Back in May, before we were aware of the danger the nation’s economy was truly in, we named California’s State Parks to our annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places when the state’s budget woes led to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recommending drastic cuts that would have closed 48 parks. Changes to the state’s budget, along with increased user fees, kept the parks open, but California’s woes have proven, sadly, not to be unique. Over Thanksgiving weekend, Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois announced that earlier-suggested closings of seven parks and a dozen historic sites would go forward, and our local partner, Preservation New Jersey, has posted updates to their blog about site closings in the Garden State.

Yesterday, in his remarks at a governor’s conference in Philadelphia, President-elect Barack Obama made it clear that the risk the economic downturn poses to our country’s heritage has not gone unnoticed – he included the closure of historic sites in a list of the difficult choices being made on the state level. (The mention comes at 2:27 in the video below.)

California, Illinois, and New Jersey are not alone in having their state parks and historic sites threatened by the economic downturn – it’s a nationwide situation. Share what’s happening where you live below.

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.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.


Catching up on the news within the Preservodome after a long Thanksgiving weekend..

New Orleans Hospital Complex: Spectacular or a Disaster?: News is spreading about the Charity Hospital announcement, hopefully this is not the end of the discussion. [International Herald Tribune]

Red Revival: While that news may not be very positive, New Orleans does have another post-Katrina development that can viewed as a good thing. [Times-Picayune]

Giving Thanks: I'd like to give thanks to Vince Michael and his blog Time Tells. Always offering a fresh, unique perspective on a variety of topics, here he talks about what he is thankful for this holiday season--along with something he is not thankful for. [Time Tells]

History-Cosmetics Accomplished: 'The government building and cultural center of the former German Democratic Republic DDR, the "Palast der Republik" has been fully dismantled these days.' One of the cooler looking buildings from the DDR-period, the bronze and mirrored glass structure has been demolished and the site has now been cleared for the rebuilding of the Prussian era Stadtschloss, along with the "Humboldt-Forum" interior. This is rather interesting for a society and culture that is obsessed with the idea of preserving and remembering a traumatic past. Has the German Bundestag decided that other "traumatic pasts" can simply be paved over and now forgotten? While many disagree with and were deeply affected by the socialist/communist state, the building and this period are still part of Germany's history, and help tell the profoundly unique tale of Berlin. [anArchitecture]

Infrastructural Domesticity: A crane operator who has lived in the world's soon-to-be tallest building has lived in said building for over a year? With all the fascinating development going on in the Emirate city of Dubai, I'll believe it. [BLDGBLOG]

Cohabitational Living in Brooklyn: "More modest apartments than the original developers intended and to fill them with families whose lives revolve around the courtyard and 6,000 square feet of common space where residents can cook together, play together, do woodworking or take an art class together." [Tree Hugger]

Re-imagining Stockholm's Slussen: "A joint project between the Swedes at Nod Landscape Architects and Danes at BIG Architects is set to transform Slussen, Stockholm’s city center, with a massive pedestrian-friendly makeover. Currently Slussen is an interwoven mess of roads with no room for pedestrians or cyclists. The proposed project will transform the area into a multi-layered, multi-use intersection allowing walkers and bikers access to waterfront strolls and gas-free travel. The layered design will also incorporate shops and cafes, reviving Stockholm’s main artery." [Inhabitat]

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.


Pictured left to right: State Rep. Karen Carter Peterson (partial), Mayor C. Ray Nagin, Dr. Edward Blakely, State Rep. J.P. Morrell, U.S. Rep. William Jefferson (Photo: Michelle Kimball)

Pictured, from left: State Rep. Karen Carter Peterson (partial), Mayor C. Ray Nagin, Dr. Edward Blakely, State Rep. J.P. Morrell, U.S. Rep. William Jefferson (Photo: Michelle Kimball)

The short week before Thanksgiving was dominated by Tuesday’s announcement by the Veteran's Administration and Louisiana State University that the institutions had selected the sites for their new medical facilities. As feared — but as expected — they chose the Lower Mid-City sites, opening the doors to the worst possible scenario. It has been one year since the public learned of the secretly-confected deal the city struck with the VA to present it with a construction-ready site — if the VA chose the RPC site, named for the Regional Planning Commission, which has so artfully carried out this exercise in misguided planning.

The morning of the announcement I appeared on WWL-TV’s morning show standing on the neutral ground of S. Galvez, near Deutsches Haus, which is the dividing line between the two sites. Earlier, Kurt Weigle, executive director of the Downtown Development District, had told the reporter that “Charity is in no shape to open as a hospital.” Further, he contended that buildings have a “life-cycle,” and that Charity had exceeded its life-cycle for use as a hospital. My response was to point out that New York City’s Chrysler Building dates to 1930 and the Empire State Building to 1931, and that no one was talking about those buildings — of the same era and type of construction as the 1939 Charity Building — having reached the end of their “life-cycles” as office towers.

The press conference announcing the site selection took place in the mayor’s press room at City Hall. Sandra Stokes of the Foundation for Historical Louisiana, Michelle Kimball, Bobbi Rogers, and I were among the attendees. Before the event began, it was announced that if anyone was not with the media, he or she must leave, because “this was a press event for the media only.” We didn’t leave. During the press conference, everyone extolled the collaborative and inclusive process leading to this decision — apparently not realizing that minutes before, the citizens had been asked to leave.

