Author Archive

David Rotenstein

Community-driven mitigation: Murals, canal stones, and a walking tour

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Jack Schmitt has mixed feelings about the way that the Pennsylvania Route 28 project turned out. On one hand, the longtime Pittsburgh historic preservation advocate beams when he talks about how he successfully convinced the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to replicate historic Pennsylvania Canal lock stones in a retaining wall in the urban highway corridor. Read More

My community’s history is racist. How can I correct it?

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This is an exciting and anxiety-producing moment in the United States. It is a time when professional historians are stepping outside their classrooms and consulting practices to push for the removal of Confederate statues and for greater public dialogue about the roles that white supremacy played in the past and how it persists in our communities. Read More

Public art and history: Silver Spring’s Memory Wall

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In the 1990s, Silver Spring, Maryland, was desperate for economic investment and an image makeover. Next door to Washington, D.C., the Montgomery County suburb had suffered from two decades of disinvestment and white flight. Once a thriving community with a booming commercial district and sprawling inner-ring suburban neighborhoods, Silver Spring had become blighted by vacant storefronts and empty parking lots. Read More

A public history role for building bike lanes in cities?

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Gentrification: It’s not just for sociologists and anthropologists any more. Though historians have been making inroads documenting and interpreting gentrification and displacement, there are abundant opportunities for historians to make significant contributions in public policy and planning. One recent kerfuffle involving proposed bicycle lanes and African American churches in Washington, DC, provides a window into how a better understanding of the past could have defused a racially and class charged debate over painted lines in public spaces.

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Historic preservation shines a light on a dark past

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Editor’s note: This post continues a series commemorating the anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act by examining a past article published in The Public Historian, describing its significance and relating it to contemporary conversations in historic preservation. 

Between 2011 and 2014, the city of Decatur, Georgia, demolished 200 public housing units built in 1940, under the auspices of slum clearance. Read More

Fragile history in a gentrifying neighborhood

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Over the past few years, I have been writing about gentrification and how it intersects with history in an Atlanta, Georgia, suburb. Twenty-five months and more than 50 interviews after I started talking with people and documenting neighborhood change in the Oakhurst area of Decatur, I met playwright Valetta Anderson, who works at Atlanta’s Woodruff Arts Center. Read More