AAF and Saving America’s Treasures: A History of Engagement

The American Architectural Foundation and Saving America’s Treasures have a long history of engagement. Prior to becoming a nonprofit partner of the National Park Service in 2014, AAF received two grants directly from Saving America’s Treasures to restore two treasures of our own, the Octagon Museum and House and the original (and only remaining) World Trade Center complex model.

In 2002, American Architectural Foundation received a Save America’s Treasures grant to conserve, restore, and preserve the original World Trade Center complex model.  A team of professionals including a conservator, a model design and fabrication firm, a photographer, and a video company participated in the project. The restoration included an analysis of broken pieces to determine chemical content and restoration of damaged portions and existing elements, including figures, cars, buses, and other elements.


Model of the WTC towers. Image courtesy of Lee Stalworth.

Although originally intended as an architectural tool to demonstrate how the World Trade Center would dramatically change the face of New York City’s skyline, the WTC presentation model is now a revered object representing a nation’s tragic loss and a nation’s hope for the future. Prior to the museum’s opening, AAF donated the model to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum for its permanent exhibit.


Image courtesy of Lee Stalworth.

In 2005, AAF (then the nonprofit arm of the American Institute of Architects) received a second grant from Saving America’s Treasures to restore our then-home, the Octagon House and Museum. The Octagon was designed in 1799 by Dr. William Thornton, the First Architect of the United States Capitol, the building is nationally recognized as one of America’s earliest and finest examples of Federal Period architecture. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1960.


This grant and matching funds enabled AAF to replace the roof and restore the Octagon’s balconettes, stone and brick masonry elements, all exterior wood fabric, the entry portico and its roof, and install exterior waterproofing of the underground barrel-vaulted coal storage tunnel. In addition, we also conducted an additional archaeological study of the lower rear entrance and underground coal storage vault areas.

Exterior, Balustrade Conservation

Image courtesy of the American Architectural Foundation.

From 1970 (when we purchased the Octagon from the AIA) to 2009, AAF opened the Octagon to the public as an historic house and museum of architecture and design. During our 42 years of ownership, we were proud to receive national awards from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and The Getty Institute for Conservation for our exemplary restoration and care of the Octagon. The Save America’s Treasures grant greatly assisted AAF’s continued preservation of the building from 2005 – 2009.

AAF remains grateful for SAT’s assistance in the restoration of these two treasures, and is proud of its role in restoring these artifacts to share them with the public.

Share | Print
Posted in: Center for Design & Cultural Heritage, Print, Save America's Treasures
  • Support AAF