BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, what do you do?
RICHARD MOE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION: I have the privilege, Brian, of presiding over a wonderful organization. The National Trust was chartered by the Congress in 1949 to be the nation‘s leading historic preservation organization.
It started out focusing on house museums, we still do that, but we have broadened our wings. We have six regional offices around the country. We have 270,000 members. We have 28 sites. We are an advocacy organization. We are really the nation‘s leading all-purpose preservation organization, to try to raise the profile of preservation and to encourage public policies and private initiatives to make it happen.
LAMB: You have been doing it for almost 13 years.
MOE: I have been doing it -- I‘m now in my 14th year.
LAMB: How much federal taxpayer money goes into the National Trust?
MOE: Zero. And that has not always been the case. Because we are a congressionally chartered, we did for a long time receive significant federal funding. In 1995, we received $7 million out of a $30 million budget. So it was very significant funding. And, of course, it was more than half of our unrestricted funding, which is the hardest money to come by.
Well, at the time that the Congress took a very skeptical look at the all the congressionally funded cultural organizations, like the endowments and National Public Radio and so forth, we came under the same scrutiny. And there were efforts to eliminate our funding.
We fought them off, but they made some cuts in the committees. And we stepped back after that, after we forestalled the total cuts, we really asked ourselves, do we want to keep going down this road? And we decided we did not. So we in effect jumped off the cliff.
We negotiated a three-year phase-out of partial federal funding. And we started a huge capital campaign to build up our endowment and seek other private funding. So now we are about seven or eight years without any federal funds, and instead of a $30 million budget, we have a $50 million budget, entirely privately raised.
LAMB: Why haven‘t others done what you did?
MOE: That‘s a good question. Once you get in the federal pipeline, it‘s very easy to become reliant on that. And in fact it was very important to get the trust started in those early years because we were pursuing a congressionally mandated purpose. So it was perfectly legitimate funding.
But we wanted to get out of it because we wanted to chart our own course. We wanted to be independent. And we wanted to be an advocate on the Hill for preservation policies and other measures aside from our own funding, instead of being a special pleader. So we are very comfortable with that decision now. So, I think, is the Congress.
LAMB: I want to ask you about one of your purchases, to just -- walk you through it so you can explain how this works. What‘s the Farnsworth?
MOE: The Farnsworth House is a Mies van der Rohe house, as a matter of fact, it‘s the only house designed by Mies van der Rohe in the United States.
LAMB: And who is he?
MOE: He was a mid-century architect who -- a very distinguished modernist architect who did most of his work in Chicago, created the Institute of Illinois Technology campus. There are buildings of his all over the country, but he is one of the preeminent modernist architects, and deservedly so.
And this house that he designed and built is one of the most significant designed in America in the 20th Century. The only two houses that rank with it in my view are the Glass House of Philip Johnson‘s which we also own, and Falling Water, Frank Lloyd Wright‘s landmark house in Pennsylvania.
LAMB: Where is the Farnsworth House.
MOE: It‘s in Plano, Illinois, about an hour outside of Chicago, southwest of the city on the Fox River. And it was owned for many years by Lord Palumbo, who was a British collector. And he took very good care of it. He was a good steward.
It was -- suffered from a flood one year and he restored it. But for his own reasons he had to sell the property. And he turned it over to Sotheby‘s to be auctioned off. This is -- very seldom happened if ever in the history of this country for such a significant historic site to be auctioned off.
LAMB: What year?
MOE: This was two years ago. It was, you know, in 2003.
LAMB: So how did it come to your attention?
MOE: Well, we -- the Farnsworth House had always been on our radar screen because it is, as I say, one of the most significant houses designed in the 20th Century. And so we had been following it avidly. There had been other efforts made by -- principally by John Bryan, the former chairman and CEO of Sara Lee in Chicago, who loved this house, and who tried to persuade the state to buy it, and for a whole variety of reasons the state would not buy it.
So the only recourse at this point once it was put on auction was for us to rally our forces, and under John Bryan‘s leadership we did that. We raised $7.5 million and it was a real nail-biter at the end. We almost didn‘t get it.
LAMB: How did it work?
MOE: Well, we got a number of pledges, and then actually we didn‘t have enough pledges on the day of the auction, but there was an NPR story about this that most people could have thought we wrote, but we didn‘t. But it explained the significance of the house and the danger it faced and new pledges started coming in, and pledges were increased.
And we got up to New York and put our heads together and we all ponied up a little bit more. And we had a fellow by the name of Richard Gray, who is a wonderful art collector, has a gallery in Chicago, who was actually our bidder, because this is a very sophisticated business. We -- none of the rest of us had ever done this before.
So it got up to $6.5 million, which was the limit that we told Richard Gray that he could go to. We didn‘t have pledges beyond that. And that bidding hesitated at that point and all of a sudden he bid $6.7 million. And John Bryan leaned over to me and he said, you know, he‘s putting in his own money.
And that‘s in fact what he did. I mean, people were so committed to this cause, and we got it for $6.7 million, and then with $800,000 for the Sotheby fee, it was $7.5 million. But we were so pleased with that.
And we are partnership, I should say, with the Landmark Preservation Council of Illinois, our statewide partner. They are actually running it. We own it, they run it. And many people have been very helpful to us, including Speaker Hastert in whose district it resides.
LAMB: What difference does this make to anybody?
MOE: Somebody who was bidding against us wanted to move this building to some other location as a kind of a toy, kind of an art object in their back yard. That would have been a disaster because one of the most significant things about saving places like this is to keep it in its original location.
Mies van der Rohe designed this building to be on the banks of the Fox River. And it is in a sublime setting there. It is absolutely gorgeous. And to have moved it would have very seriously comprised its integrity. So we -- our backs were really against the wall, but fortunately we succeeded.
LAMB: So what does the public get out of this?
