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May 12, 2008--WASHINGTON, D.C.— Mrs. Laura Bush, First Lady of the United States and Honorary Chair of Preserve America, today announced and presented the 2008 Preserve America Presidential Awards at a White House ceremony. This is the highest national award for historic preservation achievement.

The Presidential Awards are one component of Preserve America, a White House initiative that highlights the efforts of President and Mrs. Bush to preserve our national heritage. Each year, two awards are given for activities advancing heritage tourism and two awards are given for privately funded historic preservation projects or programs. This was the second year the Preserve America Presidential Awards were conferred in May, which is National Preservation Month.

The winners are the following: African Burial Ground Project, New York, New York; Corinth and Alcorn County Mississippi Heritage Tourism Initiative; Lower East Side Tenement Museum, New York, New York; and Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program.

Read below for details on the winners’ projects.

Laura Bush presents the 2008 Preserve America Presidential Awards

“This year’s honorees each represent a significant period in our nation’s history. Their preservation efforts ensure Americans gain a greater knowledge of our nation’s past while impacting the economic vitality of their communities, states and the nation,” said John L. Nau, III, chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), which administers the award program on behalf of the White House.

The Presidential Awards are one component of Preserve America, a White House initiative that highlights the efforts of President and Mrs. Bush to celebrate and preserve our nation’s cultural heritage assets. This is the fifth year the Preserve America Presidential Awards have been conferred in May, which is National Preservation Month.

The Preserve America Presidential Awards are given annually to organizations, businesses, and government entities for:

  • exemplary accomplishments in the sustainable use and preservation of cultural or natural heritage assets;
  • demonstrated commitment to the protection and interpretation of America’s cultural or natural heritage assets; and
  • integration of these assets into contemporary community life, combining innovative, creative, and responsible approaches to showcasing historic local resources.

The recipients are chosen through a national competition administered by the ACHP in cooperation with the Executive Office of the President, and in partnership with the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Summaries of 2008 Preserve America Presidential Award Honorees

African Burial Ground Project

Laura Bush with Mark Dremel and Howard Dodson of the African Burial Ground Project
Mrs. Laura Bush poses for a photo with Preserve America Presidential Award winners Howard Dodson, left, and Mark Dremel May 12, 2008, in the Blue Room at the white house. White House photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

Discovery of the African Burial Ground on Manhattan reshaped contemporary understanding of American history regarding the role of slavery throughout North America. The site, dated to the end of the 17th century, revealed largely forgotten stories of enslaved and some free Africans in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam—today’s New York City. By 1794 the burial ground held the remains of an estimated 20,000 people. The city grew around and over it, and it was lost. The General Services Administration encountered the site during excavation for a new federal building. After a series of challenges were successfully overcome, the uncovered human remains were respectfully reinterred, and the African Burial Ground became a National Monument that recalls and interprets the lives of these Africans and their important contributions to our nation.

Receiving the award for the African Burial Ground Project were Mark Dremel, Project Executive, U.S. General Services Administration, Public Buildings Service and Howard Dodson, Chief, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library.

View a detailed PDF summary at the bottom of the page.

The Corinth and Alcorn County Mississippi Heritage Tourism Initiative

Laura Bush with Howard Dodson and Mark Dremel of the Corinth and Alcorn County Mississippi Heritage Tourism Initiative
Mrs. Laura Bush poses for a photo with Corinth and Alcorn County Mississippi Heritage Tourism Initiative winners Gary Chandler and Rosemary Williams May 12, 2008, in the Blue Room at the White House. White House photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

Begun as an effort led by the Siege and Battle of Corinth Commission and its partners to preserve nationally significant Civil War Battlefields in and around Corinth, Ms., this initiative grew into a comprehensive, multi-faceted heritage tourism effort. Included are driving and walking tour maps, 20 miles of affiliated hiking and biking trails, public accommodations, educational displays and the construction of a state-of-the-art Civil War Interpretive Center managed by the Corinth Unit of Shiloh National Military Park. Other achievements include preservation and interpretation of the 1857 Verandah House (a National Historic Landmark), revitalization of the historic downtown with the creation of a National Register Historic District, development of a local museum in the historic railroad depot, and preservation and interpretation of the African American story of the Corinth Contraband Camp that included formation of a local African American Historical Society.

