tv National Historic Preservation Act 50th Anniversary CSPAN October 24, 2016 10:10pm-10:46pm EDT
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to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the national historic perez indication act, an event hosted with parks director robert stanton. this is half an hour. >> good morning. welcome to the united states capitol visits center. my name is beth plemens. and have i the pleasure of being the center's chief executive officer. we're delighted to have you here today as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the national historical preservation act. our exhibits and education team have planned a full day of activities, and i do hope that you can fit those into your schedule, as many of those activities as possible. on december 2 in 2008, nearly eight years ago, we opened our doors to the public, and we have
welcomed over 17 million visitors to the capitol. one of the themes that we share with those visitors is the role of the architect of the capitol. the architect of the capitol is the steward of the historic buildings and grounds on capitol hill. in 1800, congress left philadelphia and moved into approximately 25,000 square feet. that's the original north wing of the capitol. today and with the help of a team of 2300 employees, the responsibilities of the architect of the capitol include stewardship of nearly 17.4 million square feet of building space, the care and maintenance of hundreds of acres, thousands of trees and plantings, and the preservation of countless artistic and historic treasures. leading the steam the honorable
steven t. ayers who i will now invite to you to talk about the national historical preservation act of 1976. please join me in welcome steven ayers, the architect of the capitol. >> thank you so much, beth. and good morning, everyone. welcome to preservation day at the united states capitol. and we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the national historic preservation act. and i don't know about you, but i can think of no better place to honor such a historic piece of legislation than right here in the shadow of the capitol dome just steps away from the two houses of congress that passed this important piece of legislation for our great country. and i want to speak today for just a minute about what i find
so personally important about the national historic preservation act of 1966. of course the nation already had the antiquities act of 1906 and the historic sites act of 1935. and these were two very important steps on the path to understanding the significance of preservation. and these acts, i believe focused on buildings and sights and monuments and important objects, all a important but missing elements that enable us to more fully and accurately reflect what defines a place. and it was this national historic preservation act of 1966, which is on display right here in exhibition hall of the capitol visitors center. you'll find it right over there. hopefully you can see it.
it was this act that not only sought to protect our nation's most treasured buildings, but perhaps more importantly, recognized and placed great value on people and communities and culture. it recognized that often it's the stories and the events and memories and feelings both past and present that make a place special. it's these elements that create special meaning for people and communities. and i call this the enlightenment of preservation, a much more informed and enlightened understanding of what makes a place special and worth preserving. and so i'd like to thank all of you for -- i'd like all of you to think for a moment about the first time you saw the capitol
dome. and perhaps it was from the west as you were walking up and you passed by the summer house on the west front of the capitol where travelers of yesteryear stopped to rest as they climbed the hill and approached the capitol. and you could see it through a thicket of tree, some as old as landscape architect fredrick olm land stead himself. and perhaps the dome which is seemingly to beckon you to come closer and closer and trek up the hill. but as you approached not only did you see this great building and great structure that sits atop, but you also thought about what happens here and what you have read about this place, and what people have told you about the place. the stories you have heard and
read. and it's all of this that make this place special and worth preserving. and here at the capitol we do indeed pay homage to both this tangible and intangible history every day in our stewardship role. our team uses both modern and historic trade craft to care for this capitol campus. i know our decorative artists specialize in preserving the great artwork that is here, using techniques from 100 to 150 years ago. of course our most tangible efforts recently have been the restoration of the capitol dome. and i like to say, and i believe that we executed this project with integrity. and i know all of you preservationists out there will
understand what i mean by integrity. and we're taking great care to preserve the historic fabric of this great dome by salvaging pieces of the dome and reusing them to the extent we can. and replacing instead of replacing ornamentation, we're repairing it, and again using as much material as possible, learning from previous repair techniques and incorporating them into and using current day technology. we're also capturing the images and the stories of the people that have come across this great country to work on the capitol dome. and making all of that available. and it's, again, not just the building, but it's the stories and events and history and memories that are made and continue to be shared that make such a place.
