Award-Winning Restoration Focus of an Incandescent Evening

Posted on: April 16th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Ellen Buckman

Last year, the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, Florida received our Trustee Emeritus Award for Excellence in the Stewardship of Historic Sites at the National Preservation Conference in Tulsa. This winning restoration is now being showcased at a FREE community event at the Estates this Saturday, April 18.

This important restoration culminates a 5-year, $20 million effort to restore these side-by-side winter residences of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford back to the 1920’s lifestyle of their famous families and to shed light on the personal lives and friendship of two of America’s greatest inventors and industrialists. The 20-acre riverside campus provided these close friends respite, inspiration and a staging place for collaboration. Thanks to the completed restoration, visitors can now tour and see both houses, Edison’s personal laboratory where he worked on more than 1,000 inventions during his winter visits, his tropical research and botanical garden, one of the earliest above ground residential swimming pools in southwest Florida, the award winning Moonlight Garden, and a 20,000 sq. ft. museum displaying hundreds of Edison and Ford objects.

Prior to receiving the stewardship award, the Estates had a long-standing relationship with National Trust for Historic Preservation and our Save America’s Treasures (SAT) program -- in 1999 it was awarded an early seed grant from the Preservation Planning Fund, and in 2004 SAT selected it from over a thousand others to be one of 24 sites to participate in the Restore America partnership with HGTV and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. And, for the interior, our partner Valspar donated the paint used in the restoration.

If you happen to be in south Florida this weekend, do consider joining in on their special event. The Incandescent Evening, running from 5-8 p.m., will feature some of the programs members currently enjoy including botanical printmaking, Wild Wizards Lab shows, musical performances and food. There will also be opportunities to stroll along the Calooshatchee River and explore the homes and gardens of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and their families.

Hats off to the Estates!

Ellen Buckman is a marketing associate in the Corporate Partners department at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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To learn more about the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, or to obtain a ticket to the event, visit www.efwefla.org.

To learn more about National Trust historic paint colors by Valspar, visit www.preservationnation.org/valspar.

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.

Governor's Request Endangers West Virginia's Blair Mountain

Posted on: April 16th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Nell Ziehl

Aerial view of Blair Mountain Battlefield in West Virginia.

Aerial view of Blair Mountain Battlefield in West Virginia.

Earlier this month, preservation advocates were thrilled that the National Park Service listed Blair Mountain (Logan County, West Virginia) -- the site of a massive 1921 coal miners' insurrection and the largest armed conflict on U.S. soil since the Civil War -- in the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register designation has taken decades, due to opposition by coal companies who wish to strip-mine the mountain and destroy the site. This ongoing struggle led the National Trust for Historic Preservation to include Blair Mountain on our 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list in 2006.

The thrill wore off quickly, however. Less than a week after the National Park Service made its determination, West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin’s administration requested that the site be de-listed.

We -- and our local partners -- remain committed to saving Blair Mountain Battlefield. We ask that concerned citizens help us take action by signing our online petition. With the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, we are also preparing a letter to be signed by scholars and historians, asking for Governor Manchin's help in preserving this important chapter of American history. If you are a scholar or historian who would like to be included in that effort, please email us at sfo [at] nthp [dot] org. (Replace the words in brackets with the customary symbols.)

Blair Mountain in the News:

Nell Ziehl is a program officer for the Southern Field Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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Mark your calendars: Our 2009 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places will be announced on Tuesday, April 28, 2009. Historic places around the country -- like Blair Mountain -- need your help.

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.

Notes from New Orleans: New Charity Hospital Web Site Launched

Posted on: April 15th, 2009 by Walter Gallas

 

A new web site launched this week in New Orleans promises to enrich the conversation, broaden the debate, and grow the movement surrounding embattled Charity Hospital and lower Mid-City neighborhood. SaveCharityHospital.com combines an unapologetic point-of-view with a variety of resources, documents, tools and information. It also offers the transparency so seldom seen in the public discussions surrounding one of the—if not the—largest potential redevelopment projects in New Orleans’ history. Visit the site and share your stories, find the schedule of the latest meetings on the city’s master planning and hospital design plans, scour the documents section, send your feedback, and become a part of the campaign to turn back the old way of doing things and achieve real change in New Orleans.

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.

What We Lost, and Gained, in the Fire

Posted on: April 15th, 2009 by Guest Writer 14 Comments

 

Written by Justin D. Sanders

At 8:45pm last Wednesday I geared up for my favorite guilty pleasure—American Idol. I sat down on the sofa and noticed a missed call on my cell phone from Lori Ann, a local high school teacher with whom I’d been working on a restoration project. I found this odd as we had spoken a few hours earlier. I was still excited from the news she had shared with me earlier that evening.

Our first visit to the site in April 2008.

Our first visit to the site in April 2008.

I’ve been working with Lori Ann, and fellow teacher Amy, for a little over a year. Some of their students had discovered a lost treasure in the old Erwin (Tennessee) Municipal Building. A performance theater filled the second floor of this 1923 building; and while time and neglect had shadowed its former beauty, the essence of the place was still there. Amy’s Key Club students felt it only right to attempt to restore this piece of town history. Others joined from the Unicoi County High School’s theater program and the library’s Teen Advisory Group. The students quickly gained support of the school board, local government, and members of the community. The group and the project were reaching critical mass, planning fundraisers and community events, and recently beginning an oral history project to raise awareness of the building’s rich history.

