This month, my wife and I attended a special birthday celebration. It was the 40-year celebration of the Madison Trust for Historic Preservation. Since its inception, Madison Trust has served an important function similar to preservation organizations around the country: to save our historic sites and buildings for future generations.
When we first moved into our home, we were trying to navigate what it meant to live in and maintain a city landmark also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A friend of ours suggested we contact Madison Trust to give us ideas and support our effort to restore the home. My wife called their office a number of times and always received very helpful ideas and advice from the Executive Director, Jason Tish. During one phone call, Peggy suggested that perhaps Jason stop by to see things firsthand. Twenty minutes later he was at the house.
Jason’s visit was invaluable. We learned so much about how and why a former mayor, William T. Leitch, built this house in a certain way, both inside and out. It’s information our guests still enjoy to this day whenever we pass along what Jason taught us. We like to think Jason also enjoyed his first visit to our home when he told us it was among the finest Gothic-revival architecture in Wisconsin.
Jason was among a couple people who gave remarks during the Madison Trust 40th birthday celebration. Jason reminded the members in attendance of the value of historic preservation. Madison Trust has its roots in advocacy for historic sites and buildings threatened by the pressures of development. It was an old stone house demolished to make way for a fast food restaurant that prompted Madison residents to start the organization’s quest for improved preservation efforts.
Since then, Madison Trust has evolved to a mission of both advocacy and education. The organization brings these two areas together skillfully in its newsletters, emails, meetings, and other outreach venues. My wife and I always appreciate their thorough research into the history of a building or neighborhood and their commitment to preservation. And they see beyond just the centuries-old buildings and major landmarks, offering an exceptional perspective on more recent history such as neighborhood tours of mid-century modernism and pioneering suburbs.
Beyond preservation for its own sake, Jason also spoke about statistics that show a community that values preservation brings in more visitors looking to spend more dollars per visit. In addition, a strong historic district brings in valuable, high quality construction projects and other work, creating a culture of skilled craftsmen such as masons, carpenters, plumbers, and electricians.
After Jason spoke at the meeting, the new Madison Trust Board President gave some remarks. The new President brings a youthful enthusiasm to her position. She clearly understood the mission of the organization, and she was full of many ideas to draw in more members, both old and young, so that Madison continues to build a succession of residents committed to preserving its special places.
So while I am grateful Madison hums along with economic recovery and development, I am happy that a grassroots organization exists like Madison Trust for Historic Preservation. I encourage you to spend some time on their website and see their accomplishments, sign up for their newsletter, and perhaps consider becoming a member. After all, in the grand scheme of history, they are quite young, and as such, full of promise for all they can teach us and all that they can ask we do for our community throughout the next forty years.