“After 30 years, we are an overnight success.”

That’s how Randy Hemann, the executive director of Downtown Salisbury, Inc. in North Carolina, summed up his downtown’s road to revitalization. All heads nodded in agreement with him at the Advisor-sponsored “Preservation as an Economic Engine” session because they knew that the hallmark of a Main Street program is a steady pace of incremental improvements and achievements.

The Montgomery Ward Building on Salisbury, North Carolina's Main Street. (Photo: lumierefl on Flickr)

As Heritage Ohio said on Twitter:

That was a common thread during the 2012 National Main Streets Conference. Randy shared stunning comparisons of the number of jobs created per acre for a big-box store outside of his downtown -- 13.3 jobs per acre -- against 155 jobs per acre on Main Street. When you rehab a typical two-to-three story, mixed-use historic building, the density works favorably for your local economy and job creation. Simply put, the Main Street concept works. ... Read More →

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.

Andrea Dono

Andrea Dono is the program manager of research and training at the National Trust Main Street Center. She helps guide the educational content for the National Main Streets Conference as well as tracks revitalization trends, develops case studies, and helps produce Main Street Now.


Written by Kristen Griffin

A reference to historic districts in the music video for country singer Alan Jackson's "Little Man" caught my attention one night. In the video, Alan Jackson drives through small town business districts and sings "boarded up like they never existed, or renovated and called historic districts."

To be fair, it was kind of a throwaway line in an otherwise well-messaged song. Jackson drives home the point that we are losing something culturally important when we lose small towns and local businesses to chain and suburban-style development. But the implication that business and renovated historic districts are mutually exclusive made no sense to me. My experience with historic districts is just the opposite.

Historic districts make up half of Spokane, Washington’s core downtown business district. I started to make a mental list of all the times I walk across the threshold of a historic building to do business in a historic store, restaurant, hotel, office building, or theater. Not only do I work in a historic building, but I mail my packages in a historic building, go to the gym in a historic building, buy my books in a historic building, and get my hair cut in a historic building. My accountant is in a historic building, the newspapers I read are published in historic buildings, and my favorite coffee is roasted in a historic building. The list goes on.

Downtown Spokane. (Photo: Bryan Gosline on Flickr)

Last year for fun, and to demonstrate how deeply the historic buildings and districts in Spokane are integrated into the local economy, I impulsively committed for the month of April to try to find everything I needed in businesses located in historic buildings or within historic districts.... Read More →

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at

From Protests to Distilleries: Our Top 10 Blog Stories of 2011

Posted on: December 30th, 2011 by David Garber


2011, we hardly knew ye. And yet, as usual, you flooded us with stories from across the country relating to our interactions and efforts surrounding America's historic places. We like this list because it shows us the type of content that really caught your attention: national news, endangered places, interviews, and a mix of geographies, building styles, and even boats.

Yet as we say goodbye to 2011, we are very much looking forward to 2012. We'll be doing more on-the-ground reporting, more interviews with locals from around the country, and adding in a few features this blog hasn't seen before. And remember, if you have stories you think could be great blog fodder, send them our way via our new inbox.

And so, without further ado, our Top 10 Blog Stories of 2011:

1. Demonstrators Treating Historic Wisconsin State Capitol with Care and Respect

"Political differences catalyzing the demonstrations are far from resolved and large crowds continue to gather at the building, but demonstrators have shown reverence for the state house as the gathering place of democracy is Wisconsin, and show no signs of resorting to symbolic attacks on it."

2. Let These Not Be Lost: America’s 2011 Most Endangered Historic Places

"The unveiling of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places is always a bittersweet moment. The list is a culmination of hundreds of hours of hard work by hundreds of people, and it becomes a new rallying cry for supporters of incredibly important – yet unfortunately threatened – sites nationwide. But the fact that the list even exists means that there’s a lot more work to be done."

3. We Have A Winner! The 2011 Dozen Distinctive Destinations Fan Favorite Is…

"What I kept wondering was this—how did Paducah become this vibrant town that would have a chance of being one of a Dozen Distinctive Destinations? I think the answer boils down to this: they knew what they had (good bones of a historic downtown, the human resources to restore it and a feeling of community); they knew what they wanted (economic prosperity, the arts, and something to “sell” that would be an asset to the town, not a detriment); and, the will and knowledge to promote what they built over time."

