Preservation Magazine, Summer 2018

President's Note: Where History Comes Alive

Stephanie K. Meeks

Looking for a fun road trip idea this summer? You won’t have to go far. All over the country, historic sites and house museums are providing exciting opportunities to enjoy contemporary art, culture, history, and entertainment close to wherever you call home.

There is much to see and do at our National Trust Historic Sites. At the Cooper-Molera Adobe in Monterey, California, which helps to tell the state’s diverse history, a working bakery and cafe will soon open in the shared-use complex for the first time in more than a century. A restaurant in the site’s historic warehouse will follow this fall. At Drayton Hall, an 18th-century estate in Charleston, South Carolina, a new visitor center has just opened that will tell the layered and diverse stories of this place in exciting new ways. At Montpelier, the Virginia estate of President James Madison, visitors can now take in an exhibition entitled The Mere Distinction of Colour, which explores the impacts of slavery on our founding and early republic, and its continuing legacy today.

Our experience has shown us that the best way to keep an older place thriving is to ensure it moves with the pulse of modern life. So at the historic sites we help to steward—and the countless others we advise, support, and seek to protect—we work hard to see that they remain vibrant centers of life, community, history, and service.

Over the past six years, we have completed more than $20 million in critical capital projects at our 27 historic sites, and have expanded both their creative programming and the audiences they serve. We also continue to strongly support innovative partnerships such as Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios, a coalition of 40 museums that were once places of creativity for some of America’s foremost artists. And earlier this year, we were proud to announce our newest Trust Site, Thornton Gardens, a beautiful Tudor Revival home and garden in San Marino, California, once featured in the film Funny Girl.

These historic places do not languish behind velvet ropes or lie trapped in amber. Along with telling stories of our past, older places inspire us and challenge us with new ideas, provide forums for discussion and provocative debates, and bring us together in service and an appreciation of beauty.

Whether it’s the contemporary sculpture show at Chesterwood in Stockbridge, Massachusetts; Moonlight Tours at the Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois; outdoor theater at Brucemore in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; or sunset jazz concerts at Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, New York, there is no shortage of exhilarating events and experiences to savor, and you will learn some fascinating history along the way.

Stephanie K. Meeks is president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She is the author of "The Past and Future City", available now from Island Press.

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