The 25th annual Dana Crawford and State Honor Awards Celebration was a great success!
Over 300 people joined CPI on May 6, 2015 at the History Colorado Center for the sold out event honoring the people who are saving historic places statewide.
2015 Dana Crawford Award Recipient, Georgianna Contiguglia’s, Acceptance Speech:
“Historic Preservation – Challenges for Today’s Preservationists”
While we are celebrating several wonderful successes in Historic Preservation, I would also like us to consider the challenges we face in this field. This evening I will comment on challenges faced by Historic Preservation in three areas: Historical Resources, Education, and Public Policy.
I hear people say “Well, you can’t save everything”, and of course we cannot, so we must set preservation priorities. This can only be done if we know what we have, and thus surveys of historical resources in our cities, towns and rural areas must be the foundation of our preservation efforts.
Currently Historic Denver Inc., with a grant provided by History Colorado’s State Historical Fund, is surveying the resources in Denver using a model developed by the city of Los Angeles. The staff of the Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation have done some survey work and survey grants have been awarded to Bent County and Cortez, but more survey work needs to be done, especially in our rural areas and along the Front Range. Such surveys can be used to develop Preservation Plans for cities, towns and counties throughout the state. We need to broaden our thinking beyond the preservation of individual buildings and structures and must think in terms of Historic Contexts of our communities’ commercial, industrial, and governmental activities as well as districts illustrative of engineering, transportation, lifestyle, popular culture and cultural diversity. We must preserve tangible resources pertaining to historical events such as the Cold War, women’s history, LGBT and Civil Rights.
An existential challenge to Historic Preservation exists in today’s movements to downplay the importance of the study of history and to study only the “happy” aspects of history. We need to remember that history includes the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, and our preservation efforts must embrace all significant aspects of our past, including cultural history — life ways, food ways, traditions, religions, and the arts and conflicts, both domestic and international. In addition to knowledge of history, we need to impress upon the general public all the benefits of Historic Preservation including enhancing quality of life, creating jobs, passing along specialized preservation skills, stimulating cultural tourism, environmental recycling, maintaining property values, stabilizing neighborhoods, enhancing community pride, and creating desirable business environments such as the Town of Saguache’s 4th Street Commercial District.
We thank individuals such as tonight’s awardee Bruce Hanson for having the dedication to develop important preservation archives at DPL and for teaching people about preservation research. Thanks, too, to Kevin Strong and Doug Whitehead of CBS Channel 4 for their longstanding efforts to educate the general public about our state’s history and stimulate public interest in our Endangered Places in concert with CPI.
Public Policy and the Law:
Public policy and the Law are the tools that can encourage or discourage Historic Preservation. We need to elect public officials that understand and support Historic Preservation, and we all must be advocates for Historic Preservation in these times of rapid change and growth. The long-term benefits of preserving of our public landscapes and our privately owned agricultural landscapes must be protected and weighed against the short-term benefits of mining, fracking, and subdivision development. And public policy must reflect a balance of interests. Provisions of the 1906 Antiquities Act, protecting resources on federal lands, must be respected. Federal and State Preservation Tax Credits provide incentives for historic preservation and often are the linchpin that allows investment dollars to pay off. Colorado should be congratulated for extending and expanding its state preservation tax credit program.
Scenic and Historic Byways designation provides opportunities for collaborative efforts to enhance visitors’ experiences, increase local appreciation of their region’s resources and bring economic benefit to businesses along the Byways. Colorado’s 26-year-old Byway program is a model for the rest of the country. CDOT should be thanked for allocating some of its operating funds to retain our Byways Program, although federal grant funds and a line item for states’ Byways administration were deleted a couple of years ago. Congress has been indifferent to preserving the country’s cultural infrastructure.
Colorado should also be congratulated for establishing the State Historical Fund for Historic Preservation in 1990. Grant funds for Historic Preservation projects have benefitted every county in the state. These grants have stimulated public and philanthropic matching funds from such groups as the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining Company who donated the gold to help restore the State Capitol’s dome.
Yet with every economic downturn, more and more of the SHF is diverted for other uses that should be met by the state’s General Fund. And what will happen when, someday, the SHF goes away? Perhaps it would be wise for legislators to allow the development of a preservation endowment by setting aside some of those SHF funds on an annual basis to plan for the future of our past. Colorado is currently experiencing boom times with great building activity with little regard for the importance of green spaces and view sheds. Infill architecture is often indifferently designed and repetitious; and preservation procedures are not nimble enough to allow for quick action when it is needed. Historic Preservation requires Public Advocacy, and that is why private organizations such as CPI, HDI and others are so important and must be supported by us all with our dollars as well as our voices.
We need to think globally as well as locally and consider the preservation of Humankind’s Heritage. In recent years we have seen ancient temples, shrines, and palaces smashed and bulldozed, archaeological sites pillaged, and artifacts sold on the black market. While protocols and agreements have been developed by The Hague and UNESCO, many countries have not signed them or their provisions do not apply to civil conflicts or actions of terrorist extremists. The wholesale destruction of cultural property is not recognized as a war crime, and in any case, international coalitions lack the will to protect heritage and bring suit against perpetrators. Bad enough that nature conspires to destroy our precious heritage, but we should be able to discourage human-caused destruction.
So, in order to retain our Cultural Heritage, to preserve the physical structures and artifacts of our past we must:
- Document our historic resources
- Educate people about our history in order to foster appreciation for our past and its physical reminders
- Elect officials who will act to protect our historical resources
- And advocate for policies, local, state, national, and international, that will tell the stories of who we are and what we have accomplished over the decades, centuries, and millennia.