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Public voting opens as historic sites compete for share of $1 million

A view of the National Cathedral, Washington D.C., Friday, Nov 11, 2011
The Washington National Cathedral was in the lead for a share of $1 million to bring new life to under-appreciated or yet-unknown historical facilities on Wednesday. (Photo: Examiner file)

Local historical sites began vying for a share of $1 million that could bring new life to under-appreciated or yet-unknown facilities on Wednesday.

For the 24 Washington Region locations competing for up to $100,000 out of the $1 million fund could help jump-start local sites, participants say.

Take Clara Barton's Missing Soldiers Office on Seventh Street, Northwest, a museum that's under renovation that will honor some of the American Red Cross founder's lesser known accomplishments, such as tracking down thousands of missing Civil War veterans. The museum would like to restore windows that are more than a century old.

But, beyond the $100,000 that the office is hoping to win, David Price, its chief operating officer, said the competition will help introduce people to the museum.

"It's really kind of kick-started us and given us a higher profile," Price said. "We'll be like the new little museum that could."

The sites competing for grants include All Souls Church Unitarian, the Arlington House, Dumbarton Oaks Park and Mount Vernon.

As voting got underway Wednesday afternoon, the Washington National Cathedral took the lead.

"There's a plethora of historic sites in Washington that aren't just the well-known Washington Monument," said Tim McClimon, the president of the American Express Foundation. He added, that the sites are all "viable restoration projects that are ready to go now."

American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation are coordinating the preservation effort. The public, not the donors will get to pick who wins.

In part to attract attention to the local historic sites, the project will open up voting to the public online, allowing people to weigh in on which project should receive full funding. Whichever project wins will receive up to $100,000. Then, the rest of the funds will be distributed among the other contestants.

"Washington's historic sites reflect not only important chapters in our nation's history, but also the diversity and unique character of our city," Mayor Vincent Gray said in a statement. "Partners in Preservation celebrates these places by encouraging the public to support their preservation and providing grants to help ensure the sites can be enjoyed by Washingtonians and visitors to the city for generations to come."

People can vote online at PartnersinPreservation.com and through social media. The competition opened Wednesday and will close May 10.