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Small Gestures, Big Meaning: Show Some Love for Texas Courthouses

Posted on: February 6th, 2013 by Jason Clement 1 Comment


Jason Clement wears his heart on his sleeve. Credit: National Trust for Historic Preservation
Staffer Jason Clement wears his heart on his sleeve(s) in front of a Texas courthouse.

Everybody needs to feel loved.

It’s a basic fact of life, regardless of where you fall on the scale between overemotional ninny (where I sit) and, well, the opposite of that.

It doesn’t have to be fireworks or someone showing up outside your window, pouring their hearts out while blasting an '80s mid-tempo classic on a boombox. For me, the simple things usually get the most traction: a bit of scribbled-down sweetness left somewhere thoughtful, an unexpected-in-a-good-way phone call, a “just because” gesture that takes you by surprise -- the things that say “I’m paying attention. I care. I’m here.”

As a preservationist/marketer whose job it is to turn non-emotive structures into emotional touch points, I feel like buildings are very much in the same boat as us ninnies. Places need love too ... except they're incapable of letting us know when they need a hug.... 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.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

Prentice Hospital Denied Landmark Designation; The Fight Continues

Posted on: November 2nd, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments


Written by Virgil McDill, Public Affairs

After repeated delays, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks finally placed Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women's Hospital on its November 1st meeting agenda to officially consider whether the building qualified for preliminary landmark status.

As many of you know, this preservation battle has been brewing for a long time -- the Trust first named Prentice to its 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list in June of 2011 -- and in the ensuing months, thousands of you have spoken out, signed petitions and taken other actions to encourage Northwestern University to find a creative new use for this iconic building.  ... 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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.


Written by Robert Verrier, FAIA, NCARB

For more than 30 years, historic preservation tax incentives have been helping architects, builders, and private citizens transform historic buildings for new uses, preserving architectural heritage, and benefiting communities all over the country.  I should know, because using tax credit incentives has been key to my business for just as many years, allowing me and one of my partners Mike Binette to save clients money while restoring more than 150 historic commercial,  industrial, and educational structures -- many of which can be found on the National Register of Historic Places.

We are proud of what we’ve achieved in and around Boston -- an American city rich in history and beautiful old buildings -- but we’re also excited about how these incentives have helped Boston and cities like it all over the country.

Bourne Mill, one of America's oldest cotton gins, in Tiverton, Rhode Island.

The recent debate over historic preservation tax incentives is long on political orthodoxy but short on common sense. The benefits of these tax credits are indisputable. By redeveloping historic buildings, tax credits save our architectural heritage and spur new private investment, create construction jobs, and set the stage for new economic activities, such as tourism.

There’s nothing like a broken window to scare off businesses. Any savvy investor will agree that commercial activity gets a bump when abandoned buildings are brought back to life, or derelict properties are restored to their former grandeur. 

But there’s much more. Many historic buildings serve as the visual gateway to entire towns and neighborhoods. They anchor their communities, and often had a central role in making them happen. Examples are everywhere -- churches, town halls, first settler homesteads, factories, schools, mills, lighthouses, and office and institutional buildings. Our architecture firm has spent four decades restoring and adapting old mills and other historic structures throughout New England and along the East Coast -- each of which has precipitated in some way the rebirth and growth of the community.

St. Aidan's Catholic Church in Brookline, Massachusetts, where John F. Kennedy was baptized.

Why does this matter? First, these landmarks are part of the fabric and collective memory of their communities. Generations of families made their living inside those factories, connecting the old stone walls with their family history. They root us to the place.

More so, these old buildings have great bones and can reinvigorate their neighborhoods once again. Many adapted mills have taken on new lives, such as commercial, hospitality, community centers and a wide array of residential type uses. In this way, these historic structures have brought their towns and neighborhoods back to life.

Preservation is also the greenest thing we can do. For example, in Dorchester, Mass., the 1765 Baker Chocolate Factory grew to employ hundreds. After shuttering in 1969, it sat mute and untended until its conversion to a community of apartments, assisted living, and more. The work took decades to complete and recycled tons of brick, granite block and many hundreds of massive wood beams and deck.

Today, Dorchester Lower Mills not only has hundreds of new residents, it has become a vibrant downtown with cafés, boutiques, and a bustling grocery store. People visit for fun, ambiance -- and history. In this way, historic tax credits create a valuable commodity: hope.

Baker Chocolate Factory (side view) in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

Proof of old and historic buildings' attraction and economic value is everywhere. And many of our friends and clients -- mayors, real estate developers, bankers, and residents -- will vouch that the same results never would have been accomplished without historic federal and state tax credits.

Our country’s history deserves better than a wrecking ball. If you believe in America’s past -- and our chances for a better collective future -- historic tax credits are something you can and must believe in, too.

Robert Verrier, FAIA, NCARB and Michael Binette, AIA, NCARB, are partners at The Architectural Team, Inc., a Boston-based architecture firm specializing in master planning, hospitality, mixed-use, multi-family housing, and historic preservation and adaptive reuse.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is committed to raising awareness of the importance of the historic tax credit and advocating for a few strategic improvements that would expand its already impressive track record of saving places, creating jobs and revitalizing communities. You can help! Visit SaveHistoricCredit.org.

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 editorial@savingplaces.org.

Help Protect the David Wright House, Designed by Dad Frank Lloyd Wright

Posted on: August 22nd, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 8 Comments


Written by Laura Wainman, Editorial Intern

In the architecture world, no name carries more weight than Frank Lloyd Wright. But, as an ongoing dispute in Phoenix Arizona shows, the name alone does not protect iconic buildings from demolition threats. A 1952 Arcadia home built for Wright’s son, David Wright, is in danger of being torn down by current owners, the 8081 Meridian Corporation.

