PEOPLE IN PRESERVATION
INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL ABBOTT
Mike Abbott recently retired as a principal at Newport Collaborative Architects. For over 40 years, his leadership has been marked by an abiding interest in historic preservation and adaptive reuse. Mike has worked on many buildings listed in the National Historic Register and his projects have won multiple awards—including several Rhody Awards for Historic Preservation. Mike has also dedicated significant time to his community. He is a past president of AIA/RI, served as Chairman of both the Exeter Planning Board and Zoning Board. He also serves on the board of Preserve RI and is a commissioner on the state’s Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission.
In your long career working in historic preservation in Rhode Island, what positive changes have you seen?
The most positive change to preservation I’ve seen in Rhode Island, is that almost everyone now knows the term and what it means— its [perceived as a] value to the community. It is easier to start a project with everyone starting with that basic understanding in place.
What are the biggest concerns you see ahead for protecting and preserving historic landmarks across Rhode Island?
My biggest concern going forward is that economics still win out sometimes. It might be cheaper and easier to knock down that abandoned church on the desirable corner lot and put up a pharmacy, than it is the restore and adaptively reuse it and put the pharmacy somewhere else.
Is there a particular project that stands out that you are most proud of?
A particular favorite project that I have worked on is the Providence Performing Arts Center. We were lucky to get involved in the original expansion and restoration of the historic theater back in 1993, and continue with further ongoing restoration projects today, such as the restoration of the Terra Cotta facade last year. I like that it is open to the public so many people are able to enjoy it. About 300,000 each year!
What advice would you give to an owner of a historic property contemplating an adaptive reuse project or restoration?
If a can give advice to homeowners embarking upon a restoration project, it might be “do no harm”! Don’t try to make your project something that it’s not suited for. If you are a big fan of an open floor plan, don’t start with a 200-year-old colonial and remove all the interior walls. Instead, look for a loft in an old mill, or an old warehouse instead.
You've purchased a house in Italy and plan to spend some time there in retirement--tell us about your experience in rehabbing an historic place in Italy.
My experience so far in renovating a 1,200-year-old property in Italy is that the permitting and approval processes are abstract and done through intermediaries. I like being able to discuss my plans directly with the inspectors, although with translation issues, I might end up in trouble! And it is ALL restoration, hardly any changes whatsoever are permitted. You don’t move 3-foot-thick walls very easily!
INTERVIEW WITH SUSAN BATTLE
Linden Place is a Federal Style mansion located in Bristol. It was built in 1810 for General George DeWolf, a merchant and ship owner, and designed by architect Russell Warren. Susan has worked for the museum for over 20 years and became the Executive Director in 2017. Susan holds a BA in Art History from URI as well as a Certificate in Non Profit Studies from Rhode Island College.
As a small house museum, which strategies have worked best for getting new and returning visitors?
Linden Place is a very small museum and a small organization. With just two office staff, outreach can be challenging, to say the least. We are continually seeking fresh and interesting ways to
bring new faces to our site. Not everyone is as fascinated by the architecture or story of Linden Place as I am, but the beauty of the estate is its ability to host a wide variety of programs and events, from concerts and educational programming to film screenings, allowings us to reach audiences of all ages and backgrounds and keep them coming back. We are consistently considering our site and asking, “How can we use this space to make everyone feel welcome?”
Also, collaboration! An important strategy for any small organization is to collaborate with other like-minded organizations that share similar goals. Linden Place partners with Rogers Free Library, the Bristol Historical and Preservation Society, Roger Williams University, Research BIPOC History and many other groups to provide engaging events and programs that we would never be able to tackle individually. Collaborations not only help to divide the work and costs going into a program, participating organizations get to connect with new audiences of fellow organizations. It is a win-win.
What is your most popular program? Why do you think that is?
For the past several years, Linden Place’s most popular programs are our concerts. Held every fall through spring, our concert series is quite varied and features local musicians from all genres. We love supporting local music and our audiences do, too. We host Celtic music, R&B, country, classical, jazz and more. Our East Bay audiences are music lovers that keep coming back. Our ballroom has amazing acoustics and we keep ticket prices reasonable. It is rewarding to see the ballroom packed with new faces on a Friday night or Sunday afternoon!
From a preservation/restoration perspective, what big projects have you recently completed or are planning?
