Jim Turner2017 Askins Achievement Award
"I grew up passing through these magnificent neighborhoods in the city, riding in the car and gazing up at these large houses that we never thought we could obtain while we drove to Belle Isle," says Turner. "It set a dream that was ultimately fulfilled."
Like many of us, Jim Turner did not decide in high school that he was going to make a career of the preservation trades. He grew up in government housing in Ecorse, MI, a tight-knit African-American community which he recalls fondly. On his way to family outings on Belle Isle, he was greatly influenced by the grand mansions of wealthy Detroiters and dreamed of one day owning such a home.
After school, he took a job with Chrysler Motors. It was a chance opportunity to house-sit for a Realtor who was selling a home in the Arden Park-East Boston Historic District where he learned the joys of living in an historic home and soon was able to overcome obstacles and purchase his own historic home.
As many of you who are historic homeowners yourselves know, Jim Turner began to teach himself the historic trades as he attempted to maintain and improve his new property. In a year, he had joined Preservation Wayne and had begun volunteering. It was here the final pieces of his preservation ethic and philosophy were sown. Soon Jim was president of Preservation Wayne, preaching to whomever would listen the value of preserving our historic structures as a foundation for economic development and the revitalization of his beloved Detroit. It was the demolition of the J.L. Hudson Company Department Store building in downtown Detroit that served as the impetus of Detroit’s modern preservation movement. Jim worked on houses too, and one of the owners, a benefactor of Jim’s talent, gave him a gift certificate for a two-week window restoration class at Pine Mountain Settlement School in Kentucky so he could hone his skills.
In 2001, Jim founded Turner Restoration, a firm that specializes in steel and wood window restoration. Today his company is the standard bearer for the city of Detroit and his reputation as a skilled craftsman who is more than willing to share his knowledge has earned him the respect of his colleagues and clients on a national level.
Jim’s impact on the trades have been so profound, they are hard to measure. He is one of Michigan’s advisors to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He was instrumental in securing the grant and starting the preservation trades program at Lincoln Technical High School in Michigan. He was a founding member of the Window Preservation Standards Collaborative and helped organize the symposiums that led to the publication of a book on window restoration guidelines for which he contributed. He accepted the challenge in helping start a preservation trades school, The Samuel Plato Academy of Preservation Trades in Louisville, KY. He lectures frequently at state preservation conferences, trade shows, and local events. Most importantly, he personally has influenced the lives of his employees, teaching them the trades in and in some cases, even helping them start their own businesses.
What I admire most about Jim is his humility. He is always the first to lavish praise on others and is very humble when it comes to his own accomplishments. In a world that increasingly rewards those who speak the loudest and brag the most, Jim is a throwback to a time when a man lets his work speak for himself.