Celebrating Our Great Downtowns: 2009 Great American Main Street Award Winners

Posted on: March 2nd, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Something

Green Bay’s Broadway District has gone from seedy to sublime.

Have you ever wondered what an Atlantic beach town has to offer in February? Or maybe pondered what lies beyond Baltimore’s Inner Harbor? Have you ever wished for an alternative to Napa Valley that isn't quite so crowded? If so, you're in luck. The 2009 Great American Main Street Awards introduce us to five communities that answer those questions and a whole lot more.

Each year since 1995, the National Trust Main Street Center has recognized five historic and older downtowns and neighborhood business districts that are truly the commercial and cultural hearts of their communities. These are also places that offer tourists refreshing and authentic experiences.

In 2009, we celebrate El Dorado, Arkansas; Rehoboth Beach, Delaware; Broadway in Green Bay, Wisconsin; Federal Hill in Baltimore, Maryland; and Livermore, California. Led by local Main Street organizations, these downtown revitalization efforts have brought jobs to their communities, filled streets with festival-goers, lined sidewalks with attractive landscaping and lighting, and helped so many business owners meet their markets and thrive.

Rehoboth’s installation of 24 fiberglass dolphins in its downtown has helped draw thousands of visitors and raised $85,000 at auction for main street revitalization.

How did they do it? The challenges and opportunities presented by each downtown are as unique as their spot on the map. However, the common denominator is a commitment to a strategy that incorporates local assets, including cultural and architectural heritage, hometown businesses and community pride. This strategy is known as the Main Street Four-Point Approach®. Devised by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the 1970s, the approach was crafted in response to a citizen movement that clamored for a stop to the decay and destruction of our nation's beloved downtowns. It consists of a comprehensive methodology for revitalization that is fueled by residents, business owners, civic leaders, elected officials, corporations and foundations.

Since its inception more than 25 years ago, this approach has guided the successful revitalization of more than 2,300 communities nationwide with staggering results. And the annual Great American Main Street Awards celebrate the best of the best. We invite you to take a walk down the great Main Streets of this year's five winners to see for yourself what makes them so special.

- Erica Stewart

Erica Stewart is the outreach coordinator for the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Community Revitalization Program. Stay tuned here and on their official blog as Erica and her colleagues share posts live from the 2009 National Main Streets Conference, which is taking place this week in Chicago.

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.

Let's Do It For Our Daughters (& Our Sons)

Posted on: March 2nd, 2009 by Dolores McDonagh

 

The author takes her guys on a hunt for women's history at the Forest Glen Seminary in Silver Spring, Maryland.

I grew up in a very female-centric world – one mom, seven sisters and the ubiquitous nuns all through my Catholic school days. Sure, I had a dad and two brothers, but we definitely skewed "girl." But nature has a way of evening things out, so I wasn’t really surprised to be blessed with two sons. A little intimidated, but not surprised.

It turns out boys are pretty great - if for no other reason than they give me an opportunity to channel my inner guy. You see, I love trains, baseball and visiting historic sites (including battlefields). And since we live in the Washington, D.C. area, there are plenty of those to go around. There’s the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Mount Vernon in Northern Virginia, Fort Stevens in northwest D.C., and one of the National Trust’s newest sites, President’s Lincoln Cottage, in northeast D.C.

But I recently got to thinking, "What if I’d had two girls?" Would it be as easy to find historic sites that daughters could identify with? Sites that told the story of the girls and the women who helped forge our nation? Well, it turns out that it’s not easy. In fact, it’s downright hard. A perusal of dc.about.com lists just four "women’s" historic sites, and one of those is an art museum.

So then I think, "Maybe it’s just D.C." But sadly, it seems to be a more widespread phenomenon. When I asked our National Trust Historic Sites staff for information about women’s history at our own sites, more often than not the I answer I received was "Well, the house was donated to the Trust by a woman."

The fact is, we (and I include the National Trust in this indictment) do a pretty bad job of telling the story of women’s history – and of the role of women in historic preservation. Kind of ironic as it’s often women who are at the forefront of preservation battles. Hell, the movement was "birthed" by a woman – Anne Pamela Cunningham, who in 1853 thought maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to let them tear down Mount Vernon. She galvanized a national fundraising effort to buy, restore and operate the home of the "father" of our country, and today, Mount Vernon is still faithfully stewarded by the Ladies’ Association of Mount Vernon.

So, let’s change this sorry state of affairs, shall we? Starting right now on just the second day of Women's History Month, let’s take some time to recognize and  celebrate the accomplishments of women – undaunted and unsung, famous and infamous, daring, and yes, domestic.

We’ll start with a few stories on our own Women's History Month website on PreservationNation.org, but we really want to hear from you. Post a picture to our This Place Matters photo-sharing campaign or share a story of a women who made a difference in history (yours or our nation’s) by posting a comment below.

Let’s do it for our daughters – and our sons.

Dolores McDonagh is the vice president for membership development at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Learn more about how the National Trust is celebrating the accomplishments of women in preservation by visiting our new Women's History Month website.

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.

