Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Award Type: Peter H. Brink Award for Individual Achievement in Historic Preservation
As vice chair of the Foundation for Historical Louisiana, Baton Rouge's premiere historic preservation organization, Sandra Stokes has been a leader in the ongoing effort to protect the state's cultural and architectural heritage. Since 2007, her laser-like focus has been directed on New Orleans' Charity Hospital, the second largest hospital in the United States when dedicated in 1939. Until Katrina hit in 2005, the hospital, through many incarnations and in several locations, had served the city's indigent population since the 18th century. Now, Louisiana State University is considering abandoning the Art Deco icon and flattening blocks of historic homes in the surrounding neighborhood to build a new medical center.
Sandra Stokes believes that the vacant Charity Hospital building presents an opportunity that the State has never had before: the complete transformation of a historically significant icon into a world-class medical facility. In addition, gutting Charity Hospital and transforming it into a state-of-the-art medical facility would provide an economic boost to downtown New Orleans, as well as saving a historic neighborhood of badly needed workforce housing.
A highly effective advocate and an impressive spokesperson, Stokes—along with a committed team including Walter Gallas, Jack Davis and Peter Brink of the National Trust—has generated an impressive, grassroots effort in support of "Big Charity." A skilled lobbyist, she has talked her way into meetings with decision makers, winning friends and getting results. A filmmaker by profession, with experience in commercial production and marketing, she has used her investigative skills to tenaciously root out misinformation and dig for the truth.
"Once a prestigious center of medical training and a beacon for public health care, Charity Hospital now faces an uncertain future," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "While no one knows yet how this preservation battle will end, we do know that without Sandra Stokes, we wouldn't have a chance. She is the cheerleader who rallies her colleagues when their spirits flag – and the general who inspires them to keep up the fight."
Presented for the first time this year, the Peter H. Brink Award for Individual Achievement recognizes an individual who has made extraordinary contributions – including significant personal intervention, advocacy, or development efforts – towards saving a historic place during the past year. The award is named in honor of the National Trust's longtime senior vice president of programs, who is retiring this year after twenty years of service.