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Archives for March 11, 2016

Relocating the past: Headframe from Helena area stirs debate …

After sitting dismantled, idle, and outside in the elements for eight years, efforts are under way to reassemble a century-old silver-mine headframe on the Butte Hill that never stood there.

Supporters of the project say the Alta Headframe, built between 1905 and 1907 south of Helena, can be used to educate people about Butte’s earliest days as a silver-mining town in the 1870s and 1880s before copper became king.

But some wonder why Butte took ownership of the headframe in the first place and why there’s handwringing about it now, given struggles and money limitations to preserve all the Butte relics that earned their history here in the first place.

“My question was why all of a sudden do we have to deal with this?” said Steve Hinick, chairman of the Butte-Silver Bow Historic Preservation Commission. “They dropped this in our laps, and it’s been sitting outside at the Steward mine yard deteriorating.”

Not without interruption, however.

Somebody raided headframe timbers from that mine yard last summer and used them as part of obstacle courses for Evel Knievel Days. It was one of several surprises pulled that angered residents and had county officials scrambling.


Some people, including longtime Butte historian and gardener Norm DeNeal, see great historic value in the 35-foot-tall headframe and hope to have it reassembled off North Main Street where the Clear Grit silver mine shaft used to be in the 1870s.

“We don’t have anything to tell our silver history,” he told commissioners recently before they allowed him to seek a zoning variance for the headframe.

Although it served the Alta silver mine in Wickes, now a ghost town about 55 miles northeast of Butte, DeNeal says it is identical in size and construction to the silver mine headframes in Butte. Most of Butte’s wooden headframes disappeared long ago.

Butte got the headframe in 2008 through a “permanent loan” from the federal Bureau of Land Management. It was taken down as part of mine reclamation work done by the state.

According to approved minutes of a Dec. 1, 2015, meeting of the county’s Historic Preservation Commission, former Historic Preservation Officer Mark Reavis and Planning Director Jon Sesso said they played roles in Butte getting the headframe.

Reavis, a Butte architect who is running for Butte-Silver Bow chief executive, said the Clear Grit site just east of North Main Street and south of Agate Street was a perfect site because it could help interpret what Butte was about in that “missing era.”

Sesso, according to the minutes, said he guessed he was the responsible party when Butte got the headframe in 2008. He didn’t think it was a good idea then, he said, and figured it would probably languish because the county wasn’t in a position to erect it again from rags to riches.

But it has recently resurfaced with competing ideas on where to put it.

Larry Hoffman, an engineer and longtime stalwart of the World Museum of Mining in Butte, told the preservation commission last month that he is a member of the Montana Ghost Town Preservation Society and that the society were interested in the Alta project.

He said the group could provide labor and up to $5,000 to erect the headframe at the mining museum, where it would be cared for in perpetuity, be available to lots of people to see, and be better protected from vandalism.

Hinick favored that and says if it is placed off Main Street as a tourist spot, parking space will be needed and perhaps street work. There are staunch preservationists who don’t want things put here that aren’t from here, he noted. The museum, on the other hand, is about the importance of hard rock mining here and the rest of the world.

Mary McCormick, the county’s historic preservation officer, said if the project was being evaluated from a federal perspective, putting it off Main Street would have an adverse effect because it is not authentic to Butte.

Hinick and preservation commission member Mitzi Rossillon voted for the museum proposal, but three others on the board — including Butch Gerbrandt — recommended the Main Street location.

Gerbrandt said he liked both ideas but said the site on North Main Street could be visited day and night with no admission charge.

“I really think that tourism is a big part of the future of Butte, and the Alta headframe would be another attraction to bring people off the interstate and stop here and become educated about Butte,” he said. “We really don’t have any wooden headframes available to the public.”

DeNeal says he hopes to get local grant money to have the headframe reassembled and secured at the North Main location, although it would be done so a later relocation would be easy if necessary.


And as a way to ensure the timbers don’t sit unused for another eight years, the preservation commission gave DeNeal 18 months to secure financing for labor and signage at the North Main site. He is OK with that. So is Gerbrandt, because the museum can always take it, too.

“It’s high time that those timbers be put back together,” Gerbrandt said.

DeNeal has been the county’s “defacto gardener” for years, doing some contract work for Butte-Silver Bow and other work on his own. He was the master behind Lexington Gardens in Uptown and did the landscaping on the sides of the Berkeley Pit viewing stand, among other things.

McCormick says he’s done wonderful work in Butte and she doesn’t have a problem with the preservation’s recommendation to pursue the North Main location.

And when a few questions were raised at a recent council meeting about how safely the headframe could be erected and maintained there, Commissioner Jim Fisher said it wasn’t a huge engineering feat and DeNeal did great work, so let him go forward. The council agreed.