MOE: The public gets to see it and to enjoy it. It is now open to the public. And it‘s being beautifully run by the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois. And it‘s a little bit of a hike from the city out there. But it‘s well worth it. This is one of the great architectural treasures of our time.
LAMB: Can you remember when you first got interested in running the National Trust?
MOE: Yes. It was about 1992, right before I was offered the position, because this was not on my career plan.
LAMB: What were you doing then?
MOE: I was practicing law. After we left the White House I was semi-involuntarily practicing law.
LAMB: You were in the Carter White House?
MOE: I was in the Carter White House, right. And I was pursuing my interest in history and I wrote a history of the Minnesota regiment that had a very dramatic but tragic experience at Gettysburg.
And I got involved in Civil War battlefield preservation as a result of researching that book and got on the board of something called the Civil War Trust. And the head of that, Rod Heller, was also on the board of the National Trust and the search committee. And he persuaded me that this is something I should look at.
And the more I looked at it, the more interested I became, because it brought together my interest in law, politics, and especially history, which I love history.
LAMB: Physically where is the National Trust located?
MOE: The National Trust is located on Dupont Circle here in Washington. As I said, there are regional offices all over the country.
LAMB: Fifty million dollar budget, how many people work there?
MOE: Three hundred people work there, 200 here in Washington and the rest in offices and historical sites around the country.
LAMB: What‘s the best resume somebody can hand you to work at the National Trust?
MOE: Obviously work in historic preservation, education in historic preservation is very helpful, but not necessary. I came to the trust without a day‘s experience in historic preservation. I certainly hadn‘t studied it.
So it‘s not -- we need people who are technically proficient in architecture and other things, but the most important qualification is a passion for preserving great places.
LAMB: Where does that $50 million come from?
MOE: It comes from our members, our 270,000 members, from a major donor program that we have. People contribute anywhere from $20 up to $100,000 a year. We get a lot of foundation support for our programs. After we went off federal funding, we increased our foundation support almost 600 percent. So that has been a very, very satisfying development for us.
LAMB: Do you still serve on the Ford Foundation board?
MOE: I do serve on the Ford Foundation board.
LAMB: Why do you do that and do they support the National Trust?
MOE: They have, and they supported the National Trust before I joined the Ford Foundation board. Preservation is not one of their main areas of focus, but community development is, and that‘s primarily the area in which we have received funding from the Ford Foundation. Because preservation has really evolved over the years to becoming a force for community revitalization, a tool if you will, and that fits into that category.
LAMB: If I read the history, the Woodlawn Plantation was the first house…
MOE: It was.
LAMB: … that you (ph) bought. And what year did you buy that?
MOE: That was in the early 1950s. And it was given to the trust. And that was really -- that was symbolic of the purpose of the trust in those days. The trust was formed in large part because David Finley and other founders did not see another entity that could hold great houses and open them to the public.
LAMB: What is Woodlawn?
MOE: Woodlawn is a plantation in Mount Vernon, Virginia, about two miles from Mount Vernon itself. It was built with a donation from George Washington. There‘s a connection there. Nelly Custis, who was the granddaughter of Martha Washington, owned the house.
And we have added to that site a Frank Lloyd Wright house in a different part of the property. It‘s called the Pope-Leighey House, it was going to be demolished here back in the ‘70s by a highway, and so we raised the funds to move it there.
So there -- it‘s kind of a two-for-one experience for visitors to go out there. It‘s a wonderful site.
LAMB: Do you compete with anybody in our country for this kind of thing?
MOE: We do not. We do not. One of the things that I like the most about the preservation movement, it‘s smaller than the environmental movement, but we are all together, we are all together under one umbrella, whether we are supporting community revitalization or whether we are interested in heritage tourism or we are interested in house museums, we are all under the same roof.
And all of these things we find synergistic and reinforcing. And we like it that way. I have a great admiration for the environmental movement, but they are split up into a lot of different organizations, each of them individually doing good work, but I think they could benefit by having more unity together.
LAMB: Got some of the photos you have on your Web site from the Montpelier project and…
LAMB: Right there on the screen is…
LAMB: Do you happen to know what that is?
MOE: It looked like a plaster ceiling.
LAMB: And we are going to go through these photos just so people can get an idea, who is paying -- this is James Madison‘s home.
MOE: This is James Madison‘s home. And it has an interesting history because James Madison‘s grandfather actually started the property. Madison built the house with his -- built onto the house that his father had built.
After he died, Dolly Madison was compelled to sell the house and all of its belongings to pay her son‘s gambling debts.
LAMB: Let me just stop for a moment. This is -- I know from -- I don‘t know much about it, but I have been reading that you were going to take it back before the duPonts owned it…
MOE: That‘s right.
LAMB: … to the original Madison house. Does that mean that part of this comes off?
MOE: That‘s right. The duPonts bought the house at the turn of the century, William duPont, and added a -- basically tripled the size of the original Madison house.
LAMB: That‘s from the front.
MOE: Yes. And we have long wanted to take it back to the original Madison house. Thanks to a very generous grant from the estate of Paul Mellon, who loved Northern Virginia, loved preservation, we have taken this back.
It is now the Montpelier Foundation, our partner who runs this site is doing a superb job of taking that off.
LAMB: So some more stills here from this project. There are some folks taking things in. When will this project be finished?
MOE: I believe it will be finished in 2008.
LAMB: And what is the total cost?
MOE: The total cost of the restoration of the house will be about $23 million, I believe. But they are building a new visitors center. There is a foundation to study the Constitution there. There are a lot of things going on at Montpelier all together. So they are all together raising about $60 million.
LAMB: Do you control what is happening there yourself?
MOE: We work as a partner with the Montpelier Foundation. This is true with most of our historic sites. It‘s what we call a co-stewardship arrangement. We own the site. We have stewardship responsibilities. And we work collaboratively with the governing foundation, which in this case is the Montpelier Foundation.