Restoring and preserving a 2013 year-old estate is never dull! In 2022 we were thrilled to have the cupola of Linden Place’s 1906 ballroom fully restored. It is such a focal point from any view on the property. We just finished restoration of the Gothic conservatory, which was slowly falling off the building due to an improper foundation. Even better, this project included making our only first floor bathroom workable for our visitors. While these were highly visible projects, all of us in the historic preservation field know that more often than not, less ‘exciting” restoration projects take precedence. This summer we had to repair a sewer line. Not fun. This year, Linden Place is gearing up to finish roof and gutter restoration on our 1850’s barn and continue painting the south side of the mansion and wings. We have big plans for the restoration of our 1780’s summerhouse as well.
Linden Place has a complicated history, given the DeWolf family’s ties to the slave trade. How are you working to tell the full story of the house, and address concerns?
Linden Place’s history is a story of a family of immense wealth. This wealth was created by a brutal system of slavery over several generations. Linden Place’s history is also the story of Bristol, a town that participated in that system because of the many economic benefits the slave trade created. The task of the board, staff and volunteers at Linden Place is to share that history, to tell the stories of those enslaved, and to tell a full and inclusive story. We also strive to share stories of strength and resiliency of African Americans and their many contributions to the growth of our country.
In 2020, Linden Place launched our re-examination of the history of the DeWolf and Colt families so that we can tell the house’s history in a more inclusive way. In doing this, we reached out to other institutions dealing with the same challenges and communities of color to get their guidance and input. In April, 2022, Linden Place launched our new tour, including an audio tour accessible to anyone, for free, with a computer or smartphone.
Linden Place collaborated with the Rhode Island Slave History Medallions (RISHM.org) to install a medallion recognizing the mansion’s connection to slavery. This culminated in a “Day of Recognition, Reconciliation and Healing” led by RISHM and featured dancers from Ghana, members of the Pokonoket Tribe, students from RWU, as well as members of the DeWolf family. Each group staffed an “Ask Me A Question” table so that guests could learn more. The medallion is now on the front fence of Linden Place.
Linden Place hosts bi-monthly walking tours focused on the DeWolf family’s connection to the transatlantic slave trade. This program, now 10 years hold, continues to be one of our most popular programs, demonstrating how the public yearns to learn about this time in Rhode Island history. Currently, we are developing a tour for fifth grade students who study RI History and we hope to bring students to Linden Place, in person or virtually.
There is still much work to be done. For instance, we are searching for any information on the two enslaved people who were listed on the 1810 census, who are listed only as “one male slave” and “one female slave”. It is telling that these enslaved people’s names were not even recorded. Who were they? Where were they from?
What advice do you have for other historic organizations that face similar challenges?
My advice to other historic organizations is to take advantage of the amazing resources around you. Linden Place has made wonderful strides in preservation, marketing and communications and development by working with students, classes and interns from the wonderful universities here in Rhode Island. Also, take advantage of the access that being such a small state affords us. Reach out to other historic sites and organizations. There are so many knowledgeable professionals just a phone call or e-mail away. Having a circle of colleagues you can call about a research topic, preservation project or any issue, really, allows small organizations to support one another. This became so apparent to me during the pandemic. Here is Bristol, staff from four museums met weekly to discuss how we were handling the latest guidelines, Covid fund relief programs, preservation projects, etc. It was a lifesaver for Linden Place, and for me.
INTERVIEW WITH JOANNA DOHERTY
Joanna Doherty was appointed Deputy Director of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission last month. Joanna started at the RIHPHC as a Senior Architectural Historian in 2013, advancing to Principal Architectural Historian in 2015. In this role, she has guided the preparation of dozens of National Register of Historic Places nominations, resulting in nearly 600 resources being listed. Previously Joanna worked at the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation, and the Public Archaeology Laboratory. She earned a B.A. in the Growth and Structure of Cities from Bryn Mawr College and a M.S. in Historic Preservation from the University of Pennsylvania. As Deputy Director Joanna will oversee the RIHPHC’s National Register, survey, and archaeology programs.
You’ve spent much of your career here in Rhode Island. What do you think distinguishes our historic fabric and towns from other New England states?
