Chair of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation: Who Is Milford Wayne Donaldson?
Sunday, November 21, 2010
In June 2010, President Barack Obama appointed architect Milford Wayne Donaldson to be Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), the nation’s lead agency on historic preservation. ACHP is an independent agency that works with federal, state, local, and tribal governments to address the requirements of the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), which mandates consideration of historic preservation values when planning development. The ACHP is also the primary policy advisor to the President and Congress on historic preservation issues and it helps carry out the inter-agency Preserve America Initiative, which encourages increased local participation in preserving the country’s cultural and natural heritage assets. Oddly, Donaldson is the first architect to serve as chair in the 45-year history of ACHP.
Born in August 1943, Donaldson earned a Bachelor of Architecture from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, in 1967, an M.S. in Architecture from the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland, and an M.A. in Public History and Teaching from the University of San Diego. He also engaged in undergraduate studies at Uppsala University in Sweden from 1966 to 1968.
Donaldson began his career as a working architect as an associate for the San Diego firm of Mosher Drew Watson from 1972 to 1978. He then founded his own firm, now known as Heritage Architecture & Planning, in 1978, specializing in historic renovation and preservation and adaptive reuse of existing structures, most notably in San Diego. He and his firm have preserved more than half of the 126 buildings in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter and have worked all 21 California Mission sites.
He has also taught architecture, first at his alma mater from 1969 to 1970, and later at Southwestern Community College from 1976 to 1984.
Donaldson has been affiliated with several historical and preservation organizations, including the California Historic State Capitol Commission (in 2000 as its only architect) and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He is a former president of the non-profit California Preservation Foundation and chair of the California State Historical Building Safety Board. While serving with the Safety Board, Donaldson visited Mexico City after its 1985 earthquake and, noting a variety of soil conditions, formulated a plan to use in California to create seismic safety standards by zone rather than using blanket standards for all areas.
Donaldson is currently serving a second four-year term as California’s State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), an appointment initially made by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in April 2004. The SHPO serves as chief administrative officer of the Office of Historic Preservation in Sacramento and as executive secretary of the State Historical Resources Commission (SHRC), a nine-member state review board, appointed by the Governor, responsible for identifying, registering, and preserving California’s cultural heritage.
Donaldson’s commitment to historic preservation clearly runs deep. In 2005, for example, Donaldson spent thousands of dollars of his own money on the relocation and restoration of the Futuro, a flying saucer-shaped home built in the 1960s; and in 2010 the SHRC designated the Apollo 11 moon landing site a historic site.
Donaldson and his wife, Laurie, reside in Sacramento in a signature Dreyfuss & Blackford Architects 1963 mid-rise condominium. Their family includes one daughter, Erica Lynn Donaldson and two sons, Jaret Blankenship and Nevin Blankenship. Donaldson’s first wife, fellow preservationist Nancy Donaldson, died in 2001. Donaldson is a registered Republican.
Donaldson owns and restored a 1946 Stinson Voyager airplane and is past president and current secretary of the International Stinson Club.
- Matt Bewig
The first ten days: emergency response and protection strategies for the preservation of historic structures (by Milford Wayne Donaldson)
To California, Moon Junk Is State Treasure (by Jesse McKinley, New York Times)
Close Encounter (by Ann Jarmusch, San Diego Union Tribune)
Architect Honored for Preservation (by Dirk Sutro, Los Angeles Times)
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