Bruce MacDougal, a key player in various preservation efforts in San Antonio, has announced his retirement from the San Antonio Conservation Society, effective March 4.
MacDougal has served as the executive director of the Society for more than 25 years and has played a major role in the development of several conservation policies and projects in the city, including the creation of the San Antonio River Improvement Overlay District and the Brackenridge Park Conservancy, among others.
President of the Conservation Society Janet Dietel said it will be difficult to see MacDougal, a highly valued leader in the community, leave his post at the Society.
“He is a wealth of information,” she said. “He’s a gem both nationally and in San Antonio with the knowledge he has regarding preservation.”
The Society has assembled a committee of seven people, Dietel said, that will review incoming applications of candidates from all over the country hoping to fill MacDougal’s position. An ideal candidate, she added, is someone who is proficient in sound preservation efforts, as well as someone who “understands the love that goes into it.”
Like MacDougal does.
Beyond his ambitious conservation projects, he has continually served as a reliable source of information for community members who seek insight about historical buildings, areas, and items, Dietel said. MacDougal has represented San Antonio’s conservation interests in Austin and Washington, D.C. to promote preservation legislation.
“When I started at the San Antonio Conservation Society, I felt like I came to preservation heaven,” MacDougal said. “San Antonio has a rich array of historic resources, and not many communities have a complete array of buildings that are here and need to be protected.”
Those historic resources served as motivation for MacDougal and his colleagues to build on what the founders of the Conservation Society started into what it is today: An organization dedicated to maintain the historical fabric of the city while also facilitating its growth.
“Unlike other communities, people in San Antonio care about their past,” he said. “(The Conservation Society) works to preserve not just historic districts, but also the residential fabric, without displacing current residents.”
Over his quarter-century career in San Antonio, MacDougal has seen the conservation community grow extensively. When he first started, he said, it seemed like preservation efforts in the city were low.
“I asked myself, ‘Who else is out there that’s doing the work of preservation in San Antonio?’ Basically, we were the main show in town,” he said. “Now, we’re no longer alone here.”
MacDougal said that with the help and support of the City of San Antonio, “conservation literacy and education” has become more prevalent. Most recently, the UTSA College of Architecture, Construction, and Planning has begun offering a certificate in historic preservation to students who wish to continue the work of organizations like the Conservation Society.
“It’s difficult to take credit because it’s collaborations with volunteers and organizations that have made the progress that we’ve seen,” he said.
MacDougal said his next step is to move with his wife, Jill, to Virginia where he will continue teaching, writing, and consulting within the realm of historic preservation in Washington D.C.
“If San Antonio is preservation heaven then D.C. is preservation central,” he said.
The San Antonio Conservation Society was founded in 1924 and, according to its mission statement, works to preserve “historic buildings, objects, places and customs relating to the history of Texas, its natural beauty and all that is admirably distinctive to our State.” It was founded by thirteen women, and has now grown to a membership of more than 1,700 men and women.
Though it’s difficult for MacDougal to leave his position, one that he has worked in for more than half of his professional career, he said he’s ready to move forward and look back on his time in San Antonio with a sense of pride.
“The most rewarding thing has been witnessing the continued positive evolution of preservation ethic in the city,” he said.
For Dietel, MacDougal’s involvement in the community, along with his passion to preserve much of the City’s historical places, is what made him a great leader.
“That’s what a leader does – they go out and help and be involved in the city,” she said.
*Top image: Bruce MacDougal, Executive Director of the San Antonio Conservation Society announced his retirement effective March 4, 2016. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone