Obama Administration Plans to Cut Preservation Programs

Four pre-Civil War houses in Bedford-Stuyvesant, N.Y., were restored with money from Save America's Treasures.

Credit: Society for the Preservation of Weeksville History

In a move that dismayed historians and preservation supporters across the country, the Obama administration sent a budget request to Congress earlier this month that would eliminate two programs—Save America's Treasures and Preserve America—and cut funding to National Heritage Areas by half.

Save America's Treasures, launched in 1998, is a public-private partnership of the National Park Service and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The program secured more than $350 million in federal grants and private matching funds to protect historic structures and collections in every state. Preserve America, established in 2003, has awarded more than $17 million in matching grants to support communities that demonstrate sustainable uses for historic and cultural sites.

Bobbie Greene McCarthy, director of Save America's Treasures, says, "It's hard to understand why the administration would want to eliminate a program that drives economic development and creates jobs in rural areas, small towns, and big cities in every state and territory. … If this money is no longer available, our historic legacy and the communities in which they are located will be the big losers."

Though administration officials did not respond to a request for comment today, spokesman Dan Pfeiffer's Jan. 30 White House blog post states, "Both programs lack rigorous performance metrics and evaluation efforts so the benefits are unclear."

Yet McCarthy points out that Save America's Treasures projects stimulate local revitalization. In fact, she says, the restorations of 900 structures funded by Save America’s Treasures have created more than 16,000 jobs. Every project is vetted and approved for quality and feasability by the National Park Service, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and State Historic Preservation Offices; they are monitored and administered by the park service and require detailed reporting standards. 

In Bedford Stuyvesant, N.Y., for example, Save America's Treasures'  $400,000 investment in the restoration of a once-thriving African American neighborhood called Weeksville spurred a major fundraising effort. That helped attract millions of additional dollars for the restoration of the pre-Civil War structures, which helped revitalize the surrounding neighborhood, McCarthy says.

Save America's Treasures has funded projects from the restoration of the flag that inspired the "Star Spangled Banner," to President Lincoln's Cottage in Washington, D.C., to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. "It's the most ambitious and successful national preservation effort of the last 50 years," says National Trust President Richard Moe.

Learn more about the National Trust's campaign to save preservation funding

Read more about places that received grants from Save America's Treasures:

The Other Side of Ellis Island

St. John Church, Washington, D.C.

New York's Eldridge Street Synagogue

Manitoga Modern

Mending Time at Beauvoir





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Submitted by Brian at: February 17, 2010
I could easily rant about the enormous cost of our American "overseas empire", but I will remain respectful on this site. Nevertheless, just imagine how many billions would be saved if we brought our troops back home. We could have every historic neighborhood in the country restored.

Submitted by TaxiManSteve at: February 17, 2010
Can you say... Knife in the back????? (sigh)... Yet the Wars continue... I'm sure glad I voted for this fellow! ---SWL