September 24, 2019

2019 Partners in Preservation: Main Streets

Your votes will help unlock $2 million in preservation funding for women's history on historic Main Streets across America.

Vote Now

The 2019 Partners in Preservation: Main Streets campaign shines a light on historic buildings and sites celebrating the contributions of women in local communities across the country.

In honor of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote, Partners in Preservation: Main Streets features 20 sites that each highlight and raise awareness for the often unrecognized contributions of women to American history and society. From the home of the first female African American doctor in Denver, Colorado, to famed author Harper Lee’s hometown courthouse in Monroeville, Alabama, these sites celebrate the triumphs, struggles and rich history of women in America.

From Sept. 24 through Oct. 29, anyone can vote for their favorite Partners in Preservation: Main Streets at VoteYourMainStreet.org. People can cast up to five votes each day of the campaign. The historic sites with the most votes will receive a share of $2 million in preservation funding from American Express, in addition to an initial grant of $10,000 to increase public awareness of these historic places and build grassroots support for their Main Street district. Winning districts will be announced on Oct. 30.

Learn more about these fascinating places across the country.

Graham Nystrom

Odd Fellows Building
Astoria, Oregon

In a town of less than 10,000, in the oldest settlement west of the Rockies, proudly sits the Odd Fellows Building in downtown Astoria. A center for social, cultural, and creative activity, it was the first building the community chose to rebuild in 1923 after a fire devastated the town. Almost a century later, three local women purchased the building and, with an incredible amount of community support, saved it from developers.

Today, the building houses a gallery, apothecary, art studio, and coffee shop, as well as Astoria’s only nonprofit dance studio and black box theatre—all owned and operated by local women. Funding will restore and weatherize the building’s historic facade and windows to ensure it continues to serve the community for generations to come.

Elisabet Ney Museum, Austin

Elisabet Ney Museum
Austin, Texas

Elisabet Ney rocketed to fame as a sculptor in 19th-century Berlin. Deeply intellectual, a gender non-conformist, and a democracy activist, she fled persecution in 1871 and landed in Texas. In 1892, after farming and raising a son, she built Formosa, a rugged but majestic limestone homestead and studio, and relaunched her career. She created important artwork here, but also sparked a brilliant legacy: the birth of Austin’s independent spirit.

Today, the Elisabet Ney Museum at Formosa provides both an anchor and a laboratory for progressive identity and art. Funding will help restore the homestead’s 18 exterior doors. Worn and fragile, plain but grand, they graciously welcome outsiders—women, artists, and immigrants—just as they did a century ago.

Dr. Justina Ford Home
Denver, Colorado

Denied access to local hospitals, Colorado’s first licensed female African American doctor Justina Ford instead treated patients at her home office, helping circumvent the racial and economic barriers to their medical care. Locally, Dr. Ford became known as the “Baby Doctor” because she delivered over 7,000 babies in her 50-year medical career.

Saved from demolition in the 1980s by the Five Points Community and Historic Denver, Dr. Ford’s 1890 Italianate-style house is now home to the Black American West Museum & Heritage Center. Grant funding will allow for important exterior renovations such as window restoration and masonry work, ensuring that the Museum can safeguard its rich collection of black history, remain a place of learning, and continue to symbolize the black experience in the West.

Heritage Foundation of Williamson County

Franklin Grove Estate & Gardens
Franklin, Tennessee

Saved from development by the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County, Tennessee, this five-acre sanctuary in downtown Franklin testifies to the contributions of women. Franklin Grove has long had educational ties, housing institutions such as a girls’ school, a Freedmen’s School, and the O’More College of Design, founded by Eloise O’More.

Funding will support plans to turn the property’s two historic mansions into public exhibit space and an entrepreneur center; create new event space; and relocate an endangered Rosenwald school to the property for restoration, helping to transform the estate into an enduring history lesson.

Holly Union Depot
Holly, Michigan

Holly Union Depot, built in 1886, was such a “people place” that over time, millions of travelers wore depressions in the floor as they waited to purchase tickets. In the course of its history, women also developed a strong connection to the Depot; there, they distributed meals for soldiers, sent the men off to war, and welcomed them home. Of note, famous Prohibitionist Carry Nation arrived at the Depot in 1908 and became known locally for her hatchet-wielding crusades against “demon-rum” in nearby Battle Alley.

Grant funding will help rehabilitate the Depot and transform it into a welcome center and tourism office where visitors can learn about Holly’s history and the important roles that women past and present play in the community.

