical Documents, a list of Presidents of the United States, Historical Markers-Biographical Dictionary, and Facts to Know-the 50 United States.

This textbook, does not address the roles of Although we are only looking at one moda citizen until the end of the last chapter. The ern example, the suggestion is that national outline of this chapter is listed as follows: matters are more important than local matters. As a researcher, I cannot help but think that this change of focus affects the perception of a student’s ability to have an in-


fluence as a citizen on an equally important high school,” (Winick, Darvin M. Pg. 23). local level. The NAEP report also acknowl- However, of the 80-page report only a edges this to a certain extent. They state: single paragraph is dedicated to assessing and including participatory “At the Second Annual White House skills within the academic curriculum: Conference on Character Building for a Democratic, Civil Society, held in 1995, mem- “[…] these broad categories of participabers of the Task Force on Civics Education tory skills include interacting, monitoring, drew attention to some of the more positive and influencing. Text exercises will be detrends: […] Interest in encouraging student to veloped to measure how well students unprovide volunteer service to the community derstand the appropriate use of these parand in a more formal service learning curricu- ticipatory skills. Direct measurement of lum is growing,” (Winick, Darvin M. Pg. 8). participatory skills, such as participating in school governance or attending a pubThe assessment seems to agree stating: lic meeting, is beyond the scope of this assessment,” (Winick, Darvin M. Pg. 35). “Certain skills in participation are essential and also are specific to the domain of Furthermore, the report seems to civics and government. Effective and re- contradict itself when it states, sponsible citizenship in a constitutional democracy demand more than knowing and “[…] these civic dispositions – or traits thinking; responsible citizens are expected of public and private character – are to participate in the governance of their essential to the vitality of constitutional decommunities, states, and nation, as well mocracy and American civil society. […] as in the governance of the groups or vol- The assessment will not include questions untary associations to which they belong. related to students’ personal values or dispositions,” (Winick, Darvin M. Pg. 36). Students can and should begin in the earliest grades to acquire the intellectual and The following table from the report further ilparticipatory skills requisite for informed, ef- lustrates this shift by depicting the subjects fective, and responsible citizenship. They dedicated to previous years meetings by the should continue to develop those skills as National Assessment of Educational Progress. they proceed through the middle grades and


Table 1—Previous NAEP Assessments of Civics and Citizenship Subjects Citizenship Social Studies (including citizenship) Social Studies (including citizenship) Citizenship and social studies Civics: U.S. Government and politics

Years 1969–70 1971–72 1975–76 1981–82 1988

FIG. 29 (Winick, Darvin M. PG. 9) If we are to expect citizens of this country to actually participate in the governance and betterment of their communities for the overall vitality of our country then how do we justify this shift in education towards federal government and politics yet at the same time justify the decline of focus towards local matters? This is not to say that one is more important than the other, but to stress that a balance between national and local matters should be encouraged in our education system. It should go without saying that students need to understand who the president is, how he or she is elected, how our federal government is structured, and how national policy is decided. Yet it should also be stressed that if a student or citizen walks past a vacant lot everyday in the center of their neighborhood that is encumbered by weeds and broken glass, that he or she should know how to go about cleaning it up


or turning it into a park. An ordinary person in a marginalized community should be educated to know how to go to city hall, identify the property owner, and reach out to local businesses and volunteers to make a difference in that very local, but not insignificant, matter. Robert D. Putnam is a professor of political science at Harvard University. He studies what he calls social capital, or in other words civic engagement. In an article of his titled “Tuning in, Tuning Out: The Strange Disappearance of Social Capital in America,” he states: “The theory of social capital presumes that, generally speaking, the more we connect with other people, the more trust them, and vice versa. At least in the contexts I have so far explored, this presumption generally turns out to be true: social trust and civic engagement are strongly correlated. […] Moreover, this is true across dif-

ferent countries, and across different states, Professor Putnam summarizes his findings as well as across individuals, and it is true by concluding that Americans today are of all sorts of groups“ (Putnam, pg. 665). much less engaged with their communities than the generation before us. He arThe findings of Professor Putnam’s re- gues that this decline in civic engagement search echo a dramatic loss of civ- is the result of more women entering the ic engagement in American cul- workforce, the increasing number of single ture. Specifically, he has found that: parent households, and primarily a result of the television. A good portion of his ar• “Membership records of diverse or- ticle examines group membership by age ganization as the PTA, Elks Club, the and hours spent watching the television and League of Woman Voters, the Red comparing this to the amount of television Cross, labor unions, an even bowling watched by persons not affiliated with any leagues show that participation in many groups or clubs. He also breaks down hours conventional voluntary associations of television viewed compared to newshas declined roughly by 25% to 50% paper readership. Professor Putnam has over the last two to three decades. […] a very legitimate argument. He describes: • Many measure of collective participation have fallen sharply, includ- “In 1950 barely 10% of American homes ing attending a rally or speech (off had television sets, but by 1959 90% did, 36% between 1973 and 1993), at- probably the fastest diffusion of a technologtending a meeting on town or ical innovation ever recorded. The reverberschool affairs (off 39%), or work- ations from this lightning bolt continued for ing for a political party (off 56%). decades, as viewing hours per capita grew by • Gallup polls report that church at- 17-20% during the 1960’s and by an additiontendance fell by roughly 15% dur- al 7-8% during the 1970’s” (Putnam, pg. 677). ing the 1960’s and has remained at that lower level ever since, while At the time Professor Putnam conducted his data from the National Opinion Re- research America had yet to be introduced to search Center suggest that the de- arguably an even more powerful technology: cline continued during the 1970’s the Internet. Certainly with the introduction and 1980’s and by now amounts to of the Internet Putnam’s argument has furroughly 30%” (Putnam, pg. 666). ther manifested in the American household


FIG. 30 (Putnam, pg. 675)


resulting in even more introverted family so- with the rest of their lives as they also mourn cial structures than he could have predicted. the death of a town hero Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson). Sam was the owner of town’s only The issue with Putnam’s argument, and movie theater, café, and pool hall. In his will likewise with casting blame onto the In- he bequeathed the movie theater to a middleternet, is that these seem to not be causal aged woman, Miss Mosey, who helped him arguments. Undoubtedly American so- to run it while he was alive, but who inevitably ciety is spending more and more time on- couldn’t manage to keep the business going. line and in front of the TV, but are these the Toward the end of the film Sonny and Duane causes of the decline in social capital, or are attend the last showing at the Comet Thethey the results? Putnam himself states: ater before Duane heads off to fight in Korea and Sonny stays to discover what kind of liv“Education is by far the strongest cor- ing he can make for himself in the tiny Texas relate that I have discovered of civic town. When the last show ends the two deengagement in all its forms, including so- part the theater and say their good-byes to cial trust and membership in many differ- Miss Mosey in the lobby behind the counter. ent types of groups” (Putnam, pg. 667). Sonny: Well, so long Miss Mosey. So if we do not actively teach our chil- Duane: Enjoy, you’re closin’ the show. dren to be civic minded and involved lo- Miss Mosey: Nobody wants to come to cally, what else is there for them to do? shows no more. There is of course, another factor: in Baseball in the summer; what context are we to engage civically? television all the time…If Sammy had lived, I The Last Picture Show is a film from 1971 believe we could’ve kept it that depicts the decline of a small north goin’. I just didn’t Texas town during the early 1950’s. The de- have the know how. cline of this Texas community coincides with Duane: Won’t be much to do in the coming of age of the main protagonists town when the Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms) and picture show closes. Duane Jackson (Jeff Bridges.) As the two Sonny: Yeah main characters graduate from high school Duane: Well, so long. they find themselves questioning what to do Miss Mosey: Duane….you


