• New Story: HI-FOG Mist Fire Suppression System Protects Remote Alaskan Cathedral

    April 7, 2022

    Fire poses one of the greatest risks to historic places, but its prevention and extinguishment can also present a high risk to historic materials. Installing a traditional sprinkler system can negatively impact the character of a historic place, and the high volume of water used to quell fires can oversaturate fragile features. In the 1990s, a new solution was developed in Finland to mitigate the risk of fire, reduce subsequent water damage, and prevent major disruptions from installation: HI-FOG mist fire suppression systems. This innovative technology has protected historic places worldwide, including a historic cathedral in the remote community of Unalaska on the Aleutian Islands of Alaska.

    Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1971, Holy Ascension of Our Lord Cathedral is one of the oldest Russian Orthodox churches in Alaska. The cathedral’s history dates to the 1750s when Russian Orthodox missionaries started preaching to European fur traders and Alaska Natives. The current cruciform cathedral was built in 1896, replacing earlier churches on the site. Few modifications have been made to the cathedral despite ongoing use by the congregation, community, and visitors.


    Exterior view of Holy Ascension Cathedral in Alaska

    photo by: National Park Service for ROSSIA

    Site view of Holy Ascension of Our Lord Cathedral following restoration following installation of HI-FOG mist fire suppression system.

    Holy Ascension has faced a heightened risk of fire throughout its history. The wooden cathedral hosts worship services that involve lighting many candles. Housed within the cathedral is a priceless collection of historic church icons and artifacts, transported to the Aleutian Islands over rivers, mountain ranges, and the ocean in treacherous conditions. Fire could destroy the church and its collection in the approximately five minutes it would take firefighters to respond.

    Since 2013, the congregation, in partnership with Russian Orthodox Sacred Sites in Alaska (ROSSIA), a nonprofit focused on preserving Alaskan churches and religious iconography, has discussed upgrading fire protection at Holy Ascension. Congregants and stakeholders worried that Holy Ascension could burn down like other churches in Alaska, including St. Michael’s Cathedral in Sitka.

    To read the full story visit Preservation Leadership Forum.

  • The National Fund for Sacred Places Launches New Website & Application Cycle

    January 18, 2022

    A plaza at San Xavier del Bac.

    photo by: Mark Lipczynski

    Plaza at San Xavier del Bac Mission in Arizona.

    The National Fund for Sacred Places, a program funded by the Lilly Endowment and managed by the National Trust’s Preservation Services & Outreach Department in collaboration with Partners for Sacred Places, is kicking off 2022 with a new and improved website showcasing the impact of the program and providing guidance and resources to potential applicants.

    As participants in the National Fund program continue to complete major capital projects with support from grant funds, the new website will feature their success stories and educate other congregations about best practices in preserving historic sacred places.

    Potential applicants can now access a step-by-step guide to the application process and program, take a quiz to determine their eligibility, read about the types of projects and historic sacred spaces that have been supported by grant funding, and find links to additional helpful resources. A GIS map shows the geographic breadth of the program and links to profiles and photos of each of the 82 grantees so far.

    With the launch of the new website, the National Fund team is also kicking off the National Fund’s 2022 application cycle. The program will be accepting Letters of Intent from January 18 to March 7. Congregations meeting the eligibility criteria can apply for grants ranging from $50,000 to $250,000 to support significant capital projects at historic houses of worship.

    National Fund-supported projects, which often include structural repairs, ADA upgrades, or facade restoration, are intended to not only preserve historic sacred places but also to enhance their usage as community assets. After National Fund staff review the LOIs, a select number of congregations will be invited to submit a full application. Congregations accepted into the National Fund program will be announced in October 2022.

    Combined, the new website and National Fund application process aim to advance the goals of the National Impact Agenda, especially An Engaged Public and Equitable Communities. The website will cultivate an engaged public by spreading awareness about the program through accessible communication and storytelling to a broader audience than the National Fund has previously reached. National Fund staff will review letters of intent and full applications with a heightened attention to congregations and projects that intentionally harness the power of preservation to respond to historic and current inequities and meet present-day needs of the community.

    Please check out the National Fund for Sacred Places’ new website and share it widely with others who may be interested in applying, want to know more, or are passionate about saving historic sacred places for present-day communities.

    Contact Emily Kahn, Program Coordinator, National Fund for Sacred Places, at ekahn@savingplaces.org for additional information.

  • Community-Serving Congregations in Vermont and Minnesota Complete Repairs with Support of the National Fund for Sacred Places

    December 8, 2021

    Two more community-serving congregations have completed critical repairs and upgrades thanks to the National Fund for Sacred Places, a program funded by the Lilly Endowment and managed by the Trust’s Preservation Services & Outreach Department in collaboration with Partners for Sacred Places. In November, National Trust staff completed virtual site visits with United Baptist Church of Poultney, Vermont and First Covenant Church of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Members of both congregations reflected that the project outcomes far exceeded their expectations in terms of fundraising, impact, and outreach.

    United Baptist Church of Poultney is a small, rural congregation with an enormous local impact. From the 1805 Federal church, parishioners collect school supplies for low-income families, host summer concerts and community meals, and hold civic functions such as farmers markets in collaboration with other nonprofits.

    A $100,000 grant from the National Fund for Sacred Places with over $200,000 in matching funds raised by the congregation—double the required match—allowed United Baptist Church to refurbish and weatherproof the building envelope. Through replacing rotted historic woodwork, repainting the building, and sealing windows, United Baptist Church is better equipped to face harsh winter conditions. The congregation commented that National Fund-supported work has “increased community involvement and excitement in using this community building as a gathering space.”

    First Covenant Church of Minneapolis was founded in 1874 as the historic center of the Swedish immigrant community and now serves as “The Healing Block” where art, social services, and social justice converge. The 1887 Romanesque Revival church serves as a venue for performing arts groups, an early childhood education center, and a nightly year-round 50-bed shelter for unsheltered people.

    A $250,000 National Fund grant, combined with $600,000 in matching funds raised by the congregation, allowed First Covenant to replace an outdated and frequently broken elevator. Ruthie Maddox, a life-long congregant in her eighties who was the last person to get stuck in the old elevator, ceremonially rode the brand-new elevator to all eight stops at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in October. According to the First Covenant congregation, the new elevator is “like a heart or a lung transplant” for the entire building, facilitating full access and circulation to the whole building for the first time in the church’s history. As a result of an increase in accessible space, First Covenant Church is creating new space-sharing opportunities in the building with community partners.

    The “graduations” of First Covenant Church and United Baptist Church bring the total number of National Fund for Sacred Places projects completed to twenty-nine. The National Fund continues to support capital projects at more than fifty additional congregations across the country and will begin the 2022 application cycle in January.

All 3 updates

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