Fires on Montana Main Streets

Posted on: April 1st, 2009 by Guest Writer 1 Comment


Bozeman, Montana (Credit: Michael Becker)

On Thursday, March 5, a massive natural gas explosion rocked the 200 block of East Main Street, in the heart of Bozeman’s historic district. The blast completely destroyed five buildings, and most tragically, one woman was killed. Windows were blown out of buildings in the surrounding blocks, and only the intense and efficient work of the first responders kept the fire from spreading to adjacent properties.

Whitehall, Montana (Credit : Justin Post)

The next day, another devastating fire ripped through four Main Street businesses in the small town of Whitehall, sixty miles west of Bozeman. Fortunately, no one was injured, but the brick and wood-frame buildings were gutted. Only the masonry exterior walls remain standing, which hopefully can be saved.

As these two communities rallied and began to clean up from the devastation, a third fire erupted. On Monday March 23, a fire began in the basement of a historic building undergoing rehabilitation in the 700 block of Main Street in Miles City. The fire rushed through the walls and to the roof, where high winds fanned the flames. Soon the adjacent buildings were aflame, and in the end, nine businesses, nearly the entire block, were destroyed. Happily, like in Whitehall, no one was injured.

Miles City, Montana (Credit : Kathy Doeden)

Now that the smoke has cleared, each of these towns faces the daunting task of recovery. A dialogue between those connected to the properties continues. Many of the owners are committed to rebuilding, and sensitivity to the historic architecture along each of these Main Streets is at the forefront of these discussions. Fortunately, Bozeman and Miles City have active local preservation programs.

The National Trust and Montana Preservation Alliance have been in close conversation with city officials, Chambers of Commerce, life safety officers, structural engineers, architects, insurance companies, and property owners to offer assistance and to help craft a plan for recovery in each of these towns. As the Partners in the Field representative, I will remain actively engaged with each community to aid with stabilization and planning efforts and will continue to offer technical and, where possible, financial support.

-Kate Hampton, Most Endangered Places Program Director, Montana Preservation Alliance

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.

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In a ceremony held yesterday in the East Room of the White House, President Barack Obama officially signed the Public Lands Management Act of 2009.

Among the many important wins for preservation included in the final legislation's 1,300 pages and 160 provisions is the National Landscape Conservation System Act. Two and a half years in the making, this bill creates the first major system of U.S. public lands in nearly half a century. Named the National Landscape Conservation System, it is comprised of the best lands, waterways and cultural resources managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

"Attending the bill signing for the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 was the fulfillment of a dream that began in 2000 to create the Bureau of Land Management’s National Landscape Conservation System," National Trust for Historic Preservation Public Lands Policy Program Manager Denise Ryan said. "It is hard to describe my joy and relief at finally passing the bill after several years of hard work. Sitting in the beautiful and historic East Room of the White House while President Obama signed the bill, surrounded by the bill’s congressional champions, was marvelous."

For special coverage of the big day, check out the photos taken by Denise above, as well as the following excerpts from the inspiring remarks made during the signing ceremony.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's Remarks

Over the last two centuries, America’s best ideas for protecting our vast lands and open spaces have often arrived while our country has faced its greatest trials.

It was in the midst of our nation’s bloodiest conflict – the Civil War – that President Abraham Lincoln set aside the lands that are now Yosemite National Park.

It was at the dawn of the 20th century, with our cities and industries growing and our open lands and watersheds disappearing, that President Teddy Roosevelt expanded our national parks and set aside the world’s largest system of lands dedicated to wildlife conservation, the national wildlife refuge system.

And it was in the darkest days of the Great Depression that President Franklin Roosevelt put three million young Americans to work in the Civilian Conservation Corps. They built the trails, campgrounds, parks and conservation projects we enjoy today.

In these moments when our national character is most tested we rightly seek to protect that which fuels our spirit. 

For America’s national character - our optimism, our dreams, our shared stories – are rooted in our landscapes.

We each have places we love. For me, it is the San Luis Valley in Colorado. It is the lands my family has farmed for five generations. The waters of the San Antonio River. The snows on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

As Americans, we are defined most by our people and our places. 

