Industrial Heritage

From coast to coast, industrial structures -- factories, mills, breweries -- serve as the physical embodiment of the expansion and development of our nation. Unfortunately, industrial heritage sites are often a neglected aspect of our history, and the challenges associated with their preservation and reuse are daunting. Rehabilitation often requires a creative vision for reuse, as well as intricate public-private partnerships and complicated financing strategies. As a result, many of these sites remain decrepit and deteriorating.

The National Trust has long been involved in this issue through its annual list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places and is poised to lead the way in this effort. A grant from the J.M. Kaplan Fund will allow us to convene a national preservation forum on the challenges and opportunities associated with saving our industrial heritage. Our goal is to develop a unified direction for the protection and rehabilitation of industrial resources: findings from the forum will inform decision-makers and serve as a springboard for generating a range of solutions, including tools for planning, public policy, economic incentives, and public engagement.

The National Trust is committed to giving new life to these threatened resources. Recent, high-profile projects, including New York City's transformation of the elevated High Line railway into an urban park and the reuse of Bethlehem Steel sites as a resort and cultural complex, have illustrated the viability of vacant industrial structures. Lesser known projects, including the conversion of paper mills to art studios and canneries to office space, have further revealed the potential of these resources to again serve cities and towns nationwide.