watch out now overseas. The two depart the theater. (The Last Picture Show 1:49:38-1:50:12). The final scene in the movie pans along the modest main street of the Texas town. The early winter winds blow dirt and debris down the unpaved street and an empty movie theater, a closed pool hall, and vacant café all have their doors and windows sealed tightly against the winds and the forthcoming bitter winter weather. Not a soul is seen. The staples that have supported healthy and vibrant rural communities have been gradually disappearing over the past half-century: the town theater, the in-town school, and numerous retail and social establishments are becoming things of the past. In short, our built environments no longer support civic engagement. The venues where residents of small communities have traditionally worked, shopped, and socialized have largely been exported from their communities leaving many main streets vacant but also providing a plethora of affordable commercial spaces scattered through out America.

“I think that there are a lot of programs available and funding sources available to people to preserve their buildings. I think they have a hard time figuring out where to begin. And whether even to begin in the first place. […] I think for people who don’t do preservation for every job, or on a daily basis, these programs are pretty daunting. “I think another challenge is also building capacity for preservation within a community. We’ll have property owners, who with a lot of coaching, say, get through the historic tax credit application process, but they’re only going to do this once in their life. […] So, we’re always interested in findings somebody within a community who is interested in doing this for more than one project, or maybe coaching other people in the community on how to do a project.

“[…] I suspect that we have very few CLG’s (Certified Local Governments) in communities 1,000 and less, and certainly 500 people and below…” (her voice softens and she trails off as if imagining the difficulties a community of 500 would face organizing to form a CLG) “….And maybe those Paula Mohr works for the Iowa State Office are the communities that need the assisof Historic Preservation through the Iowa De- tance the most, and these are the popupartment of Cultural Affairs. She describes: lations that are continuing to decline.”


Jeff Geerts of Iowa Economic Develop- this to some degree. It is as if we can sense ment seems to agree. He points out: tranquil ghosts that at one time were flesh and blood, who shed both, to create some“One of the things I have found, is that we thing that will endure. We often describe this can find, and communities can find, money as the character of a place, and it helps to to build things, but there aren’t many pro- define who the people are that live there and grams available that seem to have fund- what our experience is like when we visit. ing available to do the planning. The up front pieces that are so very important, and In Coggon, the 4th and 5th grade classes at that’s where we were able to help with the the North Linn Coggon Elementary School Woodbine [IA] case. We were able to pro- undertook an exercise through September vide the planning dollars as a private effort. 2011, to try and test the degree to which Once we have the plan and the vision we the character of a place helps define their can go get it funded. That’s one of the big- experience. Both classes were asked to algest barriers is finding the resources to do low each student to go outside the school the plan and sometimes getting the commu- with a digital camera, and individually take nity at the local level to put that money up “five different pictures of their school.” Picfront to create a vision they don’t have yet.” tures were not taken during recess to deter students from taking photos of each other, and a teaching assistant brought students TELLING THE STORY outside either individually or in small groups The places we live, work, and play were not for the exercise. The students were not increated overnight. They were not built in a formed of the purpose of the exercise, and day. A place does not exist because of one other than those vague instructions were generation. When we walk through these not told what specifically to photograph. places and inhabit them, traces of the past The collection of pictures were separated speak to us through the architecture, art, by each grade, then collected and grouped advertisements, landscape, and inherited into the following seven categories based environments that make present day. We on the predominant reoccurrence of those may not know the specific history of a place. categories, or features, within the colWe may not know who built it, or why it was lection of pictures. The categories are: settled, or the original relationship between this building and that. Yet, we are aware of


• Play Equipment

• Town

• US Map

• Historical School

• Flag

• Signage/Mascot

• Newest Wing of School


Each class’s collection of photos was then tallied based upon those seven categories. In order for the tallied number to remain objective, the categories were tallied in two different ways. First, all items that occurred within the frame of the photograph were each given a point. For example, if a photo was taken of the historic 1909 wing of the school and the flag and flagpole was also in the frame of the photograph, both the historic school and the flag categories each received a point. Secondly, the photos were tallied by counting the main focal points of the photograph based on what the camera was literally focused on. The focus typically occurred in the foreground of the photograph, or was something that the student got up close to in order to take the photo, even though inevitably there were elements in the background. In the case of the “Town” category, the second tally method was determined not to be applicable, as the town remained a backdrop for many of the photos. It was impossible to determine if the town was a focal point, for example, when a student took a picture of the swing set (which has a very narrow frame,) or when they were taking photos of the grass play area at the end of Main Street. However, the overwhelming predominance of the town as a backdrop in many of the photos led to the determination that it should be included as a category within the first tally method. The median and mean between

both of the tally methods was then calculated to balance out the two methods. Additionally, only a small number of photos were dismissed if it appeared that the student accidentally took a shot while trying to figure out the camera. For example, a photo would be dismissed if it consisted of the tip of students shoe and black asphalt below without any identifying features. A degree of error should be assumed on the student’s part, as the exercise was conducted by the students themselves with only some guidance by the teacher or teaching assistant. Therefore, the total number of pictures taken and the total number of tally point may not equal five photos per each student in the class. The fifth grade teacher, Michelle Cherry, sent a short letter with the digital copies of her student’s photos that included the note: “FYI – 23 students (some had a difficult time using the cameras).” The inherent difficulty of deducing empirical quantitative data from such an exercise should be noted. There are many variables such as technical competency of elementary school students in using the digital equipment, and objectively trying to establish the seven main categories that occurred within the student’s photos. These variables were controlled as best as current analytical methods and time constraints would allow. The

purpose of this exercise was simply to give a voice to the children of the Coggon community to understand what elements within their daily school life they most identify with. The following Fig. 31 illustrates the results: The high occurrence of playground equipment in the student’s photos should come as no surprise. The most telling results from this exercise was the indicator of growth and awareness between the fourth and fifth grade students and the relationship each grade level has with the historic 1909 wing of the school and the town as opposed to the new wing of the school. It should be noted that none of the students have classes in the 1909 wing of the school, and that that portion of the school has been closed for over a decade due to fire safety code issues. At the fourth grade level play equipment ranks the highest by a significant difference, with the town coming in second place, and the historical school coming in fourth. The newest wing of the school, which the students have all their classes in, ranked last of all the categories. (Differences change depending on whether you are looking at the count of all items in the frame, count of main focal points, or the median or mean. The focal points, median, and mean are thrown off in terms of ranking by the N/A town category, but the overall ranking order of each category is consistent through all counting methods.)