Teaching Preservation: There's Good Hope For Our Future

Posted on: February 26th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Last November, I had the distinct pleasure of joining Paul LaRue on a panel about youth service learning at the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Now, truth be told, I wasn’t particularly psyched about the trip all the way out west (I’m a New Yorker), nor was I excited to hear that our session had been scheduled towards the very end of the convention’s schedule of offerings. In my mind, this represented far too closely the way so many preservationists prioritize and approach outreach to young people. They are, after all, the future of our movement and our work - not afterthoughts.

Despite my misgivings, the panel attracted a small but engaged audience of teachers and community organizers eager to discuss youth programs. And of course, with his signature enthusiasm and inspiring stories, Paul stole the show.

Before our session in Tulsa, my team at A&E Television Networks and History awarded Paul's Research History class from Washington Court House, Ohio with a national Save Our History Award for their inspiring work on the Staunton Cemetery. That was such a worthwhile and touching project. Not only did Paul’s students learn an enormous amount about the Civil War and race relations in the United States in the late 19th century, they figured out how to work with the VA to acquire headstones for forgotten soldiers.

My father was a World War II veteran, and when he turned 80, he reminded my mother and me to get the VA to provide his headstone when he died. "It's my right, and my due,” he would say. Between this touching personal experience and a general love of history that stems from an unusually empathetic response to events long past, I was enormously touched by Paul’s kids working so hard to get headstones for those African American soldiers' burial sites. Take a second to imagine being buried anonymously after going through what those men went through in their lives. Nothing makes me more proud than knowing that it was young people who ultimately got headstones for them.

To quote my dad, it was their right and their due.

These days, I hear a new Research History class from Washington Court House, Ohio is rolling up its sleeves and digging into history and archeology, this time at Good Hope Cemetery. What an apt name for their project - Good Hope. See, I know America is not - and never will be - a perfect place, but there is more justice and equality out there than ever before, and these kids are the future of that. Under Paul’s wing, they will learn so much…about process, about history, about memory. They are lucky to have him as their teacher and mentor, and I know Paul well enough to recognize that he feels lucky to have them as his students.

To Research History 2009: You are the future of historic preservation! Good luck and good hope!

- Libby O'Connell

Libby O'Connell is the chief historian and senior vice president for corporate outreach at A&E Television Networks. Stay tuned this semester as Paul and his students document their project at Good Hope Cemetery here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream.

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 Fractured Fairytale of Preservation Parables and Possibilities

Posted on: February 25th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Earlier this month, an email popped into the inbox of individuals subscribed onto Forum-L, the email list for members of National Trust Forum, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s professional membership program. It’s the kind of topic that may seem like a simple question on the surface, but eight days and 28 messages later it proved to be a hot button discussion.

The question: Does an old addition gain significance if it is poorly designed?

The situation: A conversation between a neighborhood association and a local preservation commission regarding an 1890s structure with an addition dating back to the 1920s.

Our email list members presented many a solution—asking about context, significance, and what the intentions were for the home if it was not restored or rehabilitated. Some inquired if the structure and the addition contributed to a historic district, or if it was listed the National Register. Most, if not all emphasized the need to document the addition regardless of the decision.

A few days later, in response to the variety of responses, Forum member Dan Becker presented all of us on the list with “A Fractured Fairytale of Preservation Parables and Possibilities” — his take on the spirited discussion. It had "blog post" written all over it, so here it is:

Once Upon A Time, there was the 100 block of North Bloodworth Street in Oakwood. Echoes of an 1880s neighborhood of commodious frame domiciles were pressed into post-WWII rooming houses, later beset with societal ills where you would not want to be caught dead stroller-rolling your precious patrimony of precociosity, because you might find yourself dead.

The late 1960s design answer to such vexing virulence was of course a bisecting four-lane submerged Boston-style expressway squeezed between the flanking feeder streets with access ramps zooming up and down, bringing the downtown-saving automobile quickly and efficiently into a cavalcade of car parks flanking what remained of downtown after you demolished one-third of it to build the decks, ensuring that there was no there there when you got there.

... 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.

Help Give Away ONE MILLION Dollars!

Posted on: February 25th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Vote for your favorite historic sites in Boston from April 14 - May 17, 2009.

The Boston skyline.

The Boston skyline.

American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have just announced that Greater Boston has been selected as the next region for the community-based Partners in Preservation program. With your input, the program will give away $1 million in preservation grants in Greater Boston.

American Express, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and our Northeast Office have identified 25 historic places throughout Greater Boston that reflect the region’s rich and diverse cultural heritage. Those sites will be revealed on April 14 at www.PartnersinPreservation.com.

From April 14 - May 17, you  -- and everyone you know -- can cast votes at www.PartnersinPreservation.com for the places you would like to see receive preservation funding, and share your personal stories and photos of the 25 sites. Each person can vote once daily for any of the 25 historic places. The winner of the public vote is guaranteed to receive a grant, so your votes really do count!

The Greater Boston area is the fourth region to receive funding from American Express under the initiative. American Express has already given away $2.5 million in preservation grants to sites in the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicagoland and New Orleans.

-- Caroline Barker

Caroline Barker is a communications coordinator 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.

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.