November 13, 2017
Based in Newport, Rhode Island, The 1772 Foundation’s mission is to ensure the safe passage of historic buildings and farmland to future generations in the Northeast and around the country. Under the direction of today’s guest, Mary Anthony, one of the key tools the Foundation uses to accomplish this mission is their nationwide historic property redevelopment, or revolving funds program. Mary explained to us details of how her organization can help save buildings from Colorado to Florida to Maine and also why it’s important to emphasize the human element of philanthropy on this week’s PreserveCast.
[Nick Redding] Based in Newport, Rhode Island, the 1772 Foundation’s mission is to ensure the safe passage of historic buildings and farmland to future generations, both in the Northeast and around the country. Under direction of today’s guest, Mary Anthony, one of the key tools the foundation utilizes to accomplish this mission is their nationwide historic property redevelopment, or revolving fund program. Mary explained to us the details of how her organization helps to save buildings from Colorado to Florida to Maine and also why it’s important to emphasize the human element of philanthropy on this week’s PreserveCast.
From Preservation Maryland Studios in the historic podcast district of Baltimore, this is PreserveCast.
[Nick Redding] This is Nick Redding. You’re listening to PreserveCast. Today, we are joined by Mary Anthony who has served as the director of the 1772 Foundation, which is based in Newport, Rhode Island, since 2003. The foundation is committed to farmland conservation and historic preservation and is particularly interested in property redevelopment programs or Revolving Funds. Mary holds a B.A. from the University Connecticut and an A.L.M. from Harvard University. Mary, it’s a pleasure to have you on today. We love to learn about how people got into preservation. So how does one become a foundation executive director?
[Mary Anthony] Right. So I really came to be an executive director of a foundation because I was already involved in philanthropy, but I was not involved in historic preservation. I worked for a junior boarding school in Connecticut for eight years, and that’s where I met the president of the 1772 Foundation, which was then a foundation with about $1 million in assets. So that required about $100,000 payout. And our board meetings consisted of a cook-out on our president’s porch and they would proceed to give away about ten $10,000 grants to local historical societies and that was it for the year. So I came to it from a slightly different angle. I don’t have a formal background in preservation. But now that I’ve been in it for about 15 years, I think I sort of have a de facto Bachelor’s degree in it.
[NR] Yeah. You might even have a Master’s or a PhD [laughter] at this point. For someone who doesn’t know – and obviously, 1772 has more than $1 million in assets now, I presume, since you’re giving out a million each year. Who is the 1772 Foundation now and what the background in it? And who founded it? Who left the money to it? How did it all come together?
[MA] Right, our founder was Stewart Kean, who was a New Jersey native. He grew up at what is now Liberty Hall Museum, part of Kean University. And he and his family, particularly his mother, Mary Alice Barney Kean, were really interested in historic preservation, particularly small-scale projects. When Stewart passed away, he left his estate to the foundation. So it went from a one or two million dollar concern when he was alive to $80 million dollars over a period of about 12 months. So our assets are now $80 million thanks solely to Stuart Kean. And by law, foundations are required to meet a 5% payout, so that has our granting about $3.5 to $4 million dollars a year. We have some funds that count as part of the payout for overhead. So that would include travel, education, things like my salary, rent, office equipment, etc. We went from being a very small foundation with very small grants with a once a year meeting to being sort of a medium-sized foundation very, very quickly.
[NR] Wow! And how long ago did that happen?
[MA] That happened in 2003. Stewart passed away. He had cancer. We didn’t realize how sick he was and he passed away about six months after we learned he was really quite ill.
[NR] And was the initial focus – I mean how did the whole focus on revolving funds – how did you get there? Because a lot of people if they’ve heard of 1772, they may have heard of it through either a local or statewide preservation organization that perhaps they know better. And 1772 may have provided them funding to do a revolving fund or a property redevelopment. And we’re going to talk more about that. But was that initially the focus?
