|Legislation & Public Policy Issues in Preservation
Legislation & Public Policy Issues in Preservation
From The National Trust for Historic Preservation:
Thanks to supporters and advocates like you, we at the National Trust are celebrating a year with wide-ranging victories, from hands-on work that enlivened old buildings, to legal successes that strengthened protection, to creative thinking that re-interpreted, re-imagined, and re-invigorated places telling America’s full history.
To mark the occasion, we’re spotlighting 12 of our proudest preservation moments that epitomize our movement’s dedication and determination—and they’re all made possible by your support.
1. Nina Simone’s Childhood Home
Tryon, North Carolina
Singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone spent her formative years in a three-room clapboard house in Tryon, North Carolina. Once on the verge of demolition, the structure had been saved, but its future remained in jeopardy. Then, over the summer, this National Treasure was able to take two big steps forward—first with a HOPE Crew project that included applying a fresh coat of paint, courtesy of Benjamin Moore; and then with a successful online crowdfunding campaign that raised $67,000 for future repairs.
As National Trust senior field officer Tiffany Tolbert put it, “The house aligns with our African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund’s goal of telling the full history. It symbolizes the start of Nina Simone’s professional and educational life, and really shows the experience of African American women musicians in the Jim Crow–era South.”
2. Tenth Street Historic District
With its urgent call for attention and action, the National Trust’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list catalyzed a big step forward for one of its 2019 listings, the Tenth Street Historic District in Dallas, a rare remaining Freedmen’s Town first settled after the Civil War that’s still an active neighborhood today.
In August 2019, the Dallas City Council temporarily halted the use of public funds on any further demolitions in Tenth Street—an important move given that at least 70 of the district’s 260 homes have already been demolished. The direct result of a broad coalition effort, bolstered by the media attention of the 11 Most listing, this vote removes the immediate threat to the neighborhood and helps build momentum to find a permanent solution.
3. Ocmulgee National Monument
Lands affiliated with the Ocmulgee National Monument have been home to Native Americans for more than 17,000 years. Considered sacred to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation as well as other federally recognized tribes, the 702-acre monument in Macon, Georgia, contains multiple ceremonial mounds from the Mississippian period, including the only spiral staircase mound known to exist in North America. Yet over the years, urban sprawl encroached on the area, leaving it vulnerable to development.
Then in March, as the result of a sustained advocacy push from supporters and organizations, President Trump signed the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park Boundary Revision Act as part of the most significant public land legislation in a decade. The legislation re-designated the site as a national historical park and expanded it to nearly 2,800 acres. These crucial changes not only protect more Native American sites, but it will also help attract tourism—and thus resources—to interpret Ocmulgee’s many layers of natural, cultural, and spiritual significance.
Tarrytown, New York
Lyndhurst, a National Trust Historic Site, is one of the finest Gothic Revival mansions in America, with grounds originally designed to be as monumental as the house itself. Those who lived at Lyndhurst treasured the visionary landscape, and to this day, hundreds of visitors a week enjoy the 67 acres of hiking trails, bike paths, gardens, promontories, and other features. But time and nature had taken their toll on the gardens, prompting the National Trust to embark on an extensive restoration project completed this year.
Using original plans, as well as photographic and archival records, the National Trust recreated much of Lyndhurst’s lower landscape, including rebuilding shade refuges and making pathways safer and more accessible. Now Lyndhurst’s visitors can experience the grounds almost exactly as they were in the 19th century—a unique opportunity to step back in time.
5. Communities of the 710
Pasadena, South Pasadena, and East L.A., California
For more than thirty years, a proposed five-mile freeway and tunnel in the Los Angeles metro area threatened to displace residents, destroy historic homes, and cost billions of dollars—all without improving mobility or air quality. But thanks to constant pressure and forward-thinking alternatives, a coalition of neighborhood advocates, city and state leaders, and preservation organizations (including the National Trust) successfully and definitively defeated the plan.
The coalition’s vision of “Beyond the 710” encourages a smarter transportation model that better serves a 21st-century metropolis while also protecting the historic fabric that makes its neighborhoods vibrant and livable. Now, thousands of people whose homes were once threatened can remain, and the communities in peril can look forward to a dynamic future.
6. Shrine of Christ the King Sovereign Priest
In October 2015, fire ravaged Chicago’s Shrine of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, prompting the Archdiocese to seek demolition—and inspiring the congregation to fight to save it. The coalition's efforts resulted in the archdiocese changing course and deeding the building to the parish. Bolstered by this success, the community then received a capital grant from the National Fund for Sacred Places (a program of Partners for Sacred Places and the National Trust) to build an entirely new and weatherproof steel roof, not only protecting the structure but giving it life for another generation.
