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@Home: Every Home has a Story

Posted on: June 15th, 2010 by Dolores McDonagh 1 Comment

 

The author in front of her childhood home. Check out her grown up home (profile name “Cape Heritage”) and others at www.athomenation.org.

The author in front of her childhood home. Check out her grown up home (profile name “Cape Heritage”) and others at www.athomenation.org.

I grew up in the quintessential historic house – a rambling four-square Victorian with six bedrooms that I shared with my parents and eight brothers and sisters. It had tons of nooks and crannies perfect for rainy day games of hide-and-seek, a shuffleboard court inlaid in the basement floor and a teeny, tiny room built around a window seat where I could retreat with a book after school.

Now it wasn’t a showplace, and preservation purists might have fainted at the shade of orange my sister painted the cast iron radiators in our room, but it was a HOME filled with laughter and love and sometimes insanity (think Cheaper by the Dozen reduced by twenty-five percent).

It wasn’t until I turned eleven that I had any clue that our house was “historic.” I was doing a project on the history of my home town, North Attleboro, Mass., and as I turned the pages of a book produced by the local historical society, I came across a picture of MY HOUSE! In a HISTORY BOOK! I can still remember the pride I felt, the sense of importance and of a connection to something bigger than my 5th grade world. I’ll tell you, from that moment, I was a preservationist.

When I talk to other preservationists, including members of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, more often than not their stories mirror mine. Their preservation journeys also began at home , whether they grew up in a New England Victorian, a New York Brownstone or a New Mexican Adobe.

That’s why I’m so excited that the National Trust has officially launched @home – our new website for people who – plain and simple – love their homes. Don’t get me wrong, in the years since that 5th grade history report, I’ve become a real preservation geek – I can talk tax credits and form-based codes with the best of them. But sometimes I think we’ve gotten so technical that we’ve lost touch with the basics that bring people to preservation – those everyday values of home, family, neighborhood, and caring for a good thing instead of throwing it away when it starts to show its age.

So check out www.athomenation.org.

I promise, we won’t tell you what color to paint your house or insist that you be featured in a history book before we consider your home “historic.” We will, on the other hand, let you post pictures to brag about your kitchen renovation, share tips on how to make your home more energy efficient and be inspired by others’ restoration projects. You can also view historic homes for sale, including a few that are crying out to be saved from the wrecking ball.

Come visit – and tell your friends. Every home has a story, and we want to know yours!

Dolores McDonagh is the vice president of membership 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.

¿Quién soy yo? Who am I?

Posted on: September 23rd, 2009 by Guest Writer 3 Comments

 

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Written by Anulfo Baez

The January/February issue of Preservation.

The January/February issue of Preservation.

“Who are you?” This question always stirs deep emotions within me, for finding an answer is never easy. The context in which it is asked will result in a different response every time. Our identity is shaped by the groups with which we have become affiliated or with whom we share a common thread. This is problematic as group identities like race and gender roles are socially constructed, forcing individuals who are part of a particular group to take on an identity with which they may or may not identify. The “who are you” question sheds light into the issue of diversity and the cultural nuances that are proving to be a challenge for preservation. The January/February issue of Preservation magazine comes to mind as it is indicative of a much larger cultural issue that must be addressed in the field if it is to become inclusive in preserving everyone’s history.

The magazine highlights the superb preservation work currently underway in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico and showcases the Latino preservation movement in the United States. The message communicated through the use of the word Preservación, however, was ambiguous and did not reflect the positive outlook that the story transmitted. When speaking of preservation in a Latin American context, the word that immediately invokes the ideas of the American preservation movement is conservación. The Puerto Rico State Historic Preservation Office translated into Spanish would read “Oficina Estatal de Conservación Histórica (OECH).” The choice of words as a native Spanish speaker do not convey a desire to be more inclusive in preservation, but instead it assumed that those who speak Spanish and English will understand the message behind it. The word Conservación would have taught readers a profound lesson in language and culture, a message that could have broken language barriers.

Cultural diversity is proving to be preservation’s greatest challenge. The preservation field must acknowledge that within the Spanish-speaking community there are a countless of differences in language and cultures.