[MA] No, that was not the initial focus at all. Early on, after the foundation became a medium-sized foundation, our president at the time, Stan Geary, visited Lee Adler in Savannah, Georgia. So Lee Adler was still alive then. And he learned about the concept of revolving funds and became completely fascinated with it for a very good reason because it’s quite effective. And he came back to his board, which was four other colleagues of Stewart’s, and they talked about it and realized that this was a way we could really be impactful in the field of historic preservation. So you probably remember at that time visitorship at historic house museums and sites was really going down. Some people said six to eight percent a year. A lot of the museums and sites were really, really struggling, and they didn’t have a game plan. And many of them were sort of unwilling to explore more businesslike options, even earned income. And in the midst of all that, we found this group that said, “We’re not going to wait for money to come to us. We’re going to make our own money. And we’ll try to save entire neighborhoods – and in Savannah’s case and in other city’s cases – entire cities by using money really wisely.” So the first year we funded two revolving funds. And this year we had 58 requests for funding from around the country. So it became sort of our de facto specialty. We are still learning and adjusting and growing that program. But that’s how we became interested, was Lee Adler in Savannah and seeing what he could do by hopping over that line from being reactive to being proactive.
[NR] Yeah. It seems like it’s common sense but it’s a big line to hop over for a lot of the preservation community and I’m not sure whether everyone is even there yet. I do have a question sort of as a follow-up to that. You mentioned you get requests from groups nationwide. You’re based in Newport, Rhode Island. How did you become a foundation that became so geographically wide? I mean a lot of foundations kind of stick to their home place or to their region. But it seems like you’ve embraced this almost national role. Was that just sort of always part of the thought process there?
[MA] That’s a really great observation. And the answer is we really would not have chosen to be national. We don’t have the staff or the capacity to do that. The reason it works… it’s because, topically, it’s quite a narrow field. And as a practical matter, there are probably 50 or 100 groups that could be called revolving funds in the country. So a lot of foundations are geographically very tight, but we’re topically very tight. So we’re not funding things that aren’t revolving funds with that program. So our expertise [laughter] – I say this hesitantly because I’m not quite sure it’s true – but I think we have enough expertise to cover that very narrow slice of the historic preservation pie. The truth is that it’s growing. It’s a field that’s actually sort of taken on a life of its own; and it’s growing beyond our boundaries right now. So we are, as I said, trying to adjust to that fact. And one of the ways we’re adjusting is by partnering with other foundations whenever possible. This coming year, I think you’ll see our funding will be matched by larger foundations that are geographically tighter than we are, but don’t have experience with revolving funds. So we are trying to band together with those groups to increase the overall funding ability in this slice of the historic preservation pie.
[NR] Well, we’ve mentioned it a few times and we have had some other groups on that have talked about their success with revolving funds here on PreserveCast. But I think it would be good to take a step back because I think we’ve been talking broadly at this big level about your work. But to kind of narrow in on this aspect of it which is the revolving fund. And maybe you could explain – and I really would love to hear how you put it – what is a revolving fund and what can it accomplish? Maybe an example of that?
[MA] Right, so we always called it a revolving fund and we still do that. But we’re trying to discipline ourselves to say historic properties, redevelopment programs, or properties work and historic preservation; because they’re not just funds, they’re programs. They look very different in different locations and they may look different over time. So a really good example of looking different over time is in Charleston, which started off with the Ansonborough neighborhood and moved out to the peninsula and now they’re on their third iteration. So their revolving fund of 40 years ago doesn’t look anything like the one they will have in the next few years. In some cities they need money to activate second floors of downtowns. I think this has been seen in Annapolis and Macon. In other cities they need facade improvement funds to help with the main street program. In other places, you might need down payment assistance or you might need pre-development funds or you might need someone to help you strategize on how to deal with city-owned properties. The difference from this type of work and standard historic preservation work is they’re willing to get into the mix; and the mix looks very different in different parts of the country at different times. So it’s really more active properties work where you’re taking control of the historic properties real estate scene in some way. And as Myrick Howard from Preservation North Carolina said, it’s really about buying time for preservation, because often it’s just that sort of gap between a building being abandoned or starting to fall apart and finding the appropriate use and the appropriate owner for it. So it’s more of a properties program than a revolving fund.
[NR] And Myrick, I think I’ve heard him sort of jokingly say that they’re like animal shelter for historic preservation, right? Where these buildings sort of live for a little bit of time [laughter] and then they get passed on to a new owner, to their forever home.
[MA] That’s right. I think he calls them one-eyed cats and three-legged dogs [laughter].
[NR] And obviously, you can track the impacts, I guess. Do you have any sense for how many structures nationwide the 1772 Foundation maybe has saved?
[MA] You know, I don’t really have a great number to give you because these projects sometimes are very very slow. Speaking of Myrick Howard, he had to patiently hold on to the Loray Mill Building, the old firestone mill building in Gastonia, North Carolina, for 20 years before he found the right developer.
[NR] Yeah, that’s the long game right there.