>> Read Full Text

President Barack Obama's Remarks

As Americans, we possess few blessings greater than the vast and varied landscapes that stretch the breadth of our continent. Our lands have always provided great bounty – food and shelter for the first Americans, for settlers and pioneers; the raw materials that grew our industry; the energy that powers our economy.

What these gifts require in return is our wise and responsible stewardship. As our greatest conservationist President, Teddy Roosevelt, put it almost a century ago, "I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us."

That's the spirit behind the bipartisan legislation I'm signing today – legislation among the most important in decades to protect, preserve and pass down our nation’s most treasured landscapes to future generations.

>> Read Full Text

Visit to learn more about what the Public Lands Management Act of 2009 means 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.

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.

Notes from the Field: New Orleans

Posted on: March 31st, 2009 by Walter Gallas


Press Conference 3/25 from Eli Ackerman on Vimeo.
New Orleans is undertaking a $2 million reworking of its master plan and comprehensive zoning ordinance. Led by the Boston-based firm Goody Clancy, the process has now reached the stage at which a draft of the master plan will face the scrutiny of citizens in a series of neighborhood district meetings throughout April. Last Saturday, neighborhood leaders attended somewhat of a preview of the plan, at which very broad concepts or principles were discussed, but clearly many people were chomping at the bit to get down to details.

Jack Davis, a New Orleans resident and member of the National Trust’s board of trustees, fired one of the first questions to Goody Clancy’s David Dixon: Where was the huge LSU/VA hospital plan in the document? It seemed to be missing.

Dixon acknowledged that his firm had not been asked to do a plan for the medical district, yet he insisted that the city needed to involve neighborhoods, needed to look at the impacts of the hospitals on the downtown, needed to be involved in the designs of the hospitals—and that plans for the medical district needed to be in the master plan. Here we had probably the largest economic-development project ever proposed in the city, and the city’s planning consultant was trying mightily to show he knew his client needed to get involved—but the planning department was doing everything it could to distance itself from it.

Following on that, we were able to announce on Wednesday that 41 community, professional, planning and grassroots organizations—local and national—endorsed the call for the hospital plans to be included in the master planning process and for public hearings to be held before the City Planning Commission and City Council. The American Planning Association (APA) was one of our supporting organizations. APA’s executive director, Paul Farmer, said in a written statement: “Planning requires that processes be fair and inclusive, that alternatives be fairly and completely evaluated and that decisions of this magnitude be included in any community plan, whether it is at the neighborhood or city scale.”

Charity Hospital figured in this public statement as well. We called on Governor Jindal to order a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of the competing LSU hospital plans. LSU proposes to base its plans upon total new construction requiring land acquisition and demolition of property. An alternative plan, based on the findings of RMJM Hillier, concludes that a 21st century hospital can be built within the gutted shell of Charity Hospital. We want the Governor to order a cost-benefit analysis which looks not only at those construction costs, but also measures the impact of these different plans upon timelines for job creation, related economic development, and health care delivery.

Speakers at Wednesday’s event included Jack Davis, who served as host and moderator; Dr. Tlaloc Alferez, M.D.; Dr. Sissy Sartor, M.D.; LaToya Cantrell, president of the Broadmoor Improvement Association; and Charles E. Allen, III, president of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association.

Press Conference 3/25 from Eli Ackerman on Vimeo.

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.


Watch it live!

Visit to watch a live stream of President Obama as he signs the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 into law.

Last Wednesday, a piece of legislation - which President Obama will sign into law in approximately one hour - was enacted called the Public Lands Management Act.

Why should you care? Clocking in at 1,300 pages and over 160 provisions, this is the largest conservation measure passed in over a decade, and it will protect innumerable areas that are rich in cultural and historic resources. Among those provisions is the National Landscape Conservation System Act. Introduced two and a half years ago, this bill congressionally establishes the Bureau of Land Management’s conservation system, which is comprised of 26 million acres of land in 14 states. It’s at these special places where one can truly experience the wild beauty of the American West.