4TH GRADERS Class size: 18 Count of All Items in Frame

Count of Main Focal Points



Play Equipment


Play Equipment










US Map


US Map




Historic School


Historic School
















Newest Wing of School


Newest Wing of School




5TH GRADERS Class size: 23 Count of All Items in Frame

Count of Main Focal Point

Historic School


Historic School




Play Equipment


Play Equipment










Newest Wing of School














Newest Wing of School




US Map


US Map




FIG. 31 (North Linn Coggon Elementary Student School Identifiers Photo Exercise)


By the age of fifth grade, the exercise indicates a significant growth and shift in mental awareness of their surrounding environment. By the fifth grade level, the play equipment ranked second place behind the historic school, with the historic school becoming the highest-ranked of all seven categories, however, the margin of difference between the historic school and the play equipment was very narrow. For the fifth graders, the town ranked third, and the newest wing of the school ranked in 6th place. These findings are significant, but it should be noted that ideally this experiment would be repeated over a number of years to more accurately portray this place-identity relationship.

Phyllis has recently moved to the nearby Cedar Rapids, 28 miles away, due to the death of her husband. Phyllis and her husband were farmers who worked a Century Farm, a farm owned by the same family for over a century. Although a farmer’s wife, Phyllis sits with the poise of a distinguished lady. From their family farm it was about a 10-minute drive into Coggon, were Phyllis was able to get most everything that their family needed.

“Oh my goodness it was a bustling bustling community, and you knew everybody. […] In the early years of our farm life we did most of our shopping here in Coggon when it was a much more vibrant community. […] In the early years it was always Phyllis Ameter called Coggon her home [that I would meet] people I knew when I for 74 years. Phyllis attended the Coggon shopped here in Coggon because I knew evSchool for all of her primary and secondary erybody in the community. Over the years education. She is one of eight children, and of course that has changed. I don’t know a was orphaned at age 4 after the death of her lot of the younger families that live here now. mother. Her father was unable to keep the eight children together, and she was sent to When asked about Coggon’s greatest conlive in Coggon with her two older cousins. She cerns and challenges Phyllis answered, has many fond memories of her time there. “Just bringing it back to life; getting some“To me that old school building is Coggon. thing going here like the Harvest Home. That I remember the first time I came to Cog- used to be such a major major part of our gon, and I came up the Main Street, and I lives, and now it’s just dwindled down to very saw that school sitting up there like a crown little, very little of anything. I would like to jewel…And I just think, to me, it is Coggon. see people just being able to get together […] I hope and pray that it will be preserved.” and sharing things more like we used to do.”


[This is the point in the story that, as a researcher, I honestly cannot claim to have remained an objective observer, and will have to break the narrative to describe the following events first person. The problems with continuing with a claim of objectivity here is two fold: 1) that, as previously stated, Coggon is my hometown. For the purposes of this research I chose it as a case study due to the limited amount of time I could dedicate myself to this research as a graduate project. This meant that in choosing Coggon I had quick and easy access to the archives of City Hall, the Coggon Historical Society, and The North Linn Community School District as I am a native there and have proven myself trustworthy. 2) I share the same sentiments that Phyllis Ameter has stated above. In conducting this research, I sought not only how to help small towns endure throughout the United States, but also how I could help save my own community.] Robert (Bob) Henderson is a member of the Coggon Historical Society, and has lived in Coggon for 90 years. His home is one block from Main Street and he walks to the main intersection of Coggon where the Historical Society Building is located for events and meetings. The building, known as The Clemon’s House, used to be an inn run by the Clemon’s family when the railroad carried passengers


to and from the many pioneer settlements that dotted the Iowa countryside. Today, the rail line is solely dedicated to freight. Through out the month of July, 2011, Bob and I undertook a project together, along with The Coggon Historical Society, and the North Linn School District to see how much interest we could generate in the community to organize, take action, and utilize some of the resources learned about as part of this research. At the time I did not discuss those resources with Bob or advertise them to the community. We just wanted to see if we could simply generate enough interest to get some bodies in some seats just to start brainstorming and making plans for the future. The historical society dug up some historic pictures of Coggon’s Main Street and the 1909 school in the town square. The photos were scanned, organized in a slideshow of images, and displayed with a borrowed projector from the North Linn School. The concept was to simply project historical images of Coggon’s Main Street and the school out of the second story window of the Clemon’s House and across the street onto the blank broad side of the adjacent vacant building next door. Every evening of that July, Bob would walk the one block from his home and meet me at the Clemon’s house around 8:30 -9 P.M. Bob unlocked the doors and followed me up to the sec-

ond floor where we propped the projector up on a box so that it would project out the window and across the street. We setup the slideshow and let it run all night long. No

er. We walked into the street and watched the slideshow run across the building like an old silent movie depicting a main street full of people, automobiles, and horses and the

FIG. 32 (Coggon Projector Project | Month of July 2011 | Author’s Image) words, no sound, no lists of resources, no statement of intent, or any form of advertisement. We simply let the slide show of black and white, and sepia, images run across the side of the building silently until the morning when Bob would meet me to turn off the projector and I’d retrieve my laptop for the day.

1909 school building recently completed with the seven officials standing proudly out front. I asked Bob what he thought about the decision to consolidate the elementary school with the middle school/ high school central rural campus.

The first night Bob and I got the projector proj- “Well I see some, I know there’s some real ect up and running with the help of my broth- advantages to this, but there’s certainly some


real disadvantages. I think it’s entirely wrong. I think it was wrong, and I think especially in our district here we have very long and narrow district [geographically]. When you go from one end to the other and bring all those small youngsters all clear into the center then, I just thought that was wrong. I think that, the elementaries …this was sold on the idea that when we did it, [originally move the high school and middle school to a central rural campus] that there would always be an elementary school in these towns. This is not what has happened and this part is wrong, and I guess now, if I had it to do over again, I would have been in favor of not even combining anything, but it’s too late to correct that now. They are not following through with what was planned in the reorganization. […] I can see some advantages for the administration and the people in the school, but I’m not sure it’s right for these rural communities. It’s not going to be good for the community. It will make it less. And whereas you did see a lot of people came to your local school, they would come and bring the children or come after them, and they would visit with the teacher. I’m not sure they’re going to have as much to do with the school now where they have to drive that distance just to see a teacher and maybe it’s someone they don’t know. I don’t think it will help education. “

ing tables on the main level of the Clemon’s House and shared with me some of his thoughts and memories of Coggon, “Basically, I’m pretty proud of the Main Street. In fact I had a person the other day tell me that we sure had a good looking Main Street, and of course, I’ve often said that we should be proud how nice our Main Street looks for a place that’s got no business. The Main Street is maintained; most everything’s maintained and in pretty good shape. And it looks good, and yet we sure don’t have any businesses. And I can understand. A little business in a small town like this is kind of like farming a few acres of land anymore. You might be able to make a living if you don’t have to pay off a loan, or pay any interest, but that’s about all it’d amount to.

