Sunday, June 7, 2009

WOW. That about sums up the last four days at The Landmark Society!

This weekend has been a whirlwind of activity centered around the 2009 House and Garden Tour. We started Thursday night with an incredible lecture and slide show from architectural historian Jean France on the history and architecture of the East Avenue Preservation District. Friday was our first-ever collaboration with the George Eastman House for 'Libations and Landmarks,' a garden party co-hosted by Landmark and GEH where attendees were able to do their part to save area landmarks...very elegant and fun! And then, of course, the two day tour of the fabulous East Avenue Preservation District - Rochester's first preservation district and one of the finest collection of 19th- and early-20th-century homes in the country. Of course this is after months and months of tireless work on our small staff's part to pull this all off.

Wow, indeed. (And whew!)

Events like this weekend's tour offer the opportunity to gain a renewed appreciation for the importance of what The Landmark Society does. I suppose that's one of the main reasons why we hold these tours - to offer the community an opportunity to see the impact of preservation action. But with the enormous logistics involved in planning such events, focus around our offices rightfully is on the end result of making it happen, not solely on the reasons behind why we do what we do. Nose to the grindstone, check it off the list, focus becomes on getting there, finishing the task, reaching the goal. I know, for me at least, I get those proverbial blinders on and it's easy then to become distracted from the impact of what we do.

There's a danger in this, though, at least for me. As marketing director, it's crucial for me to try to keep my finger on the pulse of what matters to people and how they think about and view our organization. Kind of hard to do when you're only checking things off a list! So this weekend was really a super opportunity to hit the streets to find out what people are thinking, talking about, and feeling about what we do.

Yesterday I spent the morning working at the Ryder Estate; today I rode my bike around to many tour stops to take photos for our website, blog, newsletter, etc. Throughout both days I talked with many tour-goers and members of our amazing and dedicated corps of volunteers and saw firsthand the direct impact of our work. Reading on paper about how we "saved" a building is one thing; walking through it, feeling its energy, hearing its story and seeing the faces of people as they are amazed by its beauty is completely different.

Going out and experiencing what Landmark does as a citizen of this community really gave me a renewed sense of perspective, and hearing everyone's excitement has helped me to remind me just how vital this work we do is. While I promise I'm not going to break out the Landmark Society pom-poms, I have to say I experienced a swelling of pride over how lucky I am to live in such a phenomenal city with such a rich heritage of preservation activism, to live in a neighborhood that stands as a direct testament to this, and to be able to say every day that I'm helping to make a difference.


As I left my last tour stop today, I watched as throngs of people still filled East Avenue's sidewalks, tour booklets in hand. I overheard them talking about the gorgeous teak room in the Soule House, the brilliant blooms in Mrs. Okubo's gardens, the exquisite Ryder Estate and other wonders they just saw. I saw young and old(er) equally represented. But what really hit me most of all was listening to my 14-year-old son (who spent his weekend selling water and soda to tour-goers on our street) standing in our yard explaining to his customer about why he loves living in this neighborhood and growing up in the city ...

"All the houses are different and really interesting looking, not like the suburbs where they are all the same and made out of vinyl. These houses are really old...they knew how to build really cool stuff back then."

Really. Cool. Stuff. A new Landmark marketing campaign? Doubtful...but it's fantastic to know the younger generation can develop such an appreciation. I leave today with renewed sense of why we do the work we do, ready and renergized to communicate its importance to the world.

(First, however, recovering from this weekend is in order for us all!)

posted by Laura Keeney Zavala, director of marketing


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