On Leong Merchants Association Building Wins Popular Vote in American Express Partners in Preservation Contest
Community Participation Helps Secure Win In Chicagoland Historic Preservation Contest
CHICAGO.- American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation today announced the results of the Partners in Preservation popular vote winner, On Leong Merchants Association Building (Pui Tak Center). Through a dedicated Web site, American Express encouraged the community to take part in the Partners in Preservation initiative by voting online daily for five weeks for their favorite historic place from a slate of 25 sites across five Chicagoland counties.
As the Popular Vote winner, the On Leong Merchants Association Building (Pui Tak Center) will receive a grant of $100,000 to help restore terra cotta masonry and clay roof tiles to prevent further deterioration. The On Leong Merchants Association Building (Pui Tak Center), located in Chicago’s world-renowned Chinatown is a church-based community center that offers social services to new Chinese immigrants. The Pui Tak Center is housed in Chinatown’s only historic landmark building, originally known as the On Leong Merchant Association building, which is recognized for its colorful and exquisite terra cotta detailing and pagoda-style roof.
“Right out of the contest gate, the On Leong Merchants Association Building took the early lead and aggressively marketed itself and mobilized its supporters with the ’get out the vote’ message to build momentum and maintain the top spot throughout the five week online voting period,” said Timothy J. McClimon, president, American Express Foundation. “With more than half a million page views to the Partners in Preservation Web site, we are very pleased with the community involvement in the program and know that we have helped raise visibility among Chicagoland on the importance of historic preservation.”
Some secrets of the On Leong Merchants Association Building voting success included an aggressive outreach campaign of postcard mailings to people in its database and church members; a viral “tell a friend” e-mail campaign; presence on numerous Facebook pages with links directly to the Partners in Preservation voting Web site; a press conference at the contest launch with the Chinese media to spread the ’get out the vote’ message; daily voting reminder e-mails; and announcements about the program from Chinese Christian Union Church pastors at Sunday religious services. The message that they used in their outreach was, “CLICK to vote to SAVE our building so that we can SERVE our community.”
Over the five-week voting period, the Chicagoland community has actively embraced the contest with an outpouring of support for their favorite sites: a group of Norwegian bikers visited the 1800’s Viking Ship during the public Open House weekend; the Spring Grove Fish Hatchery rallied the village of McHenry for their votes; Illinois Congresswoman Melissa Bean issued to her constituents a call for votes for historic sites in her district; Von Steuben High School students used an online social networking site to woo voting support; and Unity Temple representatives visited the Saturday Oak Park farmers market to distribute flyers and encourage voting.
Launched in September by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Partners in Preservation program is a community-based historic preservation initiative. American Express has committed $1 million in preservation grants to Chicagoland and encouraged members of the community to participate in the initiative by voting online daily for their favorite historic site. The Partners in Preservation program is a philanthropic initiative in which American Express, in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in 2006 pledged $5 million over a five-year period toward preserving historic sites in the United States.
American Express, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and a special Advisory Committee comprised of local Chicago dignitaries next will review the public’s votes, the role the site plays in the community, along with each site’s monetary needs to determine how the remainder of the $1 million in preservation grants will be awarded. The additional sites being awarded American Express Partners in Preservation grants will be announced on November 13, 2007.
Additional information on the Partners in Preservation initiative and a complete list of the 25 historic sites can be found at: www.partnersinpreservation.com.
On Leong Merchants Association Building (Pui Tak Center)
Designed in 1928 by local architects Michaelsen and Rognstad, this visually striking building originally served as the headquarters of the On Leong Merchant Association. It housed community meeting halls, a Chinese language school, and a religious shrine for Chicago’s large Chinese immigrant population. The building was designated a local landmark in 1993 and is considered to be Chicago’s most significant symbol of the cultural heritage of the Chinese.
The terra cotta masonry and clay roof tiles at Pui Tak must be restored to prevent further deterioration, providing its affiliates with a preserved historic landmark and a safe and beautiful gathering place that represents the cultural heritage of Chinatown. After restoration, the property will continue to be used for retail tenants on the ground level, and office space for Pui Tak administrative services and education and meeting functions on the upper levels.
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