Tag Archives: Architecture

Updates on Aaron Beede and UND’s Digital Press

One of the only known 6:23AM screen shots from the NDDOT road conditions website on January 21, 2015.

One of the only known 6:23AM screen shots from the NDDOT road conditions website on January 21, 2015.

It’s about 6:20AM (at least as I sit down to type), and the snow is letting up. I’m sitting in a hotel room in Minot, Ward County, North Dakota, on the eastern edge of the Bakken. I have a short field-research trip to the west, but I’m temporarily yielding to the ND Department of Transportation’s road conditions map. Which appears like this, at left. I’m updating this blog post with a couple items on my brain.

The first is another public history sighting of Reverend Aaron McGaffey Beede, PhD. Beede figures seriously in the history of North Dakota, and only a handful of scholars have sifted through his papers. Last week, during a lunch meeting in the Peacock Alley, in historic downtown Bismarck, I sat at a table and looked over the picture to my left. In addition to offering delicious food (I ordered the half-prime rib lunch special with chips), the owners of the historic Peacock Alley have reproduced numerous local historical photos to hang on the walls. This was one of them. There is a gentleman addressing the legislature, with cigar in left hand. I accidentally cut out of the photo the ash tray at the foot of the podium. Believe me: it was there. Those were different times.


Note the ND legislator from the ’20s or ’30s, with cigar in left hand, and the nameplates on the desks behind him. “Beede, Grand Sioux” is behind him.

Behind that, behind the name Saumur of Grand Forks, is “Beede, Grand Sioux” agency or county. It was great to see the photo, and that is about all I have on it right now. I’ll do some more tracking on this. Beede figures into a chapter of my ongoing dissertation which, roughly, figures into how and why the US-Dakota Wars were remembered on the northern Great Plains. Beede was formative in shaping and pushing that memory in one direction, arguing just after the turn of the 19th century that Natives need to be listened to and allowed to tell their version of history. It was serious push-back against the Social Darwinian and Manifest Destiny crowd (some of which is still around today).

And finally, the third item is a hot-off-the-digital presses book, the second title from University of North Dakota’s The Digital Press, Visions of Substance: 3D Imagining in Mediterranean Archaeology (edited by Bill Caraher and Brandon Olson). The work is an anthology of blog posts Caraher charged guest writers with publishing at his blogspot linked to here. Susan Caraher edited the blog posts to comb out any of the craziness that is inherent in on-the-spot blogs. Caraher and Olson told the guest writers to respond to the following questions in each post. The questions include:

  1. How do we understand the current crop of 3D modeling technologies in the context of the history of archaeological imaging? Are the most optimistic readings of this technology a mere echo of earlier enthusiasm for photography in an archaeological context or is this somehow qualitatively different?
  2. Is there an emerging consensus on best practices of 3D imaging of archaeological sites? What are the current limits to this kind of technology and how does this influence the way in which data is collected in the field?
  3. How do we understand archival considerations for 3D models and their dependent data? For example, what happens when we begin to prepare archaeological illustrations from 3D models collected in the field and processed using proprietary software? How do we manage the web of interrelated data so that future archaeologists can understand our decision making?
  4. What is the future of 3D modeling in archaeology? At present, the 3D image is useful for illustrating artifacts and — in some cases — presenting archaeological and architectural relationships, but it has yet to prove itself as an essential basis for analysis or as a viable medium for communicating robust archaeological description. Will 3D visualization become more than just another method for providing illustrations for archaeological arguments?

Without going further into this (it’s about 6:50AM, and I need to move forward with the morning), you can read the entire collection of academically produced and academically edited and academically published essays, for free, at this link here. Thanks Bill and Brandon and Susan for compiling this. I know there will be many more.

Victorian Medallions in Downtown Bismarck


A 2014 photo of the southwest elevation of the Bismarck Auditorium (Belle Mehus).

Yesterday I took a jaunt around downtown Bismarck to capture some images of historic buildings. Autumn has turned to winter, and this means the glorious deciduous leaves are no longer. At least until spring. This also means that it is a great time to take photos of historic buildings (or buildings in general): just like the presence of leaves gives some good angles for photography, so does the absence of leaves. I ended up sauntering around the beautiful Bismarck Auditorium, renamed the Belle Mehus some years ago during a much-needed and -deserved rehabilitation and restoration. An excellent history of the Belle is linked to here on the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony’s Orchestra’s website.

Erected in 1913 and opened in 1914, this auditorium was typical for its time, at least in the sense that opera houses provided the entertainment before the rise of television, radio, movies and iPhones. Traveling opera companies would make the rounds on railroad, stopping in one town after another (much like touring bands today). When visiting historic opera houses, take note of how close they are to the historic railroad: one can imagine an opera company arriving by rail with all the graceful bustle of offloading at the train depot, making their way to a hotel and preparing for one or three days wortOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAh of performances.

