Sacred Places Fall 2011 - Page 9

Defining National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmark Designations The National Register of Historic Places includes historic buildings, structures, districts, sites, and objects that are significant to local, state, or national history. Generally, religious structures qualify for the National Register when their significance is derived from architectural distinction or historical importance. Only religious structures listed on the basis of national significance are eligible for Save America’s Treasures (SAT) grants. National Historic Landmarks (NHLs) have greater significance. As defined by the National Park Service, these buildings “possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States.” There are less than 2,500 NHLs in the country, compared to 80,000 properties (comprising over 1.4 million individual resources) listed on the National Register. Religious structures that receive SAT grants are generally listed as National Historic Landmarks, though this is not a requirement of the program. Listing on the National Register or as a National Historic Landmarks is an honorary title, and carries no restrictions on the use of a property, changes to a property, or demolition of a property. In addition to being honorific, listing qualifies a property for federal grant programs and for the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program. religious uses. In the spring of 2001, Partners worked with the National Trust for Historic Preservation to give congregations equal access to SAT. The Trust’s legal counsel argued that as long as the funding is used for secular purposes, it is discriminatory on the part of the “What’s crucial to us is the planning process we went through, the preparation of how to work with architects, and the background we got from New Dollars to be able to make a strong case. It all falls into the rubric of Partners’ approach to fundraising and being the stewards of historic properties. There is no question we picked up a lot of skills and attitudes that prepared us to write a stronger grant application.” Reverend Sean Mullen, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church federal government to exclude religious institutions. In 2003 Partners and the National Trust prevailed. Boston’s Old North Church became the first congregation to receive an SAT grant, an award of $317,000 to restore the 200-year-old windows and to make the building more accessible to the public. There have been many others to follow in its footsteps. Unity Temple in Oak Park, IL, an important late work of architect Frank Lloyd Wright and a New Dollars graduate, received a $200,000 SAT matching grant to restore the church’s south roof slab. Christ Church Lutheran in Minneapolis, MN, another New Dollars graduate, received an SAT matching grant of $160,000 to repair the aging bell tower. The church was dedicated in 1949 and is the last building to be completed by Eliel Saarinen before his death in 1950. Nearly 50 religious properties have received SAT grants since Old North Church received its groundbreaking award. Five congregations in Philadelphia have received awards from both SAT and Partners: St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Mother Bethel AME Church, Christ Episcopal Church, Race Street Friends Meetinghouse at Friends Center, and Church of the Advocate (Episcopal). Sacred Places • Fall 2011 • 8