2009 is right around the corner. As we all make exciting plans to celebrate the new year, I would like everyone to take a moment to really think about the new year. What will it bring to preservation?
I'll admit that I'm not usually one for making resolutions, but one of my hopes for 2009 is that - through my work at the National Trust for Historic Preservation - I can help people better appreciate what's old, inspire them to hang on to what they have, and perhaps even fix it up a little so that it sticks around longer. That's the right thing to do for the environment, for our pocketbooks and for our community. In the go-go economy of the last five years, it seems like anything that was new was all the rage. Well, it's a new era, so I say in with the old!
And, if I can indulge myself, along with polishing the wood floors in my dining room and replacing the aging linoleum in my kitchen, I want to try to see more historic places in 2009. Every time I visit one of our sites or a historic place within our network, I find myself newly inspired to work harder and to save more places.
For instance, this last year I spent several days touring New Orleans and looking at art within the context of historic buildings. What I saw and the stories I heard were powerful reminders of the creativity and the tenacity of the city's residents, both then and now. Another example is my trip to Chicago when we launched our Partners in Preservation program. Our Midwest Office took us on a tour of the prospective grant winners, and I fell in love with the Fountain of Time, the Viking Ship, the Robie House and Unity Temple. The Pui Tak Center taught me about the history of Chinese immigration in Chicago, and our opening event was held in the Stock Exchange Room at the Art Institute, an exquisite space that was saved from demolition.
These places tell a diverse and fascinating story of our irreplaceable heritage, and actually seeing and experiencing them brings them to life in a way that photos can't possibly replicate. When I asked some of my colleagues at the National Trust what resolutions they wanted to share, our Vice President for Membership Dolores McDonagh sent along a similar sentiment:
"My resolution is to take my boys on more 'mystery rides,'" she said. "As a child, my father would announce on random Saturday mornings: 'Who wants to go on a mystery ride?' It was always a crapshoot. You might end up tagging along on a trip to the hardware store to pick up a part for a broken lawnmower, or you might find yourself enjoying a frosty root beer float delivered by a roller skating carhop at A&W. You just never knew. Some of my favorite mystery rides were to historic sites, and in 2009, I resolve to take my own two boys on more of them. Over Thanksgiving this year, I took Ian and Noah to President Lincoln's Cottage in Washington, D.C. I was, of course, proclaimed the 'Wicked Mom of the West' over the injustice of depriving them of another hour of video games. And at one point, I feared they would refuse to get out of the car when they realized that we were at an historic site. But all was forgotten after a great tour. Noah was even overheard saying, 'That was pretty good, Mom. I'd even go again.'"
This past October, Dolores and I were traveling together in Tulsa for the National Trust's annual conference. In between sessions and meetings, we had some time to drive out to nearby Bartlesville to see Frank Lloyd Wright's only skyscraper. It was shorter than I imagined, but incredibly consistent with his legacy. It was not only a highlight of my trip, but something I want to be sure to do more of in the new year.
But enough about me. I want to hear about you. What is your preservation resolution for 2009? Post a comment below and share it with our other PreservationNation readers. Who knows? You might just inspire someone.
Jan Rothschild is the Vice President for Communications & Marketing at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.