LAMB: And that‘s the original duPont version of it, which has now been torn down…
MOE: That‘s correct.
LAMB: … and changed.
MOE: That‘s correct. And those wings are largely reduced.
LAMB: What took so long for this country to recognize James Madison in this regard?
MOE: That is a really good question. I wish I had a really good answer. James Madison…
LAMB: Where does he fit on your own interest?
MOE: Well, I think -- you know, he is one of the great giants. I mean, I love the Revolutionary period and the founding fathers. And I think because he was such a diminutive person, and so self-effacing in person, he didn‘t make as large an impression and have as large a presence as Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, some of his contemporaries.
And yet he was really the architect of the Constitution, of course. And this is the house where he did a lot of the thinking and a lot of the writing that went into what we regard as our greatest founding document.
So we are trying very hard with the Montpelier Foundation to give him his due. This is going to be a great visitor experience when it‘s finished. It‘s a great visitor experience now because it‘s still open to the public while the restoration is going on.
LAMB: Do you own this house?
MOE: We own this house.
LAMB: When did you buy it?
MOE: It was left to us by Marion duPont Scott, married earlier to Randolph Scott. And she was the daughter of William duPont, who had originally bought it. And that was in 1983.
But it came to us -- it was supposed to come to us with an endowment of $10 million and 800 acres. But after some litigation, which was very complex and I won‘t trouble you with, we got 2700 acres and only $2 million.
So we never had an adequate endowment to do right by this place. And we struggled with it, frankly, for 15 years. And now we have raised the money for the restoration and we are building an endowment, and the Montpelier Foundation was doing an absolutely spectacular job. And thanks to this grant from Paul Mellon‘s estate, this restoration is now possible.
LAMB: Why does the Paul Mellon estate want to support this? Where does that come from?
MOE: Because Paul Mellon had a great interest in history. First of all, Paul Mellon -- Paul Mellon‘s father, Andrew Mellon, he -- the building in which we are located at Dupont Circle is named after Andrew Mellon, because he lived on the top floor when he was secretary of the treasury. And that‘s a great story in itself.
And his protege was David Finley at the Treasury Department, and later became the first director of the National Gallery when Andrew Mellon basically gave the United States government the money to build the National Gallery.
So there has always been a strong Mellon connection to the National Trust. And Paul Mellon I came to know several years before he died, and he was a wonderful human being who loved history, loved Northern Virginia.
He asked that we put some effort into this Montpelier project, and he has been very supportive.
LAMB: Who is your governing board?
MOE: Our governing board, it‘s a self-sustaining board, totally independent, although we do have three statutory members, the attorney general, the secretary of the interior, and curiously, the director of the National Gallery. And we have several other ex officio members.
But these are -- we have a board that is really terrific. They are from all over the country. They are diverse in every possible way. And they are especially -- but they all had one thing in common, they loved preservation. There is not a member of that board that doesn‘t really care about some aspect of preservation.
And happily they care about different aspects of it. So it‘s -- and it‘s a very collegial board. We meet three times a year in different parts of the country for two or three days. We are about to go to Cincinnati for a meeting at the Freedom Center out there. And it‘s a great board. I have been very privileged to work with this board.
LAMB: I surfed around the Internet and found something that you may or may not even have read. It‘s by somebody by the name of Mark Satin? Have you hear this?
MOE: I don‘t think so.
LAMB: It‘s called "Radical Middle Newsletter." I have no idea what it is.
MOE: Don‘t know of it.
LAMB: But he went to one of your – went to the 1999 preservation -- the National Trust for Historic Preservation Conference. And he said there were 2,500 people there?
MOE: That‘s about right.
LAMB: So you have 2,500 come every year…
MOE: Every year, it‘s a wonderful event. It‘s the best thing we do.
LAMB: He said: "I was convinced the conference would be hopelessly, paralyzingly boring, whenever I thought of preservation, I thought of professional antiquarians, architectural historians, septuagenarian rich people angling to preserve dead rich people‘s houses with taxpayers‘ money. So before deciding to go I got a hold of Richard Moe‘s book, ‘Changing Places: Rebuilding Community in an Age of Sprawl.‘ Moe, you may recall, was Walter Mondale‘s longtime chief of staff, he disappeared back into the legal profession."
He goes on and on. He said: "Well, I couldn‘t have been more pleased. The book is a passionate, even militant, call to revive, not just preserve, main streets everywhere, reinvent downtowns, revitalize neighborhoods, and draws much of its blow-by-blow detail from the trust‘s own recent activities. I immediately called in for my press pass."
MOE: Well, isn‘t he a perceptive fellow.
LAMB: What about that book?
MOE: Well, I wrote that book with Carter Wilkie, he was my co-author, a few years back. And it was really -- I wrote it for several reasons. As I mentioned earlier, preservation has really become over the last several decades a tool for community revitalization.
And I wanted to kind of bring all that together and to make the case for it in a document, not just in large cities and neighborhoods, but in small towns. And one of the great -- he made reference to the Main Street program.
Twenty-five years ago the National Trust started the Main Street program, which means that we go in with teams of technical people to work with local business communities, first in the Midwest and small towns that have deteriorated from competition from malls and big box retailers and so forth, and we have come up with a strategy to revitalize downtowns, make them competitive again.
And it‘s not just preservation, but it does involve sprucing the place up, taking off the covers of these wonderful old buildings and getting public investments and infrastructure.
LAMB: Give us an example.
MOE: Warrenton, Virginia, is a very good example of a Main Street town that is now very attractive, very viable. They don‘t necessarily compete with the big box retailers head on, you know, you can‘t compete with them on cheap underwear, but you can find the niches of goods and services that the local community wants.
LAMB: So how did it work? Who came to you?
MOE: On the Main Street program?