Rhode Island’s historic resources are similar to other New England states, but, like with everything, we are just a little different. For example, towns in Massachusetts often have a meetinghouse and town common at their center. You won’t find that in Rhode Island (except in places like Little Compton, which was once part of Massachusetts), because of our strong history of keeping church and state separate. There are mill villages throughout New England, but the earliest was in Rhode Island – which makes sense, since Pawtucket was the birthplace of the American industrial revolution. Slatersville in North Smithfield was established in 1807 and eventually included workers’ housing, a company store, a large textile mill and a waterpower system to run it – a model that was replicated throughout the region.
Of the dozens of nominations that you’ve prepared for the National Register, can you talk about a few that showcase the range of historic buildings found in Rhode Island? What makes them special?
I really enjoy preparing National Register nominations, from start to finish, but I don’t get the chance to do so all that often. More typically, I collaborate with consultants on the process – editing draft nominations, sharing relevant research, and generally providing guidance. A wide range of resources are included in the National Register, and I’ve had the privilege of working on nominations for the First Baptist Church in Tiverton, the Samuel Clarke Farm in Richmond, several suburban residential subdivisions, and the University of Rhode Island, among others. Still, the National Register falls short of documenting all aspects of our history: it’s estimated that less than 8% of nominations nationally are associated with women, Latinos, African Americans or other minorities, and the proportion in Rhode Island is probably similar.
What has been your proudest achievement in your years at the Commission?
I’m proud of my efforts to improve the National Register program’s diversity, but we’ve only begun – it’s going to take a long time to correct. I worked on the update of the College Hill Historic District National Register nomination, which now discusses the African American history of the neighborhood in much greater depth. We are in the second phase of a statewide survey of sites associated with the African American civil rights movement, work that has been supported by grants from the National Park Service. I was part of a small group made up of staff from the RIHPHC, Providence Public Library, and Providence Preservation Society and a community historian that developed a walking tour highlighting downtown Providence’s LGBTQ+ history.
What are you most excited about in your new role? What opportunities do you see for Rhode Island to utilize historic places to benefit all in our community?
I’m excited about the chance to participate in more of the RIHPHC’s programs and have a greater impact on shaping the direction of preservation in Rhode Island. We’ve got a remarkable collection of historic resources that provide a strong sense of place and contribute to the character of communities across the state. The historic rehabilitation tax credits represent a huge opportunity to redevelop underused resources, benefitting not just property owners and developers but entire communities.
What do you see as the biggest threat to historic places that we face in the next 5 years?
It’s difficult to think of a greater threat to Rhode Island’s historic resources than climate change, sea level rise, and flooding. Many coastal communities are already seeing the impact of climate change and are exploring ways to mitigate that effect. We need to figure out how to make buildings and whole neighborhoods more resilient while maintaining their historic integrity, which will require collaboration among communities, state agencies and others who care about the historic fabric of Rhode Island.
INTERVIEW WITH CARRIE ZASLOW
The Providence Revolving Fund was established in 1980, as an independent non-profit corporation, with the mission of preserving historic buildings and places of cultural significance by providing lending and services to promote equitable neighborhood revitalization.
Carrie Zaslow has been its Executive Director since 2018. Prior to that, she was the Program Officer at RI's LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation), leading several high-profile community development initiatives. Carrie began her career at the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights, where she was the Fair Housing Education and Outreach Project Manager. She was later named Director of the Homeownership Connection, a division of the Housing Network of RI. Carrie has a Bachelor's from Northern Michigan University and a Master's from RISD. Carrie is the Vice Chair of the New England Foundation for the Arts and is a member of the Board of Directors for the Providence Foundation and the Providence Preservation Society.
The Revolving Fund recently announced they were awarded $1.8 million in federal funds to address affordable rental housing. How will the funds be used?
We are very proud to have been awarded funds through the CDFI Equitable Recovery Program. We are using a two-pronged approach to address housing affordability and stability. We strive to stimulate equitable community revitalization that reflects neighborhood values and promotes access to housing and economic opportunity for all. The funds will allow us to provide a range of financial and technical assistance to owners of historic homes in and out of Historic Districts, who have been excluded from accessing credit because of systemic discrimination and historic redlining. The program is aimed at helping homeowners maintain and remain in their biggest asset. Our long-term vision is for these same homeowners to build intergenerational wealth through home improvement and increased property values. Additionally, we will be able to expand our lending for multifamily development projects that have a historic preservation component and prioritize a true mix of incomes.
How does the Revolving Fund intend to focus its investment? What criteria are used in deciding which projects to prioritize? We currently operate three loan funds.
