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  • American dreams (Weekly blog, 1 July 2018)

    Posted on July 2, 2018
    A blog by Catherine Leonard, Secretary-General

    I have just returned from New York where the American National Trust for Historic Preservation hosted our 2018 Trustees meeting.  What a week!  Two days in the boardroom at wonderful National Trust properties, Lyndhurst and the Philip Johnson Glass House.  A day in Newport RI with the amazing Preservation Society.  And various interesting and inspiring meetings in New York City.

    Trusting the Trustees

    We set out four objectives for our meeting in New York: to work on the Business Plan; to connect with the US National Trust; to firm up plans for the Bermuda Conference and to reach out to our American networks and contacts.   Our expectations were met and exceeded!   I’m incredibly grateful to Katherine Malone-France, Kelly Schindler and all the team for being so welcoming and supportive.   But most thanks go to our wonderful Trustees who travelled from far and wide to attend this important gathering.

    As I said in my opening remarks, June 2018 feels like a crucial ‘moment’ in the history of INTO. We have a new constitution, new sources of funding and new volunteers coming on board.  This was always going to be a pivotal Trustee meeting.   I therefore had big asks of the Trustees around priority setting and income diversification in the next five years.  And more immediately: How to make a success of Bermuda, Secretariat resourcing and succession planning.

    For me, it was the first outing of my new-found leadership skills and confidence.  (So a fourth element to add to constitution, funding and volunteers: A new me!)

    American dreams

    We started at the Trust’s Gothic masterpiece, Lyndhurst, home of railroad magnate Jay Gould.  The property was given to the American National Trust in 1961 and became a poster child for the preservation movement.  When we visited, a Tiffany exhibition was underway.  Louis Comfort Tiffany started his career in the Hudson Valley and Jay’s daughter Helen Gould was a significant patron.  Not only a fascinating exhibit in the stable block gallery, but also beautifully placed lamps throughout the whole house.    A triumph!

    Later we were joined by National Trust staff for bowling in the newly restored Bowling Alley, which was great fun.

    After our morning meeting the following day, we set off for New Canaan and the Philip Johnson Glass House.  Another incredible treat!  So different and yet both so American.   The experience started in the incredible Design Store, from where visitors are transfered to the site.  We then had a guided tour or rather ‘procession’ through the grounds, past follies (Da Monsta, the Studio and the enigmatic Ghost House) to the Picture and Sculpture Galleries.  Both recently restored by the American National Trust.   And finally to the Glass House itself, alongside the indispensable Brick House.  (Light and Shade.)  Truly breathtaking.  And here we were joined by our friends and contacts for a lovely evening.

    New York, New York

    The following day, Fiona and I travelled back to New York for meetings with the Royal Oak Foundation and Bonnie Burnham, formerly of the World Monuments Fund.  On Thursday, I then spent the day with the lovely Mary Anthony of the 1772 Foundation visiting the Newport Mansions.  A great meeting with Trudy Coxe and her senior management team.  And then a wonderful whistle-stop tour of the Breakers, Cornelius Vanderbilt’s Italian palazzo.

    On my last day in New York, I met with the American Express Foundation who have generously supported previous conferences.  I then went on to a meeting with Kevin Jennings, President of the Tenement Museum.  Wow.   So good to meet Kevin, who has a real social justice angle.   And to visit the Tenement Museum again.  (I last came in 2001!)   Took a great ‘Irish Outsiders’ tour with Irena which shed light on an immigrant family struggling with prejudice while celebrating their Irish identity in 1860s New York.  Inspirational.

    All in all, a wonderful week.  There’s more to come on the outcomes of the meeting – this is just the tourist bit!

    The last word goes to the wonderful Trustees of INTO.  Thank you for your friendship and presence in New York.   Thank you for everything you do for the Trust movement via your national organisations, for INTO and for me.

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