MOE: We started this as an experiment in our Midwest office. We saw the need there. This long precedes my arrival, but as I say, we have been at it for 25 years. We are now -- we have now been in 1,800 communities all over the country working in these downtowns, bringing them back.
And now we have moved into the major cities as well, not the downtowns of the major cities, but the neighborhood retail districts, like here in Washington, Baltimore, Boston. We are working in literally scores of neighborhood communities, revitalizing those retailers.
LAMB: On the Main Street project, how does it work? Say somebody is watching this and they are from a town and they want some help?
MOE: They can call our Main Street Center at the National Trust, or look at -- look it up at nationaltrust.org, on our Web site and make contact with us. Most states have a Main Street program that‘s funded through the state government. And they provided modest funding for a statewide coordinator.
And then they retain us to come in with our technical people, and we together select maybe five or six cities a year, towns a year to work with. And as I say, it takes a willing business community to make this happen. But it‘s a formula that works. And we would like to say that it shows that preservation is not just good for the soul, but it‘s good for the pocketbook too.
LAMB: Back to this -- I guess this would be a blog, or maybe it‘s a newsletter, "Radical Middle Newsletter," that‘s what it is called, by Mark Satin. He goes to your meeting that year in ‘99, then he writes some more about what he sees there.
"And suddenly there I was at the trust‘s opening plenary. Thousands of well-dressed, carefully coiffed people all around me, architects, city planners, heads of local preservation committees, elected officials, community activists, development consultants. Baby Boomers, mostly, pale-skinned mostly, but what struck me most was how gentle this crowd was, even sweet."
"I don‘t think I have ever been to a conference where so many people looked so thoughtful or so many people unselfishly put their heads on their partner‘s shoulders not for these folks for neurosis born of too many ill-planned and underfunded civic campaigns, more often than not, their projects succeeded and they carried themselves like winners."
MOE: Well, I‘m going to get to know him better. That‘s a very…
LAMB: I have no idea who he is, but I thought it was interesting.
MOE: I don‘t either, but these conferences really are great. They bring together both professionals and volunteers who just have one thing in common, they have a passion for preservation. They learn from each other. We always contribute something to the city we are in and we take a lot away from it. They are wonderful events. I look forward to them every year.
LAMB: He mentions though that people were pale-skinned. And it‘s something that as you go to -- from historic spots around this country, you see a very small population of African-Americans attending, why do you think that‘s the case?
MOE: That‘s changing. We have made a huge commitment to diversity at the National Trust, and not just the faces around the table, on the staff and the board and so forth, but in terms of our programs.
Many of our revitalization programs are taking place in inner cities, in minority communities and some rural communities. And so the perception of, and the engagement of minority communities in preservation is changing.
In some places you will find skepticism because you will see too many pale faces or you will see the threat of gentrification, which is legitimate in some cases. But I think we are making a persuasive case and we are making a lot of progress in terms of working particularly with the African-American community.
We haven‘t made as much progress with the Hispanic community, but the African-American community I think is really getting it. And they are engaging with us in large numbers. And it‘s very satisfying to see.
LAMB: Can see also that you were involved in September 11th and in Katrina. How did you fit into those bad moments?
MOE: We helped set up a fund after September 11th to help property owners in the affected area of Lower Manhattan and with our local partners in New York. And that was quite successful.
Katrina is a much greater challenge. This is by far the largest challenge preservation has ever faced I think in the history of this country. Just to give you the scale of it, in New Orleans alone there are 19 national registered districts covering half the area of the city. They contain 37,000 historic structures, most of them were damaged. Mississippi, some 2,000 historic structures were damaged.
So we have our work cut out for us. We have opened an office in New Orleans and in Gulfport, Mississippi. We are working with our state and local partners. We are trying to raise serious funding to give gap -- provide gap financing for moderate and low income owners of historic homes, which in New Orleans are the -- you know, the shotgun houses, the Creole cottages, and the historic bungalows.
We think this is the critical difference that we can make. So we are very aggressively pursuing that strategy. And we are going to be there for some time to come.
LAMB: Do you ever -- what year did you stop taking the federal funds?
MOE: It was 1998.
LAMB: Do you ever regret doing that?
MOE: No. No, every day I pick up the paper and see about some cultural fund being cut back further, I thank my lucky stars that we did that. And believe me, there is nobody at the trust that regrets that.
LAMB: How big is your endowment?
MOE: Our endowment is now about $165 million. It was about $35 million when I came. It‘s -- we are still under-capitalized, particularly on the unrestricted side. So we will be focusing on that in coming years.
LAMB: How do you use your endowment?
MOE: Most of our endowment is dedicated to either a specific historic site or a specific program at the trust. Only about 30 to 35 of it is unrestricted, which means it could pay the light bill and the overhead.
So -- but we have focused in recent years on building up funds, grant funds that are endowed for particular states or communities, or for particular regional areas of the country. Our regional offices then sift through applications for these grants to try to stimulate projects, particularly at the beginning-end.
And what we have found, Brian, is that over the years, just a small grant of a couple of thousand dollars and the imprimatur of the National Trust can be very effectively leveraged to get a preservation project started, if somebody in Dubuque, Iowa, wants to start to restore the train station there or something similar to that.
So we work with our state and local partners to try to get those kinds of projects under way.
LAMB: When you were 32 years old, you were chairman of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota.
MOE: I was.
LAMB: How did you get that job?
MOE: I ran for it, before I knew what I was doing.
LAMB: What had been doing before that?
MOE: I was not -- I was actually not the youngest state chairman they had ever had. Orville Freeman was 31 when he was the state DFL chairman of Minnesota.
LAMB: Former secretary of agriculture.
MOE: Former secretary of agriculture.
LAMB: Governor of Minnesota.
