There for Us
Remembering two allies of the preservation community
By Stephanie Smith and Arnold Berke | From Preservation | January/February 2009
As a young journalist in Washington, D.C., Loren Pope read an article on Frank Lloyd Wright that changed his life. Convinced Wright was a kindred spirit, he wrote him a fan letter. "There are certain things a man wants during life, and, of life. Material things and things of the spirit," Pope penned in 1939. "The writer has one fervent wish that includes both. It is a house created by you."
The result was a 1,200-square-foot dwelling, one of the best examples of Wright's Usonian houses. Radical when built in 1941, it came to redefine historic when the National Trust for Historic Preservation acquired the house as its first modernist site in 1964, moving it from the path of a freeway to Woodlawn Plantation near Alexandria, Va. (Second owner Marjorie Leighey donated the house.)
Pope, whose love affair with his home carried on long after he left it, died at 98 on Sept. 23. Later that month, family and friends gathered at Pope-Leighey House for a memorial service. Architect Steven Reiss met Pope while a docent at the house, and the two became close friends. "For Loren, it wasn't just a house," he says. "He felt a real connection with Wright's philosophy of life."
The Popes lived in the house for only five years, but site administrator Stacey Hawkins says Loren Pope was as much a figure there as Wright. "Whenever we were in the middle of the tour when he showed up, then of course the focus was on him. The tour would stop, and we'd all join him," she says. "It was still his house."
What sort of person was Stephanie Tubbs Jones? Those who knew the Cleveland congresswoman use words like "fighter" and "tireless" and "a quick study." Tubbs Jones, a Democrat who represented the east side and adjacent suburbs, used those traits to promote urban revival. She backed legislation to boost federal preservation funding, for instance, and voted against gutting protections in national transportation law. Shortly before she died at age 58 on Aug. 20. Congress passed a bill she cosponsored that enhanced the federal rehab tax credit for the first time in decades.
"She understood preservation," says Bracy Lewis, past president of the Cleveland Restoration Society (CRS), "and had strong feelings about it." Tubbs Jones lived in Wade Park, a historic district where CRS gave advice to homeowners. "She had an intuitive understanding of the value of traditional neighborhoods," says CRS Executive Director Kathleen Crowther, who came to know the congresswoman when lobbying on the Hill. Ohio's first black female representative, Tubbs Jones worked with the National Trust for Historic Preservation on the tax credit improvements.
In Cleveland, she helped lure investment to older neighborhoods and also aided rescue of the Cozad-Bates House, a center of abolitionism before the Civil War. "If you got her ear," says Lewis, "and the cause was good enough for her to say OK, then you could go back and tell your constituents, Amen, she's here."
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