Fittingly, the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Northeast Regional Office occupies a suite in a building next to Boston's venerable Faneuil Hall. Showing a visitor around the red-brick offices illuminated by skylights, Regional Director Vicki Jo Sandstead says, "Look, our windows even open."

Ms. Sandstead heads a staff of four. One member administers grants and loans for local preservation projects; one recent grant went to a church in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood. Another member of the staff is a consulting lawyer with a background in land-use regulation.

The small size of the regional staff is misleading. Sandstead employs consultants and college interns for special projects, and the office can draw on scores of volunteer planners, architects, lawyers, and interested citizens to assist in its preservation, educational, and lobbying efforts.

The National Trust also has regional offices in Philadelphia; Charleston, S.C.; Chicago; Denver; Fort Worth, Texas; and San Francisco. Besides implementing the trust's generic programs, the regional offices develop programs adapted to their areas. The Denver office, for instance, devised Barn Again, a program to save old barns in the Plains states by retrofitting them for modern farming machinery.

In 1989 the Boston office launched Project Prepare, targeted at protecting rural areas and small towns in the six New England states and New York. First, the staff and consultants inventoried all the state laws and local ordinances available as preservation tools. Then for each state they published a comprehensive "guide and diagnostic checklist for protecting your town's character." A video, "Saving Place," is also available for town planners, developers, state lawmakers, and citizen activists.

According to local preservationists, the trust's regional office here is an invaluable intermediary between local organizations - which provide most of the preservation movement's foot soldiers - and Washington. "They help ease some of the inevitable tension between state and local groups and the feds," says Alan Schwartz, executive director of Historic Massachusetts.

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