MOE: Former governor of Minnesota, great, great man. I was there for three years and Minnesota politics was unique back then. I think it‘s less unique today. But we had a very proud tradition, starting with Hubert Humphrey and Gene McCarthy and Walter Mondale and Don Fraser and so many others.
It was a citizen-based, issue-oriented kind of politics. There were very few professionals. So when I went to work for the DFL Party, I was only about one of about maybe six people in the whole state who was being paid for being in politics full-time.
Well, I loved being chairman of the DFL because we had as our first and top goal control of the state legislature for the first time in the history of the state. And we accomplished it over the 1970 and ‘72 elections.
LAMB: Is there still a DFL Party in Minnesota?
MOE: There is a DFL Party.
LAMB: How does it differ from the Democratic Party?
MOE: It doesn‘t. It doesn‘t. It used to because in 1944 Hubert Humphrey forced a merger of the Democratic Party and the Farmer-Labor Party. The Farmer-Labor Party was very a populist and very successful and the more liberal party in the ‘30s; Floyd B. Olson and others played a very significant role through the Depression.
But Hubert Humphrey knew that you could never win statewide elections until you put the two parties together. So he did that in 1943, I think. And then he ran for mayor of Minneapolis in 1944. I may have that year off. But then he ran for the Senate in ‘48 with the unified party and got elected to the Senate.
LAMB: What do you and Bob Dylan have in common?
MOE: Bob Dylan and I were born in Duluth, Minnesota.
LAMB: About the same year?
MOE: We were not close, if we ever ran across each other -- I don‘t know exactly how old Bob Dylan is. I think he‘s a little younger.
LAMB: I think he‘s about 64 or something.
MOE: He certainly has a better voice.
LAMB: And Duluth was what for you? I know it was your hometown, but what do you remember from Duluth?
MOE: Well, I go back there often. I went back to the university this last summer. It‘s a wonderful place to grow up. And I lived there for the first 16, 17 years of my life. My father was a physician. My mother was a kindergarten teacher.
And I just can‘t imagine a happier childhood. And I had the very good fortune to marry a girl from Duluth. Our parents knew each other. It was not, as some believe, an arranged marriage, but it has last now 41 years very happily.
And I love Duluth. And it‘s a city that is now recovering, now realizing its potential I think. There are many historic resources there that I didn‘t pay much attention to frankly when I was there.
LAMB: Have you done anything for Duluth with your…
LAMB: … National Trust?
MOE: Yes. We have an arrangement with the Knight Foundation, of the Knight-Ridder newspapers. And we have gone in there and done an assessment of the historic properties in Duluth, working with our local partners. And we are trying to invest in some properties there that can really showcase the history of Duluth and revitalize the downtown. So I love going back to Duluth, doing that.
LAMB: Williams College, University of Minnesota Law School, what impact did those two places have on you?
MOE: Well, Williams College I got my first interest in politics. I regret to say I did not have enough interest in history at that point and I really shortchanged myself in exposing myself to history
But I did get exposed to James MacGregor Burns, Michael Bechloss and I have that in common. And as a matter of fact, the first campaign I ever worked in was Jim Burns‘ campaign against Silvio Conte in the Western District of Massachusetts.
LAMB: What, he ran against him?
MOE: Yes, in 1958, it was an open seat.
LAMB: For Congress.
MOE: For Congress. And I loved Jim Burns, but he was a lot better professor than he was a candidate. Silvio Conte won the election and held the seat for a generation.
LAMB: And he‘s still active. You still see him writing.
MOE: He‘s still active, absolutely, out there at the University of Maryland, you know.
LAMB: How did he get you interested?
MOE: Basically by -- he had a course on American politics which involved a lot of American history. And it just stimulated me. And I also got very interested in the Adlai Stevenson campaign of ‘56. And I will never forget going over to Adams, Massachusetts, which is an old mill town not far away, and I saw John F. Kennedy speaking during his reelection campaign in 1958, which was not a real contest, but that was pretty exciting stuff.
So I got very interested in politics at Williams College. And then I pursued it before I went to law school. I came back and worked -- was a volunteer in Hubert Humphrey‘s campaign, spent a year in the mayor‘s office, a year in the lieutenant governor‘s office, and then the lieutenant governor said, look, young man, you had better get yourself into law school. Someday you may lose a campaign and then what are you going -- the best advice I ever had even though I had never really planned to practice law.
LAMB: How did you meet Walter Mondale?
MOE: I first met Walter Mondale when I was a volunteer in 1960. And he was running for election in his own right as attorney general for the first time. And he was enjoying the evening because he was winning quite handsomely.
And then I got to know him quite well over the next decade. And then, of course, when I was DFL chairman we worked closely together. And he invited me to come down to Washington in 1972, which I did after that election.
LAMB: Four years as his chief of staff?
MOE: In the Senate, and then four years in the White House.
LAMB: One moment in the Senate that you will always remember?
MOE: Well, there were many exciting moments. But I remember one of the great old moments was going up to Stan Kimmitt‘s office. Stan Kimmitt was the secretary of the senate. When they had the late night sessions, you would go up there and there was Jim Eastland and Gaylord Nelson and some of the great bulls of the Senate.
And it didn‘t make any difference what their politics were, there were all kinds of people. They were sitting around drinking Scotch and telling war stories. And I loved those moments. You know, this was an education that you couldn‘t otherwise get.
And every so often Senator Mondale would ask me to come and have lunch with him or have a drink with him and Gaylord Nelson. Gaylord Nelson was one of my heroes too, wonderful man.
LAMB: What about Walter Mondale got you interested in him?
MOE: He was very much in the tradition of Minnesota politics, the tradition that drew me to the DFL Party, very public service oriented, came from a very modest background. He -- we were basically in sync I think on issues and temperament. We both have a Norwegian background, which helped a lot.
And I just liked him a lot and I liked working with him, and I always did. And those were some wonderful moments in both the Senate and the White House.