Historically, preservation has done an outstanding job of preserving those places that matter to people with economic power. Its successes have been driven by those who possess a higher education and are politically savvy, calling attention to a particular resource and garnering the support from the community to save historically significant places from demolition. Unfortunately, not everyone is this privileged. The successes of preservation have also exposed its failures, in that marginalized people who live in the periphery of major urban centers or in cities where industry once employed hundreds of immigrants have now become dilapidated battlegrounds for preservationists.

... 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 editorial@savingplaces.org.

A Lobby Day Throwdown: Bring It On

Posted on: March 24th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Admit it: you’re getting just a teensy bit tired of hearing about this coffee-guzzlin’, sandals-with-socks-wearin’, software-lovin’ group from the other Washington being touted as the biggest, baddest team of preservation advocates to storm the halls of Congress since, well, who knows when.

Although we’ve worked hard to earn this claim to fame (and loved every minute of the limelight this year), we’ve decided that the time has come to relinquish our title, but it’s gonna cost you.

Team Way Outside the Beltwayers is throwing down the gauntlet and officially challenging other states to take us down by bringing a bigger, badder team to Lobby Day in D.C. next year. What’s on the line, you ask? Nothing short of bragging rights and a round of drinks on us at the Willard Hotel. And, let me tell you that nothing beats raising a toast with your teammates in the Nest at the end of that long, yet rewarding day of lobbying. If you don’t believe me, just ask our friends from Indiana.

In the spirit of leveling the playfield (all for the good of the movement, of course), we’re even willing to offer a few tips to assist you in your quest to unseat us:

Talk it up. If you’ve had the privilege of carrying the preservation mantle for your state on Lobby Day, tell everyone you meet what an amazing and worthwhile experience it is. Tell them how thrilling it is to become totally steeped in the national preservation agenda, to experience D.C. from the inside, and to know you are truly making a difference by joining preservationists from around the country to advocate on this important day. Oh, and in describing the experience, you might want to leave out adjectives like hectic and exhausting. Also, omit the part about how you seriously thought your feet were going to fall off at the end of the day.

Think outside the box. Diversity is the key to a strong, well-balanced Lobby Day team. Some of our most passionate and articulate voices for preservation aren’t preservation professionals at all; they are historic barn owners, county council members, former educators, developers and maritime heritage enthusiasts. The common thread? We all share a belief that historic preservation makes a difference in our landscapes and in our lives.

Start recruiting now. For the best results in recruiting a well-balanced cadre of seasoned lobbying veterans and enthusiastic first timers, don’t wait until a few weeks before the trip to begin cobbling together your team. Plant the Lobby Day seed now, and cultivate it throughout the year by sending legislative updates and keeping potential participants informed and excited about what is going on. Oh, and try to recruit at least one representative from each of your state’s congressional districts. This will send a strong message that preservation matters in every corner of your state.

Show them the money. Traveling to and staying in D.C. is expensive, so make it easier for folks to make the trip by offering travel stipends. Even if you can’t cover all of their travel expenses, often times offering even a few hundred dollars can make it more possible for someone to participate. Also, remember to cultivate the ongoing support of your Lobby Day scholarship donors by keeping them informed throughout the year.

The ball is in your court now. Show Preservation Action, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, and most importantly, your congressional delegation how much preservation matters in your state by putting together your largest Lobby Day team yet.

Beat Team Way Outside the Beltwayers and our consistent, double-digit team numbers next year, and the glory (and the libations) will be yours to savor…for at least a year.

- Jennifer Meisner

Way Outside the Beltwayer Jennifer Meisner is the executive director of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. Visit our Lobby Day 2009 website on PreservationNation.org to learn more about her recent trip to Capitol Hill.

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.

Top Ten Tips From a Lobby Day Vet

Posted on: March 23rd, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

When Team Way Outside the Beltwayers first debuted on PreservationNation.org, I answered "too long ago to remember" to the bio question that asked how long ago I had been recruited to represent the State of Washington at Lobby Day.