[MA] That’s the extreme example but once again he bought the time to find the right developer or that mill would be long, long gone.
[NR] Right, well let’s take a quick break right there and when we come back maybe we can talk a little bit more about where these projects and programs are headed. You talked about how the revolving fund, or the property redevelopment program, of 40 years ago doesn’t look a whole lot like where we’re headed in the future. And maybe we can talk a little bit about the future; some of your partnerships with other foundations and main street programs; and also talk a little bit about your land conservation work and the intersection with preservation there. And we’ll do that when we come right back here on PreserveCast.
[Stephen Israel] A couple times there Mary mentioned the historic preservation pie. I know it was metaphorical but when it’s November and somebody mentions pie all I can think about is T-gives or as some people call it, Thanksgiving. It’s honestly one of my favorite holidays of the year and so I figured we could look into a few historical Thanksgiving foods. Now, everybody knows about sweet potato pie on Thanksgiving. But here in Maryland, especially on the Eastern Shore or in southern Maryland you might be just as likely to wind up eating white potatoes pie as a follow up to your turkey. All kinds of home recipes exist using different spices and flavors, but the one ingredient in common may be the most surprising. Mashed white potatoes
Less sweet, but still a Thanksgiving tradition in plenty of Maryland households are oysters. I personally had never known this until a new family member from the Eastern Shore brought multiple delicious slurpy trays of oysters to my own Thanksgiving the last year. As it turns out, oysters were among the foods traditionally present at the first Thanksgiving meal. As Americans continued to migrate inland the oysters started to fall off as a standard part of the holiday meal in all the states. But they’re still fairly common in Maryland and other coastal states.
On the other end of the spectrum, a Thanksgiving food that has grown in popularity over time is macaroni and cheese. Did you know that the first president to eat macaroni and cheese in the White House may very well have been Thomas Jefferson? I, at least, had no idea that the modern staple was so old. A recipe indicating Tom’s love for mac and cheese exists from his great-granddaughter. But while in his day, Jefferson had to import a past making device from Italy, these days it might be one of the most common foods in the Thanksgiving table, behind the turkey and the stuffing. I’m going to have to go before my stomach just loses it. But make sure to check out Joyce White’s blog, A Taste of History for some good white potato pie recipes and to learn about other historical eats. [stomach rumbling noise] Uh-oh. Yep, time to go. This is Preserve Cast.
[Nick Redding] Do you have questions? We may have answers. If at any point during this podcast you thought of a question that you have for us or maybe one of our guests, we’d love to hear about it. You can send an email to email@example.com and we’ll try and answer it right here on the air on the next episode of Preserve Cast.
[NR] This is Nick Redding. You’re listening to PreserveCast. We’re joined today by Mary Anthony, who is this director of the 1772 Foundation, a foundation based in Newport, Rhode Island, committed to farmland conservation and historic preservation. We’ve been talking about all things revolving funds and property redevelopment programs and how these programs are shifting and evolving and saving buildings. Really not just saving buildings, but redeveloping communities and making communities livable. Curious, you’ve mentioned particularly when you were just talking about Charleston, about how their programs have changed over a long period of time. Are there any kind of exciting innovations that you’re seeing? Was there a leading edge in these revolving funds and some projects that are exciting you?
[MA] Absolutely. I think one of the projects that I think is going to be interesting to watch is the national main street center’s two pilot programs with facade improvement revolving funds. These are in east Texas, Texarkana and St. Augustine’s. Basically, they have a pool of money set up such that a business owner can put in some of his or her own funds, which is matched outright by a grant, and then the remaining amount, which is typically about $7,000, is a zero-interest three-year loan. So say it’s a $10,000 project. With $1,500, the business owner first gets a 100 percent match and then gets a reasonably structured loan so that they can get the rest of the work done. And National Main Street Center has also arranged for design oversight so that we can make sure that this is getting done in a way that makes sense for the neighborhood. But that, to me, is a really exciting possible program. There are so many main streets across the United States; and, if this works, whole neighborhoods, whole business districts can get rehabbed, spruced up, brought back to sort of an appropriate appearance without burdening the business owner. And if business districts and downtowns’ main streets are where everyone goes to, say, shop, and eat, and meet friends, and go to the movies it has a really great impact on the whole community, not just one homeowner. So I’m really interested to see what will happen with that.
[NR] And you guys are taking a leading role – 1772, I should say, is taking a leading role – in that partnership with the National Main Street Center?
