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There are more than 7,000 Main Streets in the United States. From sea to shining sea, and from big cities to small towns, America is obsessed with what makes their personal Main Street unique.
From mom and pop bookshops to co-op grocery stores, the local ice cream parlor and the friendly corner bar where everyone knows your name, Main Street is an integral part of the American dream. It’s a place everyone can go to converse, be together, and celebrate their little corner of the world.
Of course, it doesn’t actually have to be called "Main Street" to be the hub of town (after all, there are more than 9,000 Park Aves, 8,000 Fifth Streets and more than 10,000 Second Streets too), just a place where life takes place, and history takes hold.
But, some of these key pieces of Americana along Main, Fifth, Second, Maple, Elm, or whatever your center of town is named, need our help. Luckily, American Express and The National Trust for Historic Preservation are here to do just that.
On Sunday, the duo announced its latest round of Partners in Preservation, a community-based partnership created in 2006 to engage the public in preserving historic places. To date, it has awarded more than $22 million to 200 historic places around the nation.
Coming off the heels of its incredibly successful program in 2017, the partnership is once again awarding $2 million in grants to historic sites that specifically celebrate our diverse national tapestry in some of America’s “Main Street” town hubs.
“At American Express, diversity and inclusion are at the heart of our culture,” Richard Brown, vice president of philanthropy, American Express, shared in a statement. “We’re thrilled to unite our long-standing commitment to historic preservation and the Shop Small movement to celebrate the histories of the diverse communities and cultures that have shaped and continue to enrich our Main Streets.”
Now through October 26, the partnership is looking for the public’s help in voting for their favorite historical place — be it on a literal or figurative Main Street — so they can receive their share of the grant funding for various preservation projects.
The voting includes 20 different historical sites that each has historically worked within communities to be a place of celebration of diversity and have been integral to the fight for equality around the country. And, they are sites that will hopefully continue to do just that for generations to come. And your vote will go a long way in helping them do just that.
The sites include the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, which was the site of the tragic 1963 bombing that saw four young girls killed. The church still functions as a house of worship and gathering space. It’s hoping to gain new funding to complete the restoration of the church’s historic windows, cupola and bell towers that were first installed in 1911.
The Women’s Building in San Francisco, California is also on the list. The building was the first woman-owned and operated community center, which opened in 1979. It now welcomes 25,000 clients and visitors each year. The center is looking for funding to help retrofit its 108-year old windows with newer, more efficient models.
In Boston, the Roslindale Congregational Church is hoping to gain funding to build an accessible bathroom and an elevator to provide better access to those with disabilities to all the services the church provides its diverse community.
Other sites include: The Nogales Community Development Corporation in Nogales, Arizona, The Epiphany Conservation Trust in Los Angeles, The Tabor Opera House in Leadville, Colorado, The Freedom Tower in Miami, Bronzeville Cookin’ in Chicago, The Arch Social Club in Baltimore, City Hall Clock Tower in Biddeford, Maine, GM Modern Housing Legacy Homes in Pontiac, Michigan, Wah Chong Tai Mercantile and Mai Wah Noodle Parlor in Butte, Montana, International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina, Main Court of the Hispanic Society of America in New York City, National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York Clayborn Temple in Memphis, Historic First Baptist Church in San Marcos, Texas, New Hope Community Center in Salt Lake City, Downtown Danville Association in Danville, Virginia, and the Historic Morrill Bank in Kent, Washington.
“When we tell America’s full history, we shift the conversation about who we are as a country and where we are going,” Germonique Ulmer, vice president of public affairs, National Trust for Historic Preservation, added in a statement. “Whether it’s the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, the Women’s Building in San Francisco, or the many other diverse places participating in this year’s Partners in Preservation program, they offer us an opportunity both to learn the stories of our collective past and to create spaces for community empowerment for generations to come.”
And, to give people even more of a reason to go vote for their favorite project, the partnership, along with its media partner National Geographic, is also allowing the voting public the opportunity to enter a sweepstakes for their chance to win a trip to Washington, D.C. for the close of the campaign.
Of course, there is one more way you can help your own version of Main Street. And that is to Shop Small. This year, why not try doing all your holiday shopping from stores around town and take part in the annual Small Business Saturday celebration, which takes place on Saturday, November, 24. That way, everybody on both your shopping list and in your community wins too.