Relics of the Past

It probably was inevitable that my husband Bart and I would become farmers. We live in Iowa, after all! Bart’s knowledge of livestock, grain and their markets as an ag lender, along with his desire to make investments for our family, led to buying a farm. Today, I can say we’re the proud owners of 158 acres of land and 80 cattle.

Our farm is located in Iowa’s Loess Hills, a beautiful area in the western part of the state that was created by wind-deposited soil (my headshot appearing in the magazine this year was taken in the Loess Hills). The undulating terrain can be challenging, so Bart has spent countless hours since buying the farm, filling in areas of erosion, removing invasive species, improving the ponds so our cattle have natural water sources available to them, building fences and more. While he was working on the farm in August, he texted me a couple photos of a round disc he found on our land (below).

A geodetic marker, part of the National Spatial Reference System.

A Google search uncovered the disc is a geodetic marker, part of the National Spatial Reference System. It was set by the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey in 1950 and actually points with its arrow toward the main triangulation station. The stations are reference points for land surveys, mapmaking, engineering, construction, environmental measurements and geological studies and are protected from disturbance by federal law. Bart and I were pretty amazed by this discovery and invited one of our friends, who is a land surveyor, to take a look. Our friend the surveyor spent an entire day at our farm, “geeking out” over the marker and searching for others. He said the marker likely was placed on our farm because it is one of the highest points in the county.

One of the reasons editing retrofit is so satisfying for me is because our writers constantly are uncovering time capsules within their stories, like my husband uncovered this geodetic marker. One of my majors in college was history, simply because I loved it. Now I get to dive into the history of existing buildings every day and learn about the unexpected discoveries from the past found inside them. I’m not the only one, obviously, that finds delight in these historic items because—as we see time and again within the pages of this magazine—they often are reused within the retrofitted buildings. They maintain a building’s historic character and set it apart from new construction, which attracts tenants looking for unique spaces.

This issue features our second-annual Metamorphosis Awards winners and many of the winning firms found and reused artifacts in their projects. For example, the First Place Multifamily category winner, Hirsch MPG LLC, wanted residents to recognize Fields Lofts’ history as a warehouse for Chicago’s beloved (and now defunct) department store, Marshall Field’s. The interior designer used Marshall Field’s signage from the building in the sixth-floor co-working space and incorporated Field’s iconic shade of green throughout. Read the story.

Marcy Wong Donn Logan Architects has won Metamorphosis Awards two years in a row. (Read about the firm’s 2019 Metamorphosis Awards projects in our November-December 2019 issue, pages 42 and 76.) This year’s winning project is a 1912 powerhouse at Pier 70 in San Francisco. Now imaginative office space, the project maintains its historic character via artifacts from its time as the pier’s electrical substation. For example, the team refurbished a compressor, which once powered shipyard tools, and left the 5-ton bridge crane intact. According to James Madsen, partner with Orton Development, “These projects continue to make sense despite all the challenges because companies with creative cultures seek out special workplaces.”

With a new year approaching, we at retrofit look forward to continuing to find and cover these creative renovation stories for the betterment of our communities and the environment. Cheers to a peaceful and healthy end to 2020 and hope for 2021!

About the Author

Christina A. Koch
Christina A. Koch is editorial director and associate publisher of retrofit.

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