In general, a lands bill of this size and scope takes about six years to pass through the ever-complicated process known as the United States Congress. To say we were ecstatic to get this one done in two and a half is the understatement of the century.

Now, unless you are a huge fan of the game of ping pong, the process to get something like this done may not be your cup of tea. The National Landscape Conservation System Act had a relatively typical start, with hearings and mark-ups in the appropriate committees of both chambers of Congress. It passed a stand-alone vote on the House side (see below for some fun tid bits about that adventure), and enjoyed wide support in the Senate. Then, it was packaged along with 159 other bills, and the game of ping pong (or hot potato, depending on how you look at it) officially began.

The legislation bounced back and forth between the House and the Senate at least six times. After a few rounds of this, my colleagues and I started feeling like Charlie Brown lining up to kick the football that Lucy would inevitably pull away. (How’s that for imagery?) However, with community support and the incredible leadership of our congressional champions, we made it through and got the field goal after all.

Looking back over the past three years, I will remember a lot about this campaign, but for now, here’s my top-five list:

5) The very start of the whole process when I was trying to convince colleagues that referring to the system as the “NLCS” was not going to help matters. See, I generally hate acronyms and I am not the biggest fan of baseball. However, if people insisted on wanting to discuss the National League Championship Series, I had to go with it, complete with a one-page fact sheet that was available upon request.

4) Working with National Trust for Historic Preservation President Richard Moe, a true mentor to me and a stalwart leader on this issue. Sitting behind him twice as he testified before both the House and the Senate committees was an amazing thing to witness.

3) Getting a stand-alone vote in the House of Representatives and then getting a terrible rule that allowed for six amendments to the bill, meaning seven votes for our team in one day. These amendments ranged from never funding anything that had to do with the System to exempting the entire state of Utah from it.

2) The real fun happened on a vote called a motion to recommit, which is generally the last chance the opposition has to kill a bill. In our case, it was on the right to bear arms in the System - a right that already exists, but a vote that can quickly divide Congress. After “lobbying off the floor” with our incredible team (this basically involves stakeouts to approach members on their way to vote), there was nothing left to do but head over to the Hawk and Dove (a Capitol Hill bar/institution) to watch the final vote come in. We won that day by only four votes, but the excitement and camaraderie was worth it.

1) Of course, the best memory of all is the final passage. After again “lobbying off the floor,” we were invited to House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn’s office in the Capitol. There, with all 30 of my colleagues assembled in an anteroom, we watched as the final passage vote succeed 285-140.

So, here we are with America’s newest conservation system, formally established with the force of law and the recognition of Congress. With this under our belt, we must now focus on ensuring that it is well managed, well funded and inclusive of the places rich in cultural and historic resources.

Let the games begin.

- Chris Soderstrom

Chris Soderstrom is a senior policy advisor at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This afternoon at 3:00 PM EST, she'll be at the White House to watch President Obama sign the Public Lands Management Act of 2009 into law. Join her by catching a live stream at Also, stay tuned as we post our own pictures from the signing ceremony.

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


NYC - Brooklyn - Coney Island: CycloneConey Island's Off-Season Vibe: Mindful Walker takes a stroll along Surf Ave. and the boardwalk on historic Coney Island and discovers a sense of timeless peacefulness to the City's legendary beach spot. "When one walks in Coney Island, it’s easy to feel suddenly in the past. Signs like “piña colada” and “cotton candy” conjured up images of my days at the Jersey Shore in the Sixties and Seventies. The scene didn’t feel of today, even though I know thousands come here each summer to get their beach fix and swim in the ocean." The future of the area is still in jeopardy due to increased development, but reading this post is already getting me anxious to jump on the D train and head to the beach. [Mindful Walker]

House Passes Bill Protecting 2 Million Acres of Wilderness: If you haven't already heard, a huge public lands bill passed on the Hill this past week. William H. Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society called this "a monumental day for wilderness and for all Americans who enjoy the great outdoors. With passage of this bill, Congress has made a great gift to present and future generations of Americans." [Christian Science Monitor] [PreservationNation]

