Historic Preservation Trust Seeks to Gain New Backers

Article excerpt

AFTER MORE THAN four decades of working to save the nation's historic places, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is broadening its scope and reaching out from Washington to enlist new supporters.

"The Challenge of Livable Communities: Revitalizing Urban Environments through Historic Preservation" was the theme last week as more than 1,500 preservationists gathered here for the organization's annual convention.

Bertha Gilkey, the St. Louis housing advocate, rubbed shoulders with her counterparts from other cities and with university students, architects, real estate developers, Native Americans wanting to preserve their culture and some people who came just because they like older, historic buildings.

The Trust's original purpose, spelled out when Congress established the nonprofit organization in 1949, was to save the nation's treasured buildings and sites.

In just the last year, the Trust has reached out to other organizations, forming agreements with them to help protect pieces of the country's history. For example:

Department of Defense officials signed an agreement at the conference promising to protect historic buildings on military bases, and even to plan Historic Preservation Week activities each year on all the bases.

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials and historic preservation officials in several flooded Midwestern states said they had never worked so closely with the Trust. The Trust, in turn, helped negotiate an agreement between the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and FEMA to protect flood-damaged historic buildings.

The Getty Foundation agreed to pay travel expenses so that nearly 100 students and community activists could attend Trust conventions this year and last.

"The Trust has changed," said St. Louis developer Richard Baron, a Trust board member. "It has become more diverse . . . and more relevant. That's why I agreed to be a board member."

Architect Karl Komatsu of Fort Worth, Texas, a Trust advisor, said at a closing session on Saturday:

"I believe the Trust has, for the first time, opened itself up as a forum to help people connect . . . and on boarder national needs."

"And what really hit me in the face," Komatsu said, paraphrasing one of President Bill Clinton's campaign mottos, was, "It's a people thing, stupid."

Baron and others say that while the Trust had been moving toward the change in recent years, President Richard Moe helped pushed it over the brink.

Moe, a lanky man with a broad, easy grin, was hired last year to lead the 250,000-member Trust, which gets most of its money from private contributions and membership dues. Congress supplies about 22 percent of its budget. …