It has, in fact, been a while, and I've picked up a tip here and there over the years. This morning, in anticipation of in-district lobby month (May is just around the corner, you know?), I want to share my top ten list with you.

1 - They work for us. Representative Norm Dicks told me this many years ago. Don’t be nervous about talking to your elected officials. They work for you and they respond to you.

2 - Know your stuff. There is no substitute for competence. If you are competent, you inspire confidence. If elected are confident in your information, then you’ve just won influence.

3 - Prioritize your asks. Each state should decide what they’re asking for. We can’t ask for everything or the message will be diluted. Determine what aspects of the national agenda are most important to you and your state.

4 - Tie your ask for a national priority back to the local district. For Washington, we give information on Preserve America grants, Save America's Treasures grants, etc. Let them know what those programs are doing back home.

5 - Try to have someone from the district in the meeting as a lead. If this can’t happen, the statewide or SHPO becomes the best person to lead the conversation.

6 - Get cards for follow-up. Staffers are extremely important, and relationships built with them pay dividends.

7 - Don’t dismiss staffers because they look like they’re 12. They often recycle into more senior-level positions with the elected official, or they go on to work with other elected officials or committees. Regardless, they can help you down the road, so ask where they’re from and try to make a connection with them.

8 - Schedule a meeting with your governor’s representative or chief of staff in Washington, D.C. They can provide invaluable advice about your delegation, and it’s good to have them up to speed.

9 - Value the time you’re given. Get to the point quickly. Make the ask. Try to get the member or the staffer talking. Ask them for feedback.

10 - Understand that lobbying is theater. The guts of advocacy happen at the district and state level. Get to know your local office staffers. Invite them to events. Take them on tours. Lobby Day is meant to convey the extent of the support for historic preservation, but it's not an end in itself. The real value of Lobby Day is building state advocacy networks, getting participants familiar with national issues, and building relationships with members and their staffers. The real work always happens back home.

- Mary Thompson

Way Outside the Beltwayer Mary Thompson is a preservation consultant and a member of the National Trust’s Board of Trustees. Visit our Lobby Day 2009 website on PreservationNation.org to learn more about her recent trip to Capitol Hill.

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.

Lobbying is Like a Box of Chocolates

Posted on: March 20th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Preservation Lobby Day comes full circle when you share your experiences and enthusiasm with your friends and neighbors back home, which is why I always prepare a long and short version of my tips, take-aways and observations. In the interest of time (I know you have other blogs to read this morning), I’ll share the latter.

First of all, everything you’ve heard on this blog and elsewhere about needing to have a canned elevator speech that you can rattle off at the drop of a hat is 100% true. Whether you’re on the Hill or in your mayor’s office, that quick, no-holds-barred appeal is one of the most important tools you can have in your back pocket. For instance, between our Hill visits this year, I happened to spy Congressman Dave Reichert (former King County sheriff and a lieutenant at the North Bend police precinct while I served as mayor) as he scurried across the walkway between the Capitol and the House office buildings. We had a great, spur-of-the-moment conversation about home and how historic preservation makes a real difference to the economy in his district. He pledged his support and said he would review our requests – all in about three minutes as other hurried staffers and lobbyists dodged us on the sidewalk!

Also, always anticipate setbacks and curveballs. One year, Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn was late for her appointment with our group, but she called requesting that we hang around for a while. Turns out, she had been unexpectedly called to the White House to meet with the president! She only kept us waiting for about half an hour, and we had a productive and enlightening conversation upon her return.

Most importantly, don’t leave a meeting without looking your elected officials (or their staffers) straight in the eye and telling them what you believe. Grab every opportunity you get, but don’t waste their time. As a former mayor, I can’t begin to tell you how effective this simple strategy can be.

And of course, be prepared for anything (and everything). After all, lobbying is like a box of chocolates…

Happy hunting.

- Joan Murray Simpson

Way Outside the Beltwayer Joan Murray Simpson is a preservation enthusiast and the former mayor of North Bend, Washington. Visit our Lobby Day 2009 website on PreservationNation.org to learn more about her recent trip to Capitol Hill.

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.