DeNeal must first get a zoning variance to proceed, and he’s not certain he will get the grant funding. But he said he understood all the concerns raised, including those from people who don’t want it here because it isn’t from here.

Some historians believe places should only highlight relics from there, he said, and some think it’s OK to bring in some items to help illustrate that place in those times. He’s in the latter camp and says the headframe can take visitors back to Butte’s earliest days.

“We don’t tell that story very well,” he said.

Article source:

Finalists for Knight Cities Challenge announced –

New park space along the Green Line light rail corridor, stickers that pledge “I’m Going to Vote Today” and heaters and furniture for outdoor neighborhood events all stand to gain a financial boost from the Knight Cities Challenge.

A national contest to improve city living has narrowed a pool of 4,500 applicants to 158 finalists, including 10 in St. Paul.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will split $5 million between an undisclosed number of grant recipients when winners are announced in April.

The foundation picked 32 winners in March 2015, the first year of the three-year Knight Cities Challenge. The ideas must help retain talented workers in a city, improve civic participation or expand economic prospects for residents in one of 26 communities where the Knight family operated newspapers.

In St. Paul, finalists include a proposal from the Trust for Public Land that would convert a vacant lot along the Green Line into a park for soccer and other activities.

Marketing professor Aaron Sackett hopes to increase participation in local elections by distributing stickers that read “I’m Going to Vote Today” to eligible voters to wear on Election Day.

A proposal from African Economic Development Solutions would provide music, discussions and other public events throughout the Snelling and University avenue area, which some have dubbed “Little Africa” because of the large number of immigrant-run businesses.

The St. Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development has proposed “pop-up beer gardens” in each of the city’s 17 major neighborhood areas as a way to encourage exploration, and outdoor heaters and other public infrastructure to facilitate fall and early spring gatherings.

The St. Paul Riverfront Corp. has recommended creating a “Civic Shed” full of landscaping, outdoor furniture and other portable prototype displays so community groups can test out neighborhood improvements.

More information about the three-year challenge is online at

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Get Ready for Snack Stand and Bike Repair Service at Allen Mall Bathhouse


For this classic Lower East Side structure, sixty years of dormancy is about to end. The old-time bathhouse situated in the Allen Street Mall at Delancey is on the precipice of reactivation. To become a “comfort station,” in the euphemistic lingo of city bureaucracy. Last night, the Parks subcommittee of Community Board 3 made sure it would happen.

The brick building – erected in the 1930s as public restroom for straphangers on the Second Avenue El – is owned by the Parks Department. As such, the agency is collecting criteria to issue a Request for Proposals to redevelop and implement specific neighborhood concessions onsite. The CB3 panel revisited the application last night, having spent the last month deliberating on details.

Several suggestions were voiced during the public meeting. Everyone seemed to be in agreement that the operator needed to be “accessible” to the community. Food vendors onsite must offer a variety of cuisines at affordable price points. They were also receptive to the idea of a bike repair stand, an apt idea given the amount of cyclist traffic in both directions along the mall.

The bathhouse in December 2010

The bathhouse in December 2010

Other recommendations pitched: widening of the median concrete and landscaping to resemble the Mall south of Delancey (potential to affect the protected bike lanes); outdoor seating in warmer months on the northern exposure of the bathhouse; preference that the building remain preserved; and assurance that the public bathroom component on the south side is properly maintained by the vendor partners.

Implementation won’t be easy, though. Millions in funding is needed to not only renovate the median, but the dilapidated structure itself. As it stands, there’s currently $2 million in the bank earmarked for this purpose, from Parks and the now-defunct Lower Manhattan Development Corp. respectively. Plus, an additional $2.2 million (or thereabouts) is reportedly needed to complete the project, which would concurrently fix roughly two-thirds of the stretch between Delancey and Rivington. (The potential partner would be responsible for the building rehabilitation.)

CB3 was in approval to proceed. Next step assuming full board ratification – Parks Department will finalize the RFP, then solicit ideas for the space.

The photogenic Delancey Street bathhouse dates back to the 1930s, and was originally constructed to service passengers on the Second Avenue El. These public restrooms had a short life, and went dark in the early 1950s after the elevated tracks were removed. It’s been a derelict vacancy ever since.


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Neil Sperry: Landscaping the small spaces | The Star-Telegram

Whether you’re on a rambling ranch estate or a zero-lot-line property in town, you have some small spaces that need to be landscaped. It could be along a driveway or near a pool or spa, or it might be in an enclosed entryway alcove — almost everyone with a house will have one or two spots needing landscaping.

For a couple of reasons, these small spots will be some of the most challenging spaces you’ll ever design. First, they’re likely to be near paths and walks, so they’ll be viewed “up close and personal.” Second, they’re going to require that you really know the tools with which you’re working — the plants that will be filling the voids. That’s where we’ll start.