not only did the historic preservation act, signed by lyndon johnson, of course, require federal agencies to evaluate and fully evaluate historic properties, but it also created the national register of historic places, and our partner for today, the president's advisory council on historic preservation. and i'm delighted to be able to serve on this council. and i also currently chair the federal agency committees program. so thank you to the advisory council for being our partner today. and a great partner you are. i know all of you love history, as i do i. and it's my duty and my honor as architect of the capitol to preserve much of our history here on capitol hill for future
generations. and i assure you it's a labor of love. it's not a job. it's a excites me every single day as i come to work. so thank you for joining us for this day-long event to highlight our stewardship role, the importance of place. and how we work every day to inspire those 17 million people that beth plemmons talked about, that come through that front door every year, inspiring them about the work that we do and about this great place. so now, ladies and gentlemen, it's my pleasure to introduce our keynote speaker, and a good friend of mine that i met while serving on the advisory council for historic preservation, mr. bob stanton. bob was unanimously confirmed by
the united states senate as the 15th director of the national park service in 1997 and served in that capacity until january of 2001. since the beginning of his career in 1962, the year i was born, bob, since beginning his career in 1962 as a park ranger at the grand teton national park in wyoming, he has dedicated his life's work to improving the preservation and management of the nation's rich and diverse national and cultural resources. bob continues to be actively engaged with a number of national conservation organizations and initiative, having cofounded the african american experience fund of the national park foundation. he is and has been a nationally
recognized through numerous awards and citations for his outstanding public service and leadership and conservation and historic preservation and youth programs. and most recently, he participated in the joint advisory council on historic preservation and national park service journey through hallowed ground partnership initiative titled of the student, by the student, and for the student at harper's ferry national historic park. so ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming the honorable robert g stanton. [ applause ] >> it has been state d that the
strength and character of a nation is determined by how it cares for its people, its natural and cultural heritage. good morning. i want to thank you, steve for that very gracious introduction and certainly to ms. plemmons. and i hasten to bring you greetings on behalf of the chairman of the advisory council, wayne dollinson. many of our friends and colleagues and supporters are with us for this special occasion, and they join me, stephen, on applauding you on your stellar leadership as the architect of the capitol and certainly your kind invitation for the council to partner with you on this special occasion. it has to be noted that one could easily grow accustomed to
these surroundings. and i cannot covet them too much since you are a member of the other branch of government. but nevertheless, we are delight to be here. stephen mentioned the importance of pausing for a moment to reflect on the journey we have traveled the past 50 years. to recognize that we have the responsibility individually and collectively to preserve the richness of this nation. and in that light, i do have few remarks that i will share with you. and when i accepted the invitation on behalf of our chairman and responded to stephen that yes i'll be there, and i conferred with him in terms of the program, the audience, and what have you. and he said, bob, there is only
one thing that i would advise you on. is that i would hope that you would adhere to those innate characteristics for all native texans are known. simply this, brevity and humility. and in that order. so i will try to be brief. but to talk about the importance of historic preservation and to talk about the importance of your national park service where i devoted almost a third of a century of my life is difficult to be humble and certainly it's difficult to be brief. but i will attempt adhere to that. because i know there are many members of the advisory council staff who are here along with yours truly and our executive director who want to interact with you and certainly with the visiting public. just south of the rotunda here in the capitol you'll find a
room housing statues of many men and women who helped make this country as great as it is. samuel adam, dwight eisenhower, miss helen keller. but there is one statuary in the hall that means a great deal to me. it's a lady who had the courage in 1955 to defy the doctrine of separate but equal in transportation and other accommodations. and in that fateful year, she chose not to relinquish her seat to a white gentleman. and therefore that ignited a protest ultimately led by 26-year-old baptist minister in montgomery, alabama. martin luther king jr., known today as the montgomery boycott. started in that year.
