My Message to the Bully Pulpit: Remember Historic Preservation

Posted on: February 10th, 2009 by Jason Clement 2 Comments



President Obama takes questions during a campaign-style town hall meeting in Elkhart, Indiana on Monday.

Just hours ago, an $838 billion economic recovery bill cleared the Senate in a 61-37 roll call vote.

Now, after all the over-strategizing, finger-pointing, vote-speculating, speech-making and line-item-slashing that has followed President Barack Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan through both chambers of Congress, one would think that a short breather might be in order.

Not today. At 2:30 this afternoon - just 120 minutes after this major milestone - conferees from both the House and the Senate began hammering out the differences between their two versions of the stimulus, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) saying that he hopes to have the "first cut" by tomorrow afternoon.

If you're thinking, "Wow, what a turnaround," consider the barrage of other stimulus-related headlines that have been beamed out of Washington lately. Over just the past few days, we've heard President Obama ratchet up his rhetoric on Capitol Hill with words like "catastrophe" and "lost decade." We've seen images of him hosting intimate Oval Office meetings with on-the-fence moderate Republicans. And of course, there's the video from yesterday of his campaign-esque town hall meeting in Elkhart, Indiana - a setting that was tailor-made for photo ops with President Obama speaking behind a giant banner emblazoned with the words "Making America Work."

If all of this means anything, it's that the bully pulpit is back.

Just like President Theodore Roosevelt (who of course coined the phrase), President Obama has both realized and started tapping like mad the unrivaled platform that comes along with the American presidency. But, as he continues to influence Congress from afar and get the results that we all need, it's imperative that we as preservationists continue to stress the importance of our mission every chance we get.

As an example, in his first-ever White House press conference last night, President Obama had this to say about our nation's aging schools:

Education - yet another example. The suggestion is why should the federal government be involved in school construction. Well, I visited a school down in South Carolina that was built in the 1850s. Kids are still learning in that school, as best they can. When the railroad - it's right next to a railroad, and when the train runs by, the whole building shakes and the teacher has to stop teaching for a while. The auditorium is completely broken down; they can't use it. So why wouldn't we want to build state-of-the-art schools with science labs that are teaching our kids the skills they need for the 21st century, that will enhance our economy and, by the way, right now will create jobs?

In some ways, I think President Obama is dead on in his answer. Besides, who would argue for anything but the best for our children and the learning facilities that they report to each day? What I find unfortunate about his response, though, is the wall it builds between old and "state of the art." As we all know, those two things aren't mutually exclusive.

Like the charming historic storefronts that make our Main Streets places where we want to bring friends and spend time, our older and historic schools are places that add character and livelihood to our neighborhoods. In some cases, they're where our parents went to school and served as cheerleaders or members of student council. Above all, they're inspiring and they tell stories.

To quickly circle back to the Main Street analogy, when's the last time you heard someone say that about a new shopping center with state-of-the-art retail space and miles of parking?

As President Obama continues to host town halls (he hit Fort Meyers, Florida today) and highly-publicized White House cocktail parties as a means to indirectly push Congress along, I hope that he will remember the inspirational words he used to describe the importance of preservation and adaptive reuse not too long ago during his campaign and transition days.

What's old is old, yes, but it can all be new again - and "make America work" in the process - with the right leadership and a bold vision.

Learn more about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan and what it means for preservation on our evolving stimulus tracking and analysis page, as well as our ongoing work to protect neighborhood schools.

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.

Teaching Preservation: Databases, Transcripts & Prom

Posted on: February 10th, 2009 by Guest Writer


Prom, like preservation, is a big deal in Research History class.

Last week, we had inches upon inches of everything winter has to offer. Today, it’s dreary and raining off and on. Tomorrow, the weatherman says we’re in for 55 mph wind gusts and severe thunderstorms, which of course will be followed by a 70% chance of snow. Great conditions for outside work in a graveyard, wouldn’t you say?

Because Mother Nature is doing a really good job of keeping us indoors these days, I thought I’d use my time in the blog spotlight to further introduce you to our class. So, here you have it - a day in the life, Research History style.

First of all, walking into Paul “Lash” LaRue’s (our fearless leader/mentor/teacher/friend) class is basically like walking into organized chaos - in a good way of course.

Every student has his or her own pet project. For example, Jon and I are currently hard at work transcribing (and then typing) Jon’s grandfather’s personal stories from the front lines of World War II. Jon says this is the first time Sam, his grandfather, has really opened up to him (and others) about his past in the military. He’s a fabulous person to learn about and we’ve all really bonded with him. We love you, Sam!

Also working on the Veterans History Project are Erin, Brittany, and Ross. Ross usually starts his day by skimming the Dayton Daily News for relevant new stories, which is followed by an occasional granola bar. All while Brittany and Erin transcribe nonstop.

Taylor, also known as our “go-to gal,” is another member of our eclectic crew. She bounces around every day working on various projects, including filling in as Lash’s assistant whenever needed. From transcribing stories to helping Lash type up important documents, Taylor keeps all the balls in the air.

