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
"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
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
"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. …