And the Survey Says… Preservation Trust Enlists Volunteers to Update Historic Resource Survey

The Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County is currently working to complete a comprehensive historic resource survey in Lancaster County.  They are currently working on West Hempfield Township, but have plans to survey the historic resources in all sixty municipalities.

If you are available during the day, have a valid driver’s license and a willingness to use your car, and a digital camera, the Trust could use your help to build these surveys and help protect our architectural history in Lancaster County.  You can call 717.291.5861 for more details.

Below is the Trust’s press release about the project:

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And the Survey Says….

Preservation Trust Enlists Volunteers to Update Historic Resource Survey

by Amy Gaston

In the beginning, 1972 to be exact, the Lancaster County Planning Commission completed a report called “Lancaster’s Heritage”.  Using that report as a springboard, the Historic Preservation Trust conducted a local Historic Resource Survey in the early 1980’s as a pilot project for the state, and in 1983 published a catalogue listing of these results known as “Our Present Past”.  This survey was then partially updated in 1992 but ended when the money ran out.

Why are these surveys so important?

The purpose is to update records on historic resources and provide a basis for new township ordinances that provide for broader protection of historically significant structures.

Now, more than 25 years later, the Historic Preservation Trust is taking on the task again – one municipality at a time.

Members of the Trust’s Preservation Action Committee, led by chairperson Shirlie O’Leary, have an ambitious goal of meeting with leaders of each municipality to discuss three specific priorities: 1) the status of their historic resource surveys; 2) does their local code include a provision for preservation, and if so, is it enforced; and 3) do they have a historic review committee.

Committee members are taking the lead arranging visits and meeting with respective leaders.  As is often the case, the genesis of this project began with a phone call from a concerned citizen named Judy Fry.  Judy has family ties to a late 1700’s historic property in West Hempfield Township called the Gerber-Garber Farmstead which was, and still is, in jeopardy of becoming another lost part of our local heritage.  She contacted the Preservation Trust looking for guidance and help and was referred to the Preservation Action Committee.

As Judy and Shirlie began working with officials at West Hempfield Township on the Gerber-Garber project, it became evident that help was also needed on another important front – updating their own historic resource survey list.  West Hempfield Township only had forty-one of the more than 300 historic resource surveys the Preservation Trust had available for their township.  In order for municipalities to make informed decisions about protecting sites that are historically significant to their communities, it is vital that they have the available resources at their fingertips.

The Preservation Trust plans to help make that happen.

With six committee members and sixty municipalities to cover, partnering with other organizations is vital.  The committee began by contacting the Lancaster County Planning Commission’s Cultural Heritage Division.  (Isn’t it interesting how things have come full circle with the Planning Commission?)  Emma Hamme is working with the committee providing technical assistance, as well as making sure efforts aren’t being duplicated.  The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) was also contacted about providing training to volunteers so the current historic resource survey can be updated and new sites can be added.  To that end, an informational meeitng was held at the West Hempfield Township Building a few months ago.  It was attended by representatives from the Preservation Trust, PHMC and the Bureau for Historic Preservation, Lancaster County Planning Commission, Ron Youtz, West Hempfield Township Manager, and interested volunteers.  (Most were residents of West Hempfield but it was not a requirement.)

Slow and steady is often how preservation initiatives are accomplished.  However, progress is already being made:

* West Hempfield Township received copies of the missing historic resource survey files from the Preservation Trust and they are being entered into their system.  Information for the 41 survey files they already had is being updated including new photos, valid street addresses, parcel ID numbers, and observations on the present condition.

* When survey files for these 41 sites are updated, teams of volunteers will begin doing the same kind of updates for the remaining 300+ sites.  This information will then be entered into local, county and state records so everyone can have access to the same information.

* After current information is updated, volunteers will then survey the area for possible new submissions based on standards set by PHMC’s Bureau for Historic Preservation.

* Preservation Action Committee members are making appointments to meet with the appropriate municipal officials to discuss updating the historic resource survey records in their area.  To date, six municipalities have been contacted.

* Some townships have already updated their historic resource survey information.  Fourteen municipalities will work with Historic York and volunteers to make similar updates before the end of the year.

This is a great opportunity to do hands-on preservation work that will have a lasting effect on Lancaster County’s historic and architectural character.  As you can tell, more volunteers are needed and will be trained.  Minimum requirements include being available during the day, a valid drivers license and willingness to use your car, and a digital camera.  Please contact the Preservation Trust at 291.5861 to sign up!