Trust Me: Inside the National Trust

By Arnold Berke

Berke at Work

Credit: Art by Richard Thompson

The Trust has pitched in to aid the Maryland rehab tax credits. This popular tool, which has spurred $800-plus million in renovation since 1997, was about to be axed by the legislature on June 30. Led by Tyler Gearhart, executive director of Preservation Maryland, the rescue effort attracted a band of Trust staffers. Rob Nieweg (southern field office) coordinated John Leith-Tetrault (community partners), Dolores McDonagh (membership), and Stacey Mahaney and Sydney Becker (public policy) in alerting Trust members to the danger of losing the credits. In early April, the lawmakers spared the program, though not without some weakening—such as tying it more closely to the vagaries of the annual appropriations process. But the win is good news for such pending projects as restoration of the National Park Seminary in Silver Spring, a decayed gaggle of exotic buildings slated for new life as housing (News, May/June).

… An important federal credit has been preserved, too, thanks to the Trust and other activists, who in May persuaded the Senate to keep the 10 percent tax credit. Used for years to rehab old commercial buildings not officially designated historic, this incentive should not be confused with its more famous sibling, which offers a 20 percent credit to renovate bona fide historic structures. 

… The events of Preservation Week in May were far too many to completely cover here—surely a sign of great success—but let me note a few. The city of Santa Fe held a preservation fair at its convention center to acquaint people with the range of professionals, from "real" preservationists to engineers, who work in the city's historic and archaeological districts. In Boston, the Trust, the civic group Light Boston, the lighting manufacturer Osram Sylvania,  the Bostonian Society, and Mayor Thomas M. Menino flipped the switch to re-illuminate the Old State House, the 1713 seat of the colonial government and the oldest surviving public structure in town. And Santa Barbara, Calif., city and county, outdid themselves by stretching the merriment out to two weeks. Included in Preservation Days was a salute to the Trussell-Winchester Adobe, a house built by a Yankee sea captain that's celebrating its 150th birthday this year.

Garden notes from Trust sites: Filoli, in Woodside, Calif., has named a new flowering shrub for a loyal volunteer. Camellia sasanqua 'Peter Horeni' honors the man who since 1979 has been labeling the many plants in the property's 16 acres of gardens. Horeni's namesake, by the way, has been certified by the American Camellia Society. Another Trust site, Brucemore in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has reinstalled its "white garden," an extension of the estate's formal landscape undertaken in the 1930s that's white with both blooms and outdoor furniture. Its outline was confirmed by a recently discovered aerial photograph. 

Growth in southeastern Delaware seems all but unchecked these days, thanks to the Atlantic coastal area's allure for second (and first) homes. But Lewes, which dates to 1658, wants to keep its historic charm. So, after much deliberation, the little city has passed a preservation law that governs demolition, new construction, and alteration in a large residential district. Working with local and state groups, including Preservation Delaware,  Adrian Fine, director of the Trust's northeast field office, guided the city for two years through the process of crafting, airing, and passing the law, which also established a historical commission to carry it out.