Our Neighborhood Loan Fund which provides loans for the repair of homes over 50 years old. That program is available in Metro Providence (Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls, East Providence). We prioritize direct outreach in neighborhoods that have an aging housing stock and where homeowners have faced barriers to getting a home repair loan. The area’s predominantly older housing stock presents challenges for upkeep, leaving many homes neglected. Limited resources, pandemic job losses, and inflation resulted in many LMI homeowners barely keeping their homes. Although housing values soared during the pandemic, these owners have barriers to unlocking their home’s capital for necessary repairs. Traditional loan denial rates in Providence are 1.3x higher for Blacks and 1.7x higher for Hispanics than for white owners. Credit scores, debt-to-income ratio, and collateral are cited as the reasons for denial (NCRC 2021). In LMI neighborhoods, deferred repairs have resulted in both owner-occupied and rental units becoming substandard in quality, unhealthy, and potentially unsafe. If forced out it’s likely they will never be able to reenter the housing market.
The Opportunity Investment Fund drives investments to projects that include historic preservation with affordable housing, arts, workforce training, and/or economic development. This is a statewide program; we look for projects that include resident led neighborhood transformation. This includes the Millrace project in Woonsocket that combines the historic preservation of the National Register Mill building with an outdoor performance space, a community kitchen and affordable housing for a mix of incomes including extremely low income households; or Teatro ECAS, New England only Spanish Language theater company’s new home in the adaptive reuse of a historic building on Valley Street in Providence.
Additionally, we have a micro-business loan fund that provides loans of $500-$5,000 in Providence along commercial corridors. This program began during the pandemic and has continued as a tool to preserve these Corridors that are the hearts of their neighborhoods. They are where people shop, where they work and where they meet their neighbors.
The Revolving Fund has had an extraordinary impact on Providence and its historic neighborhoods over the last 40 years. Which project or program are you most proud of?
I have a fundamental belief that everyone should be able to live in neighborhoods that are safe, that have performing schools, that have recreation and fresh food available, where residents can thrive, and that honors the history and culture of the neighborhood. I am most proud of the role we play in Providence in addressing holistic community transformation. We are able to provide affordable home repair loans that help address the wealth gap for people of color and thwart displacement, while we protect the historic and cultural architecture of Providence neighborhoods. The work we do is hard, often decades in the making, but it is also immensely satisfying—especially when you speak with the neighborhood residents, and you meet the family that finally has repaired their historic home up to code, lead safe and they can finally take a deep breath.
What do you see as the biggest challenge and opportunity for historic preservation in Providence in the next five years?
The biggest challenge facing historic preservation in the next five years…costs. Plain and simple, the cost of materials continues to rise. As preservationists, we will have to work to find creative solutions to helping homeowners and developers alike with finding ways to maintain their properties. A recently released study on housing in Rhode Island sponsored by the Rhode Island Foundation, LISC and BCBS of RI; pointed to the age of Rhode Island’s housing stock and the potential loss of needed units of housing when properties are forced to defer maintenance. This recognition is key to our field coming together with innovative solutions. This could include everything from homeowner historic tax credits to a HistoricCorps for entering into the Historic Preservation Field. We are in a moment where we can think big.
INTERVIEW WITH BRENT RUNYON
Brent Runyon has been the Executive Director of the Providence Preservation Society (PPS) for almost 10 years. He recently announced he will be departing later this year to pursue other opportunities. Brent has a masters degree in historic preservation from the University of Georgia where he focused on community planning and affordable housing issues. He currently serves on the boards of the Providence Revolving Fund, the Mile of History Association and HousingWorks RI, and serves as a member of the State House Restoration Commission.
Reflecting on the last 10 years, what is your proudest achievement?
There have been so many amazing moments during my tenure at PPS, but there are a few things I'm most proud of. The first is our advocacy to prevent the loss of five historic buildings on Brown's campus. The result was that Brown moved a structure and built its new performing arts building on a different site. The second thing I'm really proud of is the city’s first new local historic district in 30 years, a ten-year undertaking! Finally, I am extremely gratified to see our new Building Works program blossom. The seeds for the program germinated back in 2018 and sprouted during the pandemic. As of 2023, we have secured a workshop at 50 Sims Avenue and an agreement with the City of Providence to use the Esek Hopkins House as a learning lab.
