What to Buy a Preservationist 2013

Matt Armstrong, a fellow graduate of the University of Florida’s historic preservation master’s program, wrote the following gift guide for the preservationists and architects on your Christmas list. Matt is the project manager for UF’s Government House Digital Preservation Center, volunteers for the Tolomato Cemetery Preservation Association  in St. Augustine, and grows a mean beard.

News flash for all you gentiles out there: As of post time there are exactly two weeks until Christmas day.  That’s 10 business days.  With the seasonal increase in orders and shipping, it can take up to 5 days to receive an online purchase, assuming you don’t pony up the cost of expedited shipping.  This means you now have 5 days to get your online Christmas shopping done.  This post is here to help.  Grandma: Yankee Candle.  Dad: Hillshire Farms Sausage and Cheese Pack.  Uncle Frank: novelty beer koozie.  See, we’re moving right along here!  But what about that hard-to-buy for preservationist or architect on your list? (hint: this might be YOU on someone else’s list)  I give you, the 2014 Gift Giving Guide for the Preservationist and Architecturally-Inclined.  This list (organized into 5 separate categories) is by no means comprehensive, but I hope it helps in the very least to inspire and point you in the right direction.  Help the list grow by adding a comment with some suggestions!


  •  This one is first on the list for a reason: everyone involved benefits.  An annual pass to our National Parks is a great gift for those who travel.  Florida residents, with 161 state parks under our belt, definitely get the most bang for our buck with a FL State Parks Pass.  $60 a year for unlimited access?  Nice.
  • How about membership to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, or a state chapter?  Most of these will include a subscription to a magazine, journal, or some other publication.
  • For those looking to spend a little more money: a ticket to a conference (or even just a couple sessions) may seem boring to outsiders, but trust me, it’s a winner.  Many national conferences are a bit cost prohibitive when you include travel cost (this year’s National Trust conference was in Indianapolis, 2014’s will be in Savannah, GA), a place to stay, and the fees for the conference itself, so getting a ticket is really helping to relieve some of that burden.  The best part?  The money spent on any of the above is going directly toward the organizations to ensure they can keep doing what they do best: protecting our natural and historic resources.


  • LEGOs have been a great gift since time immemorial (1958), and being a “grown-up” shouldn’t have to change that.  Check out the LEGO Architecture series.  One of the coolest things about this collection is the building instructions – they include period photographs, history, and interesting construction factoids as you go along.
  • A board game where you use architecture to wage a territory war in a medieval city?  Yes please.  Cathedral the game delivers.
  • Medieval city?  Get with the times grandpa!  Aren’t there any games out there about modern architecture?  Enter The Modern Architecture Game.
  • Paper Town is more for the urban planner out there (or at least the person who wishes they could leave up the Christmas Village year-round), but the graphics are beautiful and it’s made from recycled material to boot.


The books, my God, the books.  This whole post could have been about books, but I will defer to other more comprehensive lists to save some space.

  • Meghan Drueding over at Preservation magazine put together a wonderful list entitled Beautiful Architecture Books on the PreservationNation blog back in November.  These books definitely provide some great eye-candy, and will surely be curled up with in the armchair time and time again.
  • Maybe you are looking for some nitty-gritty preservation reads, or want to help a preservationist build their essential library – check out The Essential Preservation Reading List that Emily Potter put together for PreservationNation last year.  This is a very comprehensive list and contains links to other external resources.
  • Get ready to put your child’s graham cracker/milk carton gingerbread house to shame.  The Gingerbread Architect: Recipes and Blueprints for Twelve Classic American Homes is sure to please (reviews suggest that these designs are pretty involved, but I’m sure you architects out there can handle it).  Bonus: if you build all twelve and keep them for 50 years, you can nominate your village as a historic district.
  • The architecture selection from Dover Publications is also a treasure trove.  They have coffee table books, collections of floor plans, classic re-prints, and more.  To quote their website: “From Vitruvius to Frank Lloyd Wright, castles to Manhattan luxury apartments, these books present the fascinating panorama of architecture down through the ages.”  Enough said!
  • The Lost America books (Vol. I and II) are incredible books: well researched and packed with historic photographs.  The most incredible thing?  Every building photographed no longer exists.  The description of each building includes what occupies the site in the present day (Spoiler Alert!  Most are parking lots).


  • I haven’t had much time to play around with this app, but it seems to have a lot of potential.  MagicPlan lets you create a floor plan for a room or map out a site by identifying the corners or site boundaries on your screen and then comes the “magic” part – it gives you accurate measurements.  The app itself is free, but it costs $2.99 to obtain a copy of the plan you create (PDF, JPG, HTML and DXF formats).  A monthly subscription, which can be purchased at 3 plans per month, 6 plans per month, or unlimited, would make a great gift.
  • Honor the preservation efforts of the group that brought historic preservation to the forefront of popular culture in 1985 in Back to the Future with this smart phone case.  Save the clock tower!


  • For home decor items that represents general goods and merchandise from the colonial times you can always take a trip to Colonial Williamsburg, or you could save on gas and just shop the Williamsburg Marketplace website.  Purchases benefit the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
  • Ties are a classic, practical gift.  These may look like ordinary ties, but the learned eye will recognize designs and patterns by some of history’s most influential architects.  Appearing in this collection are designs by Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Antoni Gaudi, and Charles Voysey with some work by Art Nouveau, Modernist, and Bauhaus artists thrown in for good measure.  (Check out their architecture t-shirt section too!)
  • I have always enjoyed the paper goods from Rifle Paper Co., and the 2014 calendars are no exception.  For the world traveler: the Flip Around the World Calendar.  For those who’d rather not deal with the hassle of exchange rates: the Travel America Calendar.
  • Adopted by the Preservation Society of Charleston, SC from the Nantucket Preservation Trust, the “Gut Fish, Not Houses” sticker is a “must-have” for preservationists, and would you look at that!…It fits perfectly in a stocking.
  • For those that are looking to help save the old ways doing things, or “intangible heritage”, as some might say, I suggest you check out the American Craftsman Project.  The website highlights American small businesses that are still doing things the way grandpa used to.  The site will direct you to online shops for each craftsman/craftswoman and you will end up with a quality, hand-made product while helping out a small business during tough economic times.  Double-whammy.

That about wraps up the 2014 Gift Giving Guide for the Preservationist and Architecturally-Inclined.  Don’t forget to leave a comment with some more suggestions for the list, and to all a good night!

Matt Armstrong



Filed under Guest post

2 responses to “What to Buy a Preservationist 2013

  1. Bon Chovi Afficionado

    Awesome list! Allow me to suggest two additions:

    1. Bon Chovies Gourmet Anchovies. Once you find these, you’ll be half way there.

    2. The Flying Buttress Coffee Mug. For the architect who thought they had everthing.


  2. Pingback: Five-Year Anniversary | Gator Preservationist

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