published Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Working It: Cornerstones director helps preserve architectural heritage

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    Ann Gray, executive director of Cornerstones Inc., has hopes to move the Terminal Hotel on East 14th Street off her organization's list of most endangered buildings in the city. Staff File Photo
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Name: Ann Gray

Position: Executive director

Location: Cornerstones

First job: Community planner

What is Cornerstones: "Our mission statement is to preserve the architectural heritage and urban fabric of Chattanooga. I'm the only employee. We have a volunteer board of directors. We have volunteer boards that do Wine Over Water as well as Best Cellars. We're quite small. We try to keep our bottom line financially very small so that the funds we raise can go right back into historic preservation of properties downtown. We're the ones who look at the properties that nobody else is looking after."

Best part of the job: "Working with property owners, working with historic properties, working with the city and all the different players that come together to make a community work, that's what's fun. It's a bit relationship-based, with architecture, art and history all combined.

Worst part of the job: "How difficult it is to make a difference in these economic hard times. It's hard to move historic properties in any direction when financing [is a challenge]. We're in a holding pattern until all of that gets freed up a little more. The vision is still there. People still have the vision, people still have the desire, but you just can't make it happen."

What she learns: "I've worked with so many people willing to give their time and effort in volunteer capacities. That's always amazing, the fact that a volunteer group can year after year crank out a festival."

How to make a career of it: "I have a master's in historic preservation with some other graduate work. I think you need to be aware of historic preservation. You need to be aware of history, architecture, community planning. I think you need to have some really good people skills. It's what we used to call, in my day, sort of a liberal artist."

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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