At the press conference, Dr. Ed Blakely, director of the Office of Recovery and Development Administration, was asked whether any houses on the sites would be saved. Dr. Blakely replied, “We will save all of the historic fabric of the neighborhood… Demolition is only the last resort.” Blakely had evidently not been briefed on last week's executed programmatic agreement which, at most, would enable the moving of no more than 20 historic properties (of a total of 165). Perhaps his conception of saving historic fabric is to see it pried off of buildings and hauled away in dump trucks.

LSU, FEMA, and other state representatives could offer no new information on how LSU proposed to finance its estimated $1.2 billion project. Assurances were given by Paul Rainwater of the Louisiana Recovery Authority that if the state couldn’t “seal the deal” with FEMA on the amount of recovery money the state sought for damages to the Charity building by January 20, negotiations would continue into the Obama administration. It was reported this week that the state aniticipates at least a $1.3 billion hole in next year's budget.

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.

Giving Thanks for Preservation Heroes

Posted on: November 26th, 2008 by David J. Brown 7 Comments


Thanksgiving. It is a time when many of us are grateful for family, health, friends, home, freedom and so much more.


Union Baptist Church

My thanks this year go to the wonderful heroes we work with every day: the men and women who save the historic fire station for reuse as a community center, revitalize the town’s old mill into a center for “green” businesses, shoot a video and in the process start a campaign to save roadside art from the 1950s and 1960s. In short, the individuals who save the places that matter – small or large, under-appreciated or iconic – in cities and towns all across the country.

These are people like Tennent Houston, who stepped forward to help a small African-American congregation in Augusta, Georgia, save and restore a handsome but deteriorating Carpenter Gothic-style gem of a building. Working with Historic Augusta and the Union Baptist Church, Mr. Houston led the effort that has raised more than $500,000. With gifts ranging from $10 to $130,000, the building has been restored and the sensitive addition of a ramp has allowed some of the elderly members to again attend services regularly. Preservationists in Augusta give thanks for this hero.

La Posada

La Posada

Some heroes act anonymously. I join our friends in Charleston, South Carolina, who are grateful to the person who anonymously sent Drayton Hall a watercolor image of the plantation that may date to 1765 (the previous oldest image was from 1845). The image led National Trust staff to conduct an archaeological dig and resulted in exciting new discoveries about America’s oldest preserved plantation house that is open to the public.

In Winslow, Arizona, a town on historic Route 66 known to baby-boomers everywhere (hum a few bars of Take It Easy), preservationists are thankful for Allan Affeldt and his wife Tina Mion. They have rescued the beautiful La Posada Hotel – a building once on the disposal list of the Santa Fe Railroad - and in the process have brought the Southwestern-based designs of pioneering designer Mary Colter back to life. I stopped in there this summer and had the best meal of my vacation in the wonderful Turquoise Room. Allan and Tina are preservation heroes of the first order.

Blue Swallow Motel, Vintage Roadside

Blue Swallow Motel, Vintage Roadside

A thanksgiving list for preservation heroes could extend indefinitely – and I hope it will. It would include Helen Higgins, who just celebrated her 10th anniversary of helping save historic places as the Executive Director of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation. The team that rehabilitated Richmond, California’s Ford Assembly Building, turning a structure that once manufactured exhaust-spewing internal-combustion engines into a home for green businesses, would also be on the list. I’m thankful for Kelly Burg and Jeff Kunkle at Vintage Roadside, who have helped remind us of the fun in roadside signs and the buildings from the recent past found along two-lane highways all across America. The staff and volunteers at Chicago’s Pui Tak Center also make my list, for developing a terrific campaign that helped them win a National Trust/American Express online voting contest and receive more that $100,000 to rehabilitate their landmark community center, located in historic Chinatown.

Preservationists have many heroes. I encourage you to thank your preservation hero in the comments section below. And have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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.

BREAKING NEWS: Charity Hospital Announcement

Posted on: November 25th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 3 Comments


BREAKING NEWS: On November 25th, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Louisiana State University announced the selection of the Mid-City neighborhood for the site of their new hospitals. The new hospitals would needlessly destroy the historic neighborhood around Charity Hospital where residents have been rebuilding and restoring their community since Hurricane Katrina.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation views this decision as a serious error, as better alternatives that would save the neighborhood around the hospital are available.

"In selecting these sites, the VA and LSU have made a serious error. They chose the alternatives that will not only be the most time-consuming, costly, and complex, to implement, but will needlessly destroy a historic neighborhood where residents are struggling to rebuild their community in the wake of Hurricane Katrina" said Richard Moe president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "The VA and LSU had other options, yet they chose the most difficult and destructive route to delivering health care to the region's veterans and a medical teaching facility to the community. We strongly urge the VA and LSU to reconsider, and take another look at other less harmful alternatives on the table."

While the decision has come down today, five important questions remain unanswered as to why this particular site has been chosen by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Louisiana State University. "The sites selected by the VA and LSU would demolish fifteen square blocks within the Mid-City National Register Historic District, including some 165 historic structures, most of them homes, to make way for the new hospitals," said Walter Gallas, director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's New Orleans Field Office. "This is a lose-lose situation all around."

More to come...

Read more about the threat to Charity Hospital and the surrounding issues.

Read the Full Press Release.

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.