As Thanksgiving approaches, our thoughts naturally turn to family, good health, friends and the other things we treasure in life.
Fans of a historic stone barn in Chase, WI, tell the world that "This Place Matters."
This year I’m thankful for the men and women who work to make our cities and towns more livable—who save places that matter all across the country. These are the preservation heroes who’ve brought a house back to life in an inner-city neighborhood; attended a public hearing to speak for the rehabilitation of the historic neighborhood school; invested their life savings in a Main Street business to help spark downtown revitalization.
Heroes like Kristin Kolkowski, who led the effort to purchase a historic stone barn in the small rural town of Chase, Wisconsin. Not just any stone barn, mind you, but a barn listed on the National Register of Historic Places that is a source of pride for the people of Chase. Once fully rehabilitated, it will serve as the town park, museum, and event center for weddings and family gatherings. Kirsten’s constant promotion of the site even led to an appearance—with their This Place Matters sign—on Good Morning America.
I’m thankful for people like Kirsten who speak up for the places that matter, even when it is unpopular. In these difficult financial times, governments often look to cut programs without considering the economic benefits that result from preservation activity. That’s what was happening earlier this year in Florida, as the state legislature threatened the state’s Main Street program with severe budget reductions claiming other programs were higher priorities. Luckily, the Main Street leadership found a powerhouse advocacy partner in the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. Together, the local Main Street leaders and the Florida Trust were able not only to preserve funding for the Florida Main Street program and the State Historic Preservation Office, but even to increase it. That’s a great outcome in face of daunting odds, and those statewide advocates join my list of preservation heroes.
The Charity Hospital Advocacy Group includes Sandra Stokes, who was honored for her work to save New Orleans’ Charity Hospital.
Speaking of fighting against the system, I was fortunate this year to visit with Sandra Stokes—another preservation hero of mine—in her home state of Louisiana. Sandra Stokes doesn’t just talk preservation, she lives it—right out on the front lines.
This year, the National Trust awarded Sandra the very first Peter H. Brink Award for Individual Achievement in Historic Preservation. Here’s how we described her work at the awards ceremony in Nashville last month:
As a board member of the Foundation for Historical Louisiana, Sandra has been a leader in the ongoing effort to save and reuse New Orleans’ historic Charity Hospital—a classic preservation struggle that also addresses issues from health care to the role of citizens in determining their city’s future.
She is a film-maker by profession, but in the course of the Charity Hospital battle she has taken on—and excelled at—a number of jobs. She’s become a highly effective fundraiser, for example, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to the cause. She’s an articulate spokesperson, always willing to talk (and talk and talk) with anyone, anywhere, about an issue that really matters to her. She’s an investigative reporter, tenaciously rooting out misinformation and digging for the truth—and a skilled lobbyist, too, talking her way into meetings with decision-makers, winning friends and getting results. She can be the cheerleader who rallies her colleagues when their spirits flag—and the general who inspires them to keep up the fight.
... Read More →