I`m pleased to welcome representatives from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to our city for this exciting 2001 National Preservation Conference.
The stated mission of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, chartered by Congress in 1949, is to "protect the irreplaceable, to fight to save historic buildings and the neighborhoods and landscapes they anchor." This mission is enthusiastically embraced in the city of Providence. The valuable assistance the National Trust gives to local communities is a powerful incentive for all of us to do as much as possible to preserve our priceless heritage.
What started Providence on the road to revitalization was the dedication and tireless work of preservationists, beginning as far back as 1937 -- with such stellar figures as Antoinette Downing-and intensifying in the 1950s. These efforts continue to this day in the work of the Providence Preservation Society, the Historic District Commission, and the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission.
Preservation efforts have made Providence the success it is today, and have been the catalyst for the new and exciting construction that visitors and residents enjoy. Providence would not look the way it does today but for the devotion of groups like the Providence Preservation Society. Benefit Street, the Shepard Building, the Providence Performing Arts Center, the Providence Biltmore, the Lederer Theater, the Smith Building, the Nightingale- Brown House-the list of our successes is long. All of this is a testament to the tenacity and ceaseless efforts of preservationists and the city of Providence, working in tandem to preserve our priceless heritage for succeeding generations.
In Providence, we view preservation as essential to our future, a strong economic tool that will spur new development in the coming years. The city of Providence is an enthusiastic partner with the Providence Preservation Society, the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission, and great community groups like the Elmwood Foundation, the West Broadway Neighborhood Association, and the College Hill Neighborhood Association, in saving historic structures and sites, and in revitalizing our communities.
Much has been accomplished. The Providence Preservation Society`s Revolving Fund has brought about the restoration of nearly 150 properties totaling $2.7 million, and has participated in over $7.4 million in affordable housing development in the Armory District, Elmwood, and the East Side.
In our city we are proud that, for 44 years, the Providence Preservation Society has been in the forefront of the fight to save and restore historic structures and sites in Providence. The Society has helped reveal, through publications, presentations, walking tours, and special events, that we in Providence have an array of historic architecture of the most astonishing variety and beauty imaginable. We have the largest district of Federal and colonial architecture in the nation. This fact is not lost on the producers of the television series Providence.
Providence is grateful to the National Trust for the various initiatives that assist us in our local preservation efforts. We are appreciative of your efforts in holding a three-day retreat in the spring of 1998 for representatives of historic preservation organizations, which included the Providence Preservation Society and the Preservation Society of Pawtucket. We also applaud your valuable assistance to Preserve Rhode Island, which helps our larger community identify the challenges and needs facing our respective preservation agencies.
We thank you for your financial assistance to the Rhode Island Historical Society for publication of The Outdoor Sculpture of Rhode Island. Providence has become a leader in presenting site-specific outdoor sculpture and in generating fantastic festivals like the Convergence Festival, which attracts sculptors and other artists from around the world, enlivening our capital city.
Without due diligence, it is entirely possible for a community and a nation to "lose its memory," to allow the leveling of countless historic structures, literally burying the past and bringing about a collective amnesia regarding heritage. The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a champion in the struggle to preserve our past for future generations, and to build upon our architectural heritage to create vibrant, revitalized cities for the 21st century.
To all of you who are working so hard to make this conference the huge success that it is, thank you. You will find Providence a perfect city in which to explore, in depth, the many interesting topics discussed at the conference. A walk by our restored riverbanks and along our historic streets will confirm for you the supreme value of the work you do, year in and year out.
Without historic preservation, without the vision of pioneers and the hard work of countless individuals who have devoted themselves to our renaissance, Providence`s revitalization would not have been possible. As we continue to embrace our past, the future indeed looks bright for Providence, due in large measure to continuing preservation efforts.
With my thanks to National Trust President Richard Moe, Chairman Bill Hart, and all the wonderful people at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, I wish you continued success at this outstanding conference, and I hope you enjoy your stay in the renaissance city of Providence.
Publication Date: Winter 2002