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GSA Celebrates its Historic Preservation Achievements

Making Preservation Work

GSA #10239

May 19, 2006
Contact:MaryAnne Beatty (202) 501-1231
maryanne.beatty@gsa.gov

Washington, DC – A guiding light in times of crisis, historic buildings once again take their place in history.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that ravaged much of the gulf coast region, the Custom House in New Orleans, Louisiana, withstood the storm and floods and stands as a beacon of hope for its devastated communities.  This mid-19th Century National Historic landmark still stands on its original marble and stone grandeur.  Many of the General Services Administration (GSA) buildings throughout the Greater Southwest and Southeast Sunbelt regions endured broken windows, water infiltration, mold proliferation, roof collapse, and the destruction of historic interior finishes.  These landmark buildings have once again stood the test of time, though damaged and in many instances temporarily vacated. As federal rehabilitation activities were underway, and these historic treasures were stabilized, this immediate reinvestment reinforced the federal presence and anchored the area–wide revitalization efforts.

May is National Preservation Month and GSA is celebrating its nationwide historic preservation achievements.  As stewards of 430 historic legacy buildings, its goal is to shape this legacy and the way people regard their government through its public buildings.

“During National Preservation Month, we are reminded that the American people see and experience public buildings not merely as federal office space but as a symbol of strength and stability in their communities,” stated David L. Winstead, Commissioner of GSA’s Public Buildings Service.  “They contribute significantly to the rich variety of space and settings for the federal agencies who look to GSA for their workspace needs.”

GSA’s legacy buildings include customhouses, courthouses, post offices, border stations and federal agency offices across the United Stated and its territories.  Many are grand structures designed to serve a symbolic, ceremonial, and functional, purpose—Greek revival, Romanesque, Beaux Arts, Art Deco and neo-Classical monuments symbolize the permanence and stature of the federal government.   The majority of GSA’s historic buildings were built between 1900-1941, during years of great progress in technology, civic planning and the emergence of America as a leader in western popular culture.  Public buildings after the turn of the century were often planned as part of larger public building complexes, often grouping important civic buildings around landscaped public spaces.

During National Preservation Month, GSA’s encourages the public to take the opportunity to better understand and appreciate federal legacy buildings in their communities and the contribution GSA makes each year as stewards of these properties to maintaining our country’s architectural and cultural heritage.  Currently, over 200 GSA properties are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  GSA is pursuing nomination of an additional 100 eligible properties to the Register and has entered into a partnership with the National Park Service to increase the number of National Historic Landmarks – the highest level of designation possible – from 53 to 60 by the end of 2006.

Through the Center for Historic Buildings, working with the Office of Citizen Services and Communication’s Enterprise Web Management and Teleproductions Office, a broad preservation education and advocacy program is available online.  This includes three documentary videos:  At the Forefront of Adventure and Architecture: Pioneer Courthouse, an 18-minute film (http://www.gsa.gov/portlandfilm) documenting this National Historic Landmark’s recent renovation, including installation of a state-of-the-art base-isolation seismic protection system, and highlighting the rich history of this exceptional federal treasure in Portland, Oregon; An American Classic: the Gene Snyder U.S. Courthouse and Custom House (http://www.gsa.gov/louisvillefilm), an award-winning 16-minute documentary that tells the story of the 1930s neo-classical building’s decline and subsequent restoration and preservation in Louisville, Kentucky; and A Poem in Marble, a Place on the Map (http://www.gsa.gov/denverfilm), a 20-minute documentary film chronicling the Byron R. White U.S. Courthouse in Denver, Colorado, from the building's early turn-of-the-twentieth-century history through its Presidential Design Award-winning renovation 90 years later.

And to officially mark National Historic Preservation Month, the 2006 Historic Buildings Poster Series is now online (http://www.gsa.gov/historicbuildingposters).  To get more information on GSA’s Historic Buildings Program, visit (http://www.gsa.gov/historicbuildings) or write historic.buildings@gsa.gov.

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GSA is a centralized, federal procurement, property management, policy development and information provision agency, created by Congress to improve government efficiency and help federal agencies better serve the public. In this role, GSA acquires products and services on behalf of federal agencies; plays a key role in developing and implementing governmentwide policies; provides services and solutions for the office operations of more than one million federal workers; and encourages a citizen-centric relationship with government by providing a single "point of entry" to the information and services citizens need in a timeframe they can appreciate. This allows citizens to receive accurate, timely and consistent answers and information, and helps federal agencies better respond to citizen inquiries.