LAMB: What‘s a moment you remember from the White House?
MOE: Well, again, there are many. They were mostly good moments, but I remember being up at Camp David during that very difficult period before the -- before President Carter‘s energy speech that was -- there was a lot of very troublesome stuff going on there, so I remember. And we had some differences, frankly, with the Carter people.
But let me say, the thing that was most satisfying about being in the White House was helping Vice President Mondale to make that office become something that it wasn‘t before.
And I think thanks to President Carter, who deserves enormous credit for this, the vice presidency has been changed forever. He, to his credit, saw the office as a wasted asset, the only other nationally elected official, and somebody who could be an across-the-board advisor to him.
So he and Mondale talked about this a lot. And I was privileged to be in some of these conversations and to help shape them and develop the office. And basically what President Carter did was that he invited his vice president to attend any meeting that he, the president, had, and to be in the paper flow for all the information that was coming to the president.
And having seen, he asked us why the vice presidency hadn‘t worked before. And my impression was that it -- because the senior White House staff had undercut any assertive vice president.
We saw Hubert Humphrey suffer in this office, in Lyndon Johnson‘s White House. It wasn‘t so much Johnson, but it was the senior White House staff. And the same thing in the Gerald Ford White House where Nelson Rockefeller was vice president.
And so President Carter told his staff, he said, I want you to respond to the vice president‘s request as if it came from me. And he said, if I hear any of you cutting these people off -- or cutting him off at the legs or undercutting him, you are out of here.
Well, that sent a message that no president had ever sent before. And he had the first office in the West Wing of the White House. He had a regular weekly lunch with the president. These are -- I think that office has now been totally transformed.
And we see it -- we have seen it in every administration since, and particularly in the current administration where I think Vice President Cheney, regardless of how you view him politically, has been by far the most influential vice president in the history of our country.
LAMB: So you are a longtime observer of things in this town. So what is the difference between the way this town operating today and when you were here in the ‘70s?
MOE: Well, Brian, the culture has changed so much. It‘s so polarized. And this not news to anybody who has been here. But it‘s so partisan. You know, you used to be able to go to the Hill and really work across the aisle.
I remember being in the Senate there, and even in our White House years, we could work across the aisle quite well. But it‘s harder to do that all the time. And we have this 24-hour campaign. And we have consultants. And we have a dynamic here that tends to politicize everything.
And everything is seen through the campaign-type prism. And I think that‘s -- well, there is a great loss. I mean, government should be about making good policy. And it‘s hard to do that when politics play such a huge role.
LAMB: So you have a staff of 300, a budget of $50 million a year, offices at Dupont Circle, six regional offices around the country. You mention Chicago, New York…
MOE: San Francisco, Fort Worth, Charleston, South Carolina.
LAMB: You mentioned earlier, 28 historic sites that you own?
MOE: We don‘t own them all, we own the vast majority of them. In a few cases we have long-term relationships with the entities that own them so that we treat them as if they were our sites in terms of the funding and services that we provide to them. A good example of that is the Lincoln Cottage here in Washington.
LAMB: What is your favorite spot of all?
MOE: It‘s the Lincoln Cottage. I love the Lincoln Cottage.
LAMB: Where is the Lincoln Cottage?
MOE: This was known as the Soldiers‘ Home in Lincoln‘s time. It‘s three miles north of the Capitol. And it‘s where -- it was built by Andrew -- or by George W. Riggs Jr. of the banking family in the 1840s. The U.S. government acquired it in the ‘50s as the first retirement home for enlisted personnel.
And Abraham Lincoln heard about it from President Buchanan on the day of his inauguration, because Buchanan had spent some time there. Lincoln went out there the day after his inauguration and said, yes, this is where -- I know I need a refuge. I know I need a retreat.
But he never really got to spend time there until 1862 because the Civil War broke out. But from ‘62 on, he would move himself, his family, his household staff, and his household furniture from the White House to the Soldiers‘ Home from June through November.
And Mary Lincoln would, for the most part, stay there, and President Lincoln would commute. He was Washington‘s first commuter, either by horseback or carriage. And he loved this place. And it has tremendous historical significance.
I think -- and I can get a good argument on this in Illinois, but I think it‘s the most important Lincoln site in the country because it‘s the only one that honors his presidency, which is why we honor Lincoln.
LAMB: What‘s the status of it today?
MOE: It‘s owned by the Armed Forces Retirement Home, but we have a long-term 50-year agreement with them to restore it. The restoration is well under way. We have completely the exterior restoration of the cottage. We are now about to begin the interior and we are designing exhibits together with visitors, an education center next door.
And we have raised $10 million out of a $12.5 million budget. We need to raise an endowment after that. But I think this is an enormously exciting project. And it will open on September 22nd, 2007. That‘s that anniversary of the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. There is good reason to think that Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation there.
LAMB: When you are dealing with a place like this, what are the controversies that we never here about or see?
MOE: Well, there are often controversies with the neighborhood in which you are located, if you are expecting public visitors to come in. Now that has not been a problem here. I don‘t think it will be because we have reached out to the communities.
We have a similar problem with Philip Johnson‘s -- not problem, but it was an issue with Philip Johnson‘s Glass House in New Canaan, since we are going to open that in a couple of years to the public, and it‘s in a residential neighborhood. So we have to be sensitive to that.
There are always cost issues, raising money is always our biggest challenge for whatever we are involved in.
LAMB: Like for instance, in the Lincoln House, who spent some money with you on this?
MOE: Well, the Congress had put some money into it. And thanks to Senator Mike DeWine and Senator Sam Brownback from Kansas, they have both chaired the Senate D.C. Appropriations Subcommittee. And they are both happily big Lincoln fans and they both visited the cottage. And they have been very supportive.
LAMB: But you said you didn‘t take federal money.
