Championing Preservation in Challenging Times

April 8, 2020 by Katherine Malone-France

Over the last two weeks, National Trust staff have reached out to more than 150 state and local preservation organizations, including our colleagues in the National Preservation Partners Network and many others. We are also checking in with our grantees, government agencies, and members of our networks such as Historic Artists’ Homes & Studios.

Our goal: to see how these organizations—critical to our country’s ongoing preservation work—are coping with the rapid changes brought on by the coronavirus.

What did we find out? That these champions of preservation are demonstrating their resilience, creativity, and community connections during this crisis. For almost every group, their ongoing, pre-virus projects continue remotely as the organization also conducts financial analyses related to cancelled fundraisers, closed properties, and other economic impacts.

Just as we at the National Trust are, state and local preservation organizations remain focused on advocating for historic places as essential to strong communities. And thanks to creative digital programs, it has never been easier to connect with their work and fascinating historic places around the country, like Baltimore Heritage’s Five-Minute Histories video series; the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia’s “Building Philadelphia” speaker series; Los Angeles Conservancy’s online Storytime for Kids with books about places, architecture, and preservation; and many more.

Some partners are keeping their gardens and grounds open to the public as places of beauty and respite, such as the spectacular 250-acre landscape at Olana, the Hudson River Valley home of painter Frederic Church and part of the New York State Parks system (as well as Historic Artists’ Homes & Studios). Or they are sharing them virtually, like with daily Instagram tours of the spectacular gardens at Filoli, a National Trust Historic Site operated by our long-time partners at the Filoli Center, led by the Site’s Director of Horticulture, Jim Salyards.

The National Trust wants to do everything we can to support our partners. In line with our strategic priority of Investing in Preservation’s Future, we have launched a webinar series to help organizations navigate their current challenges. In response to requests for information on a range of federal programs, our Government Relations and Legal staff, along with partners from the Historic Tax Credit Coalition, provided a Federal Policy Response webinar on Thursday, April 2, attended by more than 600 people. The next two webinars in our series will also respond directly to what partners told us they needed—Best Practices in Fundraising and Messaging, and Digital Engagement with Historic Places.

Like many other preservation organizations, the National Trust also has important partners beyond those with missions similar to ours. For example, Ben Spungin and Kirk Probasco opened Alta Bakery just a year ago at Cooper Molera Adobe, a National Trust Historic Site, and they are helping to write the next chapter in this property’s history as they operate in a building that was home to Monterey’s first commercial bakery more than a century ago.

A month ago, Alta Bakery was named the best new restaurant in Monterey. But this month finds them significantly challenged by the COVID-19 crisis. Like so many small businesses, they have risen to the occasion, quickly pivoting to packages of baked goods and coffee for pick-up and staying engaged with their community through social media. And while the beautiful event center on site, the Barns at Cooper Molera, is closed, they are generously allowing Alta Bakery to use their grills to prepare their popular nightly suppers for pick-up.

At the National Trust, we are both proud and grateful to be a part of a network of preservationists of all kinds, all across this country, who remain committed to the vitally important work of using historic places to strengthen their communities.

Applications for the Telling the Full History Preservation Fund grant program are due December 15, 2021.

Learn More