In 2005, Preservation magazine asked award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns, “How important is preservation in the recalling of history?”
He answered, “It’s critical. We strain to listen to the ghosts and echoes of our inexpressibly wise past, and we have an obligation to maintain these places, to provide these sanctuaries, so that people may be in the presence of forces larger than those of the moment.”
American Express has long captured this ethos of protecting the past to enrich the future. As one of the world’s leading travel companies, they are passionate about culturally and historically significant places around the world, and have made historic preservation a hallmark of their community involvement.
As fans of the National Trust will know, we and American Express have worked together for nearly a decade on Partners in Preservation, a community-based initiative that has supported the restoration of nearly 200 historic places across the country.
Today, we’re excited to share that the Partners in Preservation model is evolving further. In 2014, American Express will become the presenting sponsor of the National Trust’s National Treasures program, where they will continue to support national landmarks and local gems alike.
It’s yet another example of American Express’s commitment to keeping valuable places open, accessible, and sustainable for years to come. So to celebrate, we’re spotlighting some of their most noteworthy preservation achievements over the past 130 years.
Restoring Lady Liberty
One of the earliest examples of American Express’ work in preservation was in 1885, when they raised money to help build the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. Nearly a century later, in 1974, their foundation donated $50,000 to the National Park Service to help renovate and restore the Statue of Liberty for the U.S. Bicentennial celebration in 1976. And in 1983, American Express led what is viewed by many as the first cause marketing campaign, raising $1.7 million to fully restore Lady Liberty.
Helping Out American Icons
American Express grants have helped renovate or restore hundreds of other American icons as well, including:
- the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park, Ill. (1985-1986);
- Carnegie Hall (1987) and the Orpheum Theatre (1996) in New York City;
- the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. (1992);
- the Henry Flagler Private Railcar in Palm Beach, Fla. (1997);
- and the Historic Golden Gate Bridge Round House in San Francisco, Calif. (2012).
Saving Places Around the World
In 1977 American Express was the first to contribute to UNESCO’s “Save the Acropolis” campaign in Athens, Greece. Then, in 1995, the company helped found the World Monuments Fund’s Watch List, which highlights the most endangered historic sites in the world. For close to a decade now, they have contributed more than $10 million to help preserve 126 Watch sites in 62 countries -- a major impact on a critical global issue.
Recognizing All the Ways People Save Places
American Express’s close work with the National Trust typifies the company’s diverse approach to saving places. Highlights from our partnership include their support of:
- Cultural Heritage Tourism, a site developed as a resource for organizations and individuals who are developing, marketing, or managing cultural heritage tourism attractions or programs.
- Save America’s Treasures, a public-private partnership between the National Park Service and the National Trust for Historic Preservation that brought hundreds of millions of dollars for restoration to nationally significant historic sites and special collections across the country.
- the American Express Aspire Award for emerging preservation leaders who illustrate the field’s promise and potential.
Supporting Partners in Preservation
As we mentioned at the top of the post, Partners in Preservation has helped restore nearly 200 historic places across the country. PiP cities have included San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, Boston, Seattle, Minneapolis/Saint Paul, New York City, and most recently, the National Trust’s hometown of Washington, D.C.
With over $12 million in grants awarded since 2006, Partners in Preservation has engaged local communities and raised public visibility for hundreds of well-known historic places. It has also engaged several million people in preservation to help build the movement.
Now, as Partners in Preservation evolves with American Express’ highly visible support, they are again living out their values of respecting and celebrating significant historic places. They have invested millions of dollars and countless volunteer hours in support to organizations and projects that preserve or rediscover major historic sites at home and abroad. We at the National Trust are honored to have them as a partner, and we look forward to enriching the future together.