We’re Gonna Party Like It’s 1982
Forty years ago, the movie “Chariots of Fire” won four Oscars. President Ronald Reagan opened the World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Weather Channel started airing as the first 24-hour all weather network and USA Today launched as a national newspaper. The Falklands War was fought in Argentina and the Unabomber unleashed terror at home. “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” broke box office records.
In Pennsylvania, the organization was founded that would eventually become Pennsylvania’s only statewide nonprofit dedicated to historic preservation. And I started my first job in the preservation field.
I have often said I was an accidental preservationist. I graduated from college in May 1982 with big dreams. With my degree in Business Administration, my plan was to find an excellent job and earn money for law school. However, in case you do not remember, 1982 was not a great year for finding good employment. After sending what felt like 100s of resumes, I felt pretty discouraged.
A friend was doing an internship at Historic York, Inc, (a York County nonprofit historic preservation organization). They were looking for a part-time office manager who could type National Register nominations. That high school typing class was going to pay off one more time! (I typed term papers for a $1 a page in college on the orange electric typewriter I received as a high school graduation gift.)
So, in August 1982, I started my job at Historic York. And the rest, as they say, is history. From Office Manager to Program Director to Executive Director, I spent 24 years at Historic York, Inc.. While there, I earned my master’s degree in Historic Preservation from Goucher College. In 2006, I became the Executive Director of Preservation Pennsylvania.
Preservation in Pennsylvania Gains Momentum
Meanwhile, in Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania General Assembly with the support of Governor Dick Thornburgh and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), established The Preservation Fund of Pennsylvania, a statewide revolving fund “to further the preservation of threatened properties.” An initial $400,000 established the fund to provide low interest loans to acquire or rehabilitate a historic resource. The first project was a $5,000 loan to put a new roof on the William Wells Young Memorial School in York County. Since 1982, the fund has assisted over 75 properties and the initial $400,000 has revolved four times.
A year later, the Pennsylvania Preservation League was formed, eventually changing its name to the Pennsylvania Trust for Historic Preservation focused on education and advocacy. In 1985, the Trust merged with the Preservation Fund of Pennsylvania. By 1986 they were publishing a quarterly newsletter and partnering with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) on its Historic Preservation Awards Program (established in 1979 by the PHMC) and on the statewide educational conference (started in 1979 by the PHMC).
At the 1990 Historic Preservation Conference in Scranton, the Preservation Fund of Pennsylvania changed its name to Preservation Pennsylvania to reflect the growing emphasis on education and advocacy. This dual focus carried on with the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Awards Program and the Statewide Conference on Heritage, in addition to direct intervention on behalf of historic resources. (Stay tuned: We’ll be highlighting these efforts throughout this anniversary year.)
30 Year Anniversary of Pennsylvania At Risk
After a lost battle to save the Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania At Risk program was launched in 1992 to spotlight threatened historic properties all over Pennsylvania. Throughout 2022, Preservation Pennsylvania will feature some of these stories of success, loss, and lessons learned. It is often said that it takes an average of seven years to save a site but in some cases, it has taken much longer. The East Broad Top Railroad (Huntingdon County) is an example. It was included on our first At Risk list in 1992 and was finally saved in 2020.
Preservation Pennsylvania Ruby Anniversary in 2022
We are often too busy doing the work of the day to reflect on the past. Preparing for our 40th anniversary has allowed me to do that and what I have found is that we have a big story to tell.
We owe so much to the people who founded Preservation Pennsylvania and have served as board members, advisors, staff, and volunteers since 1992, many of them highly accomplished in their own preservation careers. We have compelling stories to tell about advocacy wins, places saved (and lost), and the celebrations of the accomplishments of so many people and projects that offer lessons learned and guidance to shape our future beyond 2022.
The legacy of Preservation Pennsylvania is rich and interesting, and I hope you will join us as we take time this year to tell some of our history, share progress on our current work, and plan for a vibrant future helping people protect and preserve the places that they love. We envision a future where Pennsylvania’s historic buildings, sites, neighborhoods, communities, and landscapes are valued and protected, and Preservation Pennsylvania is helping you to be successful in your preservation work.
Contribute your memories
And as we share our stories, I also want to hear from you. Do you have memories or photographs to share? Working with the members of our 40th Anniversary Committee has been great, as many of them have long histories with the organization and tell anecdotes that were never written down. Our photo archives prior to the digital age are sparse. Do you have photos of our early history? Do you have something you would like to share in a future blog post? Send me an email or send a message using our Contact page and let me know! (Or leave a comment below; comments will be open until February 9.)
Stay connected with us during this special year
Preservation Pennsylvania celebrates 40th Anniversary in 2022. We’re in the process of planning a series of special anniversary events – ranging from webinars to in-person and members-only gatherings and tours.. We hope to be able to make some big announcements about a few At Risk sites and new programs that you will not want to miss. Be sure to sign up for our e-news.
The Louis J. Appell, Jr. Preservation Fund for Central Pennsylvania is accepting applications for funding until March 15, 2022. The fund, jointly administered by Preservation Pennsylvania and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, provides grants ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 in ten central Pennsylvania counties supporting preservation planning and educational projects. Apply today!
Support our work
If you are already a Preservation Pennsylvania member or donor, I thank you very much! We simply could not continue our work without your sustaining support.
Preservation Pennsylvania is not funded by the state. It doesn’t receive operating support from large foundations or the PHMC. Sixty-five percent (65%) of our operating income comes from folks like you who value Pennsylvania’s rich heritage and want to see it preserved.
If you are not yet a member or donor or if your membership has lapsed, now is the perfect time to join, renew or donate by visiting our website. Members will be receiving bi-monthly Anniversary updates with exclusive opportunities to participate. Join the fun and support this important work.