“[…] Well, probably the fondest memories are the activity and the business that we had… oh let’s say, 60-70 years ago. At that time there was 30 some business places right here on these two or three blocks of Main Street, and the town would be full of people especially on Saturday and Saturday night. It would be just full. We had a lot of people here and a lot of activity, and that includes businesses that just seemed to disappear one by one. […] At one time we had three grocery stores right on Main Street, and at Bob later sat with me at one of the meet- one time, I think, we had about two or three


restaurants, and I think we had three of four taverns, and a hardware store, lumber yard, and creamery. We had all the businesses you needed. A newspaper was published here, and several farm machine businesses. At there was two or three car dealerships here in town, and those have all disappeared.

July. Throughout that time, it was not uncommon to see motorists stop while at the main intersection to see what was happening on the side of the building. Some even stopped and turned off their engines to watch the dozen or so images slowly flash by a couple times. Then they would leave and tell a friend. One resident’s Facebook post read, “Go check out what’s happening to the old hardware building in Coggon!”

[…] At the time I was going to school, my parents lived in the country. And I guess I worked in the grocery store here most of the time. I’d work in the morning, noon, The community forum was planned for Authen at night when I got out of school.” gust 28th, 2011, and was to be held at one of the local churches. We decided to make the Bob graduated from the Cog- forum and events leading up to it small demgon School in 1938. onstrations of effective partnerships. We planned the date to coincide with the Cog“[My wife and] I have two daughters and gon Historical Society’s 30th Anniversary. We they both attended school here. […] combined the two events as the historical One daughter lives in Minneapolis, Min- society was struggling to find entertainment nesota and one that lives in California.” for their anniversary celebration. The forum was to serve as the entertainment, and the Even that first night of the projector project, historical society afterwards would host an nearby neighbors came out of their homes ice-cream social celebrating their 30th year to see what was going on. One man smok- being active in the Coggon community. We ing a cigarette in his lawn called to his wife also arranged for representatives of a nearwho came out to watch in her bathrobe with by Main Street Program from the neighborher hair up in curlers. We began to adver- ing community of Central City (population tise a town meeting in the local newsletter, 1,176,) to come speak about getting The printed the date in the local church bulletins, Main Street Program started in their commuand put up posters in the library and local nity and other resources available through businesses. We made no mention of the The National Trust for Historic Preservation. slideshow, but let it run for the full month of


During the month of July and August, I had a lot of research, reading, and interviews to conduct both in Coggon and throughout the state of Iowa. During this time I had the opportunity to interview a retired employee of the North Linn Community School District. He interviewed on the condition of anonymity but provided a helpful perspective into the constraints that lead to the decision to consolidate the elementary, middle, and high schools. He spoke on the condition of anonymity, and for the purposes of quoting this individual we will refer to him as simply as John Doe. Mr. Doe is a 37 year resident of the community, and as he described: “Well, since I used to work in the school, I see the efficiencies of a central campus: Lack of duplication of materials, and supplies, and AV equipment, custodians…I can go on and on….kitchens. I just see the efficiencies of the central campus, efficiencies of staffing; class size can be regulated better. I feel like it should have been done 30 years ago. And I realize that there are some negative parts to the Coggon & Walker communities with that too. I just think you have to look at the economies, scarce resources, and things today. So I think it’s probably overall good.“ Mr. Doe makes a significant point. It is no secret that the state of our national education system is struggling. Recent films like “Wait-


ing for Superman,” the rise in charter schools, programs such as No Child Left Behind, the issue of teacher compensation, and the Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s controversy over teacher’s union’s collective bargaining rights all indicate that schools across the nation are under increasing amounts of pressure to keep up with technology, increase test scores, and provide adequate salaries for teachers and administration. With this added pressure, having individual schools scattered in towns through out a district is simply becoming an inefficient model to follow. If schools want better teachers, they have to offer better compensation…to offer better compensation, schools have to cut costs elsewhere. Schools want modern facilities; to keep equipment and facilities up-todate, schools have to maintain a budget that keeps up with the pace of changing technology. All of this costs money and arguably are costs that many of the town-school-model’s budget was never designed for. Whereas prior to the heavy reliance on computers, the Internet, Internet compatible projectors, and now even I-Pads, schools in the past primarily had to keep their text books up-to-date and perhaps very basic AV equipment. The national trend of consolidating schools in rural or urban-fringe areas are not the result of school boards turning their backs on their parent communities, and it is not the result of favoring education over the quality and char-

acter of a community. It is simply the result of acting in the best interest of the students. When asked what should be done with the Coggon school building, Mr. Doe continued, “That was a question that I had for the person that called me to vote, and I did not get an answer….but what do I think? It’s been somewhat neglected as far as heating the building. Some of things have been sold [in the building] that shouldn’t have been sold… things like that, but I still think it should be preserved if somebody’s willing to support it. You know, I would not like to see it torn down. I think it would have some historic value. […] The old part I wouldn’t see a lot of value in that for apartments or meeting rooms. I know we have a historical building, which is nice; that type of use I would think would have to be one type of use to consider for the ’09 part.” “Were you suggesting that some of the newer parts might be able to be used as apartments?” I asked. “I know that’s been done in some communities. I think that could work, rather than letting it sit empty. […] “One thing I didn’t interject here, but I think makes a difference. In a [small] community, I think the churches are in a state of decline.

[…] Rumors are that the Catholic Church [in Coggon] is going to close shortly. Rumors have been around awhile, but I think that it’s probably going to happen. And one thing I think that it relates to is a lot of young people aren’t going to church. So that’s probably the reason why you don’t know a lot of the younger people. Where you going to see them? Where you going to get in contact with them? A church was one place, and that doesn’t seem to happen now. “I think it’s important to keep people together, to keep people acquainted, especially now that we probably, we will not have a school in town. We’ll have our school near Troy Mills, but we won’t have some of the activities that we had up here [in Coggon]. So I think it’s important to give people a sense of community and get acquainted.” That is the heart of this issue: incubating togetherness so that people are empowered to get organized, become curious, and take action. I interviewed Mr. Doe in a room that I borrowed from Coggon’s Linn County State Bank. As another public demonstration of effective small partnerships, I made an arrangement with the bank to utilize one of their empty offices for the purposes of conducting interviews, working on my research, and planning the community forum. I was allowed to put up posters in the bank advertis-


ing the forum, and patrons were welcomed to come in, ask what I was up to, and sit down for an interview if they had opinions or stories that they wanted to share. Additionally, once a month, the bank hosts a Senior Coffee Hour. I helped the bank set up and tear down for this event and was able to set pamphlets on the tables that provided information

