National Trust Focuses on Katrina's Aftermath

A house on Beach Boulevard in Biloxi, Miss.

Credit: Mississippi Heritage Trust

As America's thoughts turn from rescue to rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is turning its attention to the Gulf Coast's damaged historic sites, which it fears may be razed rather than rehabilitated.

National Trust President Richard Moe today announced the start of a "major campaign" to aid in the region's recovery.

"We all know that Katrina is one of the greatest human tragedies in the nation's history, but it also could be the greatest cultural catastrophe America has ever experienced," Moe said in a statement. "Rebuilding is essential, but it must acknowledge the historic character of one of the nation's most distinctive regions."

The Trust is working on three fronts:

With financial backing from the Los Angeles-based Getty Foundation, the Trust will send its first volunteer assessment team to Mississippi next week. Other teams will follow, providing free evaluations and advice to owners of historic properties.

The Trust is working with Congress to secure federal historic-tax incentives for people who want to rehabilitate their houses. Specifically, Trust staff are working to amend existing incentives to rehab hurricane-damaged historic commercial buildings; develop a new tax-credit program for rehabbing owner-occupied historic houses; and create a two-year, $60 million fund that would offer grants to help save properties listed in, or eligible for listing in, the National Register of Historic Places.

Lastly, the Trust is also working to educate the public about the importance of saving the Gulf Coast's historic treasures. With that in mind, the Trust has set up a message board for readers to publish first-hand accounts of or reactions to the disaster. With news stories and resources, the Web log went live today. It is online at  

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