July 3, 2014

HOPE Crew: Training the Next Generation of Preservationists

A HOPE Crew in Paterson, New Jersey, paints Hinchliffe Stadium in April.

As any preservationist knows, the task of caring for and maintaining historic sites is a never-ending one. With that in mind, the National Trust for Historic Preservation recently launched a new program called Hands-On Preservation Experience (HOPE) Crew to introduce preservation to the next generation.

HOPE Crew will provide practical, hands-on preservation training to thousands of young people and veterans through a partnership with The Corps Network, a national advocacy and support group for youth development programs that has more than 100 youth corps members. (Read more about HOPE Crew and its partnership with The Corps Network in the Summer 2014 issue of Preservation magazine.)

Each HOPE Crew will partner with local preservation craftspeople and a preservation adviser who will provide mentorship and training. The corpsmembers receive hourly wages for their work; the professionals who provide their expertise on each project receive compensation, as well.

Members of the first HOPE Crew in front of the rehabilitated Skyland Stables in Shenandoah National Park.

“The goal of HOPE Crew is to engage a new set of future preservationists,” says Monica Rhodes, manager of volunteer outreach at the National Trust. “And in doing so, we’re opening up the field of preservation to a younger, more diverse audience.”

That exposure, Rhodes believes, will equip the young corpsmembers with new, specialized skills, which has the potential to lead to greater job opportunities.

Further, by working on some of the country’s most significant sites, the corpsmembers gain a sense of pride and accomplishment, as well as a better appreciation for their communities and historic places.

“These corpsmembers can say, ‘I’m physically making a positive difference in my community by participating in HOPE Crew projects,’” Rhodes says.

A HOPE Crew in Texas at the Johnson Settlement Cabin in Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park.

Last month, HOPE Crew received a huge boost when Delaware North Companies, a major concessionaire for national parks, announced a $3 million commitment to HOPE Crew projects in the National Park System.

This announcement came on the heels of celebrations following HOPE Crew’s first completed project: the rehabilitation of 75-year-old Skyland Stable at Shenandoah National Park. Members of the Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia worked alongside a preservation architect and craft expert to repair the doors, fences, and envelope of the stable, which was built in 1939.

Youth corps from West Virginia work with a preservation craft expert to restore the Skyland Stables in Shenandoah National Park.

Other projects are in the full swing:

  • The Austin-based Texas Conservation Corps recently teamed with HOPE Crew to complete a two-week rehabilitation of the timber-framed Johnson Settlement Cabin in Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in Johnson City, Texas.
  • In Santa Fe, New Mexico, members of the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps worked with HOPE Crew to re-point stone walkways and repair the stucco surfacing on the National Park Service’s Old Santa Fe Trail Building in downtown Santa Fe.
  • Currently, four historic structures within Camp Ken-Etiwa-Pec, a former Boy Scout camp located within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area of the National Park Service, are being rehabilitated by a HOPE Crew, including members of the Student Conservation Association, in Layton, New Jersey. When the project is completed later this summer, the rehabilitated structures will serve as a base camp for corps members during future preservation work.
  • And at Woodlawn, part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon in Alexandria, Virginia, members of the Earth Conservation Corps are joining HOPE Crew to rehabilitate Grandview, a traditional farmhouse which was, in 1859, the residence of Jacob Troth, the second owner of the Woodlawn property.

To learn more about the HOPE Crew at Hinchliffe Stadium, read our post about the renovation process.

The National Trust will continue to increase HOPE Crew’s scale, with multiple projects operating simultaneously. So far, the feedback from youth corps who have partnered with the National Trust has been positive, and Rhodes says she looks forward to continuing to connect a new generation to places with local, regional, and national significance.

“With curious minds and strong desires to learn craft skills, I’ve witnessed HOPE Crew members tackle some impressive preservation projects so far,” Rhodes says. “We see a very bright future for the program.”

Lauren Walser served as the Los Angeles-based field editor of Preservation magazine. She enjoys writing and thinking about art, architecture, and public space, and hopes to one day restore her very own Arts and Crafts-style bungalow.

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

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