October 30, 2019

2019 Partners in Preservation: Main Streets

The 2019 Partners in Preservation: Main Streets campaign featured 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.

On October 30, American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in collaboration with Main Street America, announced the winners of the 2019 Partners in Preservation campaign. The 13 winning sites received a total of $1.8 million in grants to fund their preservation projects, in addition to an initial grant of $10,000 each to increase public awareness of these historic places and build grassroots support for their Main Street district.

Learn more about the winning sites and their preservation projects below.

Ann Roe

Janesville Woman's Club
Janesville, Wisconsin

#1 - WINNER: MOST VOTES CAST!

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.

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.

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 theater—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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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, UT. 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.

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.

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.

Lake Erie College

College Hall (Lake Erie College)
Painesville, Ohio

Nestled in Painesville, OH, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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

We’re spotlighting 12 of our proudest preservation moments from the last year, and they’re all made possible by your support.

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