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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER / PHOTOGRAPHY BY LOUISE JOHNS

Three hundred years ago, Blood Run was a hub of the Great Plains. The landscape architect Brenda Williams is helping guide tribal efforts to protect what’s left, mostly by listening.

FROM THE AUGUST 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

On a cold, blustery morning last November, I followed an abandoned railroad grade to the South Dakota and Iowa state line. I had two maps in front of me—one an annotated paper printout, a collage of colors and lines overlaid on an old topo map, and the other Google Maps, open on my phone, my blue dot tacking southwest. I wasn’t lost. I was on a trail that did not yet exist.

The route, unmarked and at points choked by trees, had been outlined to me a few days earlier by Brenda Williams, ASLA, a landscape architect and director of preservation planning at Quinn Evans Architects in Madison, Wisconsin. Williams had recently led the development of a master plan for this area, an important but not widely known archaeological site known as Blood Run. The old railway was the proposed arrival sequence.

Typically, the few visitors who came to Blood Run, which became a National Historic Landmark in 1970, parked at the top of a bluff and followed a path down to the Big Sioux River, the state border. But Williams had been explicit: Take the railroad grade. Rather than start high, Williams wanted visitors to begin in the valley, to park and walk along the creek that gives the area its name before reaching the earthen mounds that are some of the site’s more visible cultural and historic remnants. It was, in part, a practical decision: The abandoned railroad provided a level path all the way from the main road to the mound grouping. But mostly it was about being immersed in the place, bringing people into the site (more…)

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