Good afternoon, Nation, and welcome to the Monday edition of the Preservation Round-Up, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s twice-weekly digest of preservation news and notes from around the country.
To kick us off, a thoughtful reflection on the passage of time: Holy cow, where did January go? Yes, regardless of where you're at with your new year's resolutions (one word: oy), February has for all intents and purposes arrived. "Tis now the season for the Super Bowl (can you smell the seven layer dip?), pink heart-shaped things, and...budgets.
As you recall, last February started with a bit of a heart-stopper for us preservationists: Save America's Treasures (aka the country's only pot of federal funding for saving places that matter) quite surprisingly found its way onto the budgetary chopping block. Luckily, a lot of people realized this simply couldn’t happen and the program, which has saved places and artifacts that are truly irreplaceable (i.e. the Star-Spangled Banner), was eventually funded through March 2011.
While fantastic news at the time, the clock is ticking and a new budget proposal is already working its way through Washington -- a fact that is not lost on the recipients of this important grant money. In a recent letter-writing campaign to Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, some of Save America's Treasures’ biggest champions spoke up for a program they think our country can't afford to lose.
For Reverend Arthur Price, Jr., pastor of Birmingham's historic Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Save America's Treasures has made it possible to tell a story that our country should never forget.
It is because of the Save America's Treasures program that Sixteenth Street Baptist Church can continue to tell the story of the awful day of September 15, 1963, when a bomb exploded during Sunday School and killed four little girls. In Birmingham, we believe that tragedy helped galvanized the Civil Rights movement and help pass the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. I feel that our story is one of many that deserves to be told, and funding for this program provides the resources to these projects.
And for preservation consultant Steph McDougal, the program offered hope at a time when the glass definitely seemed half empty.
Save America's Treasures is not just a "nice to have" program that saves a few old buildings. At a time when Galveston, Texas had just been devastated by one of the most destructive hurricanes to ever make landfall in the U.S., the Save America's Treasures-assisted First National Bank Building project was pumping hundreds of thousands of private dollars into the local economy, supporting scores of islanders as the wages of those directly employed by the project were translated into food, clothing, and construction supplies for rebuilding battered homes and businesses. In fact, this project has benefited small businesses and skilled tradespeople almost exclusively. These are jobs and businesses that cannot be exported overseas.
Ask Susan Wissler, executive director of The Mount, and she'll point to some pretty impressive numbers (something many Save America's Treasures projects have under their belts).
The Mount’s Save America's Treasures grant jump started a restoration effort that had been languishing for over a decade. By 2002, nearly $12 million in mostly private funding had been raised and expended on the project, an effort that created significant jobs for builders, masons, carpenters, and other craftsmen from across the country. Since the Mount’s opening in 2002, nearly 300,000 visitors have enjoyed the site, and the organization’s annual operating budget has directly contributed more than $18,000,000 to the local economy.
While Eddie Wong, executive director of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, will pull at your heart strings.
The past serves as a valuable marker for our nation’s future, especially as we continue to wrestle with knotty issues such as immigration. The Angel Island Immigration Station and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum offer our nation instructive, sobering lessons as we continue to strive to meet our highest ideals. Save America’s Treasures plays a vital role.
And for Leslie Greene Bowman, president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the issue is simple: What would the "Man of the People" do?
When visiting Roman ruins in southern France, Thomas Jefferson decried the removal of an ancient amphitheater so as to re-purpose the beautifully dressed Roman stone for road building. He was shocked that such an act could occur in the “modern” era. Jefferson understood the critical relevance of history and its monuments to present and future generations. He would not have been able to build Monticello without the tutelage of ancient architecture he received in France. Never has Save America's Treasures funding been more important than now, when cultural and historic sites are bowing under the stress of sustained headwind economies. Once lost, these treasures are not retrievable for our children and theirs. Any more than the amphitheater was in Jefferson’s time.
While Randall Vicente, governor of the Pueblo of Acoma, lays it down in a way that's hard to argue with (and that I want on a t-shirt).
Saving America's Treasures is at the forefront of preserving American identity and, indeed, of defining American identity. There is no ready replacement for its work.
With that, some news: Tomorrow afternoon, 60 agencies and organizations will join the ranks when the 2011 Save America's Treasures grant announcements (totally $14.3 million in funding) are made from the Emancipation Room of President Lincoln's Cottage, a National Trust Historic Site. Join me here for a live blog of the event starting at 1:30 p.m. EST.
I promise to bring you all the action.
Jason Lloyd Clement is an online content provider for PreservationNation.org. He will be spending the evening resting his thumbs in anticipation of tomorrow's live blog.
Updated February 1 to correct that SAT is funded through March 2011, not the entirety of 2011, as originally stated.