In the coming weeks, local residents will help decide what metro-area historic landmarks should receive a portion of a $1 million preservation grant.
The contest is part of a program called Partners in Preservation
from American Express
and the National Trust for Historic Preservation
. On Sept. 20, the program will announce the 25 competing sites, according to contest information.
From there, people can start to weigh in on Facebook
, where they’ll be able to vote once daily through Oct. 12.
Royce Yeater, who heads the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Midwest office, says that the contest moved to Facebook this year as a way to connect with younger audiences. Traditionally the Trust has had an older demographic, he says.
The whole idea is to “raise the visibility and engage the citizenry of the U.S. in taking care of the cultural heritage and built environment,” he says.
Over the past five years, the program has delivered $5.5 million to 56 national historic sites, according to contest information. In 2010, American Express agreed to provide $10 million for another five-year run of the program.
It's a natural partnership, as American Express has long championed heritage sites around the world, including the Statue of Liberty, which it helped to get refurbished in the 1980s, he says. The company has also maintained ties to the Trust and the World Monuments Fund
for many years.
This year, the partners decided to bring the program to the Twin Cities because “The feeling is that it’s an area that has a significant appreciation of heritage and it has great cultural resources and architecture,” he says, adding, “It also needs this kind of moral support."
He says it helps to have national organizations reach out to local-level places.
Further, the contest has provided an economic stimulus everywhere it has gone, he says. In some cases, even when projects failed to win the grant money, the publicity helped preservation groups leverage additional financial support.
In Chicago, the Pui Tak Center
, which received $110,000 to restore vintage tile work in 2007, was able to launch a major capital campaign. “The program helped get it beyond emergency repair to major restoration,” he says.
Further, the program has a jobs benefit. “We have been making the case that historic preservation is labor-intensive,” he says. “It continues to generate good, highly-skilled jobs at the local level.”
Source: Royce Yeater, director, National Trust for Historic Preservation's Midwest office
Writer: Anna Pratt