Benjamin Briggs lands state preservation job
HIGH POINT — Benjamin Briggs has come full circle in the world of historic preservation. In 1993, after buying and successfully restoring a fire damaged historic house on Johnson Street, Briggs received a distinguished award from Preservation North Carolina for the daunting project. Last month, some 30 years later, he was named president and CEO of Preservation North Carolina, a fitting culmination for a man who has given much of his adult life to historic preservation.
“I’ve had a strong working relationship with Preservation North Carolina going back to my first preservation project in High Point,” the 56-year-old High Point native said. “I’ve had this relationship with them for decades, so when I learned this position was opening up, I threw my hat in the ring and was fortunate enough to get the job.” He started on Aug. 1.
In accepting the Raleigh-based job, Briggs had to give up three preservation roles in the Triad that have been important to him — his full-time job as executive director of Preservation Greensboro, a position he’d held since 2003; his appointment to the Guilford County Historic Preservation Commission; and his role as president of the High Point Preservation Society, which he helped reorganize about seven years ago.
Gloria Halstead — who now lives in the house Briggs restored 30 years ago — has replaced him as president of the preservation society. “I’ve left them in very good hands,” Briggs said. “They have a board of super strong people who are motivated and talented.” Halstead described Briggs as “the embodiment of historic preservation.” “He is very knowledgeable about all things architecture,” she said. “Benjamin is always enthusiastic about preservation projects — nothing is too daunting or difficult — and he is eager to share his knowledge.”
In addition to the Johnson Street house he restored, Briggs has contributed to many other local projects, including the preservation of the city’s 1907 Southern Railway depot, the restoration of jazz legend John Coltrane’s childhood home, the restoration of a 1912 mill house in Highland Mill Village, and the renovation of the historic Mendenhall-Blair House, a large Quaker farmhouse believed to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad.
He holds a master’s degree in preservation studies from Boston University and taught historic preservation at Randolph Community College for five years. He also wrote a column for The High Point Enterprise that focused on local architecture and history. In 2019, Briggs was appointed to the Preservation North Carolina board, and the following year he accepted a position on the executive committee as secretary. Those roles gave him insight that should help him in his new job as president and CEO, he said. “This job is a big one with a lot of responsibility,” Briggs said. “It also takes a lot of time, but I’m excited about the opportunity.”
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High Point Enterprise