You probably remember them from their previous blog post, but Lynne M. and Alyssa S. are still busy organizing the Good Hope Cemetery headstone readings. Lynne says, “The project takes a really long time to do, but I want it done right. It’s a lot of fun.” To which Alyssa adds, “Yup, it’s very tedious. However, it’s worth it knowing that we are preserving history.”

Across the room, Lash chats with me while munching on animal crackers. “The class is composed of students working on several tasks. On any given day and at any given moment, there could be three or four different projects being worked on in class. So, as a result, I spend most of my time roaming around from student to student. We genuinely have fun in here!”

So, since we all do our own thing from day to day, you might be wondering if we have anything in common. The answer is yes, and in one word I will tell you what it is: prom!

It’s literally just months away (that’s not a lot of time when you have a wardrobe to plan), and in a room full of girls, it’s often a topic of conversation right before we head to lunch (which is really brunch since we have to eat at 10:30 a.m., but hey, that’s a different story). We look at dresses in magazines and talk about themes for the dance. Believe it or not, Lash often chimes in with his own opinions on the issue.

So really, if you want to know what a day is like in Research History, it depends on who you are, what day it is and what mood you’re in. The one constant? A good time and a job well done.

- Sara S.

Sara S. is a senior at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. This semester, she'll be working with her Research History classmates to document and preserve Good Hope Cemetery. Stay tuned as they share their experiences 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

This Place Matters: PLT January 2009 Final Report

Posted on: February 9th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation


The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge in Birmingham, Alabama.

There is a notion among those of us involved in the work of history that the buildings we fight to save, the landscapes that we honor, and the lives that we enshrine in our texts are a part of the very fabric of our national identity. No one building, landscape, or person tells just one story. Often times they serve as connective tissue linking individuals, communities, and events, and they also underscore that we all serve as protagonists in a larger, greater narratives extending beyond ourselves.

The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge in Birmingham, Alabama represents one of these cases. It is not just the architectural styling that makes this building worthy of saving -- this is the place where many African-American citizens in Birmingham came together on a daily basis to get their teeth cleaned, buy ice cream or even attend a concert or two. It is a place which houses the headquarters for the Prince Hall Masons in Alabama. It is where Arthur Shores, a prominent African-American attorney worked with the NAACP legal defense fund to fight racial segregation in education and at the ballot box.

A detail of the Grand Lodge.

A detail of the Grand Lodge.

The Prince Hall Grand Lodge stands at the corner of the Fourth Avenue Historic District, steps away from Kelly Ingram Park and the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. In this sense, it is also an integral part of the larger leaps that this country took to rectify the wrongs of segregation. As such, this building is the story of an individual, a community, and the nation.

As we have documented in earlier blog postings, for one week this past January, 35 preservationists from across the country came together for Preservation Leadership Training (PLT) to learn and work in one of the cities pivotal to America’s Civil Rights Movement. As with the 25 sessions of PLT before it, each participant left the week armed with new ideas, new goals, and a new network of co-preservationists across the country. With only one week available to them, they also worked hard to come up with creative solutions and ideas for the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge. These ideas have been consolidated together in this final report. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated that “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” and so this PLT class of 2009 says with resounding confidence that this place matters.

-- Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya is the program assistant in the office of Training and Online Information Services at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Birmingham PLT team.

The Birmingham PLT team.

This Preservation Leadership Training would not have been possible without the work of our strong local committee and the support of the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation and Main Street Birmingham, Inc. In addition the program was made possible by the generous support of the The Charles Evans Hughes Memorial Foundation, Inc., Alabama Power Company Foundation, Susan Mott Webb Charitable Trust, Alabama Department of Tourism, Southern Progress Corporation, Balch & Bingham LLP, Brookmont Realty Group LLC, Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, and Brown Chambless Architects

The deadline for applications for the next Preservation Leadership Training in Deadwood, South Dakota is March 31, 2009. To apply, or for more information on PLT, please visit our 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.

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.


Historic Google Earth: Google's mapping tools are among the coolest and most innovative on the web today. The folks at the Googleplex are at it again, this time updating their Google Earth tool to include historical images, allowing users to view how specific locations have changed over time. [Digital Urban]

Junk Boni: A "junk bonus" of about 2,500 Euro has been established in Germany in an effort to stimulate the nation's auto industry. Trade in your beat up old VW and get some cash that could go towards a more eco-friendly car. Sounds like a great idea, but hold on, does this compare at all to scrapping old "inefficient" buildings in order to build new "green" ones in their place? [anArchitecture]

Preservation Day at the Capitol: Is quickly approaching. Preservation Kentucky outlines the day's schedule. [Preservation Kentucky]

The Lincoln Bicentennial: Celebration continues as Jeffrey Larry, Preservation Manager at President Lincoln's Cottage, will discuss Lincoln’s life while residing at the Cottage and the architectural history of the building. If you're in the Baltimore area, be sure to check it out. [President Lincoln's Cottage Blog]

Levels of Sustainability: "...There are two sustainabilities and we are only thinking about one of them. We think about the material, but we don’t think about the economy. How do you make a sustainable economy based on sustainabile practices?" Vince Michael from Time Tells examines the affect of sustainable building practices on the economy. [TimeTells]

