All posts tagged: National Trust for Historic Preservation

History Was All Around Me: PreserveCast podcast of my career in preservation (so far)

“Connection to place is very important to me, and I learned that by walking the streets of Franklin and Murfreesboro, where I grew up.  History was all around me . . . and I’ve always wanted to do something about connecting the past to today.” When PreserveCast host Nick Redding began our recent conversation on the award-winning Preservation Maryland podcast with a question about my path to preservation, my thoughts went to my childhood home, grandmother, and a favorite downtown theatre. That podcast, looking at my work at the National Trust for Historic Preservation and more, can now be found on the PreserveCast website. In a thirty minute interview, Nick and I explore not only how I became a preservationist, but also the various jobs that led to my serving as the Chief Preservation Officer at the National Trust from 2010 until I stepped down from the position at the end of March 2019. “Somebody said that ‘Chief Preservation Officer’ is one of the great titles in the preservation field.  Its not as good as …

Japan by Sea

Donald Trump, you may have read, recently visited Japan.  I also just wrapped up a tour of the Land of the Rising Sun.  At the risk of being the target of a derisive tweet or internet trolls, it is fair to say that I had the better trip. The two-week National Trust Tours exploration of Japan, with a focus on its coastal cities and sites, certainly broadened my mind. Not only were the people and places welcoming, but the sharing of perspectives from our guides, study tour lecturers, and fellow travelers enriched an already heady experience. The World Heritage sites, such as Todai-ji Temple in Nara, the capital of Japan from 710-784 CE, were powerful and moving, especially as one found places away from the crowds to privately indulge in the architecture, gardens, and spiritual meaning of the spaces. More modern sites, such as Hiroshima, the Adachi Museum of Art and Gardens, and I.M. Pei’s Miho Museum, were also important touchstones for understanding parts of life in today’s Japan. It was at the more out-of-the-way places, …

Restored Franklin Theatre

Legacy and promise

NOTE: This post first appeared on the Preservation Leadership Forum blog.  It is adapted from remarks I made at the February 23, 2019, National Trust for Historic Preservation Board of Trustees meeting, my last Board meeting after more than two decades with the National Trust. Over the past 22 years, I made it a practice to regularly reflect on both the legacy and the promise of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. We were founded by Congressional Charter after America’s leaders had seen the destruction that war could inflict not only on people but also on a nation’s culture and heritage. Our founding chairman, David Finley, was one of the famous Monuments Men who risked their lives to save the cultural patrimony of Europe during World War II. Bill Murtagh, an early predecessor of mine in senior management, went on to a distinguished career in preservation as the first Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places, establishing the tool to tell America’s story. Clearly, we stand on the shoulders of giants. The National Trust …

A Great Send-Off

Last Friday, my colleagues at work hosted a wonderful send-off party.  There was a “B” theme to evening, as we had barbecue (Rocklands, my local favorite); bourbon (with gifts of several very nice bottles of whiskey over the course of the week); and bluegrass (the latter supplied live by the By-and-By Band). The band was even kind enough to let me sit in with them on a spirited rendition of Sitting On Top of the World! Friends, former and current colleagues, and partners came in from as far away as Los Angeles to celebrate. I used the occasion to say a few words (no surprise there), beginning with the observation that I was finding that almost anything that was said in the office brought to mind something that happened 10, 20, or 30 years ago—what I’ve dubbed the Old War Stories part of my transition. I knew everyone would be thankful if I kept it short, so I brought notes.  On the occasion of my 60th birthday, I composed a post entitled 60 Lessons From …

Change is the Only Constant

March is one of my favorite times of the year.  The longest month—February—is past. Winter is nearing an end here in DC. Baseball players have reported to spring training camps. Hope springs eternal. Speaking of baseball, I have my own spring training ritual every year. Up first is a viewing of Bull Durham—the best baseball movie ever—followed by reading a new baseball book.  Together the two get me in the mood for the season.  I can report checking off both of those training regimens this year well before Opening Day. I actually read two baseball books recently, although one may not count because it is entitled The Is Not Baseball Book.  You have to love a book which begins with a first chapter of “Sports Is Not a Metaphor.  It’s a Symbol.”  Afterwards it jumps into all matter of things, including pataphysical management systems leading to “self-learning” teams.  That’s for another time. It is the second book, Smart Baseball:  The Story Behind the Old Stats that are Ruining the Game, The New Ones that are …

Kindness

I expected to hear from a number of people last week after announcing that I was stepping down from my position at the National Trust for Historic Preservation at the end of March. In this day and age, twenty-two years is a long time to stay with any organization. In my case those two decades gave me innumerable opportunities to connect and work with people across the country and around the world.  I wasn’t quite ready, however, for the nature of the notes, emails, phone calls, hallway conversations, and comments that have come my way.  I feel a bit like a man who wakes up in the casket at his own funeral and decides to lie there for a while just to hear people say nice things about him. A colleague asked what was the most surprising response I received to the news, and while I didn’t have a good answer for her at the time I would say now that it was the overwhelming kindness of the remarks. It truly caught me off guard. …

Confessions of a Southerner (Like a Southern Drawl, This May Take a While)

You may know that I’m from the South.  It takes about two seconds for my Tennessee accent to let the cat out of the bag. Coming out of that great American “family” holiday of Thanksgiving,* I’ve been thinking recently about “where I’m from” and its impact on my life and work.  Place and storytelling are so central to life in the South that it is not surprising that many of the early and influential historic preservationists came from the region, beginning with South Carolina’s Ann Pamela Cunningham who led the campaign to save Mount Vernon. I have always lived below the Mason-Dixon line; have worked to preserve many of the region’s buildings, towns, and landscapes; and have long been fascinated by Southern storytelling. To state it clearly, I love the South. But the region comes with a troubled history, including slavery and racism, that continues to inflict damage on our civic life today. I’m asked on a regular basis about the appropriate response to saving places and communities that were first taken from Native Americans …