and with so many protests following involving so many thousand of children, students, ministers, businessmen, led eventually to president johnson in 1964 signing the civil rights act revoking, if you will, the doctrine established by the supreme court in 1896 that, yes, as a nation, we should and could live as separate but equal citizens. but that law also abolished jim crow laws. it reversed the practice of discrimination and employment, the inaccessibility to public places. so that was a major piece of legislation in 1964. and for the very first time in my 23 years in my home state of
texas, i could enter the front door to order a cup of coffee where my mother served as a short order cook. so i have seen a lot that have occurred in this country. and insistent with that was our embracement of our collective heritage that stephen so eloquently spoke about. but i had the great opportunity in terms of my first official introduction to conservation and preservation many years before a lot of you were the sparkle of your parents' eyes, 54 years ago, as a seasonal ranger in grand teton national park. and then became a clear chloe plo in 1966. all of that was due to the courageous leadership of a young secretary of the interior appointed by maybe a younger president of the united states, john f. kennedy. and he did that before the civil
rights act of '64, appointing yours truly as a seasonal ranger. so i've seen a lot that have happened. and it so happened, stephen, that i was in the national office of the park service at the young careers when onto october 15th president johnson signed the national historic preservation act. so that act has been a part of my entire career with the federal government. but i cannot talk about historic preservation without going just a little bit into the national park service. and i think some of you can understand. some might even forgive me for doing this. but having been associated with it for so many years, it's hard to get away from it, although i have not been associated the past 16 years. through the most recent use of the antiquities act again that
stephen recognized by president obama, there are now 413 areas administered by your national parks service. every state has a park unit, american samoa, guam, u.s. virgen islands, puerto rico. interestingly enough, more than two-thirds, two-thirds of those 413 areas speak to our development as a people, as a nation. they are our culture resources. unfortunately, some people offer up in their own mind that when we talk about national park area, primarily the large scenic natural wonders. but 2/3 of the areas administered by the park areas are consistent with the letter and the spirit of historic preservation act, speaking to us as a people and as a nation. but in addition to administering those 413 areas, the national
park service has responsibility for administering the land and water conservation for historic preservation fund. and certainly the national register of historic places. and it does a magnificent job in carrying out those responsibilities. i share with you briefly my own experiences, and that experience is mirrored by the over 300 million citizens that each of us have our own heritage. each of us have our own story to tell. there is not one version of history. different versions of our past should be remembered and preserved, because they mean different things to you and me. our history is part of who we are, who we want to be, and who we should be. the national historic preservation act of 1966 was written to ensure we save those places that mark the history and the rich tapestry of america.
it would not be appropriate for me not to reference that the historic preservation act grew out of a recognition that we had to reverse some practices here in this country. we were heavily moving after world war ii with infrastructure improvements, if you will, applying a new concept in terms of how our cities and communities should be developed. we coined the concept of urban renewal where we did in fact raise many properties. we scarred many places that were dear to us. but for progress in the name of urban renewal, we wiped those places clean. and then with the advent 60 years ago of a structure or facility that each of us used every day, the interstate highway system.
and think about it. a massive, massive development. and perhaps in the '50s when it was initiated we were not as extensive protecting the richness of our culture places such as indian sites as we move forward and illustrate. so the conference of mayors took all of that into consideration, and came up with a very comprehensive report with the assistance of the national trust for historic preservation, the national park service, the department of the interior, other federal agencies and many civic and community based organizations. and publish a very moving report with heritage so rich. and basically, that set the framework for the 1966 national historic preservation act, with the heritage so rich that if we
did not reverse the course, the richness would be tarnished and perhaps would be lost forever. so we owe a great deal of thanks to those visionaries back in the '60s who said that we need to take an action on behalf of the american people and on behalf of the nation to recognize the importance of our cultural heritage. but before 1966, historic preservation was understood in one dimensional terms. but the act signals a broader view which has led to a breadth and scope of the conservation movement. rather than saving a place only with national significance, such as national historic landmarks, the national register of historic places protect buildings, sites, object, significant landscapes and other important culture resources at the state and local jurisdiction. like the american culture it
mirrors, historic preservation today is inform and shaped by the diversity of our nation. again, a nation over 300 million and is growing daily. you saw, for example in the 1990s the amendment of the act gave american indians and native hawaiian their formerly overlooked place in the national historic preservation framework. and this is a tremendous richness that the american people are beginning to fully, fully embrace. not withstanding that we have had mesa verde in the park system going back to the turn of last century. but now there is more sensitivity, more awareness of the richness and our obligation to do what we can do to protect and to honor those sacred places. along with commemorating the brave marines depicted in the
iwo jima memorial in nearby virginia, we'll soon that v a memorial in north kilana, the site where the first african american recruited for the marines were trained for world war ii, breaking down the barriers for those who followed. we were segregated, yes, in world war ii. and certainly through the courageous leadership of president truman issued a presidential order in 1940. he said it didn't make sense. and it doesn't make sense. well will have heretofore, we have here after an integrated military services. just up the road here sits the reserved old soldiers home. and only a few blocks from the capitol they recently discovered miss clara barton's office of missing soldiers, where the future founder of the american red cross helped write tens of thousands of letters to loved ones of those who served in the u.s. civil war. and her legacy is commemorated in your national park system with the clara barton national
historic site in maryland. by the way, all of these sites we're discussing are featured on recently published postcards that the advisory council and historic preservation. and please visit the table that is staffed by the advisory council representatives shortly outside and pick up a postcard, write a note to your family or your friends and say i was there and personally picked this up for you. and i want to commend those responsible for publishing those postcards. americans are realizing that their national history is more complex and vastly richer than that was discussed and taught in the past. it would only take a moment to look at some of the old textbook and know that the full breadth of the american experience was not recorded in some of our textbooks.