FIG. 33 (Linn County State Bank, Coggon, IA Summer 2011 Office Studio| Author’s Image)

FIG. 34 Linn County State Bank, Coggon, IA Senior Coffee Hour | Author’s Image)


FIG. 35 Linn County State Bank Rock Garden Before | Author’s Image)

FIG. 36 Linn County State Bank Rock Garden After Render | Author’s Image)

about historic preservation of town schools in Iowa. In exchange for the use of the bank office, I offered to redesign and rock garden invaded with weeds that is adjacent to the banks drive-through teller window. By using low maintenance hardy plants and grasses, we were able to transform the neglected rock garden into a scheme that provided some year-round interest. This action further put our efforts on display for the community and demonstrated an immediate transformation, at a small scale, with little effort. The August 28th forum was a big success in terms of attendance and general interest. We started out with the general goal to see if we could get some bodies in some seats to start a discussion, and the forum resulted in nearly 11% of our population in attendance (roughly 75 people). The forum began with a short introduction of the goals of community planning, design, and preservation; then we put the community to work. We included

four activities that allowed the community voice their opinions and share their thoughts on their aspirations for the future of the town. Participants filled up blank poster boards with “Words that describe our Community.” As a second activity they taped up images on a long sheet of butcher paper that they felt represented the character of the town. Participants had to sort through a random pile

FIG. 37 Coggon, IA Aug. 28, 2011 Community Forum | Author’s Image)


FIG. 38 Coggon, IA Aug. 28, 2011 Community Forum. “What Belongs Here” Exercise. | Author’s Image) of images that included historic brick commercial buildings, stark shiny modernists buildings, silos, barns, abstract sculptures, mcmansions, prairies, modest single family homes, log cottages, and many others. The last two activities were a questionnaire, and an image ranking exercise where participants ranked images on a scale of -5 to +5 in terms of most desirable and least desirable. From these last two exercises I was able to


obtain quantitative data in regards to peoples attitudes toward their built environments. Overall, people who attended the forum were interested and they were engaged. As a direct result of our efforts in Coggon, a citizen’s organization has formed to collaborate with the city government, work with The North Linn School Board, and reach out to the State Historic Preservation Office in order to help

save and preserve the town and school. The group is looking to acquire new ownership for the Coggon school building and to explore alternative uses for the building. They have begun to take inventory of the building stock on their main street, identify property owners, and are working with local business owners to start a network of resources and support to begin planning events and raising funds. The group has named themselves C.A.B.A. - Coggon Area Betterment Association. They are currently operating as a commission under the umbrella of The Coggon Historical Society and as a 501C3 non-profit organization. The mission statement C.A.B.A. has drafted for themselves reads as follows: “Coggon Area Betterment Association (CABA) is a non-profit group whose mission

FIG. 39 Coggon, IA Aug. 28, 2011 Community Forum. “Words That Describe Our Community” Exercise | Author’s Image)

is to promote an understanding of the history of the Coggon community by collecting, preserving, exhibiting, and interpreting the community’s history and its relationship to the Eastern Iowa region to audiences of all ages and interests. We promote preservation-based economic development by working to revitalize interpretation of the community, making it welcoming to both families and businesses.” Slogan: “Working toward a Better, Brighter Coggon Community.”

EXPLORING SOLUTIONS Civic engagement and community empowerment continue to serve as some of the biggest obstacles in connecting small communities with preservation and revitalization resources. As discussed earlier, education of both students and adults appears to be one of the most effective tools in cultivating engagement, trust, and teaching citizens how to get involved. At the primary and secondary school level, changing the way that history and social studies are taught in schools may seem like a daunting and impractical task as that curriculum is largely decided at the national level by the NAEP, or The National Assessment of Educational Progress (See Pg. 51). This leaves local educators with little flexibility in


how to administer a standardized national curriculum or cater it toward local history in order to encourage participatory skills at the local level. Despite these constraints, schools around the nation are embracing an alternative approach to teaching civic engagement and local participation through a renewed interest in school gardens.

Although gardening may seem to be a subject best suited to the area of study under the sciences, the benefits of school gardens have been shown to extend beyond just that of botany, horticulture, or entomology. Blair’s article examined several previous studies of the benefits of school gardens, which found that in addition to increased health awareness and other benefits school gardens:

In Dorothy Blair’s 2009 article “The Child In Garden,” from the Journal of Envi- “[…] improved school attitude and pride ronmental Education, she describes: in the garden and its produce. The students involved their parents, who “Gardens ground children in growth became more involved with school. and decay, predator-prey relations, […] studies reported that school gardens pollination, carbon cycles, soil morphol- had a strong community-building comogy, and microbial life: the simple and the ponent, promoting teamwork, student complex simultaneously. Gardens are in- bonding, a broader range of interaction tensely local. Everything except possibly with adults, and community outthe purchased plants and seeds are part reach (Blair, Dorothy, pg. 21-31). of the natural local environment. The clouds, rain, and sun, the seasonal cycle, The self-awareness of a community and its the soil and its myriad of organisms, the ability to form local partnerships and coaliinsects, arachnids, birds, reptiles, and tions that build a communities capacity to mammals that visit the garden teach about make the most of their existing resources, and place. […] Seeds and gardening styles effectively use outside resources, truly serve are the stuff of history, culture, and as the linchpin to communities sustaining literature. Along with English spar- themselves into the future. The implications of rows, starlings, quack grass, and bees, student-public partnerships are not isolated gardening provides another kind of les- to the creation and upkeep of school gardens. son, one about human interaction with the natural world” (Blair, Dorothy, pg. 17). Paula Mohr of The Iowa State Office of Historic Preservation points out:


“We certainly would support that [a school – Historic Preservation Commission partnership], and I think if we got a grant application were a community wanted to do that, I think it would score very well. It’s not something that this office has initiated, but we would very much be in support of it. I have thought for example, that a high school class would be a good place for a website to be developed for a historic preservation commission. I’m not aware that that has happened in the state yet, but those are the kinds of collaborations that I think would be really useful. You know, young people like computers and would like the idea of a project that they could call their own, but a lot of our Historic Preservation Commissions are made up of older citizens who don’t always have computer skills.” Ed McMahon is a researcher for the Urban Land Institute based in Washington D.C. He serves as Chair for the Charles Fraser Senior Resident Fellow for Sustainable Development. In addition, his expertise includes sustainable development, community planning, land conservation, urban design, and historic preservation. He also has a background as an author, attorney, and lecturer (ULI Edward T. McMahon). McMahon argues:

about affordability, walkability, place-making, and community building” (McMahon, Ed T.). In cle


recent McMahon

USA points

today out


“Most trips in a car are not back and forth to work,” he says. “Most trips — 80% to 85% — are lifestyle trips to the movies, the grocery store, taking the kids to school, and so on. What we found is if you live in a community where you can walk, ride a bike, take a short trip, those savings [in fuel costs] start to add up really quickly” (Copel, Larry). If we are able to repopulate Main Street with those 80-85% of lifestyle needs, people are able to park once and walk to the majority of those destinations. This saves individuals and families money that they would otherwise spend on gas driving to an urban center and driving to different destinations within that urban center. With more money in their pockets, people will be more likely to spend that money on lifestyle activities, reinvesting in their own downtown and thereby supporting local businesses. McMahon states,

