Into the Breach

Trust leads tristate hurricane relief effort.

By Kim O'Connell

National Trust President Richard Moe speaks to the press on Sept. 19 during a tour of New Orleans neighborhoods.

Credit: Peter Brink

The crisis in the gulf Ccoast following Katrina—compounded only weeks later by Hurricane Rita—was shocking and severe. Thousands of historic structures in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and elsewhere were damaged or destroyed, and whole neighborhoods, and the family histories they embodied, gutted.

If the time immediately following the hurricanes was marked by devastation and disorganization, the sober months since have been devoted to team building and recovery. Drawing on disaster experience that dates to 1989's Hurricane Hugo, which pummeled South Carolina, the National Trust has led a multipronged effort to address the crisis, considered by many to be one of the worst cultural catastrophes in American history. Along the Gulf Coast and on Capitol Hill, the Trust is working to funnel resources to the affected areas, partnering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), preservation groups such as the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans (PRC) and the Mississippi Heritage Trust, state historic preservation offices, the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and the World Monuments Fund.

National Trust President Richard Moe, Senior Vice President for Programs Peter Brink, and other key staffers made several trips to the region in the weeks after the hurricanes. "We want to work with the government and community leaders," Moe said after touring the besieged Mississippi coast in October, "to bring maximum resources to bear on preserving as much of the historic character of the coast as possible."

Fundraising was an immediate priority. The Trust quickly established a Hurricane Recovery Fund, with the initial goal, reached in late November, of raising $1 million. The contributions have included $200,000 from Goldman Sachs, $100,000 from the Getty Foundation, $50,000 from Home and Garden Television (HGTV), $100,000 from American Express, and many other donations from Trust members and partner organizations.