New Urban Rainforests: Are better than no rainforests at all? "Designed for the heart of Sentul, Kuala Lumpur, TROPICOOL @ KL envisions a series of self-sustaining mushroom skyscrapers that incorporate natural energy sources, rainwater harvesting, and bio-mass support for off-the-grid living in a truly green environment." [Inhabitat]

Artificial Hills of Berlin: In post-WWII Germany, with most of the men still occupied with other commitments, it was the women (nicknamed Trummerfrauen or "rubble women") who set to work cleaning the bombed-out streets. The rubble had to be put somewhere, and waste materials were often transported to outlying areas creating hills known as Schuttberg or Trummerberg. Over time, these hills of debris have been covered with grass and vegetation, rendering them indistinguishable from other, more "natural" landscape formations. [Pruned]

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.

25 Random Things About the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Posted on: February 6th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 15 Comments


You may have heard about the "25 Random Things" meme that's making its way around Facebook these days -- but if you haven't, the New York Times, Washington Post, or Time magazine can fill you in on the latest craze in navel-gazing.

Since we have a page on Facebook, a few of us here at the National Trust for Historic Preservation decided to put our heads together and craft a list of random facts about this place where we spend so much of our time.  We're posting the list both here on the blog and on Facebook, though we're not actually sure Facebook will allow us to "tag" our partner organizations, as the rules require. So, in case we can't tag... Fellow preservation organizations, consider the gauntlet thrown down! Our list -- and the rules for playing along -- are below.

  1. We do an annual 11 Most Endangered list because the year we started it, we couldn’t narrow the list down to 10.
  2. The National Trust has given the same parting gift to its interns for the past two decades: “The History of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1963-1973.” You know, despite the fact that most of these interns were born after the book was published.
  3. Our congressional charter requires that our headquarters be in Washington, DC.
  4. The National Trust Library used to fit on one side of an office, but now has 18,000 volumes and is housed at the University of Maryland.
  5. Number of National Trust Historic Sites with bowling alleys: two (Lyndhurst and Montpelier).
  6. We have Main Street programs in a wide variety of places, including the home of US nuclear program (Los Alamos, New Mexico) and the home of Leinenkugel’s beer (Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin).
  7. The full legal name of our organization is the “National Trust for Historic Preservation in the United States.” We go with “National Trust for Historic Preservation” because that’s all that fits on our business cards.
  8. Our headquarters building once housed six luxury apartments, but now is filled with more than 200 staff. (So, were they really huge apartments or are we in tragically cramped offices?)
  9. The Main Street movement created 370,514 jobs between 1980 and 2007 -- so we’ll take Main Street over Wall Street any day!
  10. The Dixie Chicks played at the National Preservation Conference in Fort Worth in the mid-90s, before Natalie Maines joined the band (and, therefore, before they were famous).
  11. The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado – a member of National Trust Historic Hotels of America – was Stephen King’s inspiration for “The Shining.”
  12. We invested $54,287,438 in historic properties last year in the form of grants, loans, and tax credits.
  13. Country music star Kenny Chesney featured the Farnsworth House, a National Trust Historic Site in Illinois, in his video, “Don’t Blink.”
  14. Staff on the fourth floor of our building sit in rooms that displayed part of the art collection Andrew Mellon (who lived on the fifth floor) donated to create the National Gallery of Art.
  15. On Thursday, our entire headquarters staff received the following email message: “does anyone have the big roll of bubble wrap? if so.. please bring it back to the mailroom… thanks…”
  16. More than 200 of our current and former staff and interns have profiles on Facebook. Among our current status updates:
    “…is at Tastee Diner. Yum!”
    “…is wishing Rick Astley a very happy birthday.”
    ‘…thinks that tomato soup makes for weird dreams.”
    “…is convinced that the same person who has been siphoning his salad dressing has now completely jacked his bottle of mustard from the breakroom fridge.”
  17. Despite what some of our moms think, our name isn’t, in fact, “National Historic Trust.”
  18. Number of National Trust Historic Sites with formal cemeteries: eight (six for people, two for pets).
  19. Average number of visitors to National Trust Historic Sites each year: 801,096.
  20. The Northeast Office regularly offers to take representation of either the US Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico off the Southern Office’s hands (just to help out, really)…no luck yet.
  21. The Westchester County Kennel Club Show is one of the most popular events held each year at the Lyndhurst Estate (a National Trust Historic Site) in Tarrytown, NY.
  22. Once upon a time, our logo featured an eagle, so to promote this, we briefly offered a friendly stuffed bald eagle named “Trusty” as a membership gift. Some lucky staff members hung onto a few irregular or remaindered Trustys. They are now a highly endangered and coveted species.
  23. Once and for all – the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Register of Historic Places are not the same thing – not even close.
  24. If you really want to see anyone on our staff fly into a righteous tirade, bring up the latest example of a perfectly reuseable and retrofittable historic building being torn down to clear space for a new “green” building.
  25. Filoli, a National Trust Historic Site in California, was the Carrington Mansion on Dynasty.

Share Rules:
Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to "notes" under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.)

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.