Yesterday I attended a presentation at the Old State House “A Conversation with Helen Higgins”. On July 1 Helen retires as the Executive Director of the CT Trust for Historic Preservation. Helen’s influence on historic preservation in Connecticut is nearly impossible to define because it is profound and lasting. During her career at the Trust she has influenced public opinion, shaped public awareness and brought historic preservation into a maturity as a critical component of Placemaking to all the towns and cities in Connecticut. This statement is not hyperbole but the varied and many places which have been saved are testament to a woman who is nothing less than a force. Her initiative in cataloguing the barns of Connecticut is but one example of bringing a focus on the rich farm heritage of the State. Due to her efforts these iconic buildings can now find a renaissance as contributions to a New England landscape which we all enjoy. During the chat images were scrolling on a screen behind her which show a legacy to her tenacity in bringing resources to the preservation of homes, hotels, commercial buildings and factories throughout Connecticut.
As I took on the new position at the Hartford Preservation Alliance one of the first people I was told to know was Helen. Over an inaugural lunch I fell under her spell. Warm, lively, funny, passionate, strong willed and smart, I was instantly a fan. Over these past few years I have jokingly come to call her “My Queen.” We became friends instantly and I sincerely know that I am but one of many who can claim the honor. Yet whenever Helen called the guaranty was to have a strategic, productive conversation about how our organizations could advance the notion of historic preservation. She always guided me in suggesting people I should know. If she said “be here” there was no question but to obey. Did I mention that she likes martinis? Of the many preservation friends I have made coming back to Connecticut I count Helen as my best. Yes, I will miss my sovereign.
As in all things we turn the page and start a new chapter. Helen’s chapter is writ large to be sure. I salute a fine person who has made a huge difference in preserving Connecticut for all of us.