Making a Difference: Saving Places-National Trust for Historic Preservation

By Webber, Rebecca | Humanities, May/June 2002 | Go to article overview

Making a Difference: Saving Places-National Trust for Historic Preservation


Webber, Rebecca, Humanities


NATIONAL TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION

History is topicality conveyed through books or in a classroom, but "history can also be conveyed through place," says Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Protecting the history embedded in those places is the mission of the organization.

The Trust has worked for more than fifty years to keep historical preservation on the national agenda. In 1999 it became the lead partner with the National Park Service in the White House's Save America's Treasures initiative. The initiative has so far sponsored 722 projects nationwide including the preservation of Angel Island Immigration Station in Marin County, California. Located in San Francisco Bay, Angel Island was the holding point for thousands of Chinese and Japanese immigrants between 1910 and 1940. Because of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, it became difficult for Chinese immigrants to enter the country; some were held weeks or months waiting for their entries to be accepted. The walls of Angel Island still display the poems they inscribed. With help from the Trust, the buildings of Angel Island have been restored, the poetry preserved, and the site reopened to the public.

Americans ought to develop the same ethic for preserving the best of the built environment as they have for preserving the natural environment, says Moe. "Eighty percent of Americans think of themselves as environmentalists. We want to achieve that same level of support for the historic environment."

Created in 1949 by Congress, the Trust began its work by rehabilitating important historic places and opening them to the public. It currently oversees twenty-one sites across the country, including Montpelier, the family home of James Madison in Virginia; Frank Lloyd Wright's Home and Studio in Oak Park, Illinois; the Decatur House in Washington, D. …

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