MOE: No, but this is -- for operating purposes we don‘t take federal money. We take some grants for specific projects like this. Robert Smith of Northern Virginia, who has been a wonderful friend of history and a friend of preservation has been very generous with us.
Others -- and we are going to name the visitor‘s center after him, it‘s going to be the Robert H. Smith Visitor‘s and Education Center. And other individuals and corporations and foundations have been helpful. So we have been very fortunate.
LAMB: Do donors want their name on things?
MOE: Not always. Some do. I had to talk Bob Smith into it because I thought it was so warranted. Some do. But we don‘t have a lot of demand for that.
LAMB: When you want to restore a house like this, how hard is it to find craftsmen?
MOE: Actually we have not had difficulty finding craftsmen. We find very good architectural firms to work, and they help us to find the right craftsmen. But we have been very fortunate, because these are unique structures, and they were built at a different time with different materials and different skills.
I think there are some issues in some parts of the country in finding the right kinds of craftsmen and passing these crafts along from generation to generation. I know. There are some schools focusing on this. There is a school in Charleston called the School of the Building Arts that is focused on this. But to my -- in our experience in our own sites, we have not had difficulty.
LAMB: So 2009 is the big 200-year anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln.
LAMB: Is the 2007 opening a part of planning for that and what are you going to do?
MOE: Yes. Yes, we are going to be coordinating this with the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. And so we will be opening that and hopefully having many events appropriate to the anniversary up there.
The other thing we are going to do, I should say, and we are very eager to work with the commission and others on this, we are going to set up a -- establish a center for the study of the Lincoln presidency modeled very much after Monticello and what Dan Jordan has done so wonderfully for Mr. Jefferson.
He puts it so well. It‘s not just a matter of conserving Mr. Jefferson‘s place, but his ideas. And that‘s what we want to do with Abraham Lincoln as well. So we will be -- we want to have visiting scholars. We want to sponsor lectures and symposia all around the Lincoln presidency.
And this does not now exist, certainly here in Washington, but I don‘t think anywhere in the country.
LAMB: And this spot is located where from -- like we are right on Capitol Hill, where is this house.
MOE: It‘s directly three miles north of here near Rock Creek Cemetery, right across North Capitol from Catholic University.
LAMB: And Abraham Lincoln spent how long in that house?
MOE: He spent basically a quarter of his presidency there. He would -- it‘s unbelievable. It was really the Camp David of the 19th Century. Other presidents used it after him, but never to the extent that he did. I mean, this was a very special place to him.
LAMB: Home & Garden TV gave you a million dollars.
MOE: They did.
MOE: We have a wonderful partnership with HGTV, as we do with some others, because they want -- they have always supported historic preservation. We together use that money to fund restoration projects and now community revitalization projects all over the country.
And it‘s a wonderful partnership. And they also help promote our work on the air, on HGTV, which is a very widely watched program. And it has been a terrific partnership. We sponsor a gala with them every year. We are now in, I think, our fourth year of partnership with them. They like it, we like it. We hope it keeps going.
LAMB: Do you ever turn money down?
MOE: Yes. Yes.
LAMB: How? Why?
MOE: We have turned money down because it was inappropriate. In one case we were offered some money from an individual whose property we held a protective easement on. And that‘s a little complicated. But we were the custodian of the protection of that property by a legal instrument that protected it. And we thought it would -- it could compromise our position if we took a major donation from that individual. And twice we chose not to and it was a significant contribution.
LAMB: Two hundred and seventy thousand members, how much does it cost them?
MOE: At least $20, but most of them contribute quite a bit more.
LAMB: And what do they get for that?
MOE: They get a wonderful award-winning magazine called "Preservation," it‘s a bimonthly organization. A lot of other communications from us, and the satisfaction of knowing that they are helping to serve -- save America‘s heritage.
LAMB: What are the -- a couple of years ago, I‘m -- give me the date on it, there were 11 -- you had designated 11 spots endangered, historical spots in the country. Why 11? When do you do it? And where are they?
MOE: Well, we do it every year. And we have done it for about 18 years now. It started before I came. And it has been a wonderful vehicle, frankly, for bringing attention to threatened historic places all over the country.
So every year in May or June we announce this list of 11. I‘m not quite sure why it was 11, but I think either one of the my predecessors couldn‘t count or they couldn‘t get it down to 10. I‘m not quite sure what the real story is. But it has remained at 11 and it works for us.
LAMB: Give us an example.
MOE: Well, at one point the Lincoln Cottage was on it. Another example here was Congressional Cemetery, which has a wonderful story. This almost always has a positive effect, putting something on this list. When we put Congressional Cemetery on it, the headstones were falling over. It was overgrown with brush and grass.
LAMB: John Philip Sousa and J. Edgar Hoover…
MOE: J. Edgar Hoover, they are all out there, you know the place.
LAMB: Matthew Brady.
MOE: Right. Exactly. And two master sergeants at Andrews Air Force Base here saw the History Channel special on it. And they said, you know, Congressional Cemetery, we could do something about that.
So over the next two weekends, they got 1,000, quote, "volunteers," being master sergeants they could get…
LAMB: A thousand?
MOE: A thousand volunteers to come in and cut the grass and reset the headstones and fix it up and it would look like a different place.
LAMB: In one weekend?
MOE: Two weekends. On two weekends. And the…
LAMB: And when did they do this?
MOE: This was right after we announced it. I think this was in the late ‘90s that we did this. And there is an organization, a wonderful group working to preserve this place, raising serious money, the Congress put up a million dollars for an endowment and -- even though the Congress doesn‘t own it, it‘s called Congressional Cemetery, but it‘s privately owned. But this is where they took deceased senators and representatives before refrigerated cars and formaldehyde.
