The 13 winners, including the Savannah, GA birthplace of Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low and the hometown courthouse of famed author Harper Lee in Monroeville, AL, were determined by a public voting campaign conducted online at VoteYourMainStreet.org. American Express enlisted the support of National Geographic to build the site and to amplify the campaign to their audiences. Members of the public were also able to cast their votes in person at open house events held by each local site between Sept. 24 to Oct. 29.
Overall, the 20 competing sites garnered more than 1.1 million votes during the period, making it the largest Partners in Preservation: Main Streets voting campaign to date.
The winning sites of Partners in Preservation: Main Streets are:
- Janesville, WI | Janesville Woman’s Club Building
- Savannah, GA | Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace
- Astoria, OR | Odd Fellows Building
- West Chester, PA | Chester County Historical Society
- Monroeville, AL | Monroe County Courthouse
- Holly, MI | Holly Union Depot
- Staten Island, NY | Casa Belvedere
- Salt Lake City, UT | The Ladies’ Literary Clubhouse
- Mount Pleasant, IA | Union Block
- Denver, CO | Dr. Justina Ford Home
- Painesville, OH | College Hall (Lake Erie College)
- Austin, TX | Elisabet Ney Museum
- Minneapolis, MN | The Woman’s Club of Minneapolis
Twenty historic sites participated in the public voting campaign to win a share of $2 million in preservation funding from American Express. This year’s Partners in Preservation campaign placed special emphasis on historic buildings and sites that celebrate the contributions of women in communities across America to honor the upcoming 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote.
Adding to its share of the $2 million in funds, Union Block in Mount Pleasant, IA, won an additional $50,000 for having the most in-person votes at its open house event. The site is where Belle Babb Mansfield, a leading activist in the national women’s suffrage movement, passed a rigorous bar exam in 1869 to become the first female lawyer in the United States.
“We are inspired by the record high levels of community support and engagement at each of the 20 sites, helping to raise awareness for the contributions women have made to our country,” said Timothy J. McClimon, President, American Express Foundation. “The energy of this campaign is exemplified by the top 13 sites, which each play an important role in the story of their local communities. Seeing these communities rally around such vital institutions strengthens our dedication to preserving these special places.”
Partners in Preservation is a community-based partnership, created in 2006, to engage the public in preserving historic places. Over the past 13 years, the program has provided more than $28 million in support of 260 historic sites across the country, including 20 national parks, 14 cities, and 12 Main Street communities, and has engaged more than a million people through events and online voting. Partners in Preservation: Main Streets returned for its third year in a row and aimed to inspire long-term support from local citizens for sites on Main Streets across the country.
“As we anticipate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, that gave women the right to vote in this country, this campaign highlights the many contributions women have made to our country and the places where they made history,” said Katherine Malone-France, Chief Preservation Officer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “As these sites demonstrate, women have founded lasting organizations like the Girl Scouts, uplifted ideas of conscience like the author Harper Lee, and have built stronger communities across the United States. We look forward to seeing these sites thrive for years to come and are honored to have played a small part in their history.”
More about the winning sites:
Built in 1928, the Janesville Woman’s Club Building has served women’s organizations and provided countless hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars for scholarships and services in Janesville. More than bricks and pillars, the building was an anchor in an era of new political clout; a safe roof during wars and strife; a window into the community’s needs; and a grand entrance into a country of greater gender equity and racial justice.
Grant funding will help reinforce the building’s aging foundation and repair its entrance, renewing its life for another century of women who will continue the tradition of service to others.
The Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace is one of the treasures of Girl Scouts. Here, visitors from around the world can learn more about the woman who started the largest, most powerful, and most successful girl leadership development program in the world: Juliette Gordon Low.
Today, the Birthplace needs to change, grow, and innovate to serve the needs of today’s girls. Funding will empower Girl Scouts to revitalize the Birthplace and make it more sustainable, accessible, flexible, and engaging for the general public, so that every person who experiences it can be inspired by the life of Juliette Gordon Low, the Savannah community she knew and loved, and the vibrant movement she founded.
In a town of less than 10,000, in the oldest settlement west of the Rockies, proudly sits the Odd Fellows Building in downtown Astoria. A center for social, cultural, and creative activity, it was the first building the community chose to rebuild in 1923 after a fire devastated the town. Almost a century later, three local women purchased the building and, with an incredible amount of community support, saved it from developers.
Today, the building houses a gallery, apothecary, art studio, and coffee shop, as well as Astoria’s only nonprofit dance studio and black box theatre—all owned and operated by local women. Funding will restore and weatherize the building’s historic facade and windows to ensure it continues to serve the community for generations to come.
Present-day visitors can still hear echoes from the first Pennsylvania Women’s Rights Convention, held June 2-3, 1852, in architect Thomas U. Walter’s Horticultural Hall, now the home of Chester County Historical Society. In the words of convention president Mary Anne Johnson: “Woman at length is awaking from the slumbers of ages. […] They weary of the senseless talk of ‘woman’s sphere’[…] We demand for woman equal freedom with her brother to raise her voice and exert her influence.”
Today a leaking roof and crumbling chimneys threaten this historically and architecturally significant building. Grant funding will enable critical repairs and help the echoes of the past reverberate into the future.
