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NTCIC Former Board Chair Discusses African American Preservation as an Economic Development Tool

Written By: NTCIC

NTCIC’s immediate past Chairman, Irvin Henderson, recently sat down with Novogradac & Company to discuss how the collaborative efforts of preservationists, advocacy networks, and financial institutions are saving treasured cultural spaces and how tax credit investments are helping to create a “renaissance of African American historic preservation placemaking.”

African American Preservation as an Economic Development Tool

Originally published in the Novogradac Journal of Tax Credits Volume 12 Issue 2 by Irvin Henderson

Preservation as an economic development tool has often been cited in this and other journals as an important means of urban and rural redevelopment. Cultural heritage tourism and the recognition of underserved communities’ contributions to America’s history and culture are twin drivers of the appreciation of space with linkages to these drivers. The combination of these two phenomena have ushered in a renaissance of African American historic preservation placemaking.

Throughout the history of America, there have been many contributors from the African American, Latino, Native American, and Asian communities that have not received recognition for their legacy of service and import and consequently, the structures and spaces associated with the accomplishments and architectural significance of these Americans have also not received the recognition and preservation that is deserved. However, thanks to many efforts by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Park Service (NPS)–as well as other entities such as Preservation North Carolina, led by Myrick Howard–these wonderful spaces and structures are benefiting from more interest and more resources for revitalization and restoration.

Irvin Henderson presenting at a recent Main Street Now conference

Several years ago, the National Trust for Historic Preservation highlighted several such treasures and also encouraged the publication of a manual guiding African American historic preservation, written by Brent Leggs. Highlighting places such as the lavish estate of Madam C. J. Walker’s (America’s first female self-made millionaire) Villa Lewaro in Irvington, New York, the childhood home of songstress Nina Simone in North Carolina or the home of vaunted saxophonist John Coltrane in Philadelphia, has brought new attention and efforts for historic and cultural heritage preservation to these sites. It is important to note that the renewed interest has saved some of these cultural American gems, but not most.

Visit the Novogradac website to continue reading.