Preservation Rightsizing Network

Legacy Cities + Historic Places

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Hello from the Rust Belt Coalition of Young Preservationists!

We’re so pleased to post this excellent introduction to the Rust Belt Coalition of Young Preservationists! Read on for more about what the RBC is and what it does – and be sure to check out its website, Facebook, and Instagram for news about upcoming Rust Belt Takeovers.

By Mike Panzitta

Hi Everyone! We’re the Rust Belt Coalition of Young Preservationists (we usually call ourselves the RBC for short), and we’re what happens when a bunch of preservation-minded groups with very different organizational structures who happen to all live within an incredibly vaguely-defined geographic area all get together and try to pool our strength, knowledge, and experience to foster historic preservation throughout the Rust Belt.

At the RBC meetup in Cincinnati. Photo credit: Pearl-Jean Mabe

We formed after a few of us who knew each other mostly through social media decided to get together, meet in person, and try to figure out how we can help support each other’s preservation efforts (even if it’s just having a shoulder to cry on…which, unsurprisingly, is something RBC does phenomenally well) and foster new young preservationist groups throughout our region, as the Rust Belt has many special preservation challenges (and opportunities) that we’ve found pervade the entirety of the area.

Touring the Richardson Olmsted Complex in Buffalo. Photo credit: Mike Panzitta

This instinct to meet up in person, share our stories, and get to know each other both personally and professionally has resulted in our signature event, our Rust Belt Takeovers. After originally a few of us planned to converge in centrally-located Pittsburgh for a weekend, we decided to open the invite to all of our organizations’ mailing lists and see who was interested. We were shocked when over 70 people registered and we realized that getting to see a new city from a preservationist’s perspective is an experience that apparently there was a huge pent-up demand for!

Albright United Methodist Church in Pittsburgh, threatened to be torn down for a drive-through Starbucks. Photo credit: Anna Lisa Keller

So we organized two days packed with neighborhood tours, preservation-specific exploration, and (of course) restaurants and bars, and because Pittsburgh preservationists were willing to host those who were visiting (and we got some amazing sponsors, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation) to give us some money), we were able to do it all for free!

From our city steps tour in Pittsburgh. Photo credit: Emily Pumm

It was such a success that we have held three more of these big events: Two more Takeovers in Buffalo and Cincinnati, and a one-day meetup (we called it a “Rust Belt Pop-up”) in Wheeling. And there’s more planned for 2017! (More on that later.)

Silo City in Buffalo. Photo Credit: Andrea Kern

In addition to learning firsthand about preservation successes, failures, and works in progress through our #RustBeltTakover (shameless Instagram plug there), we’ve been working to show the larger preservation community that young people have the capacity to organize, mobilize, and really make a difference in our cities and our neighborhoods without having to invest a fortune or have fancy-sounding credentials.

The Wheeling Suspension Bridge. From our Rust Belt Pop-up in Wheeling, WV. Photo credit: Mike Panzitta

We have been working on region-wide projects to tell everyone that we preservationists are out there, we care about our history, and we’re willing to work to preserve it. The latest one was our region-wide heart bombing initiative.

A heart bomb masterpiece in Columbus. Photo credit: Young Ohio Preservationists

On February 11, we coordinated our heart bomb events (which, incidentally, were invented in the Rust Belt city of Buffalo) to make a huge mark on the National Trust’s #IHeartSavingPlaces campaign.

Heart bombing in Cincinnati. Photo credit: Cincinnati Preservation Collective

Heart bomb 2017 in Indiana. Photo credit: Preserve Greater Indy

This year we are also doing a region-wide sale of this year’s hottest preservation-related product, the Tiny Jane Jacobs doll. After her introduction at the NTHP Conference in Houston, we found that a lot of people were interested in showing their love for Jane, so we plan to very soon roll out #TinyJaneJacobs (again, Instagram plug) dolls for purchase, with the proceeds going to help preservationists afford the costs of traveling to potentially expensive conferences.

Heart bombs aplenty in Rochester, NY. Photo credit: Young Urban Preservationists

So that’s just a quick overview, but there’s so much more to talk about! If you’re interested in learning more about what we’re up to check us out on Facebook, go to our website, or email us at And come to one of our upcoming events! We’ll be doing Rust Belt Takeovers in St. Louis, Rochester, and Detroit this year, and all are welcome!

Statement from Progressive Historic Preservation Professionals on the Trump Election

The Preservation Rightsizing Network endorses this statement. It is a modified version of a statement authored by Max Page and Brad White on November 18, 2016.

The discussion around the progressive preservation movement continues. To learn more and get involved, visit the Progressive Preservation Network Facebook page or sign up for the email listserve by writing

We are preservationists because we believe that historic buildings and landscapes matter, that they anchor individual and communal connections to the past, they are the basis for telling the complete and often painful American story, they can be the building blocks of equitable economic development, they are central to any sustainable environmental future, and that they hold within them values that stand above and beyond the market.

We are pleased that our movement, which has long been accused – not without reason – of being elitist, the domain of the wealthy, little interested in the homes and neighborhoods of people of color, the disadvantaged, and the excluded, has begun a dramatic shift. Leading organizations have put their rhetoric and their resources toward expanding the movement to include preserving and interpreting sites central to the lives of racial, ethnic, religious, and LGBTQ communities, long victims of oppression in our society. We are proud that our movement has turned steadily in the direction of celebrating our diverse history, confronting our most violent pasts, and stands committed to building a more equitable and just society through the vehicle of old places.

If ever there was a moment to stand with our allies in the Latino community, the African-American community, the refugee and immigrant community, the disability community, the LGBTQ community – indeed, stand with the majority of Americans offended by the overt racism, bigotry, misogyny, and xenophobia of the Trump campaign and members of the new administration – that time is now.

Our call to preservationists is not based on Trump’s views on historic preservation narrowly construed.  We don’t care that he was involved in the restoration of the old Post Office in Washington, DC. We do not know what his specific preservation policies might be. What we do know is that the candidate, the campaign, and now his administration have deployed, in a calculated and relentless way, a hostility and intolerance toward the very groups our movement is hoping to include.

By making a statement condemning this hatred, we stand with the members of these communities and refuse to normalize Trump’s bigotry.  Despite his wishes, America is going to be a more gloriously diverse nation than it has ever been.  We want a preservation movement for that nation.

Our profession’s commitment to an equitable and inclusive preservation movement is receiving an important test.  We invite preservationists to choose this moment to stand, forcefully and openly, against the administration’s bigoted policies and for a truly inclusive preservation movement.

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