It is fantastic to see opera houses restored, or repurposed. It is literally hard to come by this type of stone and brick monumental architecture, at least today. So that’s what I did yesterday: enjoyed the rehabbed and preserved aesthetics of the Belle Mehus, the Bismarck Auditorium in historic downtown Bismarck, North Dakota. I snapped a photo of the copper Victorian medallion centered at the top of the Belle, too. Michael Gilbertson even drove by, managing to roll down his window in time to give me a drive by “Hi Aaron!”


The large copper, shield medallion with Victorian ornamentation centered on the west elevation at the top of the Bismarck Auditorium. In winter, it is possible to get this photo due to the absence of the leaves.


Green Spaces at North Dakota State University

I’ve been in conversation with some friends and colleagues on the campus of North Dakota State University (NDSU) as to where the latest proposed STEM APE (Area of Potential Effect) should be located and, eventually, built. Thus far, NDSU administration is leaning toward putting the important STEM center just to the east of the Memorial Union, requiring the bulldozers to first knock out some historic trees (yes, such ecology exists) and the beautiful and quaint historic Nelson building on campus. So NDSU is now circulating a kind of after-the-proposed-planning-fact survey to gauge student interest.

This is how I answered a couple questions on page 2 of the survey, and I also provided them with all of my contact information.

1) In our broader culture where horizontal asphalt parking lots and strip malls are the norm, it seems not only important but paramount to ensure that North Dakota State University protects historically green, recreational spaces at the heart of our campus. Theodore Roosevelt carved out national green spaces throughout the American West so that the American population could re-create themselves by being in and connecting with the grasses, trees and shrubs. This is where we get the word recreation: our ability to return to natural or artificial landscapes to, as they say, get away from it all, if but momentarily. This is another reason why Island Park in downtown Fargo was created, as well as large green spaces on the eastern seaboard of the United States (take New York’s Central Park as a prime example).

2) The Elm trees within the proposed STEM APE are historical hybrids, a variety resistant to the Dutch Elm disease that nearly wiped out the entire American Elm species in North Dakota. The American Elm, by the way, is the state tree of North Dakota. There is a bit of irony at play every time North Dakota State University obliterates, or proposes to obliterate, a piece of its local ecological history. We as a state have so few trees to begin with. Why not just build the STEM building in a parking lot, or a place on campus where there aren’t any trees? By doing this, it would increase the verticality of the campus while simultaneously preserving green space.

I encouraged them to get a hold of me if they want a proper study of their proposed APE(s). This, in turn, would help guide decision making so that the best possible construction solution could be arrived at. Who knows what will come of this. It is their call. We hope they make the right decision.

Garages Then and Now

Governor's MansionThe Former Governors’ Mansion of North Dakota (1893-1960) in Bismarck. This is the southeast elevation. The carriage house is a separate structure behind the house, built in the days before garages became permanent attachments in the design of homes. Carriage houses and garages were often not attached to the homes, and were hidden (this in contrast to garages being the central foci of the home today — friend, colleague and fellow blogger Richard Rothaus has some more thoughts on that linked to here). One hundred years ago, horses were smelly (or organic) and automobiles were noisy and they produced exhaust and smelled of petroleum and they leaked a lot of oil. If you were elite-elite, you would install a carousel in your carriage house to rotate your automobile 180-degrees since said automobiles didn’t yet have a reverse function (this is a feature of the carriage house/garage at the American-Swedish Institute in Minneapolis). There was always a chance (or thought) that automobiles would or could catch fire. So it was better to keep them separate from the house. As well, you’ll often see kitchens from elite late-19th century homes as separate structures from the rest of the house for this reason too: if the kitchen went up in flames, at least the house would be spared.

Hermetically Sealed Hotels

A hermetically sealed hotel room in a spiffy new hotel.

A hermetically sealed hotel room in a spiffy new hotel. Note how there is no device on the window to open said window to the outside world.

In the last month and a half, I have stayed in several hotels, two of which were very spiffy and new, and completely sealed off from the outside world. By this I mean that there was no way to circulate outside air directly into the hotel room. Sure, they have these conditioned air units, but I’m a little weary of these suckers since it doesn’t take long for imperial fungus to start colonizing said A/C units — then, when we turn them on in hermetically sealed hotels because we’re human and animal and we like some kind of air movement, the A/C units are just blasting us with some potential super fungus, this shooting directly down into the capillaries of our lungs.

When it comes to the layouts of these spiffy new hotels, I’m sure there are reasons for the engineering or, at best, architectural design of such structures. I sure would like to see the arguments for the designs (perhaps intended for super smoggy places). But if I’m sitting in a hotel situated in a place on the planet that has comparatively good to great air, and especially if it is during a fresh rain or thunder storm, I would rather have the option of cracking a window open (preferably on a sliding track or pane rather than with a brick). For now, oh well (this is where I insert the obligatory Jeremy Bentham, Panopticon reference).