Feds Award Pasadena with Preservation Honor

Preserve America has been a pet project of both First Ladies since 2003 when President Bush issued an incentive to preserve the historical and cultural heritage deeply grounded in communities across the country. Last week the city of Pasadena became one of those communities after Michelle Obama approved (PDF) their application.

Pasadena applied back in February to receive such an honor and will now reap the benefits promised to them under the federal initiative. Preserve America was created to ignite shared knowledge, encourage cultural pride, and preserve a historical memory.

The fiscal impacts of such a selection are also a possibility but are not central to the appeal of the program. The main focus of the initiative is to instill historical and cultural pride in a particular community’s heritage; therefore many of the benefits of being selected include recognitions, signs, flags, banners, honorable mentions, and “enhanced community visibility and pride”.

In other words Pasadena now has enhanced pride and can hang it up for all to see.

But there are also very tangible benefits to this program. A total of over $17 million in federal grants have been awarded among the 843 current Preserve America communities. Individual grants range from $20,000 to $250,000 and give communities the opportunity to invest in preservation efforts that may have otherwise been ignored during this very frugal time.

The City of Pasadena has already jumped on that opportunity with two grant applications filed but are still waiting for the outcome.

Once a community is apart of this elect club they are also under the careful eye of an Executive Order, which complements the Preserve America initiative to require federal policy to preside over the selected communities in leadership and support.

Practically this means that there will be times when the federal government will step in and manage properties that have the potential of being tourist attractions. These attractions will not only highlight the important locations, resources, and areas important to a community’s history but have the potential for economic benefits as well.

The federal presence will also prompt collaboration efforts and foster partnerships between state, tribal, and local ruling bodies and tourism officials.

However, to even begin to apply for such recognition a community must have already supported a historic preservation project within the last three years. The governing body must have already adopted a resolution to support preservation. And a community must have the presence of historic museums, active citizen volunteer involvement, or opportunities for children to learn about the community’s heritage.

Pasadena, for example, cited the Gamble House Centennial Celebration, which is known for its architecture and is already a National Historic Landmark, in their application.

“We also had to show that we have an active historic preservation program,” explained Kevin Johnson of the city of Pasadena's design and historic preservation section, “which has been the case in Pasadena since 1969.”

The selection process therefore is no easy task and takes an already established dedication to historical preservation on the part of the community.

Pasadena joins a long list of Preserve America communities in Southern California such as Thai town, Koreatown, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Palm Springs, and Santa Monica.