“At its most basic ‘sustainable’ means enduring. Sustainable communities are “Town centers and Main Streets proplaces of enduring value. Sustainability is vide a ‘place-making dividend’ that the


homogenous blur of the strip can’t match. They also provide a ‘park-once’ environment that will increase in importance as fuel prices rise. […] Walking for pleasure is by far Americas number one form of outdoor recreation. If you combine that with shopping, another one of America’s favorite past times, you have a winning combination.” This is likely what every citizen or small town government wishes for their town, and this is the vision shared by many of the revitalization programs that already exist. However, this shared vision alone is not enough to connect these towns with existing programs to organize and make effective use of those resources. The Canadian architect Peter Busby, whose firm Busby & Associates merged with Perkins & Will in 2004 began quite modestly in a shopping district. Since founding Bus-


FIG. 40 Busby & Associates 2004 Office. Photo Compliments Peter Busby) by & Associates in 1984, Peter Busby, has spoken about “the power of the red chair,” and “architecture on the streets.” He began his career, and continues it to this day, with a strong sense of social purpose. For him it was essential that their work and firm be visible and constantly on display to the public. Therefore, even when the office was not open a simple see through screen closed off the front of the office leaving models, drawings, sketches, and eyecatching red chairs on display for passersby. The importance of this move should not be understated. It removes a filter of intimidation between a professional office and the public, and furthermore it rouses the public’s curiosity. In the same way that retail window displays are meant to lure the public into stores, design firms and professional offices of preservation, revitalization, and economic development should adopt a similar attitude toward public display and social purpose. If the stated purpose of these organizations is to improve the quality of life for society through public policy and design, then the places that they work and the activities that they do on a daily basis should enhance public life in as much as the actual projects that they work on. The day-to-day work activities of these organizations them-

selves should serve to activate the public street frontage rather than just a fancy lobby and reception area. When the eye of the public is engaged in the active “windowdisplay” of an organization, it means that a spark of curiosity has been ignited, and that curiosity is more likely to pull the public in to ask questions, look at displays, pick up reference material, and pass those resources on. Even if this kind of approach primarily favors urban areas, it utilizes the fundamental strengths of urban areas that makes them wonderful nodes for networking AKA: everyone comes from somewhere unique. That one person who was pulled in to pick up a brochure perhaps came from a surrounding small community, or perhaps their parents or relatives live in a small community. This simple approach can be more effective and personable than just the Internet at cultivating collaboration between the public and professional organizations. This is not to say that user-friendly websites and making resources available online is not paramount, they just do little to actually engage the public. The lesson here can likewise be applied to small town governments, citizen organization meetings, and even local school boards.

on. As Paula Mohr of The Iowa State Office of Historic Preservation describes: “I think we’re doing a lot more with public education. We’re doing workshops around the state, and we also do annual preservation conference. We keep the costs of registration to that conference low […] So I think that making the education more accessible to people is something that we’re trying to do. “We have a program called Technical Advisory Network where we can send in a consultant who will prepare a site inventory for [a community] for the buildings and evaluate if for the National Register, and so that form will come into our office, we will review it, and we will formally approve it. Then that will set a building down the path to financial resources and will make it more appealing to a new owner to develop it in the right way rather than develop it in a way that will ruin its eligibility and negate any financial incentives it could get.

“We certainly will respond to requests of interest and answer questions, and if we’re invited to come and do a workshop in a small town we will gladly do that. But to actively go into a community uninvited and say ‘You This approach however, is limited in should do this,’ it doesn’t work. The pay off is that it mostly favors those who may al- not there. If we can let them know about the ready have a vested interest or specific program and they express interest and want problem that they would like guidance to learn more, we can coach them through


it, but we haven’t gotten into the business of going into small towns uninvited saying ‘You know, you should really do this.’ We need some expression of interest to act on.” Perhaps the issue here is not so much going into a community uninvited with a prescriptive list of “to do’s,” but perhaps it is the approach revitalization and preservation organizations can take at cultivating interest in a community that could be rethought and improved. The projector project in Coggon and success of the community forum raises many questions and opportunities related to Peter Busby’s concept of “The Power of the Red Chair” and incubating togetherness as means of marketing and professional outreach. We can better understand the opportunities for such an approach through exploring the following example: (Fig. 41) The 2010 budget of The National Trust for Historic Preservation included $2,217,907 in membership outreach (4% of the overall budget), $5,451,567 in fundraising (9% of the overall budget), and $8,499,200 in educational expenses (13% of the overall budget), (National Trust for Historic Preservation 2010 Financials). It should be noted that this is the national budget and includes all of its subsidiaries and affiliates including the Main Street Program and support for state programs. The success of the Coggon projector project sug-


gests that if The National Trust, or similar organizations, were able to use a small portion of their budget to sponsor similar events in communities that they would cultivate a much more engaged and receptive audience than the Internet or pamphlets alone can achieve. Such programs could identify communities in decline that have maintained their historic character and integrity, and actually go into those communities to host a movie-in-the-park night, or a Main-StreetMovie night where a film is projected on the side of a historic building. The advantages of this are that it appeals to wide audience and gives a community a reason to gather. Rather than approaching a community with a list of to-do’s and supplemental resources, these programs should begin by providing a reason for a community to gather and then advertising those resources to them. This would create an ideal venue that could raise awareness of a particular program, where informational material could be distributed, and strong interest could be generated. State offices of The National Trust already hold inventories of communities and their historic properties, and those properties have been evaluated to see if they are eligible for nomination to The National Registry of Historic Places. By linking this inventory to population data, historic business trends, and even measurements of a town’s