4. Interview: Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Little Gem” Up for Auction

"Accessibility discussions usually seem to center around ways to retrofit historic properties to better accommodate people of all abilities. Why? Because it’s an issue that still needs to be addressed at historic places all across the country that weren’t originally designed with universal accessibility in mind. ... It’s far less often that we come across old and historic buildings that were accessible from their start."

5. Main Street Round-Up: Walkable Vegetables Edition

"A busy intersection in the Lauraville neighborhood [in Baltimore] has been transformed into a flat billboard of sorts celebrating locally grown foods and the district’s weekly farmers market. By painting large, eye-catching vegetables on the asphalt at the intersection, community leaders hope to calm traffic, beautify a major commuting corridor and stir up local pride and participation in the neighborhood."

6. Confronting the Confederacy in Interpreting a Historic Home 

"In 2005 I purchased a home built in the early 1880’s by Henry Martyn Stringfellow, a former confederate soldier. Being a preservationist I frequently open my home in Hitchcock, Texas to the public. I struggle with whether my interpretation of the site should acknowledge his role in the Confederacy or just avoid telling that part of his story."

7. USS Olympia Remains Afloat, but Repairs are Needed 

"In her nearly 120 years of existence, USS Olympia has shown herself to be a resilient survivor. Today, the world’s oldest steel-hulled warship afloat remains afloat. She rises and falls with the tides of the Delaware River, along whose shores she is moored in Philadelphia, resting at low tide on the riverbed. It is at these times that the damage below her waterline is exposed."

8. Laredo’s Legacy: Preserving the El Cuatro Barrio 

"Hispanics are the fastest growing minority in the United States. For more than 440 years they have contributed to building the culture and society of all the American South, from Florida to California. The Hispanic experience in South Texas specifically is 260 years old, and this legacy of multiple generations of Spanish-descent families has created a rich culture and conserved those sites and towns that reflect their heritage."

9. Catch National Preservation Conference Highlights Online 

"Ah, the joy of the Interwebz — allowing us to connect across the miles and delve deeper into our shared love of preservation at the National Preservation Conference! Though we much prefer to have you see the Nickel City for yourself, we understand if you couldn’t make it in person this year, and we still want you to be involved from your corner of the world."

10. A Spirited Comeback 

"Over the past several years, the visible decline of the Detroit area – from the city itself to the smaller towns that surround it – has caught the nation’s imagination. With image after haunting image of ghostly vacant blocks and countless gloomy editorials, sometimes it seems like the media has already written the region off. However, amidst the rubble of times past, a new breed of locally-minded, dedicated entrepreneurs has decided it’s time to give southeastern Michigan new life."

David Garber is the blog editor 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.

Conference Gives Diversity Scholar New Vision and “Home”

Posted on: November 15th, 2011 by Guest Writer


Written by Nancy J. Dawson

During the Underground Railroad field session tour, Nancy Dawson stands on a bridge similar to the one abolitionist Harriet Tubman led enslaved Africans to freedom in Canada. (Photo: Nancy Dawson)

“Is it real?” I asked myself, as I stood paralyzed listening to the raging waters--all while one foot was planted in Canada and other in the United States. As I looked over the rails of the walkway, I couldn’t help but wonder how Harriet Tubman, one of America’s most noted abolitionists, felt when she ventured across a suspension bridge in Niagara Falls, New York, nearly 150 years ago bringing enslaved Africans to freedom.

Although our guide was determined that our group forge on so that we complete our tour on schedule - for me, the hands of time had stopped. Even though I have a disdain for heights, it didn’t matter. Tubman and I were one for a moment as I felt the fears, anxiety, desperation, and anticipation of her passengers.

How serendipitous, that I (a descendant of runaway enslaved Africans from Quindaro, Kansas), was tracing Tubman’s trail during a field experience at the National Preservation Conference. This was one of several fantastic experiences that I was privileged to take part in as a conference Diversity Scholar.

After returning home, the networking and information that I gained at this year’s conference set me ablaze. Although, I have worked to preserve African American history and culture for decades, the conference gave me a special edge and helped me define myself as a true historic preservationist. I am eager to apply the knowledge gained to my work in Western Kentucky where I help to preserve Cherokee State Historic Park, a once segregated facility, which operated between 1951 and 1964. Today, Cherokee Park is one of only three known state-owned formerly segregated parks in the United States. Furthermore, I have no doubt that my conference experience will enhance my collaboration efforts with several organizations to support my research about African American Civil War soldiers and their families living along the Kentucky/Tennessee border. Already, partnerships with Fort Donelson National Battlefield, the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, and the New Orleans National Jazz Historical Park have led to development of a theatrical production entitled Stories from da Dirt, the creation of a quilt featuring runaway slave ads, and a two volume CD entitled Songs of the Lower Mississippi Delta.