The Qualities of a Sustainable City: Alex Steffen interview on sustainable cities at the Danish Architecture Centre. [Sustainable Cities]

Pedestrian Street in San Fran: Following NYC's recent lead, San Francisco announced that a portion of 17th and Market Streets will be closed off to vehicles, creating a pedestrian plaza, the first of its kind in the city. [SF Streetsblog]

Dear Mr. President: President Lincoln's Cottage writes to the current president, detailing some of the similarities he shares with Lincoln regarding the "Presidential bubble" in which he lives. [President Lincoln's Cottage]

When Deco Came to Greensboro:The L. Richardson Preyer Federal Courthouse, located at the intersection of West Market and North Eugene streets in downtown Greensboro, stands among the most celebrated examples of Art Deco architecture in North Carolina. [Greensboro's Treasured Places]

Buffalo News Supports passing Rehab Tax Credit: Now if they could only speak out for the preservation of the Peace Bridge Neighborhood. "Now is the time to expand the state’s Rehabilitation Tax Credit program, a move that would spur job-creating house and business reconstruction while initially costing the state little in the way of revenues." [Buffalo News] [Confessions of a Preservationist]

Mister Glasses: A webTv series about a modernist architect who shows that modernism does have its place, and yes, it can even mend a broken heart. [ICN]

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.

The Power of Women Volunteers

Posted on: March 30th, 2009 by Guest Writer


A Place

A Place that Matters: The D.C. Headquarters of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs

My first job in D.C. was in a big corporate office on the twelfth floor of a building in Dupont Circle.

It was exactly what one would expect when coming to work in the big city. What one rarely expects, though, is that a few years - and a few job moves - later, one returns to the same neighborhood where that first job was located to work in a bona fide piece of history. That's right; every day I come to work in a building with a grand staircase and murals brought from Paris in the 1850s. I also walk right past a lace bonnet that was worn by Lucretia Mott. (Yes, that Lucretia Mott…abolitionist, social reformer and proponent of women’s rights!)

This overwhelming sense of history and the energy it creates are exactly what the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC) is about. Since the Federation was formed in 1890, so much has happened that it’s hard to believe more people don’t know (and love) this organization.

GFWC was the brainchild of Jane Cunningham Croly, a pioneering journalist who thought women and their ideas were worth something substantial. Since its founding, the organization has had a very serious focus on philanthropy, social and political advocacy, and community leadership. This focus has paid off throughout GFWC’s history; accomplishments during its first century include establishing 75% of the country's public libraries, developing kindergartens in public schools, and working for food and drug regulation.

During its second century, the Federation has pledged to maintain its commitment to working for a better world. With "Unity in Diversity" as our motto and a strong umbrella of programs that clubs can adapt to suit the needs of their communities, GFWC encourages the flexibility that has enabled it to expand its reach in a rapidly-changing society. GFWC programs and projects focus on the major issues of our time - supporting women’s health, preserving natural resources, promoting literacy and equality, and encouraging volunteer service. Our programs are structured to enable member clubs to harness the vast resources of our international membership to address the emerging needs of their individual communities.

One of the most enduring issues for GFWC has been conservation, both of natural resources and of historic buildings, objects and art. From the very beginning, the work of the Federation has been recorded and preserved in a formal archive that dates back to 1889 and tracks the chronological development of the organization. This archive - the Women’s History and Resource Center - is housed within GFWC’s most important piece of history: 1734 N Street NW, our headquarters and a National Historic Landmark.

Our new partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation fits in perfectly with our conservation program, and we have been working on sending volunteers for the National Trust’s Rebuilding Together New Orleans project, as well as spreading the word about the This Place Matters campaign.

GFWC's headquarters matters to the more than 100,000 members of the Federation who take special pride in donating art and artifacts to be a part of our collection. The building is an important part of local architectural history, and the activities recorded in GFWC’s archives are important to the national history of women and women volunteers.

Yes, this place mattes, and our clubwomen, friends and supporters are committed to protecting and preserving it.

- Nikki Willoughby

Nikki Willoughby is the senior director of public affairs at the General Federation of Women’s Clubs.

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