Monthly Archives: November 2013

Skipping Black Friday

The storefront window display at River Reader Bookstore in Lexington, MO, shows that they mean business this Saturday.

The storefront window display at River Reader Bookstore in Lexington, MO, shows that they mean business this Saturday.

I’ve never really jumped onto the Black Friday bandwagon. I’m not really a morning person, and I’m usually still experiencing the “turkey coma” after a full day of feasting on Thanksgiving. I’m usually more of a last-minute, oh-my-goodness-tomorrow-is-Christmas kind of a shopper, and certainly not in any hurry to beat crowds let alone be trampled by other shoppers eager to snatch that “gotta have it” gift. Overall, Black Friday has nothing I’m interested in. It’s just not my cup of tea.

However, there is another shopping day directly following it that I can wholeheartedly say that I won’t miss. Small Business Saturday.

Why do I support this, and not the other?

  • Our downtowns thrive off of small businesses. They are at the hearts of our communities, and by supporting these businesses you are giving back to your community by keeping your tax dollars LOCAL.
  • Small businesses and the products and services they provide bring CHARACTER to Main Street. As shop owners set up shop and pursue their American Dream, they bring their personalities, passions, and values into their businesses in ways that Big Box stores cannot. They are as unique as their products.
  • They usually have a goal or a story to express what their store is all about, and are generally approachable enough and CONNECTED with the community to share it with you.

Small Business Saturday was established in 2010, and has been gaining steam over the last several years. Just last year it helped bring 70 million shoppers to Main Street, generating about $5.5 billion going straight into their local economies, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s estimates. That’s certainly nothing to scoff at. Here’s to hoping that this year can be even more successful than the last.

For more information and to find participating businesses, visit the event’s website here. You can also get connected and follow the movement on Facebook and Twitter @ShopSmall, then tweet your amazing finds #ShopSmall.

Why do you love small businesses? Leave us your reasons in the comments.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Liana Twente

Past to Present Research, LLC

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Posted by on November 27, 2013 in Main Street


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Piecing Together the Puzzle

Wood MoldingI used to live in a 1920s bungalow. In its early years, the house accommodated a single family. But sometime after the Second World War the house was split into four apartments to welcome in more residents. (SPOILER ALERT: We’ll cover this in a future blog post!) Being the old house/architecture nerd that I am, I would sometimes just sit and think about the house’s original layout, getting clues from details around my apartment and my recollection of the other units. The setup of the kitchen and dining area was pretty easy to determine, but mystery features such as the extra closet within my bedroom closet was pretty puzzling. (Yes, my closet had a closet. Go ahead, be jealous.)

One evening I was lounging on the couch in the neighboring apartment, enjoying conversation. All the while I was trying to hide the fact that my mind was drifting again, trying to fit together the pieces of the puzzle. That’s when I noticed it, a large rectangular outline in the ceiling. Could it be…? YES! The original location of the staircase! One more question answered!

Our houses have this uncanny ability to give us clues – walls really can talk, if you listen closely. I’ve said before that homes are organic, living things, constantly growing and changing with our needs and values. Rooms can be added, expanded, remodeled, etc., and it’s all part of the story. Here’s a few things to look for:

  • Molding. If you find that the molding changes style (from decorative to plain), is not completely exposed, or of different materials, it may be an indication that there was an addition. Sometimes this may also give you an idea of when that change was made. In the case of my apartment, the design of the wood molding in the living room was the same on all four walls, but along one wall pine was used instead of oak. This can often indicate an era of economy, as well — oak, walnut, and other finer woods were usually preferred before softer woods such as pine. These details gave me clues that indicated that the wall was built to separate the two apartments on the main floor.
  • Building Materials. Perfect example of this is foundations, something we touched on a bit in the past. If you find multiple materials used as the foundation to your home – stone, brick, concrete block – it’s a good bet that an addition was made. You may also recognize that the bricks don’t match in color, size, or quality, another hint that construction was done in several stages. The same could be said for interior details, such as the wood floors throughout your home.
  • Outlines in the Walls. If walls are built or entrances closed, there’s usually a footprint left behind. Short of replacing the wall or strategically placing a large piece of furniture in front of it, it’s difficult to cover up this alteration. The same principle applies to the exterior, as well.
There once was a gracefully arched window here, now closed off and covered with brick.

There once was a gracefully arched window here, now closed off and covered with brick.

These little traces of evidence give us quite a bit of data about the house and its history, though it’s not always available. Homes that have been gutted and rehabbed lose much of this information, sometimes leaving us only with speculations about the house’s development.

Tracing the history of your home is what we do, and finding these details about the structure is part of the service we provide to our clients. We dig in to find these clues, and use documentation to find the proof to support them. Knowing these details are just as important about discovering the history of your home or property as the names and stories attached to them. For more information, or to get your own personal consultation, visit our website and contact us at

Liana Twente

Past to Present Research, LLC

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Posted by on November 20, 2013 in Documenting History


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Why A Plaque Doesn’t Always Mean Designation

PlaqueIn a neighborhood I once lived, there were two houses nearby with matching black plaques at the front of their yards marking them as historic homes. Only one of these houses, though, is on the National Register of Historic Places. How can that be?

