Trust Me: Inside the National Trust

By Arnold Berke

Berke at Work

Credit: Art by Richard Thompson

Back before bumper stickers and TV spots, presidential campaigns plugged candidates with all sorts of doodads. Hundreds of these will be displayed starting Oct. 5 at the Trust's Woodrow Wilson House in Washington, D.C. Handed out before Wilson's 1912 and 1916 elections and at subsequent inaugurations, these ribbons and watch fobs, buttons and pins, posters, pennants, and sheet music—not to mention a pencil carved with W.W.'s profile—show that cleverness and wit weren't born yesterday. Some promo types endure: slogans, for instance, like "Wilson's Wisdom Wins Without War." The objects come courtesy of Anthony Atkiss of Dallas—who started his huge presidential memorabilia collection years ago with a "Veterans for Ike" button—and from Wilson House's own archives. Enjoy them through Feb. 15.

... Don't let national political combat eclipse state and local preservation proposals. Among them is Nebraska's Amendment 1, a constitutional change that would exempt improvements to historic properties from real estate tax. According to the Friends of Amendment 1, the measure would promote the restoration of older buildings and declining neighborhoods. Also note Initiative 36 in Oregon, which would force the state and localities to pay owners when land-use regulation reduces their properties' values. The proposal revives the aim of Measure 7, passed in 2000 but nixed in 2002 by the state's supreme court. Planning groups have formed the niftily named Take a Closer Look Committee to beat the initiative.

... The long struggle to save the Wauregan Hotel in Norwich, Conn., is nearly over. The vacant but once posh 1855 building, where presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln stayed in 1860, was threatened with razing by the city. In 1999 the Trust stepped in, funding a study that proved the Wauregan was sound. Working with business leaders and such groups as Norwich Landmarks, the Trust's northeast office pushed the city to embrace a proposal by the Fairfield, Conn., architecture and development firm Becker and Becker to rehab the hotel for affordable housing. That plan ultimately won the day. To get the renovation under way, the Trust provided a $350,000 loan to Becker and Becker, which started work this spring.

... Rogers, Ark., shows how a small city can bring back its downtown in a big way. Promoting the historic core since 1984, Main Street Rogers has worked with the city and private interests to restore facades, attract new stores and offices, add housing, and improve pedestrian offerings. The results earned Rogers a 2004 Great American Main Street Award from the Trust's National Main Street Center. Four other towns were so honored—Burlington, Iowa; Encinitas and Paso Robles, Calif.; and Westfield, N.J.

... The preservation family lost a stalwart when Ellen Ramsey Sanger died in San Francisco on July 8. A trustee of the National Trust since 2002, Sanger had long been active in civic and cultural concerns both nationally and locally—serving on the staff of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation in the 1970s and as executive director of the Foundation for San Francisco's Architectural Heritage in the 1980s. She contributed skill and energy to many city institutions, including its public library and art institute, and was a member of the Presidio Council, which helped convert an army post into a national park. Sanger also had run the Coro Foundation, which places young adults in public affairs internships. "Ellen's life was built on public service," says Trust President Richard Moe.