Postcard from Washington, D.C.

Maya M. Foty

AIA, LEED AP

Principal

Portland

On Monday, November 30 and Tuesday, December 1st, I attended two events in Washington, D.C.. The first event was organized by Robert Ivy, CEO of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and was held to honor the recent induction of Michele le Menestrel Ullrich, founder of the Richard Morris Hunt Fellowship (RMHF), into the French Legion d’Honneur. (The Legion d’Honneur is a French order established by Napoleon Bonaparte and is the highest decoration in France).

 

Madame le Menestrel Ullrich received the honor for her work as the founder of both the French Heritage Society and the RMHF. Each year, the RMHF awards a French or American mid-career design professional specializing in preservation the opportunity to travel to the United States or France and spend six months researching a topic related to historic preservation and architectural heritage. The RMHF is cosponsored by the American Architectural Foundation (AAF) and the French Heritage Society.

 

Left: From left to right, Elizabeth Chu Richter (AIA president), Robert Ivy, and Michele le Menestrel Ullrich
Right: Robert Ivy and Maya Foty

 

So what is the connection between the AIA, the AAF, and the RMHF? Richard Morris Hunt (October 31, 1827–July 31, 1895) is one of the founders of the AIA (1857), and he was the first American to attend the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. The AAF was once a part of the AIA, but split off in 1943 as a national nonprofit organization that educates the public about the power of architecture to improve lives and transform communities through the various programs that it administers.

 

The second event that I attended was a luncheon to honor the recipient of the 2015 Oculus Award for Leadership in Design and Cultural Heritage – Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates (WJE). The Oculus award is given to recognize organizations that provide leadership in preservation.

 

The keynote speaker was Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN). The second Minnesota woman ever elected to Congress in the state’s history, Rep. McCollum is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and the ranking Democrat on the committee’s Interior Environment Subcommittee. She is also a member of the House Preservation Caucus.

 

In her speech, Rep. McCollum expressed her commitment, with the help of the AAF, to re-fund the Save America’s Treasures grant program. President Bill Clinton established Save America’s Treasures in 1999 to preserve nationally significant historic properties and collections. The program was operated as a partnership between the National Park Service (NPS) and the National Trust for Historic Preservation before the Obama Administration defunded the program in 2011. The $220 million that was distributed through Save America’s Treasures generated approximately $318 million from other sources, created about 16,000 jobs, and helped preserve about 900 historic structures.

 

AAF President and CEO, Ron Bogle and Rep. McCollum
Photo credit: Jocelyn Augustino

 

During her tenure in Congress, Rep. McCollum was instrumental in submitting a Save America’s Treasures grant for the restoration of C.S.P.S Hall, home of the Czech-Slovak Protective Society, in her hometown of St. Paul. She noted that the 2016 House and Senate appropriation bills allocated only $60 million to the Historic Preservation Fund (which support our SHPO), half of the $150 million that was authorized and $20 million less than was spent the year before. Rep. McCollum also noted that 2016 is the anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act as well as the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, and that she will do all that she can to re-fund the Save America’s Treasures grant program.

 

In Oregon, Save America’s Treasures awarded $2.2 million to eight projects between 2001 and 2005, including the Vista House and the Lake Oswego Iron Smelter. In California, it awarded $9.4 million to 39 projects, including the Angel Island Immigration Station, which ARG Conservation Services worked on.

 

It was an inspirational trip, and the back-to-back events highlighted the cultural difference between France and the U.S. In France, people are receiving the highest national honor for their work in the preservation field; in the U.S., the effort to fund essential improvements to our most cherished historic resources remains an annual battle.

 

Featured Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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