(This article originally appeared in the February 2019 edition of The Arch newsletter)
Suzanne Germann has worked at Landmarks Illinois for nearly 15 years, first brought on staff to oversee the organization’s existing preservation easements. Over her decade and a half at LI, Suzanne has taken on a number of additional responsibilities, from significantly expanding LI’s grant funding to managing programs that have become pivotal for the organization. Below, Suzanne tells us about her work and how she helps people save places in Illinois.
As the Director of LI’s grant programs, you work closely with people from all over the state to provide financial support to preserve historic places in their communities. What inspires you about these local preservation projects?
SUZANNE GERMANN: Although the majority of the grants LI awards are considered small—between $1,000 and $5,000—they can make a significant impact on a project and a community. Our grants are often awarded early in the project and used to leverage additional funding, providing the foundation for additional financial support and offering credibility to the grantee and their project. One of the best parts of my job is getting into smaller communities across the state and meeting the people doing the work to preserve our history.
You also manage Landmarks Illinois’ preservation easements. How many preservation easements does Landmarks Illinois hold, and why are these legal agreements important to ensure historic sites are preserved properly?
SG: Landmarks Illinois protects more than 550 Illinois properties with preservation easements. This legal protection is thought to be the strongest preservation tool as the oversight that LI provides ensures the property is preserved and maintained forever. I manage the annual monitoring of all easement properties to ensure they are maintained. I also staff the Easement Committee, made up of preservation professionals who make certain any proposed alterations to an easement property meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.
How has your role at Landmarks Illinois evolved over the years?
SG: In April, I will celebrate my 15th anniversary with Landmarks Illinois. When I started in 2004, my job was almost exclusively managing our existing preservation easements. In 2005, I worked with LI Director of Advocacy Lisa DiChiera to create the Preservation Heritage Fund and expand our grant program from an average $5,000 per year to $26,000 per year.
Over time, I have taken on more responsibilities including managing the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Awards program, the Donnelley Preservation Fund Grant program, WWI Monuments Preservation Grant program, Cornerstones for Community program and the Restoration Resources Directory. I am also currently assisting a property owner with the restoration of the Oscar Stanton De Priest House.
What is the most rewarding part of your job at Landmarks Illinois?
SG: I love being able to assist, in any small way, someone who shares a passion for historic buildings and communities. As in anything, there are wins and losses in preservation, but I am the fortunate one who gets to share in the wins. There are few things more enjoyable than informing someone that LI is supporting their work through a grant or an award.