FIG. 41 FY10 Operating Revenues & Expenses for The National Trust for Historic Preservation. National Trust for Historic Preservation 2010 Financials) embodied energy as discussed earlier, this would create metrics for identifying the most marginalized communities with the greatest potential historic value. This could serve as an effective evaluation method to identify communities and properties that would most benefit from such a pilot-intervention. Although this model proved successful in Coggon, investigations in other communities should be conducted prior to launching such a campaign. There are still many fundamentals that should be explored such as: what are the most effective informational resources to provide at such venue, is a silent slideshow sufficient, would there be a greater turnout if the intervention was actually a community film with sound, and can a scientific control be established to mea-

sure the success of this intervention as a scientific variable? These are simply essential steps in launching such a campaign at a larger scale. Although there remain many questions to investigate, the implications derived from the Coggon Projector Project are positive and deserve further investigation. A promising program that has been launched through The National Trust is the “This Place Matters Campaign� (This Place Matters). This is an online photography based program meant to generate community interest and a level of community involvement as a community organizes and begins to look into the resources available through The National Trust. The general concept of the program is that people throughout a community


download or create a sign that states, ” This Place Matters,” and then they go out into their community to photograph themselves in front of places that are special to them. Community members are then able to upload their photographs online to the This Place Matters Flickr Slideshow and are able to flag their community on the site’s corresponding Google map. This is a very promising program that is completely free to communities, however the program does have several drawbacks. Once the photo is uploaded to the Flickr slideshow, it is simply grouped with countless other user-photos through out the nation. There is no way to search for FIG. 42 NL-This Place Project | Fall 2011) the photos uploaded by a particular community and they do not link up to the places that “This Place Matters” sign to photograph are flagged on the websites Google map. In their special places and then write about addition, there is no option for people to add them. The photographs and essays can a caption to their photo or tell their story of be viewed at: the place that they chose to photograph tos/nlthisplaceproject/. One student writes, matters to them. It seems like this site and program could be improved so that it could “Although the church isn’t a place where serve as an actual organizational tool for I hang out with friends or spend a lot community organizations or town govern- of my time, it matters to me because ments working to apply for grants in order it’s been around for my whole life and I to demonstrate community involvement. would hate to see it tore down or just forgotten” (NL Community Photo Essay’s). In Coggon we attempted to mimic the This Even though this project was just one asPlace Matters campaign. A group of cre- signment for the students, they seemed ative writing students at the North Linn excited and motivated by the chance to District High School were assigned to their get involved and voice their opinions. This own Flickr website in which they used the provides a great venue for organizations to involve the local youth. However, the con-


straints of this approach were quickly realized. In order for everyone to be able to post, write, and comment a shared account, username, and password had to be distributed to all the students and teacher. This becomes a bit impractical for a communitywide effort, and perhaps is better suited for a community-blog or Facebook page. However, even these websites have their drawbacks and also have the constraints of online authorship and ownership. The same argument applies to a community or town website and is further complicated by the ease of programming and user-interfaces.

most difficult yet fundamental task faced by any community based program. Fitting such a mission into the traditional business models of advertising and marketing treat the issue simply as business and often fall short of affecting the kinds of change such efforts initially organize around. We need to become creative in exploring how to more effectively achieve those goals. Enabling a population is more than simply placing a bunch of resources at the feet of a struggling community.

It would be most beneficial if the This Place Matters website could be further engineered to serve as an online searchable resource for communities that also provided server space similar to websites like Drop Box or Googledocs. In this way photos could be tied to essays and comment strings, they could be downloaded and linked to flags on Google maps, and community organizations could have server space to upload items such as meeting minutes, and all these could link up to forms or other online resources available through The National Trust, Main Street Program, Department of Economic Development, and countless other resources. Inspiring and enabling a population to give them hope and encourage action, is the








In the United States there are 8,820 communities with populations under 1,000. Together they comprise a total population of 4,386,450 people. The obstacles facing small communities this size, and up to 5,000, are complex and multifaceted but stem from economies that have not adapted to the force of change, a loss of investment and connection with historic building fabric, surrounding environment, and the subsequent loss of places and reasons for people to gather. Since WWII many of these businesses and social functions have gradually become concentrated around urban centers resulting in small town residents driving out of town for goods and services and often moving entirely for employment or educational opportunities. The implications of the loss of these communities are more than just altruistic. At a national level, the commercial building stock alone present in communities under 1,000 can be estimated to be the equivalent of 5,370, 000 tons of aluminum, 193,352,138 barrels of oil, or 8,942,563,381 gallons of gas. Preservation and revitalization of these communities have large implications in affecting climate change, resource depletion, human health, and ecosystem quality. Revitalization








zations along with design professionals can aid in bridging the gap between marginalized communities and the resources that already exist to help these communities sustain themselves and endure:

Economics: Small communities and Main Streets contribute unique histories and character to retail and other commercial uses that are more appealing to the customer that big box chains or strip malls. By utilizing character marketing, technology, online shopping within a retail setting, and inventory centralized distribution, businesses large and small are able to repopulate vacant buildings on Main Street to either reach out to broader demographics or support startup entrepreneurial endeavors. Small towns can provide a stepping stone infrastructure for beginning entrepreneurs by providing affordable start up spaces that allow businesses to get established before making a go of it in larger urban locations. Small communities no longer have to miss out on the goods and services that large urban centers offer. Within the past 30 years e-mail, online ordering, digital data transfer and storage, and online Skype meetings have enabled business to be conducted with global partners and in reorgani- mote locations. Commercial and retail busi-


nesses no longer need to be concentrated in urban areas to enjoy the efficiencies that formerly attracted many Main Street businesses away from small towns post WWII.

to the National Registry of Historic Places. Each state’s office of historic preservation already has eligibility evaluation inventories. Development of such a type of inventory that corresponds directly to the measurement of the embodied energy represented Environment: People have an innate need by existing building stock could encourage to connect to both their social and natural more or different kinds of aid specific to environments. To examine the environmen- smaller communities needs and constraints. tal impacts of communities as a whole more effectively, better standards for evaluation Civics: People need venues to gather, interneed developed. Standard equivalents of act, and enjoy their community. The US eduembodied energy need developed for dif- cational system has increasingly placed less ferent building types such as brick, wood stress on teaching local participation and loframe, etc to be applied to the number of sto- cal history in favor of national issues esperies and square feet for any particular build- cially since the 1980’s. This leaves citizens ing type. Likewise, standard measurements with little knowledge of how to participate and need developed to include types of zoning contribute to their local communities. Interand community infrastructure such as roads, views and exercises conducted with the case sewers, and other such utilities. These infra- study community of Coggon, IA indicate that structure measurement standards could be residents both young and old identify with developed by quantifying amounts of mate- the historic fabric of their town even though rial and resources used in new construction businesses or services may no longer be ofor suburban developments. Together these fered there. This town fabric serves the comstandards can be further refined to be re- munity as a source of pride, identity, and congionally specific. This will help to ensure that nection to the past. However, little is known small communities do not remain marginal- about existing aid and resources available ized at state or national levels by illustrating to preserve and revitalize their community. the amount of resources and energy present in any given small town or community. Fur- Professional organizations and revitalization thermore this data could be correlated to a programs can more effectively reach these communities existing building stock that has communities, and market themselves, by been evaluated as eligible for nomination adapting their marketing strategies to spon-


sor community gardens or community-movie nights that give communities a reason to gather. By marketing through hosting cost effective events a larger audience is reached while providing opportunities to educate a community about the resources and services offered by that particular sponsor. Other online resources can be created and adapted to help jump-start community revitalization by providing a framework around which they can organize. Many revitalization organizations already do this to an extent, but by providing online server space for a community as well as a searchable community-specific online forum, citizens would be able to upload photos, comments, and meetings minutes all in one convenient user-friendly location while being able to connect directly to documents, forms, and instructions provided by a sponsor organization. Such a resource will be more effective than existing models by providing a convenient user-friendly interface that encourages participation and input from a whole community, and all ages, rather than just a small group of citizens interested in preservation and revitalization.