Monroe County Museum houses the courtroom made famous by Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, which is taught and beloved around the world and was recently voted the top favorite in PBS’ “The Great American Read” program.
Constructed in 1903, the courthouse building is showing its age with serious structural problems in the southwest wall, which grant funding will address. By saving the courthouse—and with it the very spot in the courtroom balcony where Harper Lee watched her father passionately defend his clients—the public can continue to experience the last tangible connection in Lee’s hometown to her iconic novel.
Holly Union Depot, built in 1886, was such a “people place” that over time, millions of travelers wore depressions in the floor as they waited to purchase tickets. In the course of its history, women also developed a strong connection to the Depot; there, they distributed meals for soldiers, sent the men off to war, and welcomed them home. Of note, famous Prohibitionist Carry Nation arrived at the Depot in 1908 and became known locally for her hatchet-wielding crusades against “demon-rum” in nearby Battle Alley.
Grant funding will help rehabilitate the Depot and transform it into a welcome center and tourism office where visitors can learn about Holly’s history and the important roles that women past and present play in the community.
Built in 1908, this former private home-turned-public arts and cultural center has strong connections to notable “women of steel”—Suzette Claiborne Grymes, Emily Warren Roebling, and Laura Roebling Stirn—whose contributions helped shape Staten Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, and ultimately, the United States.
The Roebling-Stirn Mansion, known today as Casa Belvedere, serves as a significant architectural and cultural pillar, as well as a destination venue for locals and tourists alike. Grant funding will restore upper levels that sustained severe water damage from Hurricane Sandy, with the ultimate goal to transform them into new gallery space.
The oldest women’s club west of the Mississippi River was established in 1877 in Salt Lake City, UT. The Ladies’ Literary Club (LLC) sought education in history, science, arts, literature, and current events before academic opportunities were readily available to women. By organizing study sections, lectures, and social events, the club promoted a non-religious counterculture in an otherwise conservative state. In 1913, the LLC commissioned an architectural masterpiece in the likeness of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie School style, a building that became known as “the House that the Women Built.”
Situated on Utah’s most historically significant boulevard, the Clubhouse on South Temple Street proudly stands more than 100 years later as a creative venue for performing arts and education. Grant funding will help restore the sinking front porch and stairs with the addition of an ADA wheelchair ramp, making the Clubhouse truly accessible to all communities for the first time in its history.
Constructed in 1861, the Union Block building has anchored the north side of the Mount Pleasant square for 158 years. Here in 1869, Belle Babb Mansfield passed a rigorous bar examination, becoming the first female lawyer in the United States. Mansfield then became active in the local, state and national women’s suffrage movement, including chairing the first Iowa Women’s Suffrage Convention in Mount Pleasant in 1870.
Continuously occupied until ravaged by fire in 2011, the building was renovated and rededicated in 2014. Funding will help restore the exterior elements not included in that most recent renovation—namely, the east side gable and 32 museum-quality storm windows for the trefoil windows.
Denied access to local hospitals, Colorado’s first licensed female African American doctor Justina Ford instead treated patients at her home office, helping circumvent the racial and economic barriers to their medical care. Locally, Dr. Ford became known as the “Baby Doctor” because she delivered over 7,000 babies in her 50-year medical career.
Saved from demolition in the 1980s by the Five Points Community and Historic Denver, Dr. Ford’s 1890 Italianate-style house is now home to the Black American West Museum & Heritage Center. Grant funding will allow for important exterior renovations such as window restoration and masonry work, ensuring that the Museum can safeguard its rich collection of black history, remain a place of learning, and continue to symbolize the black experience in the West.
Nestled in Painesville, OH, just minutes from Painesville’s charming downtown, Lake Erie College is one of the oldest institutions for higher learning in the Western Reserve. From its start as a female seminary in 1856 to its evolution into a coeducational institution today, Lake Erie College is proud of its long heritage leading higher education for more than 160 years.
At the center of its picturesque campus stands College Hall, where more than a century ago, women were leading the charge to advance their education and blaze new trails, including through the women’s suffrage movement. Funding will help preserve this iconic building by restoring its grand entrance, inviting all who enter to experience its rich and significant history.
Elisabet Ney rocketed to fame as a sculptor in 19th-century Berlin. Deeply intellectual, a gender non-conformist, and a democracy activist, she fled persecution in 1871 and landed in Texas. In 1892, after farming and raising a son, she built Formosa, a rugged but majestic limestone homestead and studio, and relaunched her career. She created important artwork here, but also sparked a brilliant legacy: the birth of Austin’s independent spirit.
Today, the Elisabet Ney Museum at Formosa provides both an anchor and a laboratory for progressive identity and art. Funding will help restore the homestead’s 18 exterior doors. Worn and fragile, plain but grand, they graciously welcome outsiders—women, artists, and immigrants—just as they did a century ago.
The Woman’s Club of Minneapolis was founded by women, for women, as a place to gather and engage in educational opportunities, civic contributions, and friendly association. The Club’s auditorium has historically hosted diverse forms of theatrical practice and public engagement, and currently fills a vital need in the Twin Cities arts community by providing a safe and accessible performance space for independent artists.
This space, formally called The Assembly, needs updates and upgrades to better serve the community. Funding will help replace the seats and repair the damaged floor—a critical first phase of a three-phase renovation.