[MA] Yes. This was something that Patrice Frey and the folks at National Main Street Center worked to develop with some input from us. We have absolutely no technical expertise but we were able to say what we thought might be interesting to us, and we ended up funding that pilot program. And as we see how that works out that may become a much more major program.
[NR] Yeah. We’ll have to have you back maybe in a year or so and see where that stands. I mean, I think it would be interesting because as you say there are hundreds of main streets around the nation that could benefit from that and that desperately need that kind of support and that kind of funding. Which sort of brings me to a question I hadn’t thought of prior but… there’s a lot of concern and debate right now about what’s going to happen with the Federal Historic Tax Credit program. What would be the impact, do you think, on these types of property redevelopment programs were that to go away? A lot of your funding, is it going into projects that utilize that?
[MA] Absolutely. We overlap with the tax credit probably 60 or 70 percent of the time. For larger projects, it is irreplaceable and it will absolutely result in the loss of historic buildings. It’s really, really upsetting and we are doing everything we can to make sure that credit gets included in the budget.
[NR] Yeah, we had an interview just recently with Donovan Rypkema, who has done a tremendous amount of economic impact studies on that. He was pretty upset about the idea that we would potentially lose that and, obviously, it has a far-reaching impact. I know The 1772 Foundation is really focused, obviously, on property redevelopment but you also call out farmland conservation. And it occurs to me – PreserveCast is produced by Preservation Maryland, and Preservation Maryland plays an interesting role in defending Program Open Space, which is our state’s program for landscape preservation. And we see the connection between the built environment and our cultural landscapes so that’s why we’ve really taken a role in that community as well. But it’s an unusual place for preservationists sometimes to be, and we get teased about that sometimes. But I’m curious, is there overlap between your farmland work and your preservation work? Or are they two distinct, different types of programs?
[MA] You know, they’re actually quite separate in a way that is disheartening. Our farmland preservation program comes about because our founder was interested in agricultural buildings and landscapes. He was in the process of protecting his own farm when he passed away. So we saw farmland protection as a form of historic preservation in that it protects viewsheds and historic landscapes. What we’ve noticed over the years is that the historic structures that are on the properties that are being protected are often really not dealt with that well. And there needs to be, I think, more coordination between the historic preservation community and the land trust community to deal with that. So in New England in the Northeast, you really see a lot of these beautiful old barns, and old farmhouses, and corn cribs, and really terrific old structures; but they sort of fall to the wayside during the farmland protection activity. I’d love to see there be more sort of a holistic approach to that.
[NR] Yeah, that would be an exciting place for 1772 to be in and I can speak from our experience in that we get involved in a lot of these as well. We see the same thing here in Maryland happening when you have preserved land and the building is just sort of left by the wayside. But there’s also been a disconnect between the historic preservation community and the land preservation community and we’ve begun, at least, to try and bridge that divide. We actually are now chairing the Partners for Open Space in Maryland, which is our land preservation advocacy organization to try to make the point that historic preservation is land preservation and vice versa. It’s an interesting place where it seems like people who should have the same vision oftentimes work in different silos, if you’ll pardon my agricultural pun [laughter]. So what’s next for 1772? I mean, I know you’ve done a lot of really great work in property development, you’re doing great work in land conservation, you’ve launched this pilot program with the Main Street Center. You’re looking to the next big thing for preservation, or are you going to try and be a leader in another area, or just focusing in on what you currently do?
[MA] We’re talking about that right now. We have a board meeting starting tomorrow in Washington D.C., where we’ll be touring the Anacostia neighborhood with the L’Enfant Trust. I think we will stay in revolving funds or historic properties redevelopment programs for the long haul. We just think it’s an area that still has really great unmined resources that can do even more than it’s doing now. We’ve seen the community growing, we’ve seen folks who have been in preservation for a long time go through real estate training and come out in the other end as a developer and have done just amazing work. A real switch for many of them who are trained in the traditional way or educated in the traditional way. We have a pilot program and I think it’s sort of percolating right now with a couple of universities that may sort of do cross-curricular education training in conjunction with revolving funds that are mature and doing great work on the ground to see if we can start to sort of fortify the education of historic preservationists to include [inaudible] real estate sort of mindset. So that when they get out into the field and they see a building that’s falling down, they don’t say, “Oh, I wish there was something we could do about it.” That they would be able to marshal the resources they need. So for instance, we were in New Orleans last week talking to folks from Tulane University, and they have a great revolving fund on the ground, they have a great historic preservation program, they have a great sustainable real estate program.
