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A Plan to Save Texas Architecture

A Plan to Save Texas Architecture

By Bruce Elsom, THF President

September 2017

Vision is a wonderful thing.  Applied by the right-brained, it has created wonderful works of art.  The left-brained can shape it into monument of utility.  By applying both cerebral lobes, architects are able to create magnificent structures that are both pleasing and useful.  What they cannot do is produce something that withstands time, the elements, and use without some measure of care.  This is where a different kind of vision comes in. 

Enter the preservationist.  Theirs is perhaps the most difficult task for they do not start with a blank slate; they are bound by what is and must make what was.  Think of playing Jenga, but in reverse: restore the fragile tower of wood blocks to its original stability without knocking the structure over in the process.  Preservation compounds the problem because doing things wrong may be worse than doing nothing. 

With an understanding of the importance of saving the state-built environment and the idea of make the tricky work of the of the architectural preservationist easier, THF has had two exciting announcements this quarter.

The first is the establishment of the Texas Historic Architecture Endowment.  The new fund is the brainchild of THF Director Michael Duda.  An architect by training, Duda is now part of the management team of Fritz Duda, a family-owned international real estate investment building and development firm based in Dallas.

Gifts from this new endowment will support work that preserves materials and structures, promotes architects of significance, and assists with projects related to the architecture of the Republic and the State of Texas.  To get an idea of just how acute the need for such a resource is, take a look at Preservation Texas’ list of endangered places (www.preservationtexas.org/2016-texas-most-endangered-places) or the section of Texas Escapes (www.texasescapes.com) called “Razed in Texas”.  Both chronicle places that have been lost forever. 

As Texans, we understand that as old buildings are demolished, the state’s past is being lost, and our own identity is weakened.  For those who share the passion for architectural preservation and understand its importance, there is no better place to put your energy and resources.  THF has a 63-year record of preserving historic sites across the state.  The organization also has a time-tested process for vetting projects to ensure funds are put to the best use.  Finally, because Foundation directors cover all administrative costs, 100 percent of every donation goes to preservation projects.  Donors have the satisfaction of knowing their gifts will make a difference beyond a single project – for decades to come.

The second piece of architectural news to report is that Lewis Fisher, AIA, of San Antonio, is a new THF scholar director.  As president and a principal at Fisher Heck Architects, Fisher has led many preservation projects, including the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum in Cuero, St. Francis of Assisi Church in San Antonio, the Bexar County Courthouse, and now, he is involved in the creation of the Alamo Master Plan.  The Texas Historical Foundation is fortunate to have someone with Fisher’s qualifications help this organization expand its architectural preservation work.

In closing, I want to express my appreciation to all THF directors.  Not only do they ensure the financial soundness of the Foundation’s operation, these individuals also volunteer countless hours reviewing grant requests, raising funds, and promoting Texas history preservation.  Besides these efforts, important as they are, there are some fascinating characters on the Foundation board.  To arrange for a director to speak to your organization, give the THF office a call.

Bruce Elsom is a computer consultant from Houston.  Send comments to:  THF, P.O. Box 50314, Austin, Texas 78763, or admin@TexasHistoricalFoundation.org.

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