All my projects were elevated by resources offered at the conference. The meeting also reinforced for me that the road I am on as a preservationist and the partnerships that I have developed are in harmony with many of the goals and objectives of the National Trust. I think my return flight home from the conference best sums up my new relationship with the National Trust. I was showing a picture of my (historic) home to a woman at the airport. A gentleman, sitting near us, chuckled and said, “while most people share photos of their children, National Trust people share photos of their homes and historic projects.” I smiled and said, “I guess that is why I feel so at home.”

Nancy J. Dawson, a former university professor, playwright and textile artist, has been working to preserve historic sites in Kentucky and Tennessee as well as in her hometown of Quindaro, Kansas. Nancy was a first time Diversity Scholar at the 2011 National Preservation Conference. She may be reached at

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at

The Top Four Takeaways of a Canadian Conference-Goer

Posted on: October 28th, 2011 by Guest Writer


Written by Kayla Jonas

Twitter in real life! (Photo: Kayla Jonas)

Before the conference started I wrote about my top reasons as a Canadian for attending the Preservation Conference: I wanted to learn about the American preservation framework, meet some of my virtual friends, and see Buffalo's industrial heritage. I'm happy to report that I did all that and came away with three strong lessons and one amazing experience:

Embrace your Industrial Heritage

The conference had over 250 field tours. On Wednesday morning I went on a boat tour by the grain elevators on the Buffalo waterfront. I was so excited because I’ve often driven by them and it was great to get up close. The tour was run by the Buffalo Industrial Heritage group who provided an in depth history of each grain elevator, as well as a general history of the area. I learned that Buffalo was, in the mid-19th century, home to the first-ever grain elevator, and was sad to see the Wheeler Elevator being demolished as we rode by. This tour, as well as the two education sessions on Industrial Heritage I attended that day got me thinking about Hamilton, Ontario’s industrial heritage.

Like Buffalo, my hometown of Hamilton a very industrial city. There are efforts being made to revitalize Hamilton and mark it as an arts destination. Though I support this movement, I had a sudden realization that maybe we have been too quick to dismiss our steel history, and wondered what we are doing to preserve the history of the two large steel companies, and earlier industries, that have helped to shape our city.

Be Positive, Take Action

As a resident of an industrial city I know how hard it is to overcome the reputation associated with such cities. I am sad to say that I had negative ideas about what Buffalo was like, but this conference proved me wrong. The citizens are working hard to revitalize their city. My feelings were cemented on Friday night when I attended the premiere of Buffalo Unscripted, an amazingly inspiring documentary film showcasing the people of Buffalo. There was so much energy in the room, it was stunning. Every city should have an authentic and emotional video like this. There was so much love for the city that it almost brought me to tears. I want to show it to everyone I know as an example of what we should be focusing on: action and positivity.

Make the Opportunity Count 

Buffalo seemed to embrace what the conference and the cloudburst of interest in local architecture could provide by taking every opportunity to show off their community to the conference attendees - but also involve locals in as many things as possible. Many of the main sessions for the National Trust’s Conference in Buffalo were open to the public. Locals could attend the opening plenary, as well as the two big morning sessions that set the stage, and then the closing speech. The evening activities, such as the candlelight house tour, were also open to the public - but they had to buy tickets. Local sites had special tours for conference attendees and many were open to the public for the first time. This mixing of attendees and the local community created a positive and exciting atmosphere. Everywhere you went, people were talking about the conference (including extensive media coverage). Not only were attendees spending tourist dollars in the community, but energy and excitement about these local places - and heritage in general - was shared by the local community.

Virtual Friends Made Real 

Though the learning opportunities were plentiful, the most amazing experience of the conference was meeting so many of the people in person that I know on Twitter and through blogging! We had several people show up for the #builtheritage chat tweet up (@RocchiJulia, @wanderu, @k10death, @urbanmatt, and @elipousson) and I also got to meet several other tweeters during the conference (@pc_presnation, @atheritagearea, and @heritagewriter). It was nice to turn virtual friends into real life friends and have a conversation with them in more than 140 characters!

Kayla Jonas is a heritage professional based in Southern Ontario and blogs at Adventures in Heritage.

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.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at