Helping the future learn from the past: Garret Root lives history

March 7, 2019

Garret Root, an architectural historian in Stantec’s Cultural Resources Group in Sacramento, doesn’t just understand the past, he lives it.

 

Perhaps a man born after his time, Garret lives and breathes history. From an early age he knew he loved history, excelled in all history-related coursework, and enjoyed visiting historic sites. There was no doubt in his mind what he would study when his university life began. Because teaching school wasn’t his objective, he completed undergraduate and graduate degrees in public history, preparing himself for a non-academic history-related career.

Garret’s attraction to historic places evolved into a passion for historic architecture. Over time he has mastered telling the stories of old buildings. He understands building styles as well as construction methods and materials. After analyzing a structure, he can tell you when it was built and why he came to that conclusion. He is one of three architectural historians in the Pacific Region responsible for developing the cultural resources section of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) documents for our environmental sector. He also helps residents of Sacramento preserve their past by serving as President of Preservation Sacramento.

Beyond safeguarding historical assets, Garret loves bringing history to life. He puts the same dedication to authentic architecture as he does to his civil war era persona—even maintaining a beard length more common in 1861 than 2018. _q_Garret has mastered telling the stories of old buildings. He understands building styles as well as construction methods and materials. After analyzing a structure, he can tell you when it was built and why he came to that conclusion._q_ As a volunteer with living history programs in the Bay Area and elsewhere in the US, he shares the value of our past in a way that resonates with a new generation. Often a collaboration between teachers and professional historians, living history sites allow students to experience a moment in time, generating far more enthusiasm toward historical study than textbooks. 

Preferring to recreate history where it was made, Garret regularly volunteers with Angel Island State Park’s living history program at Camp Reynolds. While many don’t know about California’s role in the Civil War, Garret can tell you all about the 7th California Infantry Regiment, established in 1861. First designated an artillery post, Camp Reynolds grew to include artillery batteries, garrison buildings, barracks, and hospitals. Today, volunteers demonstrate life on the island as it was during the Civil War. Garret is usually assigned to barracks, spending his time explaining to visitors how each part of his uniform kept soldiers alive.

 

 

Commemorating the Battle of Sailor’s Creek

In April 2018, Garret made a special trip to Virginia to commemorate the Battle of Sailor’s Creek. While marching seven miles through the woods, in full uniform, to a snow-dusted campsite, where you sleep in an open tent on a rubber blanket on the ground, and eat mostly hard-tack may not seem like a great vacation for most of us, for Garret it was a very special opportunity. Over two days, his battalion of 175 fellow living historians showed the public what life was like for a Civil War soldier. From setting up camp, to drilling, and firing rifles, spectators gained a new appreciation for the freedom enjoyed by Americans and the sacrifices made to achieve this goal. 

 

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