Have you ever wondered what happens in the first 24 hours after a preservation project is listed to our 11 Most Endangered list? Below, our statewide partner in Nebraska shares his story.
Written by J.L. Schmidt
Our lives are all about firsts: first car, first date, first kiss, first job, first kid, first National Trust for Historic Preservation recognition for a well-deserved project.
Mine were: a Dodge, a movie at a now National Register-listed theater, a girl named Sally, setting pins in a bowling alley, born on April Fool’s Day in Peoria, the Industrial Arts Building listed as one of the National Trust’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2010.
Here are the excerpts from my journal of this very important first on May 19 and 20.
3:00 AM: Awakened by the sound of a sick cat expelling a hairball. The embargo is lifted, time to tell the world. Updated four Facebook pages with the announcement and sent an e-mail to my Heritage Nebraska Board and Preservation Advisory Committee. Send a Facebook message to newsroom at popular Lincoln AM radio station and to morning show co-host Mark who calls me about once a month for updates.
4:00 AM: Back to sleep in the recliner. Turned cell phone on "just in case."
6:01 AM: The phone rings. It’s Mark from the award-winning Mark and Cathy Show on KFOR-AM, "Lincoln's News Leader." Wants to know if I am awake and can talk in 60 seconds. “I am now!”
Sat back down in the chair. Cat, obviously feeling better now, decides to play with the big toe on my bare left foot while I am collecting my thoughts during the commercial break. (Note to self: don’t wiggle toe to get him to go away. It won’t work. I distinctly heard my cat say “Play?”)
6:24 AM: Interview done. I thought it went well. I fed the cats. The news guy obviously liked the interview. He played clips from it every hour on the half hour. Talk about building public awareness.
8:04 AM: Driving to rental company to pick up podium for press event at the Industrial Arts Building. Phone rings and aforementioned news guy, Dale, asks me if I can be on Lincoln Live at 11:00 for an hour.
8:30 AM: I contact Amy Cole of the National Trust's Mountains/Plains office who is in town for our event and ask her if she has time to be on the radio for an hour after our news conference. She agrees.
9:54 AM: Frantic voice mail (retrieved after the fact) from an editor at the Lincoln newspaper saying they wouldn't have anybody at the news conference but please touch base with them later. This is the same news room where the young reporter turned me down when I pitched the story to him for his Wednesday morning editions saying he had four other things to do but he’d leave a note for the dayside reporter.
10:00 AM: The Big Show. Both Nebraska Trust Advisors (DiAnna Schimek of Lincoln and Doug Duey of Plattsmouth) were on hand. Both Partners in the Field (Laurie Richards of Lincoln and Gene Morris of McCook) were present. Thirty people, including architects, members of the Preservation Association of Lincoln, four University of Nebraska people (who showed up primarily to make everyone who was there sign in for alleged liability reasons and to tell us they would have no comment, not that I wanted any from the people who have the idea of tearing this place down) a couple people I didn't know at all, and my wife who has spent 35 years with me as a reporter and just wanted to see what it was like when “a newstaker became a newsmaker.”
Also in the mix were television videographers/reporters from KLKN and KOLN in Lincoln, Paul Hammel from the Omaha World Herald (who did take me up on my Tuesday afternoon offer and wound up doing three stories over the next three days on other Heritage Nebraska Preservation Month activities as well), W. Don Nelson and Nancy Hamer from Prairie Fire newspaper and Charlie Brogan from the KFOR Radio.
Amy Cole, Diane Walkowiak of Save The IAB, and Jo Gutgsell of Preservation Association of Lincoln all spoke. I emceed and we all answered a few questions. The University people then relented and let us actually go inside the building and let reporters/photographers take pictures. I pointed out that the faults in the roof were where they had taken the skylight out years ago and messed with the dormers. That lousy new wood just didn't hold up. Imagine that.
10:49 AM: A potential investor leaves a message on the SavetheIAB.com website saying they want to talk about "investing in and saving the building." They said they saw a story about the 11 Most List on CNN. The kicker: they live about 50 miles from Lincoln.
11:10 AM: Amy Cole and I were guests of radio host Dale Johnson for the hour-long "Lincoln Live" on KFOR which is fast becoming Nebraska’s Preservation News Leader. (Note to self: Give them a preservation award next year.)
We talked about the IAB, the rest of the 11 Most list and Heritage Nebraska's upcoming Hidden Treasures/Fading Places List that we will release in the morning (oops, I broke my own embargo) in beautiful downtown Scribner (pop. 971). It was a great show and we got a lot of information out there. Public education, check.
11:27 AM: Diane Walkowiak shares an e-mail showing a dramatic spike in www.savetheIAB.com website traffic.
12:45 PM: 29-minute telephone interview with Lincoln Journal Star reporter Joe Duggan who apologized profusely for missing the news availability. We shared a laugh and a promise that Joe would follow up on our Fading Places/Hidden Treasures list on those slow news days – that is, the time between the Legislature adjourning for the year and the next season of Husker football starting.
2:40 PM: Amy Cole calls me from the home of a woman who is a potential donor asking me if I have touched base with the Lincoln newspaper reporter and saying that she will return the call to him as soon as it is convenient.
3:30 PM: Yikes, it's been a few minutes and my phone has stopped ringing. My wife tells me on G-talk that the cat is resting comfortably and I am trying to get things ready for the rest of the week which will be spent on the road.
5:00 PM, 6:00PM, 10:00 PM: Video clips from the news event appear on both local TV stations. E-mail and Facebook notes pouring in from friends and supporters of the efforts to save the building.
11:00 PM: Cats appear to be sleeping soundly. So will I.
3:00 AM: The Lincoln newspaper hits the front porch. Story still “good” enough to warrant front page exposure. I catch a couple more hours sleep before heading out on the road for our Hidden/Fading announcement in an historic downtown commercial district this morning; followed by training tonight for Main Street managers and, separately, board members and an all-day joint Main Street/Preservation training the next day capped by an annual awards banquet.
Yes, this is quite an honor, but the work doesn’t allow us time to rest on our laurels.
- 11 Most Endangered listing
- In the Name of Progress: University of Nebraska May Raze 1913 Building for Innovation Campus (Preservation magazine)
J.L. Schmidt is the executive director of Heritage Nebraska.