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Preserve America is a national initiative in cooperation with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; the U.S. Departments of Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Education; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities; and the President's Council on Environmental Quality.

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First Lady Laura Bush Designates Three New Preserve America Communities, Recognizes Four Gulf Coast Historic Preservation Project Grant Recipients, During New Orleans Preserve America Summit

NEW ORLEANS, LA—Mrs. Laura Bush, First Lady of the United States and Honorary Chair of Preserve America, today designated three new Preserve America communities and highlighted four of the initiative’s first regional Preserve America Grant recipients that together received more than $427,000.

“The historical narrative we preserve includes the contributions of many cultures, and tells the stories of all Americans.  As we protect communities from across the United States — from the seaport of Gloucester, to farming communities in Texas, to mining towns in Colorado, to New Orleans — Americans are preserving the local culture that defines their communities.  And they’re preserving history that is part of who we all are as Americans,” Mrs. Bush said.

The presentations were part of the opening plenary session of the Preserve America Summit, held Oct. 19-20, 2006, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act and to consider means to more widely share the economic, educational, and cultural benefits of the nation’s heritage resources.

State and city officials from Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Bastrop, La. received Preserve America matching grants totaling more than $427,000. The new Preserve America communities are Asheville, N.C., Baton Rouge, La., and Canton, Miss.

Four Gulf Coast and Mississippi Delta projects received Preserve America Grants in 2006. They were:

Louisiana Rebirth: Restoring the Soul of America, received $150,000. This project is twofold. First, it aims to create an annual event called “Main to Main,” which will promote the cultural heritage and economic well being of each of Louisiana’s 25 Main Street communities on the first weekend of each November. Second, it will help create an innovative interactive Web site presenting the archeology of the French Quarter in New Orleans, to present the largely unseen and unwritten history of New Orleans.

Rebuilding Mississippi's Heritage Tourism Industry Post Hurricane Katrina also received a $150,000 Preserve America Grant. This project seeks to thoroughly assess damage to culturally significant properties, develop plans to preserve damaged resources, identify previously under-recognized and under-utilized historic resources, and to promote the region’s historic assets with a comprehensive heritage tourism plan.

Marketing Historic Bastrop received $27,403 for its project to develop wayfinding signage with a community identity to help market the historic and cultural assets of the city. This is part of a long-term strategy promoting heritage tourism in Bastrop, La., which is a Preserve America Community.

Rural Heritage Development Arkansas received $100,000. This project will begin by creating three heritage trails in the Arkansas Delta, one for music, one for African-American history, and one for agriculture. The project will encourage communities to work together rather than in isolation to identify, preserve, and promote heritage resources on a regional basis.

The Preserve America Grants program, which was initiated in 2006, provided nearly $5 million in matching grants to Preserve America communities and neighborhoods, State Historic Preservation Officers, Native American Tribal Preservation Officers, and others to encourage development of heritage tourism programs and other sustainable approaches to creating awareness of the importance of heritage resources. These grants went to 68 projects in 33 states.

The Oct. 19, 2006, Preserve America Community designations were:

Baton Rouge, population 287,000, is both capital of Louisiana and seat of East Baton Rouge Parish. It’s name, unquestionably among the most colorful for a state capital, dates to 1699 when a French expedition found a cypress post delineating a boundary for tribal hunting grounds and dubbed the vicinity “Red Stick.” Baton Rouge is proud of its colorful heritage rooted in the English, French, Spanish, African, and Italian peoples who settled this region, joining the American Indians who first occupied the area. The city is creatively re-using its heritage resources, such as the Historic Auto Hotel that now houses part of the Shaw Center for the Arts, to revitalize its urban core. Visitors and residents alike enjoy tours of historic neighborhoods, and the city entertains and enlightens residents and visitors alike during the annual Restoration Renaissance.

Canton, Mississippi, population 13,000, was incorporated in 1834 as the new seat of Madison County. It was an early cotton farming center said to be the only county outside the Delta where slaves outnumbered other residents four to one. Today it recognizes its distinctive, sometimes troubled past and celebrates its full heritage and unique southern personality through such beautiful surviving structures as the Greek Revival courthouse and its surrounding Canton Courthouse Historic Square District, listed on the National Register. Canton offers visitors and residents the adaptively reused 1925 Illinois Central Railroad Depot—now containing a museum and offices—as well as treasures such as the turn of the last century era Trolio Hotel and the Multiculture Museum in the historic Maloney Building.

Asheville, North Carolina, population 69,308, enjoys a very different geographic setting than its two partner Preserve America communities. It is nestled between the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky mountains of Appalachia. Established in 1797 as the seat of newly created Buncombe County, the city prospered as a thoroughfare for settlers moving west and drovers moving livestock south. With the arrival of the railroad in 1880, Asheville blossomed as a destination for well-to-do tourists. George W. Vanderbilt declared Asheville “the most beautiful place in the world” and built the celebrated Biltmore Estate, a National Historic Landmark, there. Dozens of Art Deco buildings erected during the city’s heyday have been preserved. An interpreted urban trail and National Register Itinerary make Asheville’s historic treasures accessible, and the city is an active participant in the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area.

The Preserve America Community program designates communities and neighborhoods that preserve and use their heritage resources for community economic, educational, and cultural benefit and development. The program began in 2004, and there are now 401 Preserve America designations in 48 states. Communities, Indian tribes, historic neighborhoods in urban centers and counties may be designated upon application and meeting sufficient criteria to qualify for the program.

Background: The Preserve America initiative is a White House effort to encourage and support community efforts for the preservation and enjoyment of America’s priceless cultural and natural heritage. The goals of the initiative include: a greater shared knowledge about the nation’s past; strengthened regional identities and local pride; increased local participation in preserving the country’s cultural and natural heritage assets; and support for the economic vitality of communities.

Updated October 19, 2006