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Home arrowNews arrowSeptember 14, 2011
ACHP Commends Preservation Efforts at 9/11 Historic Sites

FEMA debris specialist overlooking work at World Trade Center site  - photo courtesy of FEMAWASHINGTON, D.C. – As America commemorated the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) commended the tremendous efforts in New York and Washington, D.C., to appropriately respond to the destruction of these historic sites.

“The incredible efforts behind the scenes by scores of organizations and thousands of people to respond to the physical damage to two iconic places in a manner appropriate under the National Historic Preservation Act is tremendously appreciated by the preservation community,” said Milford Wayne Donaldson, FAIA, ACHP chairman. “Yesterday, the world began to see how these unprecedented challenges have been successfully met at the World Trade Center site.”

On Sept. 11, 2011, the public was officially presented with the results of the World Trade Center Memorial and Redevelopment Plan at the site of the World Trade Center towers. Behind the scenes, more than 100 consulting parties worked under the auspices of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act—which stipulates that federal actions involving historic properties take into account possible adverse effects and avoid or minimize them to the extent possible—to accomplish this result.

The Pentagon attack occurred at this National Historic Landmark as it wasACHP members tour Pentagon reconstruction, May 2002 undergoing extensive updating and renovation. Following extensive consultation with the Department of Defense, the property was largely restored using materials and techniques that honored the structure’s heritage.  An appropriate memorial to the victims of the Pentagon attack was added adjacent to the structure. On the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in 2002, the ACHP and the National Trust for Historic Preservation presented a special preservation award to the Department of Defense for its fast and historically appropriate response. See

Shortly after 9/11, consultation began for the World Trade Center site and nearby historic properties in Lower Manhattan. This led to the development and execution of a Programmatic Agreement for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)-funded projects. The goal of that agreement was to establish a State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) review process that helped expedite FEMA funding, while ensuring that impacts to historic resources were taken into account. 

Later, in December 2003, consultation began on the World Trade Center Memorial and Redevelopment Project and other related federally assisted transportation projects with the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation serving as the lead agency. Early in these discussions, it was recognized that historic preservation would have a prominent role in proposed reconstruction and interpretation of the original World Trade Center. Following protracted negotiations, the consulting parties executed a Memorandum of Agreement in 2004 that served as the framework of how historic preservation would be integrated into the design of the memorial and museum. Specific measures that are evident in the project revealed on Sept. 11, 2011, include reuse of the tower footprints, the Vesey Street staircase, interpretation of the core columns, and the integration of slurry wall remnants.

“In the NYS Historic Preservation Office, the first challenge that we faced came shortly after 9/11 when we had to grapple with the eligibility of a site that had immediately taken on national significance, essentially a pioneering effort in historic preservation. Along with the physical remains, it was the absence of the towers that took on great significance, and those voids – densely packed with history and meaning – were the essence of what was saved in the Section 106 process and the redevelopment. The process gave stakeholders, scholars, family members and others the opportunity to address the historical meaning of Ground Zero and its value to future generations,” said Ruth Pierpont, Deputy New York State Historic Preservation Officer (director, New York State Division for Historic Preservation and ACHP member as president of the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers). 

Some background on the Section 106/ACHP involvement:

The ACHP recognized the World Trade Center preservation efforts while the consultation was ongoing in a 2002 Case Digest report

FEMA received the Chairman's Award for Federal Achievement in Historic Preservation in November 2003

In February 2009, the ACHP presented its Chairman’s Award to the Federal Transit Administration for its accomplishments at the World Trade Center site

In October 2010 the joint National Trust for Historic Preservation/ACHP award was presented for preservation of the Vesey Street survivor’s staircase and other remnants of the World Trade Center.


Updated on September 14, 2011

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