Accepting on behalf of the Corinth and Alcorn County Mississippi Heritage Tourism Initiative were Rosemary Williams, Chairperson, Siege and Battle of Corinth Commission and Gary Hendrix Chandler, President of the Alliance.

View a detailed PDF summary at the bottom of the page.

Lower East Side Tenement Museum

Laura Bush with Renee Epps and Steven Long of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum
Mrs. Laura Bush poses for a photo with Preserve America Presidential Award winners Renee Epps, left, and Steven Long May 12, 2008, in the Blue Room at the white house. White House photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum protects and interprets the physical and historic legacy of American immigration on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a gateway to America. The museum is situated in a tenement apartment building that is a National Historic Landmark. From 1863 to 1935 this tenement sheltered an estimated 7,000 immigrants. The museum interprets their lives through five restored family apartments. Among last year’s 130,000 visitors, 31,500 were K-12 students. Special museum programs directly serve and benefit contemporary immigrants and residents of the diverse local community. Educational offerings include interpreted neighborhood walking tours, free English classes for almost 1,000 students annually, and New York Book Club discussions on urban and immigrant experiences. The museum actively partners with community, preservation, and history organizations.

Accepting on behalf of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum were Renee Epps, Executive Vice President, and Steve Long, Vice President of Education and Collections.

View a detailed PDF summary at the bottom of the page.

Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program

Laura Bush with Larry Oaks and David Gravelle of the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program
Mrs. Laura Bush poses for a photo with Preserve America Presidential Award winners Larry Oaks, left, and David Gravelle of the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program May 12, 2008, in the Blue Room at the white house. White House photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

An innovative state program of the Texas Historical Commission, this project has fully restored 39 courthouses since its inception and is currently helping to restore 27 additional structures. This highly successful matching grant program has provided $145 million to 64 counties for the preservation of county courthouses and helps revitalize communities, increase local pride, encourage heritage tourism, and support economic development. Courthouses are a focal point of the award-winning Texas Heritage Trails Program and are often the centerpiece of local historic districts and Main Street areas. Among the 254 Texas counties, at least 234 boast historic courthouses, with some dating to the mid-1800s. They include outstanding examples of Romanesque Revival, Italianate, Mission Revival, and adobe styles of architecture. So far, 117 have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and another 90 are deemed eligible.

Accepting for the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program were F. Lawerence Oaks, Executive Director, Texas Historical Commission and David Gravelle, Vice Chairman, Texas Historical Commission.

View a detailed PDF summary at the bottom of the page.

Project Details

View PDF details from this year's winners.

African Burial Ground Project
The Corinth and Alcorn County Mississippi Heritage Tourism Initiative
Lower East Side Tenement Museum
Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program

Images
Historic map of African Burial Ground Project
Aerial view of the African Burial Ground Project
African Burial Ground Project drawing
Vaults being lowered to into ground for the African Burial Ground Project
African Burial Ground Project exhibit
Footpaths to a Civil War site. Photo courtesy: The Daily Corinthian
The Verandah House build in 1857, a National Historic Landmark and former headquarters for both Union and Confederate generals. Open to the public. Photo courtesy: The Daily Corinthian
Oak Home built in 1857, a National Historic Landmark and former headquarters for Civil War General Leonidas Polk. Private and located in historic residential district. Photo courtesy: The Daily Corinthian
The Jacinto Courthouse built in 1836. Photo courtesy: The Daily Corinthian
The Gumpertz family apartment parlor in 97 Orchard Street, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum’s landmark tenement building. Photo courtesy: Tenement Museum
97 Orchard Street—the first homestead of the urban working class and poor to be preserved in America and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo: Greg Scaffidi