engagement and empowerment remain the major shortcomings of many existing revitalization and preservation programs. Most organizations currently operate on a model of communities contacting them for resources and support. By addressing engagement through education, technology, and creative marketing strategies, marginalized communities can be provided with reasons to gather that in turn encourage organization and empowerment, leading to action. In order to make and maintain sustainable places that endure, people must first believe that they are capable of making a difference. That begins by cultivating togetherness and laying out a path for citizen organizations to easily follow and be engaged in. This is best summed up by Douglas Kelbough, a professor of architecture and Urban & Regional Planning at Taubman College in Michigan:

The success of revitalization efforts to effectively aid communities under 5,000 depends on their ability to address economic restructuring, preservation and enhancement of built and natural environments, as well as social engagement. Of these three, social

The nature of great tales is neither that they are timeless or even that they are all that great in and of themselves. The truth about great tales is that through the lives of others we can see ourselves alive in another time and place, and somehow that holds mean-

“If a building, a landscape, or a city is not beautiful, it will not be loved, if it is not loved, it won’t be maintained and improved. In short, it won’t be sustained. (Kelbough, Douglas, pg. 67).


ing for the fleeting time we share on this earth. It is much more rare, and all in all less significant, the big events, the warp threads, which we use to weave time together. It is the secondary threads, the wefts, which make the cloth, and give it substance. It is the people whose lives and stories are fleeting, and extraordinarily ordinary that has put the meat on our bones. It is through their trials and sacrifices that we find ourselves here today living with their remnants and memories and moving toward the future.




INDEX OF RESOURCES “About Main Street.” PreservationNation Homepage. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, <>. - Provides information regarding the Main Street Program through The National Trust for Historic Preservation. Contains subsequent information in regards to the scope of the program, the process for application, and as well as precedent communities that have utilized the program

“About the National Trust for Historic Preservation.” PreservationNation Homepage National Trust for Historic Preservation. <>. -Provides forms and materials regarding the process of registering a property to the National Register of Historic Places. Details what kinds of properties are eligible and the provides forms and examples completed nominations. Includes links to state offices of historic preservation as well as the Main Street Program.

Atlas of Rural and Small Town America: Go to the Atlas.” <>. - An interactive map that illustrates population, demographic, and economic shifts of rural America based on most recent Census data.


“Census Bureau Homepage.” Census Bureau Homepage. <>. - Archives of the United States Census that can be downloaded both as Excel documents or PDF’s. Information from here can be graphed and used to show population, demographic, and economic trends.

Census Publications.” USDA. <> - List of publications provided by the USDA Census that provides more concise summaries of their collections of data.

Community Development Block Grant Program.” HUD/U.S. CDBG. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development, - The CDBG program provides annual grants on a formula basis to 1209 general units of local government and States. It is a flexible program that provides communities with resources to address a wide range of unique community development needs.


“Downtown Revitalization.” <>. - Site administered through the USDA that links to full-text handbooks, planning tools, case studies, funding resources, organizations, revitalization strategies, and more to assist a community considering a downtown revitalization project

Exemption Requirements - Section 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organizations.” Internal Revenue Service.,,id=96099,00.html - Details requirements and qualifications of an organization to be listed as a non-profite 501C3 organization, which entitles it to many grants and funding opportunities that for-profit organizations are not eligible.

HUD Grants. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development,>. - Organization through the US federal government that is administered through each state. Their mission statement reads: HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business.


National Register of Historic Places Nomination Forms -- Part of the National Park Service.” U.S. National Park Service - Experience Your America. <>. - Direction link the nomination forms that must be completed for a property to be added to the National Register of Historic Places.

A, Robertson K. “The Main Street Approach to Downtown Development: An Examination of the Four-Point Program.” Journal of Architectural and Planning Research. Print. - Details the four point approach to Main Street revitalization that is the basis of the Main Street Programs approach through the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Rubman, Kerri. A Community Guide to Saving Older Schools. Publication. Washington, DC: National Trust For Historic Preservation, 2000. - A publication that details strategies and approaches that promotes keeping older schools in town or adaptively reusing them once they have become adandoned.

“Rural Community Assistance Partnership.” <>. - RCAP works in small, rural communities across the United States, its terri tories, and in tribal areas. Most of the communities where RCAP works are low-income and have a population under 2,500. RCAP provides custom-


ized, in-person technical assistance and training services, financial assistance, and information and publications to help communities operate efficient water and wastewater systems that are in compliance with regulations. RCAP’s assistance enables communities to provide a reliable, safe and clean supply of drinking water and a sanitary wastewater disposal system. The health of residents is protected, the environment is cared for, and the economies of whole communities are supported by this critical infrastructure.

“Rural Community Building.” < communities-program/>. - An organization ran out of the Farm Bureau Federation. Farm Bureau is an independent, non-governmental, voluntary organization governed by and representing farm and ranch families united for the pupose of analyzing their problems and formulating action to achieve educational improvement, economic opportunity and social advancement and, thereby, to promote the national well-being.

“Rural Communities.” Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. <>. - IATP works locally and globally at the intersection of policy and practice to ensure fair and sustainable food, farm and trade systems.

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Neighborhoods, and More.” Stats about All US Cities - Real Estate, Relocation Info, Crime, House Prices, Cost of Living, Races, Home Value Estimator, Recent Sales, Income, Photos, Schools, Maps, Weather, Neighborhoods, and more.

This Place Matters.” The National Trust for Historic Preservation, <>. - A community empowerment campaign run through the Natioal Trust for Historic Preservation, where people can upload photos of places that matter to them and flag them on an interactive map.

“The Urban Land Institute.” The Urban Land Institute. <>. - ULI documents best practice and publishes books to impart cumulative knowledge to help the development community continuously improve its performance. ULI initiates research that anticipates emerging land use trends and issues, proposing creative solutions based on that research. In local communities, ULI district councils bring together a variety of stakeholders to find solutions and build consensus around land use and development challenges

USDA Rural Development-RD Home.” < - A program through the USDA that provides financial programs that sup-


port such essential public facilities and services as water and sewer systems, housing, health clinics, emergency service facilities and electric and telephone service. They promote economic development by supporting loans to businesses through banks , credit unions and communitymanaged lending pools. They offer technical assistance and information to help agricultural producers and cooperatives get started and improve the effectiveness of their operations, and provide technical assistance to help communities undertake community empowerment programs.



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Making Place: Sustainability and Small Communities in the 21st Centuy  

This document is my Master's Project through The Department of Landscape Architecture at The University of Oregon. It focuses on sustaining...

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