Maintaining, repairing, and adaptively reusing historic buildings requires motivation, perseverance, and most importantly, funding. Securing financial support, however, is not always an easy endeavor, even with a building as important as the Woodrow Wilson Family Home. Most preservation organizations like Historic Columbia Foundation don’t have a rich uncle, much less a pot of gold on standby to pay for every pie-in-the-sky project. Instead, organizations prioritize their projects and pursue the ones they can realistically afford to do without depleting their budget. Year after year we follow this approach to make a positive impact in our community while also being good stewards of the financial support we receive.
Our budget will only take us so far, which is why we aggressively apply for grants and other financial incentives to help us accomplish more. As Donovan Rypkema states in The Economics of Historic Preservation, “Preservation incentives make preservation happen.” Financial incentives for preservation can come from a variety of local, state, and federal government initiatives as well as from private organizations such as the National Trust for Historic Preservation. By leveraging funds allocated for a project with those received from matching preservation incentives, projects that were once considered too expensive can now become more feasible. Not only is this concept beneficial for individual buildings, it also creates a chain reaction that leads to additional investment in the community.
The Woodrow Wilson Family Home rehabilitation project has already benefited from several grants including a $335,000 Save America’s Treasures grant it received from the National Park Service in 2009. These funds were used during Phase I of the project to ensure the entire building envelope was made weather tight. Now that the building is adequately protected from moisture infiltration, the rehabilitation and interpretation of the interior will become the main focus. We have already received one grant specifically for the interior that will allow us to add a touch of high tech imagination to future tours. Through advanced computer illustration and digital imaging, two original service rooms (pantry and water closet) will be recreated in 3-D. This will give visitors a unique experience beyond typical static displays.
We will continue to apply for grants and other preservation incentives in order to make the most of every dollar in our budget. Although the application processes are labor intensive and highly competitive, we believe that every little bit of additional financial support we receive gets us one step closer to achieving our goals.