Letter from the Director: New Support for Historic Preservation

Parapet, Chong Wa Hall, Seattle, 2012, photo by Dan Hawkins
Parapet, Chong Wa Hall, Seattle, 2012, photo by Dan Hawkins

“In the end, the character of a civilization is encased in its structures.” – Frank Gehry

4Culture’s offices are in Pioneer Square, one of the most heavily visited neighborhoods in Seattle by out-of-towners. To walk in the Square is to step back in time, where you can see rooms for rent advertised for 75 cents (what that 75 cents got you is another story entirely.) The fact that most of the original Pioneer Square is still intact is a tribute to the advocacy and activism of preservationists in the 1970s, who also rallied to prevent Pike Place Market from being transformed into a parking lot.

We have always valued the role of preservation in preserving community character and honoring those who came before us. Our civic ancestors built the structures that define our community today: fraternal lodges, rural farm houses and barns, 1920’s movie and vaudeville palaces, civic courthouses, and schools and churches. Within 4Culture’s 4 primary focus areas, financial allocations to the preservation program have lagged significantly behind our arts, heritage and public art programs.

It’s time to address that disparity. In 2013, 4Culture is expanding the funding opportunities available for historic preservation.   Preservation’s program offerings will mirror the programs available for arts and heritage organizations. There will be a new Preservation Projects Program , a new Preservation Sustained Support Program, and an expanded Landmarks Capital Program, combining the former Landmark Rehabilitation and Landmark Challenge grants programs.

We will be working more closely with suburban cities to ignite their efforts to conduct surveys to identify the buildings that tell their stories; fund the research required to nominate new landmarks, or develop specific preservation plans; increase funding for the bricks and mortar capital projects; and support the preservation organizations, such as Washington Trust for Historic Preservation and Historic Seattle, whose missions are in alignment with our own.

We will never have enough funds to restore every structure of historic significance, just as we will never have enough to truly sustain the arts or every local history museum. But by adding resources to our preservation program, we are making a statement that the “4” in 4Culture does not mean 3.5.

Jim Kelly