If you’ve ever built and furnished a dollhouse, you know about miniaturizing your thinking. You still have the same goals, but you just think in a different scale.

I’m going to borrow a line from one of the advertisers on my radio program, an electric service provider, that urges us not to plant tall trees beneath power lines. They say you should “know before you grow,” and that very same mindset works great when you’re decorating small spaces outdoors. It’s all a matter of scale.

You can probably already judge things like patio furniture and outdoor living accessories in terms of scale and texture, but you need to do so for your landscape plant choices as well.

Plant breeders have been introducing scores of dwarf shrubs and small shade trees each year for the past couple of decades. Those will be the keys to your success. Don’t plant something that will outgrow its space.

No matter how good it looks when the job is done, pruning is only a temporary fix.

One of the most troubling of all the questions I get begins, “Neil, how far back can I trim my __?” It means that the homeowner has made a mistake, and rather than admitting it and moving the plant to a more spacious area, the person is trying to solve the problem with pruning tools. No matter how good it looks when the job is done, it’s only a temporary fix.

So, getting to more specific solutions, the best of the small shade trees would include Mexican and Traveler redbuds, Teddy Bear Southern magnolias, tree-form crape myrtles (not as good where fallen petals would be a problem), Warren’s Red possumhaw hollies, tree-form yaupon hollies and Japanese maples.

If you need small shrubs that will stay at less than 4 or 5 feet tall at maturity, good choices would be improved forms of Japanese boxwood, dwarf yaupon holly, Carissa holly, dwarf Chinese holly and dwarf Burford holly (last three hollies are prickly, so avoid placing near a walkway), the various nandinas, rosemary cultivars, dwarf aucuba (total shade only), Anthony Waterer spiraea (deciduous) and dwarf abelias.

Most ground covers would technically fit into smaller spaces, but in this case, texture also becomes a consideration. Large-leafed ground covers may be too striking visually. This might be the time to use dwarf mondograss, ajuga, smaller-leafed English ivies (shade only) and even the popular northern ground cover pachysandra (Japanese spurge).

When it comes to annuals and perennials, ask plenty of questions before you buy. Check reference books, read the plant labels, and ask your Texas Certified Nursery Professional for advice. What you don’t want is something that becomes rank and overpowering.

Annuals may be your better bet. They’re colorful from the time that you plant them all the way up to the time you replace them.

In fact, annuals may be your better bet by far. They’re colorful from the time that you plant them all the way up to the time you replace them.

Use wall space and attractive patio pots to steal room for more plants without crowding the beds. Hayracks and wrought iron shelves can hang from masonry walls. Stands and pedestals can give you extra space to view plants almost at eye level.

There are a lot of fine “hardscaping” elements you can bring into small spaces. Where you’re used to using grapefruit-sized river rock in larger areas, use golfball-sized stones where things are tight. They make a nice alternative to planting still more ground covers, and you can choose colors that complement the rest of the area.

Patio furniture certainly has its own textures. Simple, durable and lightweight types are most universally appealing. Large chairs and tables with overstuffed pillows will make a small space appear even tinier — probably not something you want to do.

If you want the sound of running water, there are plenty of small, “plug-and-play” fountains that can be used right out of the box. Enjoy your music outdoors with one or two of the small, portable Bluetooth-compatible speakers. They have very good range and amazing acoustics in very small packages.

And finally there are fragrances. There are good odds that your small space will be confined by walls and fences, and that means that the sweet smells of plants like pinks and pansies will hang around in there with you.

Small spaces are exciting in the landscape. Just keep things simple and tasteful and you’ll love your results.

Neil Sperry publishes Gardens magazine and hosts “Texas Gardening” from 8 to 10 a.m. Sundays on WBAP/820 AM. Reach him during those hours at 800-288-9227. Online:

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How young Muslim activists in Sweden are trying to protect youths from radicalization

When Salahuddin Barakat founded the Islam Academy in 2013, he located it on the edge of Rosengard, a predominantly Muslim neighborhood that has been a flashpoint in Sweden’s sharpening debate over immigration.

It wasn’t his first choice, he said, “but people in central Malmo said we don’t want to rent to Muslims.”

Like other madrasas, as Muslim religious schools are known, the academy teaches the Koran, traditional Sunni Islamic spirituality, sharia law and Arabic.

Unlike many, it also teaches secular topics. Among them: the Swedish language, nature and sports activities, and social responsibility. The last of these includes interreligious dialogue, especially with the Jewish community.

“All our education programs have the effect of immunizing our youth against radicalization,” said Barakat, a 34-year-old imam, who was sitting in his office above the academy’s prayer hall dressed in a pale, ankle-length robe and skullcap.