And so it‘s a great piece of our history. So we feel that we were able to bring some positive benefit to that. And we always have a strategy, Brian, when we put something on the list, we always try to have a strategy to follow up and to help remove the threat, whatever it is.
LAMB: And over the years -- over 18 years, you are talking about, you know, a hundred and some, 80-something or…
MOE: That‘s right.
LAMB: … 90-something sites. How did -- what has happened over those years?
MOE: Well, as I say, by far the vast majority of them have benefited from our involvement and our help. We have lost a couple.
LAMB: Can you name some that you have lost?
MOE: We lost the Mapes Hotel a few years ago in Reno, Nevada. It was a wonderful art deco hotel. And the city was determined to tear it down, even though they had nothing in its place. And there is still nothing in its place. But that‘s the experience. If you tear down a building with no plans, it will remain a surface parking lot for a generation, that‘s the odds.
Last year we lost the Madison-Lenox Hotel in downtown Detroit, which was long vacant. But they came in the middle of the night without an adequate demolition permit and tore it down.
So those are -- even though preservation has evolved, we always have to be vigilant about losing those kinds of great places, because once they are gone, they are gone forever.
LAMB: If you had a chunk of money right now to do something special that is really of your interest, what would it be?
MOE: It would be to put it into New Orleans and Mississippi. The need there is so great, and particularly for these moderate and low income owners of these houses that are so much -- you know, they took on some water, but we know how to save them. You know, you tear out the drywall and you open it up, you ventilate it.
And for a relatively little amount of money, say, $25,000 to $30,000, most of them could put their houses back. But they don‘t have flood insurance. It just breaks your heart. I have been down there a number of times. And the same thing in Mississippi. So that‘s where we are putting our resources now, is helping these people.
LAMB: Is there a tax advantage in this business for people that have homes that are named historic places?
MOE: There is an historic tax credit for investment in the restoration of historical commercial buildings. In some states -- in a growing number of states have state tax credits that apply to both commercial buildings and to homes. So far, we do not have a federal credit for investing in historic homes.
LAMB: So in your career of chairman of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, and chief of staff to Walter Mondale, attorney here in Washington for, what, 15 years or so?
LAMB: Twelve years. And now president of the National Trust, which one of those is the most satisfying?
MOE: Oh, this is by far the best job I have ever had. But I have been lucky. I liked the others, but I love the idea of leading this organization at this time, because it‘s a very exciting time to be involved in preservation.
LAMB: How long are you going to do it?
MOE: As long as I can. As long as the board wants me. But I just love this work. It‘s a great community. There are no other agendas except preservation, just trying to save our heritage and to use these older structures to serve communities.
You know, for a long time preservation was not seen as relevant to a lot of people. Our task is to make it relevant. And I think we are succeeding by revitalizing many of these older communities.
Every downtown in America now is being revitalized in some way. And historic preservation is playing a role in every single instance in some way. So people are over time getting the kind of ethic -- it‘s getting instilled, the kind of ethic that regards protecting our built environment almost as much as our natural environment. It‘s just as important.
LAMB: Who determines who goes on your board?
MOE: The board itself does. It‘s a self-continuing board.
LAMB: How big is it?
MOE: It‘s authorized at 40, but it‘s usually in the low 30s.
LAMB: I‘m sure I‘m wrong about this, but I got -- I looked at all the names of everybody that is published in your book. And one of things that popped out at me was most people aren‘t known.
MOE: That‘s correct.
LAMB: Why is that?
MOE: Because we have a very working board. And we like people who are very distinguished, like David McCullough was on our board. But he was a very contributing member. Everybody is expected to be engaged in our work in some way.
And, you know, a lot of very high profile corporate CEOs and others just don‘t have the time or the interest. And people must have the interest to be engaged in this. I feel very strongly about that, and so does the board. So that‘s the one threshold issue that we really stick to.
LAMB: Are there organizations like the National Trust in other countries? And how do we shape up in the preservation of this kind of thing compared to other countries?
MOE: Yes, there are. As a matter of fact, we just hosted a few months ago a meeting of national trusts from all over the world. We were modeled after the British trust, "Mother Trust," as we call it. You know, and they do a wonderful job. They have some 240 historical sites and coastline that they protect.
But they don‘t have the programmatic reach that we have, nor the advocacy ability. We found out to our surprise that most international trusts don‘t either. They are mostly focused on museum properties and in some cases open space.
But we are about the only all-purpose preservation organization in the world. And everybody has to do it differently. But we like the fact that we have all these different capabilities and interests under one roof.
LAMB: What are some of the other -- we have got very little time left, but some of the other of the 28 properties you have?
MOE: Well, here in Washington we have the Decatur House. We have Woodrow Wilson‘s house, which is the only presidential house in D.C. We have Filoli, which is a great estate in the peninsula south of San Francisco.
We have Drayton Hall, which is a great example of Georgian architecture in Charleston, South Carolina. We have the Afro-American Museum in Boston, which was the center of so much abolitionist activity for so long.
We have Shadows-on-the-Teche in Louisiana which is another great plantation house which was happily spared any hurricane damage. We have Brucemore in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We have three Frank Lloyd Wright houses. We have the Gaylord Building in Lockport, Illinois. On and on.
LAMB: And which of all the houses is the best-attended?
MOE: I think that probably the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York. We don‘t own that, but we have a wonderful partnership with the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. This is a great museum run by a remarkable woman named Ruth Abram, who decided to tell the story of immigration in America.
And they took an old tenement and actually brought it back to the way it looked, and representing all the different ethnic strains that went through there over an 80-year period. I think that has the greatest attendance of any of our sites.
LAMB: And when you go through there, it‘s dark and dank like it was back in those days.
MOE: Yes, it was.
LAMB: People jammed in there.
MOE: A bare light bulb in the hall. The whole experience, right.
LAMB: Dick Moe, thank you very much for your time.
MOE: Thank you, Brian.