2015 UMW Center for Historic Preservation Book Prize Winner

Fredericksburg, Va. – The 2015 Historic Preservation Book Prize, sponsored by the University of Mary Washington’s Center for Historic Preservation, has been awarded to A City for Children; Women, Architecture, and the Charitable Landscapes of Oakland, 1850-1950 by Marta Gutman, professor of architectural and urban history at the City College of New York and The Graduate Center/CUNY.  The University of Chicago Press published A City for Children in 2014.


In its assessment of this book, the Book Prize Jury especially appreciated Gutman’s interdisciplinary scholarship.  In a wide ranging study that draws upon a multitude of sources, Gutman effectively combines nuanced social history, vernacular architecture, and urban planning with issues of landscape and gender studies that resonate with modern historic preservation.  Gutman’s sharply written study addresses the use and reuse of everyday buildings in Oakland, California by enterprising women who sought to improve urban living conditions for children of working-class families, many of which struggled socially and economically as the city was transformed in rapid fashion by industrial capitalism and top-down planning and development schemes.


The jury found that Gutman made a strong case for how urban landscapes can be understood as reflecting gender and race, particularly by placing women as active agents in the built environment.  While members of Oakland’s  , these women operated publicly as social reformers and political advocates for disadvantaged children of different ethnic backgrounds.  Their adaptive reuse of commonplace buildings relates to current preservation concerns over retaining and repurposing everyday architecture.  Also, this historical study performs well as an object lesson for why preservationists should care about such buildings and places, and the consequences of losing these historic resources.


In addition, Gutman’s book advances the more recent topics of children and charity work, including their place in local communities.  Ultimately Gutman retains community, rather than discrete individuals, as the central focus.  Women, children, and charity did play a noteworthy role in Oakland’s landscape and society, but so did and do the power of corporations and city governments.  As seen in Gutman’s narrative and in cities today, the latter institutions retain the capacity to affect both positive and negative change.


In making its selection, the jury focused on books that break new ground or contribute to the intellectual vitality of the preservation movement in theory, philosophy or method.  Entries may come from any of the disciplines that relate to the theory or practice of historic preservation and nominations may be from any source.


Members of the Jury for the Historic Preservation Book Prize for 2015 were Steven Hoffman, Professor and Coordinator for the Historic Preservation Program in the Department of History, Southeast Missouri State University; Megan Rosengrant, undergraduate major in Historic Preservation, University of Mary Washington; Rebecca J. Shepherd, Director of the Masters in Historic Preservation Program at the University of Delaware; Andrea Livi Smith, Associate Professor and chair of the Department of Historic Preservation, University of Mary Washington; Aubrey Von Lindern, Architectural Historian, Virginia Department of Historic Resources; and, Jury Chair, Douglas W. Sanford, Professor and Prince B. Woodard chair of Historic Preservation, University of Mary Washington.


The Jury seeks nominations for the 2016 Historic Preservation Book Prize.  To be eligible a book must be first available in the United States between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2015.  Letters of nomination from any source and six copies of the nominated book must be postmarked by February 15, 2016 and sent to Michael Spencer, Director, Center for Historic Preservation, University of Mary Washington, 1301 College Avenue, Combs 131, Fredericksburg, VA  22401-5300.

The formal UMW announcement can be found at  http://www.umw.edu/news/2015/05/06/umw-announces-2015-historic-preservation-book-prize/

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