The close of 2015 will mark the end of an era at 4Culture. Flo Lentz, who has headed our preservation program since its inception in 2003, will retire. She leaves behind a formidable list of accomplishments. Flo essentially invented the 4Culture preservation program and for years was its only staff.
When the King County Office of Cultural Resources morphed into the independent public development authority that we know today as 4Culture, the functions of the King County Historic Preservation Program stayed in county government, designating and regulating King County landmarks. We imagined 4Culture developing a preservation advocacy role, promoting the values of historic preservation especially at a time of rapid real estate development throughout the county with the accompanying pressure to replace the old with the new.
Who would head this new program area? How about someone with more than 25-years’ experience at the national, state and local levels in historic preservation. That of course was Flo Lentz, handed a blank slate: a bricks and mortar landmark rehabilitation program with total funding of about $45,000.
Over the years, Flo was instrumental in saving and restoring Washington Hall in partnership with Historic Seattle, partnered with a group of volunteers on Vashon Island to try to save Mukai Farm and Garden, a Japanese-American historic site, advocated with Washington Trust to preserve the Alki Homestead in West Seattle, actively worked to save the Skykomish Hotel; and much more. Flo and Heather Dwyer of the 4Culture arts staff are architects of a new program called Vets Restore, which offers returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans training in preservation carpentry. In just the past year, Flo convened a group of preservationists to address Equity in Preservation, which is focused on calling attention to and rehabilitating historic sites that are important to communities of color.
That one funding program that Flo was handed in 2003 when she took the preservation position? It is now four funding programs: preservation special projects, operating support for preservation organizations, landmarks capital, and an emergency fund. The two words that come up most frequently when talking about Flo’s accomplishments are “partner” and “save.” Flo is one of those rare individuals who focuses on goals, not credit. She readily works with any other organizations whose assistance will help achieve a positive preservation outcome.
The state of preservation in King County is much improved since her arrival. She will leave an indelible mark on the built environment of King County. Have a great retirement, Flo. You’ve earned it. We’ll be announcing the new manager of our preservation program soon—stay tuned!