Looking Back on 2017
New Year’s Eve is a time of reflection and remembrance as we approach the end of a year, and the beginning of a new one. This has been a special year for me as it marked my first full year serving as the executive director of the Florida Trust. As we end this exciting year we are wrapping up our year-end giving campaign it’s not too late to donate: – every gift counts, and looking forward to a great 2018.
But before we turn the page and start anew, let’s take a moment and look back on some of the preservation highs and lows for this year.
Top Three Successes
1 - Preservationists from around the state and nation worked together to advocate for the protection of the Federal Historic Tax Credit, which provides an economic incentive to restore eligible historic buildings. Thanks to all of your work, the 20% HTC was included in the revised tax reform bill. This is great news for historic preservation in Florida and around the nation.
2 – We are excited about historic preservation in Jacksonville! The city will be host to our 2018 Florida Preservation Conference and had some good preservation news this year. The historic Barnett National Bank Building began its renovation, the Laura Street Trio adaptive reuse projects kicked off and the 100 year old Bostwick Building transformed into the Cowford Chophouse. The Florida Trust also accepted a conservation easement on the Porter Mansion this year, which will protect the Klutho-designed building in perpetuity.
3 - One of Old Florida’s great small towns had a huge preservation win this year, as a multi-year battle against the inappropriate construction of a large CVS within the historic district was victorious. The Florida Trust was a part of the battle in Apalachicola over the years, including speaking at the final Planning & Zoning committee meeting in October. The victory protects the historic district, and especially the Chestnut Cemetery, which have been directly across the street from the big-box drug store.
Three Preservation Challenges
1 – Hurricane Irma damage. The hurricane impacted historic resources across the state with flooding, wind damage and damage to historic landscapes. Recovery from the storm continues.
2 - We lost one of our 2017 11 to Save this year with the demolition of the University of Florida’s Institute for Black Culture and the Institute for Hispanic and Latin American Culture. The buildings were along West University Avenue across from the main campus, and were originally identical houses built in 1921 in the Queen Anne style with Neo-classical details. The houses were built by Luther Columbus Gracy for his two daughters, one of which married Samuel P. Harn, namesake of the University of Florida's Harn Museum of Art.
3 – Cemetery Vandalism. This year included too many sad stories of vandalism and damage to historic cemeteries throughout the state, as well as the theft of markers and decorations. These living museums are particularly at risk, as many of them are in isolated areas.
Melissa Wyllie is the Executive Director of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, the non-profit dedicated to protecting Florida’s extraordinary history and heritage. Follow her on Twitter at @MSWyllie.
Melissa is photographed at the grave of Alexander Hamilton, Trinity Churchyard, Manhattan.