Ann Roe

Janesville Woman's Club
Janesville, Wisconsin

Built in 1928, the Janesville Woman’s Club Building has served women’s organizations and provided countless hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars for scholarships and services in Janesville. More than bricks and pillars, the building was an anchor in an era of new political clout; a safe roof during wars and strife; a window into the community’s needs; and a grand entrance into a country of greater gender equity and racial justice.

Grant funding will help reinforce the building’s aging foundation and repair its entrance, renewing its life for another century of women who will continue the tradition of service to others.

Downtown Women's Center

Downtown Women's Center
Los Angeles, California

Downtown Women’s Center (DWC) offers a full range of programs and services designed to help end women’s homelessness. In 1978, DWC founder Jill Halverson used her savings to open Los Angeles’ first drop-in day center for homeless women. In the 1980s, DWC’s services grew to offer the first permanent supportive housing program for women. In 2010, and with a female architect at the lead, DWC completed a $35 million capital campaign to revitalize a historic building constructed by female developer Florence Casler in 1927. 

Funding will cover the re-design of current external signage, as well as support the revitalization of DWC’s external facade. As an advocate for historic preservation and a firm believer in managing rather than preventing change, DWC demonstrates how historic buildings can continue to serve as beacons of hope for the community.

Ruth Hartley Mosley Memorial Women's Center

Ruth Hartley Mosley Memorial Women's Center
Macon, Georgia

Ruth Price Hartley Mosley was a women’s empowerment pioneer, shrewd businesswoman, and civil rights activist. She shattered boundaries in nursing when she was appointed, at age 24, as the first African American head nurse of the “Colored Female Department” at the Georgia Sanitarium in Milledgeville. She also became one of the first women morticians in the U.S. and an NAACP leader in the civil rights movement. Her estate established the RHM Center to be a community resource providing educational and life enhancing opportunities to women and families.

The Center, located in her former home and now listed on the National Register, cultivates opportunities for women and serves as a community resource and venue. Funding is essential for structural, floor, and window repairs.

The Woman's Club of Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

The Woman's Club of Minneapolis
Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Woman’s Club of Minneapolis was founded by women, for women, as a place to gather and engage in educational opportunities, civic contributions, and friendly association. The Club’s auditorium has historically hosted diverse forms of theatrical practice and public engagement, and currently fills a vital need in the Twin Cities arts community by providing a safe and accessible performance space for independent artists.

This space, formally called The Assembly, needs updates and upgrades to better serve the community. Funding will help replace the seats and repair the damaged floor—a critical first phase of a three-phase renovation.

Bob McMillan

Monroe County Courthouse
Monroeville, Alabama

Monroe County Museum houses the courtroom made famous by Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, which is taught and beloved around the world and was recently voted the top favorite in PBS’ “The Great American Read” program.

Constructed in 1903, the courthouse building is showing its age with serious structural problems in the southwest wall, which grant funding will address. By saving the courthouse—and with it the very spot in the courtroom balcony where Harper Lee watched her father passionately defend his clients—the public can continue to experience the last tangible connection in Lee’s hometown to her iconic novel.

Main Street Mount Pleasant

Union Block
Mount Pleasant, Iowa

Constructed in 1861, the Union Block building has anchored the north side of the Mount Pleasant square for 158 years. Here in 1869, Belle Babb Mansfield passed a rigorous bar examination, becoming the first female lawyer in the United States. Mansfield then became active in the local, state and national women’s suffrage movement, including chairing the first Iowa Women’s Suffrage Convention in Mount Pleasant in 1870.

Continuously occupied until ravaged by fire in 2011, the building was renovated and rededicated in 2014. Funding will help restore the exterior elements not included in that most recent renovation—namely, the east side gable and 32 museum-quality storm windows for the trefoil windows.

Lake Erie College

College Hall (Lake Erie College)
Painesville, Ohio

Nestled in Painesville, Ohio, just minutes from Painesville’s charming downtown, Lake Erie College is one of the oldest institutions for higher learning in the Western Reserve. From its start as a female seminary in 1856 to its evolution into a coeducational institution today, Lake Erie College is proud of its long heritage leading higher education for more than 160 years.

At the center of its picturesque campus stands College Hall, where more than a century ago, women were leading the charge to advance their education and blaze new trails, including through the women’s suffrage movement. Funding will help preserve this iconic building by restoring its grand entrance, inviting all who enter to experience its rich and significant history.

Strand Theatre
Rawlins, Wyoming

In December 1869, Wyoming became the first state to grant women the right to vote. This high bar remains 150 years later as Wyoming women continue to excel and give back to their community. A prime example: Rose Cain, the owner of Strand Theatre, an iconic red-brick building built in 1919 that currently awaits its comeback.