While you've helped save many buildings during your tenure, is there one building that Providence lost that stands out as "the one that got away"?
The Alpheus C. Morse-designed Southwest Pavilion at RI Hospital, owned by Lifespan, was an incredibly beautiful vestige of the Victorian era hospital, but the city’s zoning codes were not on the public’s side. There was little that any public body could do to stop its demolition. The fact that it was nearly hidden from public view made it difficult to raise its profile. But the public rose to the challenge; more than 1200 people signed a petition and dozens wrote letters to the City Council, which itself issued a resolution urging its preservation.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing historic preservation in Providence and in Rhode Island in the next 5 years?
Irrelevancy. The bicentennial gave historic preservation a platform and a sense of importance to a country that had only too recently spent billions of dollars on urban renewal and highway building, fraying the fabric of our cities. With the upcoming 250th, there is a tremendous opportunity to situate historic preservation in a place of relevance. This time, though, the relevance needs to speak to the issues our constituents care about. Some of these are easy to see as related to our missions (i.e., housing) while others (i.e., racism) are less clear. But as the saying goes, if you aren’t part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem.
PPS has been at the forefront of organizations trying to increase their inclusivity and equity. What advice would you give to other historic and preservation organizations seeking to expand their outreach?
First, everyone in the organization - staff and board - must understand their implicit biases. This understanding carries through everything we do, from committee meetings to advocacy positions. Organizations must be humble in their approach and understand that many in the community view historic preservation, writ large, as adversarial, or irrelevant. We need to cede power to people with different life experiences, including leadership positions on the board and staff. This work is really hard, but if we believe that preservation matters, then becoming more inclusive and pushing for equity is necessary for us to remain relevant.
What are the qualities most important for PPS's new Executive Director?
In my opinion, PPS needs a strong nonprofit administrator who has a good understanding of historic preservation philosophy and practice. Beyond that, for PPS to continue the work we’ve done in the last decade, the new director must be committed to engaging the entire community and ensuring the organization is helpful in ways that are true to the mission.
INTERVIEW WITH BECCA BERTRAND
Becca graduated from Salve Regina University where she majored in Cultural and Historic Preservation. After earning a masters from the University of Delaware's Winterthur Program in American Material Culture and working for a variety of nonprofits in Rhode Island, she became the Executive Director of newportFILM and then the Executive Director of the New York Yacht Club Foundation for Historic Preservation before joining the Society in January 2023. Becca has also been on the board of Preserve RI since 2019.
As someone who has been involved for years in Newport's history and culture, we'd love to learn more about your perspective on the opportunities and challenges you see ahead.
What are you most excited about in your role as Executive Director of the Newport Historical Society?
The Newport Historical Society is the proud steward of six historic properties ranging in age from 1697 to 1915 and tens of thousands of collection objects. The NHS is uniquely poised to interpret Newport's history with a national lens and I'm thrilled to bring new audiences to our collections, properties and library resources. There's also a tremendous responsibility leading an organization that has existed since 1854 - it's an honor to serve as Executive Director and I'm full of energy bringing a new generation of leadership to the NHS.
What achievement from your past work are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the joy I find collaborating with other nonprofits. Aquidneck Island, and all of Rhode Island, are such a treasure trove of incredible nonprofit organizations. In my time at newportFILM, nothing brought me more pleasure than shining a spotlight on organizations that deserved their time in the sunshine. At the Newport Historical Society, I plan to bring our collections, properties and resources together with other organizations in unique and creative ways.
The Society has played an important role in advocating for historic preservation policies in Newport. What role do you envision the Society playing moving forward?
The Newport Historical Society has been integral in the history of Newport's historic preservation movement. I think our strongest role in preservation is through education and the rich resources in our collection. We have incredible opportunities to educate the public through our popular walking tour program. We provide Newport homeowners house histories and we have rich visual resources that document Newport's built environment in our photographic collection. I think these are the unsung heroes of Newport's preservation story.
How can the preservation community help you to be successful?
I'd love the preservation community to access the resources of the Newport Historical Society more - learn about our collections on newporthistory.org, visit our Resource Center & Library, become a member and get involved!
INTERVIEW WITH JEFF EMIDY
At the start of 2023 Commission Chair Ruth S. Taylor announced that the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission (RIHPHC) has appointed Acting Executive Director Jeffrey D. Emidy to serve as Executive Director. The selection followed a nearly year-long search that evaluated 28 candidates from Rhode Island and nationwide.
