By James H. Schwartz | From Preservation | November/December 2010
A few weeks ago I was driving to President Lincoln's Cottage here in northwest Washington to interview Stephanie Meeks, the new president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. One of the questions I planned to ask her was, "Do you remember the first historic site you visited as a child in Colorado?" And that got me thinking about all the historic sites my two sisters and I visited while we were growing up in New York. My rough chronological list grew quickly as I remembered trips in the Chevrolet wagon (light blue, fake wood panels) to Boscobel on the Hudson, Winterthur in Delaware, Williamsburg in Virginia, Bennington in Vermont, Sturbridge in Massachusetts—and all those before I had reached the ripe age of nine. When I think back on it, one person deserves all the credit: Mom.
My mother has a passion for history that she probably inherited from her mother. When Mom was having trouble with a school paper about Thoreau, my grandmother packed up the car and drove to Walden Pond so that together, they could learn about Life in the Woods. That experience led to classes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, working visits with Henry Francis du Pont in his gardens at Winterthur, treks along the towpath of the Erie Canal, and trips with the three of us. Long before we understood the meaning of preservation, Mom showed us what it looked and felt like, sharing tales about unforgettable places and the people who'd saved them. Hers is a gift that keeps on giving. Last July, when Liz and Margi and I attended a beloved friend's memorial service in Asheville, N.C., we agreed that between the drive from the airport and the trip to the chapel, Mom would want us to visit Biltmore House.
If you share our fascination with places from the past, or just want to learn more about the country's rich cultural treasures, you're going to love this issue of Preservation. The sites you'll read about demonstrate the sheer breadth of the Trust's collection, from the groundbreaking, modern Robie House on the South Side of Chicago to Acoma Sky City in New Mexico, the oldest continuously inhabited community in North America. We hope our discoveries, and the sites we describe, will inspire you to see some of them for yourselves.
Since this is the final issue of 2010, let me express my appreciation for your support of the Trust and Preservation, and wish all of you safe travels and happy holidays.
Oh, and thanks, Mom.
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