Bio: 42 years working experience in historic preservation as a mason, woodcrafter, manager and trainer for the National Park Service. Descriptor: Preserving historic integrity – log structures, former dudes and wrangler, and current trainees.
Blaise’s Story: What would Ann, Karin, Fran and Bernie think? Mention the word “Integrity,” and many would agree it conveys values we hold in high regard. We know instinctively when someone we meet is a person of integrity. Engage that person, and you can feel her or his soundness and strength through your interaction. In the preservation world, “Integrity” carries much of those same qualities. Within preservation, we have a more methodical way of measuring the “Integrity” of an historic property, of determining whether a property continues to tell its story through its location, setting, design, association, workmanship, materials and feeling. You can easily point to any part of White Grass and see its strength through the integrity of its workmanship, design or setting. Yet for me, the “Integrity” of White Grass is more about the feeling it imparts. Let me explain.
Historic properties bear witness to events of our past. They carry a significance that is personal and unique to each of us. That significance is built from the stories, experiences and past lives of those who have come to this property before us. In historic preservation terms, the “Integrity” of a historic property is defined by its ability to convey that significance and those stories. Ever since my first visit to White Grass, I have been in awe of its setting–cabins, trails, fields, mountains and viewshed. I can visualize those whose footprints and stories have preceded me: Bernie Huebner, who served as a “Kid” Dude (1953-60) and Wrangler (1961-62); Karin Gottlieb, Kitchen Help (mid 1960s) and Winter Caretaker (1968); Fran Strawbridge, Dude (1952-53) and Wrangler (1954-57); or Ann Messler Cuddy, Dude, Chore Girl and Wrangler (1946-1950s). I can feel the life that once existed on this ranch.
Today, as I see those field workers, preservation trainees and students who now come to the White Grass Preservation Training center, I cannot help but smile with how perfect a fit this is. How do you preserve the legacy of a place where people’s lives and stories became a part of our collective history? You preserve its very fabric, while breathing new life into it. What better purpose for White Grass than as a center for teaching the protection and preservation of significant places of our past. But more than that, White Grass will bear witness to the next generation of “ranch hands” – preservationists whose own stories will become part of the White Grass experience. It is a continuation of those stories that, I think, would make dudes and wranglers like Bernie, Karin, Fran and Ann proud. That is how we measure “Integrity.”