By James H. Schwartz | From Preservation | July/August 2009
Forgive the hyperbole, but I think I may have discovered the solution to all the world's problems. Let's bring on the dreamers—the ingenious, creative, unflappable, unstoppable optimists—and ask them to run things for a while. Reading their stories in this issue left me speechless (a rare occurrence, according to my colleagues), and I dare you to resist their unbridled enthusiasm.
They're activists like Liz Sims, who decided to save a tiny school building in Notasulga, Ala. Equipped with little more than a sense of purpose, she rallied academics and architecture students, reached out to alumni, appealed directly to the managers of local home improvement stores, and began restoring the school that offered African American students a beacon of hope in the days before integration. Sims practically defines persistence, and her community's all the better for it.
They're risk takers, like the members of the Chinese Community Church in Washington, D.C., who—upon discovering that their new sanctuary had a distinguished past—authorized a dramatic restoration, and raised funds to replicate the church's lost steeple. Their efforts demonstrate the power of preservation and gumption, and I've started taking friends downtown to admire what the church has accomplished.
They're visionaries, like the residents of Nashville, Tenn., who looked at a faded Art Deco post office and envisioned a glittering exhibition space. When the Frist Center for the Visual Arts opened a few years ago, these Tennesseans proved once again that grand old buildings can adapt magnificently to brand new functions.
And they're quick studies, like the remarkable Annie S. Harris, who refused to stand by and watch a Florida neighborhood lose its luster. As her friend and cohort Althemese Barnes told me a few weeks ago, "Annie became a zoning expert, a building permit guru, a police enforcement officer, and an ardent supporter of preservation." You can read about her in "Making a Difference".
There's something about the audacity of dreamers that all of us at Preservation find extraordinarily moving. They make our work interesting and spark new initiatives. They also enliven the pages of this magazine issue after issue. It's a privilege to share their stories with you.
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