Emidy has worked in historic preservation for more than 22 years. At the Commission, he advanced from National Register Assistant to Project Review Coordinator, to Deputy Director and Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer before being named Executive Director. He has served as interim executive director on two occasions.
What are you most excited about in your role as Executive Director of the HPHC?
I am excited about new directions. Since our establishment in 1968, we, like much of the preservation field nationwide, have focused our attention on the oldest and most prominent; the early houses, biggest ethnic groups, most obvious historical themes, and most famous architects. We are at a time in Rhode Island where the appreciation for newer, smaller, and less-known has really grown, and at the HPHC, we want to explore these areas. It will require new initiatives and procedures that we are just beginning to really think about, and it will, hopefully, inspire us all and bring out a lot of new information and respect for things that have been ignored or unknown to us.
What achievement from your work at the HPHC are you most proud of?
I am proud of the collective body of small accomplishments that I have been responsible for over the years. These have mostly been efforts to suggest modifications to project plans to better preserve historic resources, like camouflaging cell phone antennas, design changes for alterations to historic houses, and repairing historic bridges, rather than replacing them. I’m also proud of some work that I have played a part in, but which is not complete, including a state preservation Geographic Information System (GIS) and building and expanding our relationship with the R.I. Emergency Management Agency. Our team efforts have resulted in the biggest accomplishments that we’ve had in my years at the HPHC, though, and the ones that I value the most.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing historic preservation in Rhode Island in the next 5 years?
Climate change will affect historic properties, and adapting to address climate change is a significant challenge for preservation. People’s reactions to and planning for sea level rise, severe weather events, and hotter temperatures all have effects on historic properties and we’re at the early stages of figuring out how preservation can be a part of the initiatives, but the initiatives are well funded and moving faster right now.
Maintaining public support for preservation is always an issue, particularly when other, seemingly conflicting issues draw more attention. The challenge for us in these situations is promoting the ability of preservation to coexist with these other concerns.
There have been efforts at the national level over the past few years to intentionally reduce preservation’s reach through changes to the National Register of Historic Places and the National Historic Preservation Act’s Section 106 (to streamline preservation out of reviews of large, nationwide initiatives). These would have significant impacts on preservation in Rhode Island. We need to ensure that these efforts are squashed early on.
If you had a magic wand to fix one thing, what would you wish for?
I would wish for more staff in the office to allow us to take on more initiatives.
Preservation is about telling everyone’s history. Nationwide, preservation is working to acknowledge underrepresented communities, and we need to, as well. That means better understanding the histories and cultures of groups that have not been the subject of our focus over the years; reaching out to people in those communities, learning about them, and getting that information into the record, through additions to our town surveys, National Register nominations, and National Historic Landmark documents. In Rhode Island, this dovetails with growing our heritage program. There is a natural overlap there that we need to exploit to bring heritage into the preservation program in new ways that enhance both programs.
We have a very good survey of historic properties that were constructed up to the 1930s, but since that work was conducted in the 1980s, we have not done a systematic survey or studied statewide contexts. Buildings from the early 1970s are now 50 years old. We need to develop a better understanding about which 20th century buildings should be considered historic and why.
We need to expand our outreach to the cities and towns, through more historic district commission training, more interaction to find out where their preservation concerns lie, and building our network of allies.
My predecessor initiated an effort to develop a relationship with URI to expand our terrestrial and underwater archaeology programs. Some interesting ideas have been discussed, but we need to put more effort into that relationship.
There are more… we could come up with a lot if we had that magic wand.
How can the preservation community help you to be successful?
I will only be successful if our office is successful. At its simplest, I am the director of a state regulatory agency. We administer programs and enforce regulations that have been set down in state and federal law. While we are also here to help, our mandates are not lobbying for preservation or organizing local efforts. We need the preservation community to coalesce and advocate for preservation from Burrillville to Little Compton and everywhere in between. We need local historical societies, heritage groups, and historic district commissions to be the on-the-ground groups promoting preservation in their towns, talking to their local officials and their neighbors, and helping those who are not familiar with the benefits of preservation to understand how important preservation is to the sense of place that we feel in Rhode Island that makes us love living here. Local efforts bubble upward, through the town officials to the General Assembly, to the Governor’s office, and to Congress, and they can all provide support for us if we reach them.