The David and Gladys Wright House is the only Wright residence based on the same spiral concept as the Guggenheim Museum, and boasts a unique coiled, concrete façade. The property was purchased in June 2012 by 8081 from J T Morning Glory Enterprises, who had placed the house on the market in 2011 after it sat unoccupied for two years.

Currently, the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy is working to avoid losing the home by searching for a new buyer who would purchase the property intact from the developers. They are also exploring the possibility of multiple buyers purchasing the house to gain immediate control over the property, and then transitioning to a sole owner for long-term preservation.

“We think that such a buyer would value the house as is, and restore it and perhaps the original citrus orchard that surrounded the house,” says Janet Halstead, executive director of the Conservancy.

Since they heard about the demolition possibility, the Conservancy has been working to get approval for historic preservation/landmark designation from the city of Phoenix, buying more time to save the home. No demolition permit can be granted while historic preservation designation is being considered, and if it is approved, an automatic one-year delay will be applied to any demolition permit request; landmark status ups it to three years.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy urges supporters to send letters pushing for these designations to the mayor, individual councilmen, the Historic Preservation Commission of Phoenix or the Phoenix Planning Commission. For more information, or to sign a petition to help save the David and Gladys Wright House, visit SaveWright.org.

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

The Manhattan Project: 20th Century History, 21st Century Significance

Posted on: July 19th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 7 Comments


Written by Amy Cole, Senior Field Officer and Attorney

The top-secret Manhattan Project has been called “the single-most significant event of the 20th century.” Begun as a small research project to develop an atomic weapon in advance of Germany, the Manhattan Project grew to include thousands of scientists working around the clock and in laboratories across the country.  The creation and use of the atomic bomb, developed by the Project’s scientists, brought an end to World War II, altering the position of the United States in the world community while setting the stage for the Cold War.

Specific laboratories central to achieving this mission were established at the Oak Ridge Reservation in Tennessee, the Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico, and the Hanford Site in Washington.

Construction at Oak Ridge began in 1943, and included the Y-12 Plant with nine uranium enrichment buildings and the hundreds of warehouses, cooling towers, office buildings, and laboratories required to support the work. Y-12’s calutrons -- the machinery which processed the uranium necessary to produce an atomic weapon -- are the only surviving production-level electromagnetic isotope separation facilities in the United States.

Oak Ridge’s K-25 Site illustrates the enormous scale and ambition of the Manhattan Project. At the time of its construction, K-25 was the largest building in the world located beneath a single roof. The enrichment of Uranium 235 took place within its cavernous 43-acre footprint.

Oak Ridge’s Graphite Reactor produced the world’s first significant amounts of plutonium and was the model for Hanford's B Reactor that was subsequently completed in 1944. This was the world’s first reactor to produce plutonium on a large scale.

Los Alamos' V-Site is the location where the world’s first plutonium bombs were assembled. Constructed in January 1944 as a high explosives handling and assembly facility, the V-Site was one of the Manhattan Project’s most closely guarded secrets, for it was here that all elements of the project were integrated.

This vast network, comprised of hastily constructed wood-frame, masonry, and poured concrete structures, was designed only for temporary use.  But at the close of World War II, many facilities were assigned new, long-term missions.

In the years following the end of the war, the laboratories became the scene of cutting-edge scientific research as additional applications for nuclear energy were developed, fostering advances in the then-emerging fields of chemotherapy, high-speed computer technology, genomics, and bioengineering. ... 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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s First Prairie House in Need of Assistance

Posted on: May 31st, 2012 by David Weible


From a building preservation standpoint, the B. Harley Bradley House in Kankakee, Illinois, would seem to have it easy. The first of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie style houses, it was most recently purchased by the Wright In Kankakee organization in order to establish an arts and education center and house museum that would be open to the public. With a mortgage financed by the previous owners who had fully restored the house, preservation work isn’t what the organization is worried about. Their biggest job is fundraising to pay back the loan.

This July, Elisabeth Dunbar, executive director and curator of the house, and her team of 55 volunteers will launch a capital campaign to meet their goal of raising the $1.6 million needed in the next eight years to fully finance the house. "People perceive that there is no urgency because there is no immediate physical threat to the home," Dunbar told me, "but now we’re going to be threatened if we can’t pay off the debt."

One major challenge to the fundraising effort is location. Though Bradley House is just an hour from downtown Chicago, it’s south of I-80, a cultural dividing line between the city and the rest of the state, Dunbar says, which keeps it relatively off the radar of Wright fans from up north.

Another fundraising challenge is that Kankakee itself is still recovering from the recession. Though locals provide plenty of moral support, donations are difficult to come by. "If we don’t succeed, my greatest fear is that it will be turned back into a restaurant and the historic fabric of the house will be lost," says Dunbar, who notes that the house is in great physical shape, but there’s simply no market for a seven-bedroom house in Kankakee.

Though the house, now an integral part of the community, hosts classes, poetry readings, and even operas to help sustain it, its need is still great. You can help by donating on the organization’s homepage or by attending one of the many planned events at the house like the juried art show on July 21st and 22nd where entry fees and portions of all art sales go to the foundation.

Interested in reading more about Frank Lloyd Wright? Check out our Spring issue of Preservation magazine.

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.

David Weible

David Weible

David Weible is a content specialist for the National Trust, previously with Preservation magazine. He came to D.C. from Cleveland, Ohio, where he wrote for Sailing World and Outside magazines.