The Henry Glassie Award, first given in 1999, is named for the renowned vernacular architecture scholar and folklorist, and recognizes special achievements in and contributions to the field of vernacular architecture studies. It is awarded intermittently, as deemed appropriate by the VAF Board of Directors.
Remarks given by Sarah Fayen Scarlett at the 2018 Potomac Conference
I’m incredibly honored to have been asked here tonight to help present the 2018 Glassie Award to Alison K. Hoagland, better known to all of us as Kim.
Kim has long been a champion of American buildings -- often some of the humblest and hardest to get to -- and she has also been a champion of vernacular architecture scholarship, through her own active publication and editing, her teaching and mentorship, and her long dedication to the VAF. She served as President of this organization in 2008-09, and before that as First Vice President, elected board member, Papers Selection chair and committee member, as editor of the Special Series published by University of Tennessee Press, and now as Second Vice President in charge of conferences.
As all of us at the VAF are well-attuned to geography, I think we can all appreciate how fitting it is to recognize Kim here on the banks of the Potomac, since Washington, DC has been one of Kim’s home bases over many years. After majoring in American Civilization at Brown University, Kim moved here to DC to attend George Washington University, where she received a master’s in American Studies with a concentration in Historic Preservation in 1979. She went right to work for HABS, where she served as historian and then senior historian until 1994.
In those years, Kim made meaningful contributions to the content and methods of field work at HABS. There, her intrepid spirit and dedication to often neglected cultural resources took her to out-of-the-way-places including being part of the 1984 HABS summer field crew in Gates of the Arctic National Park, which you see here. This and other work in Alaska resulted in Kim’s 1993 book Buildings of Alaska, among the first in the Buildings of the United States series published by the Society of Architectural Historians. Among her lasting contributions to practice at HABS are the guidelines for field documentation that are still followed by field crews of staff and students today.
Now if you draw a line between DC and Alaska you will just about pass by the south shore of Lake Superior -- which became another major home base for Kim, when she took a faculty position at Michigan Technological University in their Industrial Heritage and Archaeology program in 1994. The person who hired her, our colleague Larry Lankton, told me that he’d been trying to hire Kim ever since 1979 when she was the best student in his class at GW -- but she got a better offer from HABS. He’d been trying to steal her away that whole time -- mostly because he knew Kim was the right person to study the company housing and paternalistic landscapes that defined Michigan’s Copper Country, a mining region that boomed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. And indeed she was. Over the next 15 years, Kim documented hundreds of buildings and wove them into a richly interpreted narrative that appeared in 2007 as Mine Towns, University of Minnesota press.
While in the Upper Peninsula, Kim took on the role of teacher and colleague to a new and growing community. She taught the art and science of documenting historic structures to a generation of graduate students, many of whom credit Kim’s class as the basis of their own documentation practices today as scholars and cultural resources managers. She brought experiential learning to her undergraduate students before that was even a thing -- I have heard about a final exam in her History of American Architecture class in which she gave each student a street address and a blank piece of paper and sent them out to write her an interpretation of the building on the spot. It was Kim’s vision that has made the study of the built environment a vital part of our curriculum at Michigan Tech, and I am thankful for that every day, as the inheritor of her faculty position (and also her office and a number of her wall posters). Outside the university, our community has also benefitted from Kim’s dedication to public history. She has written interpretive walking tours, given countless public lectures and architectural tours, written or advised numerous nominations to the National Register, and served as the head of the Keweenaw National Historical Park Advisory Commission, which gives grants for heritage and preservation throughout the region.
Even on top of all of these contributions, perhaps Kim’s most influential role that we celebrate tonight has been in the area of publications. She has been consistently writing and editing meaningful articles and books over her whole career, which taken as a whole have helped establish and drive forward vernacular architecture as an area of scholarship. She has co-edited two editions of Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture, contributed three articles there and to Buildings & Landscapes, as well as to many other journals, edited volumes, and encyclopedias. And she published Army Architecture in the West in 2004. In fact, it was her prolific research and writing drive that ultimately led her to retire early from Michigan Tech because, in her own words, “I have too many books I want to write!” And indeed that’s what she is doing now. Splitting her time between a condo in Capitol Hill and a fabulous 1930s kit-built cabin on the banks of Lake Superior, Kim is continuing to help us decipher the material and cultural meanings of our built environment. Her book The Log Cabin has just come out from the University of Virginia Press; the publication of her book about Bathrooms is imminent; and a new project about building policies for DC rowhouses in underway. In fact, a colleague staying with Kim a few weeks ago was astounded to realize that in one day Kim was taking calls about and writing text for THREE BOOK PROJECTS at the same time! While Kim makes research and writing and publishing look easy, we are recognizing tonight the model that Kim has set for all of us when she creates such rich interpretive context around the keenly observed details of structures and building practices to better understand the lived experience of workers, builders, soldiers, women, and so many others.
As a final note -- just Thursday on our tour of the Western Shore Kim and I both ended up waiting in line for the bathroom at St Francis Xavier Catholic Church. And Kim took it upon herself to go to battle with a dysfunctional paper towel dispenser. And while she was ultimately unsuccessful in fixing this contraption, I actually heard someone say, “Kim, you should get some kind of award for this!” So Kim — for all of your contributions — big AND small — that have furthered the study of vernacular architecture, we present you with the Glassie Award.