In addition to the National Fund for Sacred Places, funded by the Lilly Endowment, the National Trust leads successful and effective grant programs nationwide. In fact, over the past 50 years, the National Trust has invested more than $50 million in grant funding to help Americans preserve more than 7,500 sites nationwide.
7. Mallows Bay “Ghost Fleet”
Mallows Bay, Maryland
Located in Mallows Bay in Maryland, the Ghost Fleet is the largest and most varied collection of historic shipwrecks in the Western Hemisphere, spanning 200 wrecks and over three centuries of maritime heritage. And it is now the most prominent feature of the new Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary, the first national marine sanctuary within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
While the National Trust named the Ghost Fleet a National Treasure in 2017 to reflect its cultural and historical value, local community partners, national conservation and preservation groups, and recreation and education advocates all worked together to achieve this game-changing designation. Now as a marine sanctuary, it will enjoy further recognition and attention that connects the local community and new visitors to this unique place.
8. Little Havana
An international symbol of the role of immigrants in the American story, Little Havana—named a National Treasure in 2017—is Miami’s most iconic neighborhood. Yet poverty, displacement, and other issues threaten this vibrant community, prompting the National Trust to create a road map for improving life for Little Havana’s residents while protecting this one-of-a-kind place.
In partnership with local organizations led by PlusUrbia Design, and developed with input from more than 2,700 residents, stakeholders, and public health advocates, the award-winning revitalization plan focuses on building a healthy, equitable, and resilient neighborhood that retains its unique character. Drawing on best practices from a variety of fields, the plan increases incentives, lowers barriers, and respects the existing heritage of Little Havana. With this innovative tool in hand, Little Havana now has a path forward that will help future generations continue to thrive.
9. The Delta Queen
The Delta Queen, the oldest American overnight passenger steamboat still intact and able to travel, is the last remaining link to our nation’s 200-year tradition of passenger steamboat transportation. While the ship had been making a modest living in recent decades as a floating hotel, she needed a special legislative exemption to be allowed to travel farther ashore. The National Trust, which had been monitoring the ship’s situation since 2007, designated her a National Treasure and included her in 2016’s America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places List.
After years of petitioning local representatives, alerting the media, and asking Delta Queen fans for their support, the steamboat’s advocates were successful; the Coast Guard Authorization (S. 140) passed Congress and was signed into law in 2018, enabling the ship’s return to operation as an overnight passenger vessel. Currently under restoration, the Delta Queen is slated to sail again as early as 2020, delighting fans ready to board her again.
10. Cooper Molera Adobe
In downtown Monterey, California, Cooper Molera Adobe is bringing history back to life. Originally dating from 1827, this National Trust Historic Site in Monterey’s Old Town Historic District represents the layered history of the families who lived in and built Monterey, from the time when Monterey was the capital of Mexico’s largest province through today.
In recent years, a lack of resources for public programming and historic interpretation, as well as a serious backlog of restoration needs, resulted in minimal public visitation and a questionable future for the property. But after extensive engagement with local stakeholders, the National Trust worked with local developer Foothill Partners, Inc. to develop a “shared use” model that includes an active interpretation program along with compatible commercial uses appropriate to the historic setting. Now visitors can once again enjoy this unique cultural setting that honors and interprets its diverse history.
11. Herndon Home Museum
In May, HOPE Crew undertook important maintenance and repair work at Atlanta’s Alonzo Herndon Home Museum, the historic home of the city’s first black millionaire and founder of Atlanta Life Insurance Company. Crew members were provided by Greening Youth Foundation, a black-owned nonprofit youth corps based in Atlanta.
Over the course of several days, the all-African-American team carefully repaired, scraped, and re-painted the back porch and elements of the front facade under the supervision of a local master craftsman. The project exemplified HOPE Crew’s partnership with the Fund II Foundation, designed to engage African American youth in learning preservation trades at sites tied to black achievement and activism.
12. Historic Neighborhoods of Philadelphia
Philadelphia’s historic neighborhoods are the beating heart of a city that gave birth to a nation, has more historic buildings than any other except New York, and is the first and only World Heritage City in the United States. Yet for all this wealth of history and architecture, Philadelphia’s oldest neighborhoods have suffered significant damage and demolition, much of it due to outdated preservation laws and policies.
When the National Trust named the Historic Neighborhoods a National Treasure in 2017, Mayor Jim Kenny invited us to play a central role in a new 33-member task force to identify meaningful changes. Now, two years later, the task force’s robust recommendations—such as changing building codes, indexing historic sites, and providing a tiered approach to preservation regulation—have set the stage for Philadelphia to protect its old places in new ways, helping it become a model for other history-rich cities.
Posted: November 21, 2019
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