Trust Me: Inside the National Trust

By Arnold Berke

In December the Trust and four other national nonprofits filed amicus briefs in a lawsuit over a New Orleans development. The suit contends that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development didn't produce an environmental impact statement and failed to follow required federal preservation review procedures when it gave $25 million to redevelop the St. Thomas Housing Project. The suit was filed in federal court in 2002 by local groups that said a proposed Wal-Mart Superstore (opened last summer) and new housing in the Lower Garden District could harm historic sites in the area. The alleged environmental impacts included the razing of 1,500 units of public housing without providing for appropriate relocation of residents. The suit also says HUD erred by leaving compliance procedures in the hands of the city housing authority and the developer. The other organizations are the American Planning Association, Sierra Club, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and Great Rivers Environmental Law Center.

... It will take at least $60,000to shore up Sagrado Corazon Mission, a church flirting with collapse in the Texas hamlet of Ruidosa. The elements are eating away at the c. 1914 adobe, unused since the 1960s and missing one of two towers and much of its roof. But help is coming. The Texas Historical Commission offered $30,000 to stabilize the building. Then the Presidio County Historical Commission and the Trust chimed in to help match the grant with $6,000 and $5,000, respectively. And a private donor gave $1,000. Donations for the church, whose full restoration could cost $250,000, are being coordinated by the county's Ruidosa Mission Project. Initial work may begin soon. If you'd like to assist, call the Mission Project at (432) 729-4452.

... The President Lincoln and Soldiers' Home National Monumenthas received a $55,000 grant from United Technologies Corp. to support "green design." The Trust historic site in Washington, D.C., under restoration, will use the funds to incorporate environmentally positive practices into the rehab of one of its buildings, to become a visitors center. The grant is from UT's Sustainable Cities initiative, launched in October to promote green building in urban areas and the teaching of sustainability principles—weighing the environmental effects of business decisions.

... Standing like a sentry in Lake Huron, the DeTour Reef Lighthouse guides ships to and from the busy St. Mary's River, the link to Lake Superior. But the Coast Guard declared this and many other Michigan lights surplus in 1997, landing them on the Trust's 1998 most-endangered list. That's when locals founded the DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society, determined to restore the 1931 structure. They succeeded. Raising more than $1 million from the state (including its preservation office), a foundation, and local donors, the group finished the job last fall. Its next goal is to acquire the light, which society board member Jeri Baron Feltnersays should occur "in the very near future." (A surprising fact: Michigan boasts 126 lighthouses, more than any other state.)

... What could Chesterwood and the Fontainebleau Hotel possibly have in common? Well, each is feting a 50th. The former, a Trust historic site in Stockbridge, Mass., that was the studio of sculptor Daniel Chester French, is marking 50 years since it opened to the public. The latter, in Miami Beach, Fla., made the half-century point in December. This zesty essay in MiMo (Miami Modern), and the youngest Historic Hotel of America, was designed by once-maligned, now-admired architect Morris Lapidus. Hmm ... what would French and Lapidus have had in common?