Germany says it has obtained files on Islamic State members

Germany says it has obtained files on Islamic State members

Germany’s federal criminal police said Thursday they are in possession of files containing personal data on members of the extremist Islamic State group and believe them to be authentic.

The announcement came after Britain’s Sky News reported it had obtained 22,000 Islamic State files on the border…

Germany’s federal criminal police said Thursday they are in possession of files containing personal data on members of the extremist Islamic State group and believe them to be authentic.

The announcement came after Britain’s Sky News reported it had obtained 22,000 Islamic State files on the border…

(Associated Press)

Malmo, the country’s southernmost major city, is the point of entry for most of the immigrants who make their way to Sweden, and many choose to stay there. About 20% of Malmo’s 300,000 people are Muslim, making it one of the most Muslim cities in Western Europe. Rosengard, with a population of 25,000, is often the first district that the city’s newest residents call home.

A volatile mixture of social marginalization and extremist religion in some parts of Rosengard sparked riots against the police in 2008 and 2011. News reports of those incidents have created the image of Rosengard as a “no-go zone” in the minds of many non-Muslim Swedes.

Although many immigrants eventually move to other neighborhoods, Gemila al Kuraishi, 31, still calls Rosengard home.

Al Kuraishi moved from Warsaw as a child with her Polish mother and Iraqi father. Today she manages a pair of settlement houses that provide shelter and social services to teenage migrant boys who are orphaned or separated from their parents. They are precisely the sort of youth who might be vulnerable to extremism — and the sort who is likely to be singled out by nationalist and anti-immigrant groups, who view the youths as a threat.

A Kardashian family affair in Calabasas – LA Times

Add another home to the Kardashian-Jenner compound.

A trust that holds real estate for the love-’em-or-hate-’em reality television family bought a Calabasas home for Kylie Jenner last year. Now the same trust has purchased a house in Calabasas for Rob Kardashian for $2.285 million.

Built in 2005, the East Coast-inspired Traditional is an unusual choice for a bachelor, with its classic brick details, white trim and a front porch framed by a set of detailed pedestals.

Within the 4,256 square feet of interiors are family and living rooms, a center-island kitchen, a library/office, four bedrooms and five bathrooms. A double-height dining room has a butler’s pantry and French doors that open to an intimate courtyard, perfect to keep out the prying eyes of the paparazzi.

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A separate sitting room, dual vanities and soaking tub highlight the master suite.

The outdoor space is a perfect party pad: a built-in barbecue/bar, a fire pit and a swimming pool complete with a raised spa and waterfall feature.

A brick porte-cochère and two-garage sit off to the side of the home. The property sold a decade ago for $1.545 million, records show.

Tomer and Isidora Fridman of Ewing Sotheby’s International Realty were the listing agents. Tomer Fridman also repped Kardashian in the sale.

Kardashian, 28, is a television personality and clothing entrepreneur known on the E! series “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and was a contestant on “Dancing With the Stars.” He launched the sock clothing line Arthur George in 2012.

Rob’s sisters Kourtney and Khloe have their own homes in Calabasas; Kim and matriarch Kris Jenner live nearby in Hidden Hills.

Jason Segel finds his spot in Los Feliz

Los Feliz, long a melting pot for artistic types and more recently a haven for flannel-wearing hipsters, has drawn another notable name to the Griffith Park-adjacent neighborhood: actor Jason Segel. The “How I Met Your Mother” star was the buyer of street artist Shepard Fairey‘s Mediterranean-style home that sold last month for $2.25 million.

The 1920s residence originally hit the market in January for $1.835 million and spurred a bidding war that saw Segel emerge the victor in late February. Fairey bought the home more than a decade ago for $1.356 million.

It’s easy to see why the 2,523-square-foot house, designed by architect H.B. Benson, generated so much interest. Original details include wrought-iron work that wraps the balconies and stairways. Broad archways, decorative tile risers and hand-plastered walls continue the classic look throughout.

A great room topped with vaulted and beamed ceilings has a fireplace and a row of arched windows. A hand-painted mural adorns a banquette in the eat-in kitchen.

A dining room, an office, four bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms make up the rest of the interiors.

A separate creative space used by Fairey, known for creating the Barack Obama “Hope” poster, sits off a central patio. Dining patios, terraces, formal landscaping and a two-car garage used most recently as a painting studio complete the grounds.

Patricia Ruben of Sotheby’s International Realty was the listing agent. Jane Gavens and Mary Brill of John Aaroe Group repped the buyer in the sale.

Segel, 36, is known for his role as Marshall Eriksen on the long-running CBS sitcom. His film credits include “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” (2008), “I Love You, Man” (2009) and “The Muppets” (2011).