President's Note: Recognizing Excellence
For more than half a century, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has been shining a bright spotlight on transformational preservation work happening around the country, including through our annual awards program.
What began as a luncheon during Historic Preservation Week has now become our National Preservation Awards ceremony, during which we are honored to bestow the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation National Preservation Awards. These awards celebrate the best in historic preservation, adaptive reuse, and the reimagining of historic buildings for the future. This year, they will be presented during a virtual ceremony at PastForward, our annual conference. Please join us online in November.
An essential component of making these awards is the jury of outstanding preservation professionals helping us narrow the long list of projects and worthy nominations. Many thanks to this year’s jurors—Robin Waites, executive director, Historic Columbia; Héctor J. Berdecía-Hernández, architectural conservator and director-general, Centro de Conservación y Restauración de Puerto Rico; and Everett Fly, architect and landscape architect—who joined National Trust staff in reviewing and choosing this year’s winners.
As you read more about the three Richard H. Driehaus Foundation award winners in this issue of Preservation, you will see consistent themes in their stories. You will see how major preservation projects often begin with the combination of a big idea and a strong passion. You also will see how preservation can transform and strengthen communities, bringing people together in the service of something greater than themselves. And, finally, you will see examples of excellence in the different practices that contribute to preservation.
You will be inspired by the creativity of two women who purchased an abandoned 100-year-old schoolhouse in Nome, North Dakota (pop. 51), and simply went to work in every way, big and small. They employed their own hands and families while also leveraging the skills of their community. The results are a spectacular fiber arts center and boutique hotel.
The adaptive reuse of the former Angelus Funeral Home, designed by renowned Black architect Paul R. Williams, represents not just a triumph of preservation; it also serves as a tribute to Williams, whose inspired designs are under-recognized. The building’s modern use connects directly to a passion of the architect’s in his lifetime—creating beautiful and functional housing for all.
Finally, read about Chicago’s Old Cook County Hospital and its Beaux-Arts architecture and interiors. Once called “Chicago’s Ellis Island,” it holds a storied history of inclusive health care that is worth carrying forward. The new mixed-use development includes a museum that preserves the site’s history as well as its architecture.
All of these projects engaged preservation partners on the local level alongside visionary leaders. It is fitting that these places are honored under the name of Richard Driehaus, who himself represented an exceptional spirit of preservation excellence. Congratulations to all.