Unlike the environmental movement, which has many national organizations devoted to its many and varied causes, historic preservation has just a handful. When something happens at one or two of them, it can significantly shape what’s happening at the state and local level. This year promises seismic shifts because of transitions occurring at three national organizations: Preservation Action, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has been undergoing tremendous transformation since 2009, when Dick Moe’s long 17-year tenure as president ended. Stephanie Meeks, a former executive with the Nature Conservancy, took the helm and introduced a new strategic plan that narrowed its work by closing most of its regional offices, cutting Preservation magazine from six to four issues a year, closing its Save America’s Treasures office, reorganizing the National Main Street Center as a wholly-owned subsidiary, and cutting its ties with state and local preservation organizations. The plan (sometimes called Preservation 10X) also prompted a turnover of much of the staff through reorganizations and layoffs and put in place a new management team, most of whom are outside the field of history or preservation, suggesting a major retreat from its leadership position in historic preservation.
This year the focus at the National Trust seems to be on raising cash to survive. The last fiscal year ended Continue reading
Preservationists in Frederick, Maryland, which received a Great American Main Street Award in 2011.
In a move that will surprise many who work in historic preservation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has decided to move its Main Street program to a separate non-profit subsidiary and three of its senior staff members–Doug Loescher, Lauren Adkins, and Andrea Dono–have decided to leave the organization. Main Street was created more than thirty years ago to help revitalize historic downtowns and commercial districts and its work was so highly regarded that the National Trust presented its own Honor Award to its founders–Mary Means, Scott Gerloff, Tom Moriarity, and Clark Schoettle–in 2004. In a email message on June 18, Executive Vice President David Brown wrote:
As most of you are aware, since the launch of the Preservation10X framework last September, we have been engaged in a focused and inclusive process to assess the current status of the National Trust Main Street program and the Main Street Center, in order to arrive at the best path forward for Main Street. Thank you for the excellent input many of you have provided during this process.
Main Street is one of the most valued programs of the National Trust. It has achieved unprecedented stature nationwide as a highly successful preservation-based economic development program and enjoys great popularity among a wide constituent base. In many ways it has far surpassed Continue reading
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, Illinois
On Monday, the National Trust for Historic Preservation sold Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio in Oak Park, Illinois but don’t worry, it’ll still be preserved and open to the public. It was acquired by the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust, who has been operating and managing the site for nearly four decades and I suspect will be there for many more. In the 1970s, the FLWPT was a fledging organization that was attempting to save the Prairie-style home and studio of Frank Lloyd Wright, which had become badly deteriorated and cut up into a half dozen apartments by a private owner. It didn’t have the ability to purchase the property when it came up for sale, so they partnered with the National Trust to buy the property. The FLWPT would eventually repay the National Trust for its half of the $260,000 purchase price but in the meantime, the National Trust would hold the title and lease it to the FLWPT at a nominal price. The success of this venture prompted these two organizations to partner on the preservation of the Robie House, a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece which is owned by the University of Chicago but was badly maintained (another example of a university mistreating historic places!). With the sale of the Home and Studio, the Robie House partnership is also concluded and the FLWPT will work directly with the University.
I’m not sure what the change in relationship means, but just a few days ago, the Robie House and Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio were National Trust Historic Sites, two of 29 historic places sprinkled across the United States. It’s a ragtag collection that by itself makes no interpretive sense, doesn’t adequately represent American history or culture, isn’t connected by ownership (some NTHS are owned by others) or management (most NTHS are operated by other non-profits), and wasn’t formed to achieve a specific strategy or vision (they were mostly added as opportunities arose, donors made offers, or presidents were seduced). But with this transition, I hope it sparks some discussion around two important national issues for historic sites: Continue reading
Former Associate Architect for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Elizabeth Milnarik has recently left her position to pursue other opportunities in historic building preservation and research. During her tenure at the Trust, Elizabeth gained tremendous experience in the technical aspects of preserving the Trust’s extremely diverse historic structures, varying from a structural and visitor impact study of Charleston’s Drayton Hall (1738), to an invasive investigation into corrosion issues at Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House (1951) in Plano, Illinois. A licensed architect, Elizabeth earned her M. Arch from the University of Illinois and received a doctorate in architectural history from the University of Virginia. In addition to her duties as architect, Elizabeth has also lectured widely on the architectural history of the Trust sites, on American residential architecture, and particularly on the history of public housing in America. She can now be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Preservation Books, the publisher and distributor of books, reports, and studies on the management, preservation, and interpretation of historic sites has closed and is sending its inventory to Amazon.com. Here’s the notice on their web site:
It’s a brave new world in publishing and Preservation Books will not be left behind. In order to bring exceptional preservation tools and information to our members, Preservation Books is going on sabbatical and will spend the next six months researching new technologies, testing potential platforms, and re-evaluating how and what we publish.
But what does that mean? We are no longer selling books on www.preservationbooks.org. However, our best sellers and most recent titles (see the full list below) are available through Amazon.com.
Books published by the National Main Street Center will now be sold by them. We’re not sure when this notice was posted so we don’t know when the six months will conclude. We understand there are more shoppers at Amazon.com so that’s a better place to distribute books but we’ll be sorry if the National Trust decides to end the publishing business–it is one of the nation’s leading publishers of books on historic preservation, putting out such popular titles as Housekeeping for Historic Homes and House Museums, The Economics of Historic Preservation, Feasibility Assessment Manual for Reusing Historic Buildings, and Takings Law in Plain English.
The Kingwood Center in Mansfield, Ohio recently appointed Christopher Roddy as its visitor services manager beginning February 6, 2012. This position oversees many aspects of the museum and gardens, including interpretation and educational/public programs; admissions, security, and volunteers; developing marketing initiatives; and the way-finding plan for the site. Built in 1926 for Mr. and Mrs. Charles Kelley King, the 47-acre estate opened as a public garden in 1953, one year after Mr. King’s death. He left most of his estate to the private foundation that continues to operate Kingwood Center today.
Chris leaves Villa Finale, a National Trust Historic Site in San Antonio, Texas. He was part of the team that transitioned Villa Finale from a private residence to a public historic site, joining the fledgling staff as the buildings and grounds manager in July 2007 to plan and manage all the capital projects. Among his major accomplishments are Continue reading