The mission of the Preservation Alliance is to actively promote the appreciation, protection, and appropriate use and development of the Philadelphia region’s historic buildings, communities and landscapes.
Although there are many nonprofit organizations involved in the preservation and management of historic resources in the Philadelphia region as well as many public agencies devoted to the protection of historic resources, the Alliance is the principal “public steward” of the historic landmarks of the Philadelphia area. Our task is not simply to protect the past; it is also to build public appreciation and support for the distinctive historic character of the city of Philadelphia and surrounding communities, and the assets that contribute to that character. The Alliance is also a public advocate for preservation policies and laws. No other organization performs these functions in the city of Philadelphia; no other organization takes as its mission cooperative efforts with preservation organizations in all the Pennsylvania counties adjacent to Philadelphia to achieve these same objectives.
The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia was formed in 1996 through the merger of two predecessor organizations—the Preservation Coalition and the Philadelphia Historic Preservation Corporation, both founded in 1979. Thus, the Alliance represents the continuity of 30 years of nonprofit preservation advocacy in the Philadelphia region.
The Early Years:
During the period from 1979 to 1996, the Preservation Coalition and the Philadelphia Historic Preservation Corporation (PHPC) each developed independent, but complementary programs. The Coalition was formed by a group of women concerned for the preservation of certain structures in Center City Philadelphia. Over the years the Coalition became a grassroots advocacy organization supported by many individuals and organizations in Philadelphia concerned with protecting the historic resources of the city. Its programs focused on advocacy and public education. PHPC was created by the Old Philadelphia Development Corporation and represented a joint venture of business, civic and government leadership. PHPC focused its activities on the actual rehabilitation and development of historic properties. It created a façade easement program, managed restoration of some historic sites, and initiated an ambitious program to assist historic religious properties.
By the early 1990s, both organizations realized that their individual programs might be more easily sustained and more effective if combined into a single organization. With support and assistance from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the William Penn Foundation, the two organizations merged to form the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia in 1996.
1996 to 2001:
During the first five years after the merger, the Alliance continued many of the programs of the Coalition and PHPC, while also initiating new activities. PHPC’s easement program was continued and new easement donations accepted. The Coalition’s advocacy efforts were continued with a major focus on the preservation of The Dream Garden, the Louis Tiffany mosaic in the Curtis Building, and on plans for the restoration of the U.S. Naval Home. The Heritage Philadelphia Program was initiated by the Alliance to provide technical assistance and grant support to historic house museums in the Philadelphia region. It became an independent entity in 1999.
A primary component of the strategic plan adopted at the time of the merger was undertaking direct real estate development with the expectation that this would provide long-term operating support for other activities. However, the interest of private developers in historic properties made it difficult for the Alliance to implement this goal. Two properties were acquired and subsequently sold to other parties for development.
2002 to the Present:
The Alliance adopted a new strategic plan in 2002 after a planning process that included consultation with preservation organizations in the Philadelphia region. The plan proposed that the Alliance focus its activities in five areas: advocacy and public education, membership development and special events, regional initiatives, neighborhood initiatives and preservation easements. Initial efforts focused on strengthening the Alliance’s advocacy efforts and its partnership with neighborhood organizations. A series of grants allowed the Alliance to implement a program of regional preservation conferences, an ambitious membership development campaign, and to strengthen advocacy efforts. These were followed in 2005-2006 by a $300,000 grant from the William Penn Foundation to support a multi-faceted neighborhood preservation initiative and by a $1 million contract with Philadelphia’s Office of Housing and Community Development and a $100,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to provide grants to low- and moderate-income owners of historic houses in Philadelphia.
More recently, the Alliance received a $495,000 grant from the William Penn Foundation to support the neighborhood preservation initiative and the initial phase of the first citywide preservation plan for Philadelphia. The Heritage Philadelphia Program granted $100,000 and the Barra Foundation granted $70,000 for the preservation plan and an associated citywide historic resources survey.
Other funders who have made substantial recent grants to the Alliance include the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the Samuel S. Fels Foundation and the Philadelphia Cultural Management Initiative.
These generous funders have enabled the Alliance to greatly increase its visibility, effectiveness and support. Membership is growing and community support is evidenced by attendance at key Alliance events. In 2008, the Annual Awards Luncheon was attended by 570 persons; the 2008 Old House Fair attracted 1,200 current and aspiring owners of older and historic homes in the region.
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