And we’re trying to figure out if there’s a way for all those groups to work together, maybe at a summer symposium, maybe as graduate-level sort of practicum. But somehow, [inaudible] to integrate the young people who are coming through educational system and historic preservation with active real estate practitioners on the ground, so that it’s not so foreign, it’s not a big leap mid-career from standard historic preservation into getting involved in properties work. We’re really just starting a conversation about that, so that’s a possibility for us, but still definitely under the umbrella of revolving funds.”
[NR] Yeah. And I think there’s a lot of interesting places also with workforce development. I don’t know if 1772 has jumped into that or has thought about that at all, but there’s people actually doing the work of it and I know we’ve started looking at it, and some other state-wides have looked at that, too. So there’s a lot of different ways you can go. I mean, obviously, you’re looking at the education side and trying to get the next generation of preservationists to be a little bit more familiar with these programs, but then there’s also the other side of that, which is trying to get folks prepared and able to actually do the work on these buildings. It takes a whole village to do a preservation project, it sounds like.
[MA] Yeah, absolutely. And I think you’re right on the money with workforce training. We’re talking to folks in Philadelphia right now about that very topic. Under the umbrella of façade improvement programs, the Philadelphia rowhouses have relatively small-sized façades, and they would lend themselves really beautifully to jobs training opportunities, so historically sensitive rehabs of these lovely rowhouses, many of which have been in families for generations – they’re not necessarily in wealthy neighborhoods. They have a need for some jobs training. It might be a really kind of zesty combination of different groups within the neighborhoods there to work together to do historic preservation for the greater good. I mean, one of the things that we think a lot about at 1772 is the idea that philanthropy, by definition, is love of your fellow man. You’re supposed to be doing these things for people. People should come first. And Jan Gehl, Matt Gehl, architects in Denmark said it really well. It should be people first, then spaces, then buildings. And if you keep that order in mind while you’re considering preservation, I think things sort of flow naturally. So the point that you make, Nick, about workforce development, right in line with that idea of people first, then spaces, then buildings.
[NR] Maybe 1772 should print that up on a flag, send that out to every preservation group.
[NR] That’s a good reminder. Well, if someone wants to learn more about the work that you’re funding and the work that you do, how do they learn more about 1772?
[NR] That’s great. And we’re going to ask the most difficult question for any preservationist, particularly for someone who funds projects all around the country and probably falls in love with a new building every day, which is what is your favorite historic building or place?
[MA] Yeah, there are so many, but since you asked that question, I will tell you that I am late to African-American history. I had almost no exposure to it before I started working for the foundation. And one of our earliest grants was to the Museum of African-American History in Boston, which is right on Beacon Hill. It’s a place that was built in 1806, and there’s some sort of magic around that building. We’ve had meetings there. We’ve toured it several times. We’ve funded several different aspects of it, and there’s something just really very, very sacred and special about that place. I brought my son, who was then 11, to the 200th anniversary of the construction of that building in 2006. He had to stay up late, way past his bedtime, to attend the festivities, and he still remembers that as being sort of one of the coolest things he’s ever gotten to do as a kid.
[NR] A good example of people, space, and then buildings. Well, Mary, it’s been a pleasure to talk to you. On behalf of everyone in the preservation community, we appreciate all the good work that 1772 is doing, certainly, the national leader on the philanthropic side for this field and for saving these important places. And thanks again for all the good work, and thanks for joining us today on PreserveCast.
[MA] Thank you, Nick.
This podcast was developed under a grant from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, a unit of the National Park Service. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Preservation Maryland and the Maryland Milestones Heritage Area and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the National Park Service or the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training.
This week’s episode was produced and engineered by Ben and Stephen Israel. Our executive producer is Aaron Marcavitch. Our theme music is performed by the band Pretty Gritty. You can learn more about them at their website: PrettyGrittyMusic.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter @PG_PrettyGritty.
To learn about Preservation Maryland or this week’s guests, visit: PreservationMaryland.org. While there, you can check out our blog and learn about what’s current in historic preservation. We’re also on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, and Twitter @PreservationMD. And of course, a very special thank you to our listeners. Keep preserving!
Preservation Maryland received a grant from The 1772 Foundation to support a feasibility study and business plan to assist with the creation of a Maryland-based Historic Property Redevelopment Program. To learn more about how revolving funds and redevelopment program works, check out this video from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.