October 3, 2013

American Express' Greatest Preservation Moments (To Date)

Facade at American Express' NYC office. Credit: Dan Sorenson Photography
Facade at American Express' NYC office

In 2005, Preservation magazine magazine asked award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns, “How important is preservation in the recalling of history?”

He answered, “It’s critical. We strain to listen to the ghosts and echoes of our inexpressibly wise past, and we have an obligation to maintain these places, to provide these sanctuaries, so that people may be in the presence of forces larger than those of the moment.”

American Express has long captured this ethos of protecting the past to enrich the future. As one of the world’s leading travel companies, they are passionate about culturally and historically significant places around the world, and have made historic preservation a hallmark of their community involvement.

As fans of the National Trust will know, we and American Express have worked together for nearly a decade on Partners in Preservation, a community-based initiative that has supported the restoration of nearly 200 historic places across the country.

Today, we’re excited to share that the Partners in Preservation model is evolving further. In 2014, American Express will become the presenting sponsor of the National Trust’s National Treasures program, where they will continue to support national landmarks and local gems alike.

It’s yet another example of American Express’s commitment to keeping valuable places open, accessible, and sustainable for years to come. So to celebrate, we’re spotlighting some of their most noteworthy preservation achievements over the past 130 years.

The 1885 memo sent to American Express employees about the Statue of Liberty Pedestal Fund. Credit: American Express Corporate Archives
The 1885 memo sent to American Express employees about the Statue of Liberty Pedestal Fund.

Restoring Lady Liberty

One of the earliest examples of American Express’ work in preservation was in 1885, when they raised money to help build the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. Nearly a century later, in 1974, their foundation donated $50,000 to the National Park Service to help renovate and restore the Statue of Liberty for the U.S. Bicentennial celebration in 1976. And in 1983, American Express led what is viewed by many as the first cause marketing campaign, raising $1.7 million to fully restore Lady Liberty.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington D.C. Credit: afagen, Flickr
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Helping Out American Icons

American Express grants have helped renovate or restore hundreds of other American icons as well, including:The Acroplis in Greece. Credit: tylerkaraszewski, Flickr
The Acroplis in Greece

Saving Places Around the World

In 1977 American Express was the first to contribute to UNESCO’s “Save the Acropolis” campaign in Athens, Greece. Then, in 1995, the company helped found the World Monuments Fund’s Watch List, which highlights the most endangered historic sites in the world. For close to a decade now, they have contributed more than $10 million to help preserve 126 Watch sites in 62 countries -- a major impact on a critical global issue.

Kids participating in a Save America's Treasures program. Credit: National Trust for Historic Preservation
Kids participating in a Save America's Treasures program

Recognizing All the Ways People Save Places

American Express’s close work with the National Trust typifies the company’s diverse approach to saving places. Highlights from our partnership include their support of:
  • Cultural Heritage Tourism, a site developed as a resource for organizations and individuals who are developing, marketing, or managing cultural heritage tourism attractions or programs.
  • Save America’s Treasures, a public-private partnership between the National Park Service and the National Trust for Historic Preservation that brought hundreds of millions of dollars for restoration to nationally significant historic sites and special collections across the country.
  • the American Express Aspire Award for emerging preservation leaders who illustrate the field’s promise and potential.
The Paragon Carousel in Hull, MA received a Partners in Preservation grant of $100,000 in 2009. Credit: Warren Jagger Photography
The Paragon Carousel in Hull, Mass., received a $100,000 Partners in Preservation grant in 2009.

Supporting Partners in Preservation

As we mentioned at the top of the post, Partners in Preservation has helped restore nearly 200 historic places across the country. PiP cities have included San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, Boston, Seattle, Minneapolis/Saint Paul, New York City, and most recently, the National Trust’s hometown of Washington, D.C.

With over $12 million in grants awarded since 2006, Partners in Preservation has engaged local communities and raised public visibility for hundreds of well-known historic places. It has also engaged several million people in preservation to help build the movement.

Now, as Partners in Preservation evolves with American Express’ highly visible support, they are again living out their values of respecting and celebrating significant historic places. They have invested millions of dollars and countless volunteer hours in support to organizations and projects that preserve or rediscover major historic sites at home and abroad. We at the National Trust are honored to have them as a partner, and we look forward to enriching the future together.

Julia Rocchi is the director of content marketing at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and gawks at buildings.


This Preservation Month, let's celebrate and explore historic places, starting with one action a day through the month of May. We can’t wait to see what you accomplish!

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