Cain, who owns three businesses in Rawlins, is an energetic entrepreneur making positive changes in the downtown. Her vision: create a vibrant performing arts center that becomes a true downtown destination. Though a partial renovation was completed in 2018, this grant funding will help complete the facade—including its historic marquee—and bring the theatre fully back to life.

Photo Collective Studios

The Clubhouse
Salt Lake City, Utah

The oldest women’s club west of the Mississippi River was established in 1877 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Ladies’ Literary Club (LLC) sought education in history, science, arts, literature, and current events before academic opportunities were readily available to women. By organizing study sections, lectures, and social events, the club promoted a non-religious counterculture in an otherwise conservative state. In 1913, the LLC commissioned an architectural masterpiece in the likeness of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie School style, a building that became known as “the House that the Women Built.”

Situated on Utah’s most historically significant boulevard, the Clubhouse on South Temple Street proudly stands more than 100 years later as a creative venue for performing arts and education. Grant funding will help restore the sinking front porch and stairs with the addition of an ADA wheelchair ramp, making the Clubhouse truly accessible to all communities for the first time in its history.

Collection of Girl Scouts of the USA

Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace
Savannah, Georgia

The Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace is one of the treasures of Girl Scouts. Here, visitors from around the world can learn more about the woman who started the largest, most powerful, and most successful girl leadership development program in the world: Juliette Gordon Low.

Today, the Birthplace needs to change, grow, and innovate to serve the needs of today’s girls. Funding will empower Girl Scouts to revitalize the Birthplace and make it more sustainable, accessible, flexible, and engaging for the general public, so that every person who experiences it can be inspired by the life of Juliette Gordon Low, the Savannah community she knew and loved, and the vibrant movement she founded.

YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish

YWCA Seneca Headquarters
Seattle, Washington

As YWCA’s headquarters since its construction in 1914, the Seneca Building embodies the organization’s 125-year history of advocacy for women, from economic freedom to suffrage to fair housing, as it champions for their advancement and challenges the inequities they face.

The building’s lobby has long been a gateway for women to find safety, support, self-empowerment, and a place in the workforce, but it’s showing wear and tear. Grant funding will restore the lobby as a warm and inviting gathering place, creating easier access, updated amenities, and informative contemporary and historical displays—all to help inspire the next generation of women.

Casa Belvedere/The Italian Cultural Foundation

Casa Belvedere
Staten Island, New York

Built in 1908, this former private home-turned-public arts and cultural center has strong connections to notable “women of steel”—Suzette Claiborne Grymes, Emily Warren Roebling, and Laura Roebling Stirn—whose contributions helped shape Staten Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, and ultimately, the United States.

The Roebling-Stirn Mansion, known today as Casa Belvedere, serves as a significant architectural and cultural pillar, as well as a destination venue for locals and tourists alike. Grant funding will restore upper levels that sustained severe water damage from Hurricane Sandy, with the ultimate goal to transform them into new gallery space.

Chester County Historical Society

Chester County Historical Society
West Chester, Pennsylvania

Present-day visitors can still hear echoes from the first Pennsylvania Women’s Rights Convention, held June 2-3, 1852, in architect Thomas U. Walter’s Horticultural Hall, now the home of Chester County Historical Society. In the words of convention president Mary Anne Johnson: “Woman at length is awaking from the slumbers of ages. […] They weary of the senseless talk of ‘woman’s sphere’[…] We demand for woman equal freedom with her brother to raise her voice and exert her influence.”

Today a leaking roof and crumbling chimneys threaten this historically and architecturally significant building. Grant funding will enable critical repairs and help the echoes of the past reverberate into the future.

Paine Productions

Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens
West Palm Beach, Florida

At a time when women were just granted the right to vote, a petite Southern woman left Alabama to attend college in NYC where she studied and created art during the Great Depression. That woman, artist Ann Weaver Norton, went on to create monumental art that mirrored how she approached life.

Norton’s home, gardens, and studio sit on a two-acre sanctuary that today carries on her environmental and cultural impact. Grant funding will help preserve the studio that inspired and soothed her, honoring the tiny visionary whose body of work invites us all to think big.

Created in 2006, Partners in Preservation is a community-based partnership to engage the public in preserving historic places. Over the past 13 years, the program has provided more than $28 million in support of 260 historic sites across the U.S., including 20 national parks, 14 cities, and 12 main street communities, and has engaged more than a million people through events and online voting.

Partners in Preservation: Main Streets is back for its third year in a row and seeks to inspire long-term support from local citizens for sites on Main Streets across the country. For more information and to vote daily through Oct. 29, the public is encouraged to visit VoteYourMainStreet.org.

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.

@rocchijulia

Your votes will help unlock $2 million in preservation funding for women's history on historic Main Streets across America.

Vote Now