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Sam McKelvey and Alice French – executive director and director of education – of the Menokin Foundation in Warsaw, VA, joined the Practical Preservation Podcast to discuss their preservation project, and the Foundation’s many services. We covered multiple topics, including:
- Sam and Alice’s respective backgrounds in history, preservation, and related fields, and how working at Menokin marries all of their interests in one place
- The history of the property and surrounding lands first populated by the local Rappahannock people, as well as the Algonquin origins of the word “Menokin”
- The history of the house itself – including its distinction as home built for declaration signer Francis Lightfoot Lee in 1769, and function as the center of a large tobacco plantation – and its unique journey from neglected home, to an actual ruin, to a unique preservation project that will maintain its current condition in perpetuity
- The history of the Menokin Foundation and how the Glass House Project will allow continued exploration of and education about colonial building practices, unlike any other extant colonial structure or house museum
- The ongoing evolution of inclusive narratives and storytelling at the site – of the indigenous Rappahannocks and the enslaved laborers – and the narratives’ ongoing development by bringing actual descendants into the conversation
- Multi-armed approaches to preservation at the site beyond the Glass House Project, such as preservation trades workshops, kayaking tours, educational webinars, and on-site immersive experiences
- Challenges and trends in preservation, including staying relevant as priorities and cultural landscapes irrevocably change, by evoking emotional connections to history through “dynamic preservation”
Contact information – general inquiry or specific staff
Sam and Alice encourage visitor engagement in many ways. Most of the site is outdoors – 500 acres, in fact – and can be visited directly with safe social-distancing measures, and several options are listed here. You can also “visit” virtually here. In addition, they always welcome membership and donations.
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Bill Callahan, the Western, PA Community Preservation Coordinator for the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO is a bureau within the PA Historical and Museum Commission) in Pittsburgh, PA, joined the Practical Preservation Podcast to discuss the state organization’s myriad services. We covered multiple topics, including:
- Bill’s background, including how exposure to the negative impacts of the agricultural economy’s crash in the Midwest led to cooperative initiation of a main street program in his Illinois community – a position he credits with his interest in preservation, and the catalyst for his subsequent manifold experiences in historic preservation positions
- His current position, which involves administration of several programs, including providing technical assistance regarding historic preservation to anyone who asks for it
- The only way to protect historic resources, and the 2 methods by which a municipality can go about it
- Grassroots tips, such as networking within local government and other community organizations, and the necessity of understanding one’s local planning processes
- A little known resource for private homeowners
- The overlap of natural resource conservation and historic preservation
- Positive trends such as increased awareness of the need for preservation
Contact Information – General inquiry here, or Community preservation coordinators by region – including Bill – here
For community grassroots involvement, Bill also recommends interested citizens visit this general site in addition to consulting directly with him (or other regional community preservation coordinators). This site includes community preservation forms and guidelines as well. And Bill emphasizes the importance of citizen involvement with local planning and economic development offices.
Bill also encourages people to remember that sense of place is important to everyone – including saving buildings that make a place unique and hold memories – and this can be emphasized when working with others to prioritize local preservation.
PART 2 PRESERVATION MONTH 2020 SERIES
LAST WEEK WE PRESENTED PART 1 on Why Preservation Matters. Part 2 of this series focuses on preserving or saving a building. It’s one thing to read and learn about preservation, and it’s a whole other thing to actively do it. While there may be limitations as to what one can accomplish, there is also so much that grassroots efforts can achieve. As the often-repeated quote attributed to Margaret Mead goes:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Let’s assume you’ve noticed a building that needs an intervention, or someone has announced plans to develop land a historic farmhouse sits on … all is not lost. Read on to explore steps you can take to preserve a building.
Denn House, prior to restoration.
GUIDELINES FOR SAVING A BUILDING:
- Manage your mindset. It’s important to note that saving a building is not easy and not always successful; therefore it is best to know this and the intensity of the process going into it so as not to set yourself up for disappointment if your attempts to save a building are ultimately unsuccessful. First, consider why the place matters to you and why it matters to others; The National Trust for Historic Preservation includes information on the philosophy of why old places matter, and tips on managing your expectations. Determining the practical reasons to save a building can strengthen your own resolve and provide practical arguments when presenting the plan to others.
- Determine the building’s future/ongoing purpose. If you have the power to help decide a building’s future or ongoing purpose, or simply want to share reasons the building could benefit the community so that others can see why it’s worth saving, Wolfe House and Building Movers’ Guide recommends determining its possible uses and proposing a plan. The previously-mentioned guide from the National Trust can assist here as well. It is likely much easier to determine the building’s purpose if you are the owner, but even if you do not own it, you can help provide suggestions. It’s also important to decide how to save the building. Wolfe’s Guide also includes information on methods for saving a building.
- Be an advocate and find help. The National Trust first recommends seeking help and support and getting the word out at the grassroots level before taking it to community and government leaders. They also share other ways to spread the word, including the This Place Matters campaign. Gathering community support strengthens the stance that the building is worth something to the community, and therefore carries more weight when you finally do present the project to leadership. Once grassroots support is established, the National Trust and Wolfe’s Guide both share information on sources of assistance, including agencies and governmental organizations at the local, state, and federal levels. The National Trust also includes a list of resources for preservation. Finally, sharing past successes, such as sharing videos of other successful preservation projects, as offered here by the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office, is another way to support your stance on preserving a building.
- Secure funding. The National Trust and Wolfe’s Guide also both include information on how to secure funding or raise money to finance a preservation project.
- Apply for historic designation AND/OR seek to establish a preservation easement. If you determine that historic designation is an option in the case of your building, the National Trust provides information on many benefits of historic designation at local, state, and federal levels such as protection, funding, and tax credits, as well as suggestions on how to go through the process. If you have the power to do so – usually if you are the owner of the building – seek establishment of a preservation easement as well. The National Park Service discusses easements in detail, and the National Trust indicates that these can be in place in addition/act as a supplement to designations, as they use private legal rights of property owners unlike designations that act at the level of government. Easements – if designated as perpetual – are the only guarantee that the building cannot be demolished or altered significantly in the future. These terms go beyond the protections that a designation can provide.
- Amplify your reach. Preservation is local. It is also best done as part of a group of like-minded individuals, in a way that works with systems that are already in place. If you want to ensure that buildings are saved, getting involved with your local preservation group and/or local government is the best way to make certain there is a review process before demolition is allowed to proceed. You can check your local municipality’s zoning ordinances to see if historic structures are addressed.
We have attempted to provide you with a succinct guide on preserving a building, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. For further, more comprehensive resources, visit:
Next week: PART 3 OF THIS SERIES focuses on the Economic Benefits of Preservation.