Just because a historic home or building has a plaque doesn’t mean that it’s listed on the National Register. You can put a plaque on anything for any reason, really. I once even saw a plaque that read, “On this site in 1897, nothing happened.” But in all seriousness a plaque typically denotes significance, just not always designation. Cities may deem a property as a local landmark, or a local historical society like the Native Sons and Daughters of Greater Kansas City might recognize special properties or places that tell a story. Such is the case with the two matching plaques previously mentioned.

One of many plaques YOU could have at your property. Available for properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

One of many plaques YOU could have at your property. Available for properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Listing a property on the National Register is just another way of recognizing its significance. And by “significance,” I don’t necessarily mean that someone famous slept there or died there. Sure, people associated with the property could give it enough credence to designate it as a historic property, but it could also be considered for the architecture, the architect, the era in which it was built, and, in the cases of historic districts, the surrounding properties that give context to a larger story. Having one or more of these qualities might just make your property eligible. This is applicable not only to homes, but also to commercial buildings, schools, barns and farmsteads, bridges, etc. If you’d like to know if your property is eligible, inquire with the State Historic Preservation Office.

But the layperson usually can’t describe what it means to be designated without rattling off one of numerous misconceptions. The most widely accepted myth is that a designated National Register property will be subject to all sorts of government regulations, and you won’t be able to do anything to improve your property without being penalized. This is far from the truth. In reality, this designation puts no restrictions on the property unless federal preservation tax credits have been used to fund projects. In fact, listing your property could make you eligible to use those tax credits to knock things off of your “honey do” list.

Here’s the thing. A house, a building, is actually a living thing. We don’t expect it to be stagnant and non-functional. By design, our homes are meant to be functional and assist us in the lives we live. Feel free to update that kitchen or bath without fear of being shunned or stripped of your historic designation. You don’t have to choose between historic and functional — you can have both! Even a plaque, if you want it.

For further clarification on all of your pressing questions about the National Register, read this article from the Preservation Nation Blog that goes into detail about all of those facts and fallacies.


Liana Twente

Past to Present Research, LLC

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Posted by on November 13, 2013 in Historic Preservation


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Five Minute Memoirs

SURFACE20 - WIN_20131104_131924Each year around the month of November we see a lot of buzz around the internet about NaNoWriMo – or, as we speak it in plain English, National Novel Writing Month. It’s a challenge that has rapidly grown with followers since its inception in 1998, encouraging amateur writers to put pens to paper or click away on their keyboard or typewriters and create a novel during the month of November. The goal, ultimately, is to write 50,000 words and tap into your creativity. At the time that I’m writing this, the number of writers registered through NaNoWriMO’s website was just shy of 250,000, and it will continue to climb. It’s kind of a big deal.

Since I heard about this a few years ago I have told myself I would participate in it…one of these days. And why not? There’s a multitude of writing groups at independent book stores, libraries, and schools in almost every community that are holding workshops and acting as support groups for each other as they press on through the month to hit that grueling word count goal at the end of the month. Bloggers go crazy this time of year sharing their enthusiasm for NaNoWriMo, and it’s nearly impossible to walk into a coffee shop without finding an aspiring novelist furiously pounding away at their laptop to write just one more chapter in their science-fiction thriller or . Still, I have put it off, thinking maybe next year…

I’m really no novelist, but what I do have a passion for is history. Particularly, people’s stories. I have the time to commit to this kind of pursuit, so I really have no reason not to give it a go…maybe with a different twist…

I’ve heard my colleague David Jackson say time and time again that there are very few written accounts of daily life and experiences from the twentieth century currently held in the archives of the Jackson County Historical Society. He would know, he’s the Director of Archives and Education with JCHS. Want to take a guess at how many personal recollections about life during the Great Depression they have? The answer: ONE. And this is from a major event in our nation’s history, from a generation that is quickly dwindling. I, personally, would hate to see our history, through our collective memory, slip away undocumented.

The thing is, we each have this notion that our experiences are non-historical, that we haven’t made an impact on history ourselves. Perhaps, but I can think of a multitude of ways in which – just in the last 10-15 years – we have each experienced how our way of life has changed and shaped our experiences. For example, communication. When I was in middle school, my family had dial-up internet (those tones echo in my mind), and each of us were allotted a certain amount of time to spend online each day. At the same time, long before I got my first cell phone, all of my phone calls were made from our landline, and those calls also had a time limit so that others could use the internet or keep our one phone line open. Just take a moment and think about how much has changed since this scenario. I’m sure you have a similar story to tell.

Which brings me to my point.

This November, I propose a different kind of challenge. I’m calling it Five Minute Memoirs.

What if we were to each take five minutes every day for the remainder of the month, and write about your memories? They could be from your childhood, from yesterday, from any stage in your life. Tell about your daily life. Reveal a long-kept secret or pent-up memory. Where you were when a major event happened. Talk about the economy, in good times and bad. Something strange. Something mundane. Products you’ve used. Family traditions. Company parties. The sky is the limit.

At the end of the month, bundle them all together like essays, and consider sharing them with your friends and family. If you feel generous, share them with us and we would like to share them with our readers (with your permission, of course). You can send us a message through our Facebook page or email us.

Most of all, please consider donating your Five Minute Memoirs to your local historical society. If you’re not sure who to contact, we will help you get in touch with the right people.

So what do you say? Are you up for the challenge?

Liana Twente

Past to Present Research, LLC

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Posted by on November 4, 2013 in Documenting History


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