One of the best things about living in New England might be the quirky, fascinating historic places that dot our landscapes and enhance our town squares. It could be the white church with the tall steeple that sits on the town green. Maybe it’s an old boat shop that has survived countless nor’easters over the decades. Whatever form it may take- these are the places that simply define our cities and towns.  

Living in New England, you also know that many of these special places can become a bit tired and often look slightly rough around the edges. “Friends-of” groups work valiantly to raise funds, bring in new members, and prop these special places up- but they can’t always do it alone. When it comes to historic buildings and places in New England- it seems like we are always looking for a hero to swoop in and fix these buildings once and for all.

Two years ago, that happened for 25 historic spots in several Greater Boston cities and towns.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express teamed up in 2009 to bring the Partners in Preservation program to eastern Massachusetts, prompting a groundswell of activity, publicity, fundraising and sheer awareness of these places.

While the Paragon Carousel in Hull took home the top prize, each of the other 24 properties also received grants.  The people who care about these buildings also learned a ton from the experience- how to get the word out, how to better market and publicize their cause, and what it takes to get a massive campaign off the ground. These groups have been working tirelessly for two years- and now it’s time to see how far those selected properties have come.

Several of the properties that participated in the Partners in Preservation program are holding open houses this Saturday, September 17. In Boston, visit the Old North Church, Vilna Shul, the Paul Revere House, and the African American Meeting House.  If you are around the South Shore, be sure to stop by the Paragon Carousel in Hull, the Old Ship Meeting House in Hingham and United Parish First Church in Quincy.  On the North Shore, poke in and say hello to the hard-working people at the Lowell Boat Shop in Amesbury, the Schooner Adventure in Gloucester, or the Old Salem Town Hall in Salem.

For more information about the Partners in Preservation grant program or the individual places mentioned above, or for details about this weekend’s open houses- please visit this site.  And remember, if you care about these places, continue to visit them beyond this weekend’s open houses. Become a member. Bring your friends and family. Support these special places  so that we can all enjoy and learn from them for years to come.

If you love New England’s historic places, be sure to keep an eye out for our forthcoming title, New England’s Historic Houses & Gardens by Kim Knox Beckius, which will be released this October.