Preserving Historic Buildings: What You Need to Know (part 1)

The article below is written by Ron Drenger, powered by Stellar Financial. Please see tomorrow's post for part two.

In the 1970s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis spearheaded a campaign to save New York City’s Grand Central Terminal from demolition, leading to a legal precedent for the preservation of historic structures and helping to invigorate the modern preservation movement. Today the beloved architectural gem in midtown Manhattan, protected by landmark designation and beautifully restored, serves as an inspiration for preservation efforts around the country.

Although most preservation campaigns don’t have as high a profile as the one that saved Grand Central, in recent decades individuals and groups across the United States have mobilized to protect and restore historic buildings and neighborhoods in their communities. Such efforts, when effectively and meaningfully executed, not only save iconic structures but also beautify neighborhoods, promote economic development, and preserve cultural resources. Historic preservation advocates are also injecting new urgency into their efforts by emphasizing preservation’s role in promoting sustainable and environmentally-friendly development.

Preservation-minded donors who want to lead an effort to save a historic site in their own city or town - whether it is a home, a house of worship, a commercial building, a school, or a historic district - can turn to an extensive network of national, state and local organizations for guidance, technical expertise and financial support.

An excellent place to start is the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a private, nonprofit organization created in 1949 that provides leadership, education, advocacy and resources to save historic sites. The Trust can help donors with everything from obtaining additional funds and working with architects and contractors to enlisting community support, getting buildings listed on national and state registers of historic places, or even obtaining plaques for historic structures.

The group’s National Trust Preservation Fund provides financial assistance and direct investment to support preservation efforts in cities, towns, and rural areas. The Trust also has a Main Street Center, which promotes the revitalization of commercial districts and downtowns, combining historic preservation with economic development.

State and local preservation groups around the country also can provide vital resources and support to donors looking to work with historic preservation. In New York City, The New York Landmarks Conservancy provides grants, low-interest loans, and hands-on technical consulting to owners of historic homes, businesses, schools, houses of worship, theaters, cultural institutions, and community centers. The Conservancy, like other preservation organizations, provides guidance on building repair and project management; makes site visits to meet with owners, architects, and contractors; provides historical research, maintenance plans, and feasibility studies; and offers assistance with budgets, grant applications, and requests for proposals.

Leaders of local preservation projects often can leverage a grant from an organization like the Conservancy to attract additional funds. “Sometimes a small grant from us can really boost their self-confidence and morale, and show others that it’s an important effort, that there are organizations willing to contribute,” says Alex Herrera, Director of Technical Services at the Conservancy. “They can make our grant the center of their fundraising; they can use it to show that their effort is serious.”

The Conservancy’s Sacred Sites program focuses its grants on religious institutions throughout New York State. The program has awarded over $4.6 million in matching funds, which has helped preserve nearly 600 landmark-quality religious properties. Sacred Sites also helps congregations analyze building problems, develop restoration plans, and find qualified architects, engineers, contractors, and craftspeople.

Partners for Sacred Places, a national, nonsectarian, nonprofit organization that provides training and resources to congregations, is another organization that focuses on preserving religious sites.

See the rest of this article in tomorrow's post

by Ron Drenger

Dana Variano

Posted at 1:00 AM, Mar 18, 2009 in Economic Development | Environment | Permalink