Chester H. Liebs

University of Vermont (UVM) Historic Preservation Graduate Program

Among the earliest programs of its kind after the pioneering program at Columbia University, the University of Vermont (UVM) Historic Preservation Graduate Program was founded by Chester H. Liebs in 1975. According to Liebs’ educational vision, the interdisciplinary program extended theory and practice outside of the classroom, allowing students to gain valuable hands on experience as well as engage with the local and regional community. 

Graduate students in the Historic Preservation program came from a wide variety of academic backgrounds.  Some were lawyers, carpenters, or historians, while many were simply motivated to learn how to preserve architecture because of their own personal experiences with historical structures.  The curriculum included readings and discussions on preservation theory, tests on architectural terms and history, on-site studies, out of state field trips, final projects where students carried out their own preservation reports, and community advocacy projects.  While Liebs is now a professor emeritus, the program continues to this day as part of his legacy.


Historic Preservation graduate students field recording the American Precision Museum in Windsor, Vermont, 1976.

MSS 843 BC, Box 13 Folder 7, Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico.

 

Graduate students on a field trip to Windsor Ruins, Mississippi 1976.

MSS 843 BC, Box 13 Folder 7, Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico.

 

Chester H. Liebs with students at the c. 1850's Central Railroad of Georgia Shops, photo taken c. 1980.

MSS 843 BC, Box 13 Folder 7, Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico.

Vermont Advocacy

Every year the UVM Historic Preservation graduate students would take on a larger “Advocacy Project” that prioritized research on a particular local area toward the preservation of the architecture, and consequently the history of the area.  Examples include a study of Art Deco architecture in Vermont, the development of a historic preservation badge for Boy Scouts, and two different projects on The Old North End, a historic neighborhood in Burlington, Vermont.

 

Flyer from the University of Vermont’s Advocacy Project in 1984-1985, “North of Pearl, West of Willard: Tradition and Change in the Old North End” featured a slide-tape program of interviews of current residents speaking about how the neighborhood has changed over the years.

MSS 843 BC, Box 12 Folder 29, Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico.

 

Here are two links to videos from the "North of Pearl, West of Willard" student advocacy projects:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNHIFKxAjyw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IS-gmdFUIcI

Another 25 minute slidefilm:

https://www.cctv.org/watch-tv/programs/north-pearl-west-willard-slide-show-and-community-comments

 

 

North End residents gather at the corner of Elmwood Ave. and North Street on October 11, 1986.  This project, "Exploring the Future of the North End" was one of a series of events presented by the University of Vermont's Historic Preservation Program and the Burlington Community Land Trust.  The project featured a slidefilm that prompted viewers to ask, “What happens next?”, and help the community plan for the future of the neighborhood.  This postcard serves as a “family portrait” of 150 North End residents.

MSS 843 BC, Box 12 Folder 33, Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico.

 

Possibilities Publication

Possibilities was a publication edited by Chester H. Liebs that focused on the management of Vermont’s built environment. The first volume was published in 1976 and it continued on an occasional basis until 1992. It was designed to be saved and cataloged as a permanent resource on the built environment.

A description from the first publication reads, "POSSIBILITIES is designed to inform Vermont communities of the opportunities for constructive economic growth through the responsible management of existing physical resources.  Physical resources consist of the traditional fabric of our towns and cities - buildings, streets and neighborhoods which interact to make each community unique.  These resources can be effectively managed by the public and private sectors to provide increasing economic and social advantages to the community."

 

Volume 1, Number 1 of Possibilities published July 1978.

MSS 843 BC, Box 13 Folder 8, Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico.

Vermont Visual Laboratory

The “Vermont Visual Laboratories” project allowed local residents to preview townscape changes in the different communities (Waterbury, 1973; St. Albans 1979; and Burlington and Williston, 1988-89).  Using three dimensional models designed to be viewed at eye level, local residents, architects and designers, and public officials could transform views of the landscape and buildings to test the overall effect of proposed design changes.

Poster for the National Endowment for the Arts funded Vermont Visual Laboratory, 1989.

MSS 843 BC Box 12 Folder 35, Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico.

Student photographing Visual Laboratory Project, 1973.

MSS 843 BC, Box 13 Folder 7, Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico.

 

Liebs (with pointer) and UVM Historic Preservation students looking at the Visual Laboratory for St. Albans, Vermont, 1979.

Image courtesy of Chester H. Liebs' personal archive.

Vermont Barn Again!

“BARN AGAIN!” was an influential program responsible for encouraging the conservation and re-use of historic barns across the country and is an example of the major national historic preservation initiatives developed by the alumni of Liebs’ UVM program.  Sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Successful Farming magazine, “BARN AGAIN!” was founded and directed by program alumna Mary Humstone.  In 1993, the University of Vermont Historic Preservation Program partnered with the Humstone, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and EPIC (Kellogg Foundation funded Environmental Programs in Communities), to investigate how the national “BARN AGAIN!” program might be adapted in Vermont.  This successful program, also co-sponsored by the Vermont Department of Agriculture sought applications for eligible projects with the stated aim of “Rewarding Farmers for Preserving Vermont’s Historic Farm Buildings.”

Left: Poster from Vermont's Barn Again! program.

MSS 843 BC, Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico.

Right: The McCauslands, one of the families who won the barn preservation competition, in front of their barn, 1994.

Image courtesy of Chester H. Liebs' personal archive.