So it was no surprise that I was still ecstatic when she called earlier that evening to tell me another group of students had adopted the Theater Restoration Project as its focus for the community Earth Day celebration. The students, who recognized the importance of reusing historic buildings, wanted to highlight what they called “recycling on the largest scale,” with proceeds from admissions to go to the restoration effort. I assumed she had more information, so I quickly returned her phone call.

Flames ravage the historic 1923 building.

Flames ravage the historic 1923 building.

Then, everything changed. I learned that a fire had started in the municipal building and was quickly spreading. I rushed out of my apartment and made my way towards Erwin. The calls from teachers, friends, and others started flooding my phone. At this point, the story had made it to the news media, and the images were bad. When I crested a hill entering the downtown historic district, the sight I was greeted with made my jaw drop. Flames had reached the roof of the four-story building and were at least another 15 feet in the air.

I rushed to find Amy and Lori Ann, and was met with a sea of people—mostly students, with tears in their eyes watching this project which they were so passionate about light up the sky. At that moment, the tears came for me as well. I watched the walls crumble as fire crews fought the blaze, and was told I had just missed the sound of the heavy balcony falling.

In that moment, it was easy to think that all of the past year’s work was lost. What I learned, however, is that you should never count out the determination of teenagers with a passion. Students came up to us saying that the project was bigger than one building. One student had tracked down the town mayor and asked him what other vacant building in downtown they could restore for use as a performing arts space. And another student added that “we’ll come back even bigger and better than before.”

The community of Erwin lost a venue rich with history, where music performances, countless dramas, and graduations were held. They lost a physical representation of a community rallying for a cause. But my hope is that what was gained, defiance and a resolve to move forward, will far outweigh that loss.

Justin D. Sanders is the Preservation Field Services Representative for Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia

News reports on the fire:

www.johnsoncitypress.com/09/News/article.php?ID=68175
www.erwinrecord.net/Detail.php?Cat=HOMEPAGE&ID=58780

Learn more about our Statewide & Local Partners program.

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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PiP, PiP, Hooray!

Posted on: April 14th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Written by Alissa Anderson

Go back in time with me now: it’s 2 a.m. on Christmas Eve and you’re five years old. You’re lying wide awake in your bed wearing snowman footie pajamas--so excited for Santa’s arrival (and hyper from stuffing yourself with cookies) that you can’t even close your eyes, let alone think of actually sleeping.

Now go forward in time to last night, and replace that five-year-old on Christmas Eve with me (a 22 year-old intern at National Trust for Historic Preservation's Northeast Office in Boston), subtract the snowman footie pajamas (er…but not the cookies), and you’ll have a near perfect idea of how I spent the short night before this morning’s Greater Boston Partners in Preservation launch.

Why was I so excited? Because today’s press conference and opening celebration was the culmination of six months of hard, hard work that our Partners in Preservation team (made up of members of our office and our headquarters in D.C., American Express, and the PR firm Conventures) has put in, largely in secret. While it has been fun telling everyone that what I’ve been doing at work is “highly confidential,” I couldn’t wait to finally reveal our chosen 25 historic places to the public!

Even before I arrived at the office today, Partners in Preservation (we call it “PiP” for short) was already surrounding me--literally: everyone in my T car seemed to have the Metro newspaper open to our ad. I surreptitiously snapped the photo (right) of the paper next to me. The best omen of the morning, however, happened at 8 a.m. as Alicia Leuba (the Director of Programs here at the Northeast Office, and my boss) and I were walking into Boston City Hall to set up for the Advisory Committee meeting. Just as we were nearing the building, the giant PiP banner suddenly unfurled from a top floor. Majestic! I felt so proud to be a part of such a wonderful program—and that pride only increased as the morning went on.

Even before the press conference in Faneuil Hall began at 10:30, representatives from some of the 25 sites had already gathered outside the building’s entrance, trying to stir up votes. Lowell’s Boat Shop reps were waving a set of oars in the air that together spelled out “LOWELLS” and “VOTE FOR LBS.” Other sites had brought costumed characters: Rachel Revere (Paul Revere’s second wife), a Civil War soldier and Victorian librarian from Edgell Memorial Library, and Faith (the central figure of Plymouth’s National Monument to the Forefathers) all made an appearance. The contingency from the Museum of African American History arrived in matching red t-shirts and hard hats.

When everyone was seated in the Great Hall and the press conference began, the excitement seemed to reach a fever pitch. Both Governor Deval Patrick and Mayor Thomas Menino gave wonderful, supportive speeches, and as Northeast Director Wendy Nicholas introduced the 25 chosen historic sites, I found myself suddenly feeling as if I were learning about them for the first time. What an incredible collection of places we’ve assembled! How exciting to begin to hear the public’s stories about them—and to watch the votes add up! All steam ahead and PiP PiP Hooray!

To read more about our 25 Greater Boston places, and to VOTE for your favorites, don’t walk—run!—to www.PartnersinPreservation.com.

Alissa Anderson is intern at the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Northeast Office in Boston.

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.