Each year the National Trust for Historic Preservation honors the distinguished individuals, nonprofit organizations, public agencies, and corporations who are doing important work in their communities with the National Preservation Awards at the annual PastForward Conference, November 2-5.
China Alley Preservation Society from Hanford, California was honored with the Trustees Emeritus Award for Historic Site Stewardship for their stewardship of the Taoist Temple Museum during the National Preservation Awards Ceremony on the evening of Thursday, November 4. The Trustees Emeritus Award for Historic Site Stewardship recognizes success and innovation in historic preservation, management, and programming at historic sites.
Steve Banister, China Alley Preservation Society Director of Operations said, “I am so grateful to the National Trust for Historic preservation for this prestigious award. They have really taken us under their wings during this tragic time. When I think of the effects of the Taoist Temple arson, I try to envision a silver lining. Now we can move forward with artifact conservation and building repairs to make China Alley better than ever.”
Arianne Wing, China Alley Preservation Society President added, “We are surprised and deeply honored to receive the award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The China Alley Preservation Society is a small, all volunteer army and we dedicate this award in loving memory to Camille Wing, a tireless and dedicated Hanford historian and China Alley preservationist.”
In the 1970s, the all-volunteer non-profit organization, China Alley Preservation Society, completed a stunning restoration of the Taoist Temple, bringing it back to its 19th Century origins. Over the last 50 years, they have maintained and preserved the Temple through its sustained use as a museum, tourism site, and place of worship. The restoration of the Taoist Temple catalyzed advocacy efforts by the Preservation Society to preserve the rest of China Alley, a short street featuring eleven historic buildings that’s origins date back to 1877 when many Chinese immigrated to the area. Since then, the organization has acquired most of the other buildings in China Alley and continues to be the leading steward of the community.
In May, a fire broke out in the front staircase of the Taoist Temple, causing severe heat and smoke damage to the temple room and its artifacts on the second floor. Just weeks before the fire, the Preservation Society had given a tour of the Temple to Hanford Fire Fighters meaning crews were already familiar with the layout of the building and the precious items inside when they responded to the call. Crews were careful with their use of water to contain the blaze, saving much of the historic fabric of the building and avoiding structural damage.
China Alley Preservation Society’s dedicated and proactive stewardship has ensured that the structures and cultural heritage of China Alley have been cared for and preserved for almost 50 years. Their care and vision continue to drive the revitalization and restoration of this important part of Chinese American history.
“The National Preservation Awards are an inspiring showcase of how historic preservation continues to evolve as a powerful force that builds stronger communities throughout our country,” said Paul Edmondson, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “This year’s PastForward theme is Lead the Change, and our award recipients truly are doing just that for particular places and for the national preservation movement. It is an honor to present the Trustees Emeritus Award for Historic Site Stewardship to China Alley Preservation Society for the important work they are doing in Hanford.”
The National Preservation Awards are bestowed on those whose skill and determination have made a positive impact in their communities through preservation of our architectural and cultural heritage. This year’s recipients demonstrate the power of new community-centered activations of important landmarks; the deep significance of cultural landscapes and their ongoing stewardship; the perseverance of individuals and organizations using historic places to tell the full, true history of our country; the importance of companies and crafts people whose work restores the richness of the past; and the visionary leadership of public officials who support preservation projects and legislation from the local to the federal level.
This year’s recipients were honored at the virtual National Preservation Awards ceremony hosted by television host and preservationist Bob Vila, who serves as a trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This year’s awards ceremony also included a special tribute to the late Richard H. Driehaus and his tremendous legacy of national and international preservation philanthropy. The event is part of PastForward Online 2021. The program can be viewed for free from SavingPlaces.org/Conference.