Welcoming Beth Wiedower

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Preservation Profiles

Beth Wiedower moved to Texas and jumped head-first into her job as Senior Field Officer at the new Houston Field Office for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Traveling to dozens of our state's historic county courthouses and advocating for their preservation at the State Capitol on Preservation Day, she got an immediate understanding of how significant these buildings are, not only to local residents, but to all of Texas and the nation. The National Trust has named Texas' historic county courthouses a National Treasure, and is working hand-in-hand with the Texas Historical Commission, Preservation Texas and local advocates to preserve these community icons. We are delighted to introduce you to Beth Wiedower.

Tell us a little bit about the organization you work for. What is its mission and priorities?

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a private not-for-profit organization with a mission to save America’s historic places and protect the places where history happened.

How long have you been in your position as Senior Field Officer in Texas?

I have been with the National Trust for more than seven years, and have been in my current position since the beginning of 2013 when the new Houston Field Office opened.

Did you have any other positions at your organization before this one? What were they and what did you do?

Prior to my move to Texas, I served as the Field Director for the National Trust’s regional pilot program in the Arkansas Delta from 2006 through 2012, as a member of the Southwest Regional Office staff in Fort Worth (but I lived in the Delta, of course).

If you meet someone at a party and they ask you what you do, how do you describe your job?

After years of having a lengthy title and multiple job responsibilities, I am excited to be able to tell fellow party-goers that I and the Trust work to preserve significant National Treasures across the country.

What all does your job entail?

Currently, I am working on our Texas Courthouses National Treasure campaign, partnering with the Texas Historical Commission and Preservation Texas to raise awareness of and secure funding for the very successful Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program.  I am also traveling to towns across my new state meeting with local partners to identify future National Treasure projects in the Lone Star State. 

Tell us about your experiences and/or education that got you to this point.

Before coming to work at the National Trust, I completed my Masters degree in historic preservation at the University of South Carolina and gained experience in the U.S. and the United Kingdom in various preservation positions during and after graduate school.  Previously, I was a politico, working in Washington, D.C. and several state capitols both legislatively and on election campaigns.  My proverbial apple didn’t fall too far from the tree -- both of my parents and my sister are all in preservation and sustainability-related fields. 

What do you love about your job?

I love the ability to seek out new and nationally significant stories and places in need of National Trust assistance.  Preserving a structure and/or site doesn’t happen overnight, so projects ebb and flow, and I relish having multiple ongoing projects in different phases of restoration or reuse. 

What are your priorities right now? What projects are at the top of your list?

My top priority right now is the Texas Courthouses National Treasure project. The National Trust will be transitioning from advocacy as the Texas legislative session wraps up to working with three specific counties to help them overcome hurdles in restoring their courthouses. 

What is the most frequently asked question you hear in your position? How do you answer it?

Where can I find money to preserve a structure or site?  I direct folks to the National Trust preservation funds, a great resource for early planning and assessment.  Every preservation project needs strategic and smart planning to be a successful “save.” 

It’s 2018 and you are reminiscing about all the things you’ve accomplished over the past five years. What do you hope to say?

In 2018 I hope we have successfully restored each historic courthouse in Texas thanks to the wildly popular and universally supported Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program!  Additionally, we’ve worked with Texas partners to save and reuse Houston’s Astrodome, San Antonio’s Confluence Theater, Rosenwald Schools dotting the East Texas landscape, Henry Trost buildings in El Paso, and the many, many other significant historic structures and landscapes across Texas.  Most importantly, I plan to be proud of my role in growing the preservation movement in Texas and around the county as we engage new and diverse audiences who value the vibrant culture and communities preservation builds. 

You’ve got a free weekend to take a road trip in Texas. Where do you want to go and what do you want to do?

Everywhere. I’m so new, and short of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Texas is new territory for me. I have Marfa, Marathon, and Big Bend on my short list, but I’m anxious to see all four corners (or 10 as I count them) of my adopted state. 

Where is your office? How can people get in touch with you?

The Houston Field Office of the National Trust is a home office (so please don’t come a callin’ without contacting me first!). Feel free to contact me at bwiedower@savingplaces.org or 870.816.0774, or check out the National Trust’s new website, savingplaces.org.

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Comments

What a treasure and enthusiasm you bring to TEXAS! Go NORTH west Young lady !! Come experience the top 52 Counties that make up THE Texas PLAINS TRAIL Region. Learn more about our annual TOURISM ROUND UP in Canadian Tx Aug 7-8.
Paula

Thanks for the work you are doing to preserve Texas courthouses. There seems to be, however, not much interest in courthouses that no longer in use. They are merely abandoned and let to rot. The one Oakville in Live Oak County comes to mind but I'm sure there are others. What a shame. Hopefully, this will change. Thanks again for your work.

Thanks for your comment. There’s not really a short answer, so here goes…

The Oakville courthouse in Live Oak County that you refer to is privately owned, and has not served as a county courthouse for nearly 100 years (the county seat was moved in 1919). While we find the loss of any former courthouse disappointing, the law provides funding for county governments—and not private individuals—to restore a historic courthouse. Courthouses that remain county owned and are no longer in use are still eligible for funding through the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program, but functioning courthouses are more apt to receive funding, as they score higher in the grant application process. Our program is a matching grant program with Texas counties, which play an integral role in a courthouse restoration and securing funding from the state. There are other grant opportunities for private owners of historic buildings to pursue if they choose to do so. Thanks again for your interest in historic buildings!