but this year we celebrate 50 years again. and we have come a long way. and yet there is much work to be done. and as stephen again intimated, we're taking a look at where we might go. over the next 50 years. an certainly on behalf of chairman donaldson, i invite each of you to reflect with your own experience, interact with your neighbors and friends on their views of historic preservation and offer to the council and others what they would envision as being the next 50 years for preserving our collective heritage. also, i would ask you to take a look if you could at the act, a copy of the act that is on display out in the hallway. and you will be impressed by the language and the sense of passion about historic preservation that was envisioned by those who crafted that legislation, signed on october 15th by president johnson.
so this is a celebration for all of us who care about history, remembrance and our collective heritage. but i would tell you what has sustained the historic preservation movement thus far. and i think it will be the fundamental approach to historic preservation in the future. it is the concern and the active involvement by citizens throughout their historic communities. historic preservation at its true core can only be sustained if there is a caring by the people in their respective communities, in their schools, in their places of worship and what have you. that is where historic preservation truly takes place. the government cannot be the preservation's law, if you will. it's the people embracing the importance of our heritage. in closing, let me offer you a
couple of perspectives that have evolved not only for my tenure as a cocouncilmember with stephen on the advisory council on historic preservation, but somewhat to reflect on what i have experienced professionally and personally for more than three scores. as a matter of fact, it is three scores, 15 plus one that my birthday was yesterday. and my son say pop, you say three scores. no, four scores. yeah, three scores.
that's 60, 15, 75. so pop you tell the people that you three quarter of a century old and they fully understand. i said but that doesn't sound right, three quarters of a vicinity old. i prefer to do it a different way. but over that period of time, i've had the opportunity to enact what so many at the community, state, local, national and international levels. and there is a growing interest on the part of recognize the full spectrum of the american experience, and recognizing that the important business of preservation is preserving real historic places in realtime for this and future generations to see and experience. that experience and thousands of others like it whether differ in scale and purpose, that is the true meaning of historic preservation, to connect us from our own experiences.
they transform past into present and present into future, giving context to ideas and language to experience. in a real sense, my friends and colleagues, the preservation of our historic place is more than the protection of buildings, more than caring for the artifacts, structures, and grand landscapes. preservation demonstrates the value of diversity and community that honors and link us with the heritage of our predecessors. furthermore, it represent our individual and collective legacy to successors. one of the greatest accomplishments as seemed to me as a nation is that we have come to recognize that our legacy is about learning and teaching, helping our youth find a better life and a better place, because we have been here. we have made our contribution.
that makes it very necessary, that we preserve the slice of tragedy and difficulty in our growth as a people and a nation, as well as those representing our great accomplishments. as a great historian and former chairman of the national parks system advisory board who served when i was the director of the park service, dr. john hope franklin would remind us, would remind us, and i quote, we now know that the places that commemorate sad history are not places in which we are to allow ourselves to wallow in remorse, but are places in which we may
be moved to a higher resolve to become better citizens, to become better citizen. that is the bottom line. of historic preservation, to inspire us, to stimulate us, and to call us to action to become better citizen. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> thank you, mr. stanton, and happy birthday. and thank you, mr. ayers. i'd like to invite everyone to join us for a talk or a tour or possibly a craft project as we celebrate preservation day. thank you for being here. [ applause ]