Preserving Pennsylania: A Journey Through the Last 20 Years, Part 11

Preservation Pennsylvania has released their “Pennsylvania At-Risk: Twenty-Year Retrospective of Pennsylvania’s Endangered Historic Properties, Where Are They Now” edition. It’s a fascinating look at preservation in action and we’ll be posting a look at each property in a series of posts over the next several months.

Preservation Pennsylvania established the annual Pennsylvania At Risk list in 1992, making us the first statewide preservation organization in the United States to have an annual roster of endangered historic properties. Since 1992, we have listed and worked to preserve more than 200 endangered historic resources, including individual buildings, historic districts and thematic resources statewide. For 2012, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of our organization, we are presenting a 20-year retrospective edition of Pennsylvania At Risk. In this issue, we revisit some of the amazing historic places across the Commonwealth, some of which have been rescued from extinction through preservation and rehabilitation efforts, and others that still need our help.

Approximately 18% of Pennsylvania’s At Risk properties have been lost, having been demolished or substantially altered. Another 32% have been saved or are in a condition or situation where the identified threat no longer poses a problem for the historic property. Approximately 50% of the 201 At Risk resources remain in danger, or we have not been able to confirm their current status as either saved or lost.

By monitoring these properties over the past 20 years and working with individuals and organizations trying to preserve them, we have learned many valuable lessons. Those lessons are called out throughout this publication.

• SAVED! •

2003 — Elizabethtown Train Station, Lancaster County

Elizabethtown Train Station, Lancaster County

The Elizabethtown Train Station was built on ground just below the elevated Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1911 to provide both the Masonic Home and the Borough of Elizabethtown with rail access to Philadelphia and Harrisburg. The station was later closed by Amtrak, which had to cut expenses as the transportation system changed in the latter part of the 20th century. The dual elevated Elizabethtown platform continued to provide service to nearly 40,000 riders each year along the Keystone Corridor, but the Elizabethtown station sat vacant nearby.

Recognizing its historic significance, its importance as a gateway to those arriving in the community by rail, as well as its economic potential as a transportation hub for the community, the Borough of Elizabethtown acquired the station in the 1990s and began working to develop and plan and raise funds for its rehabilitation. Unfortunately, as they were waiting for that funding to come through, the scope (and cost) of the project tripled: the original platform canopy roofs became unsafe and were removed and would need to be reconstructed; and accessibility requirements changed. In order to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Borough would now be required to provide elevators connecting the tunnel level to each platform (inbound and outbound), build new stairs, and provide new passenger information systems.

Not put off by the increased project scope, Elizabethtown continued to work with a team of consultants to plan and make improvements to this historic transportation facility. Because they had the vision and were committed to moving forward, the project was “shovel ready” when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds became available in 2009. Construction began in 2009 and was completed in 2011. Elizabethtown’s new transportation hub, which combines the best of old and new, with the historic train station as its centerpiece, was recognized with a preservation award from Preservation Pennsylvania in 2012. After more than 13 years of hard work and perseverance, the Borough of Elizabethtown has achieved its goal of conveying to people arriving in Elizabethtown that the community respects and values its history.

Lessons Learned:  Amazing projects are happening across Pennsylvania. Each year, Preservation Pennsylvania works with its partners to recognize preservation projects with awards. And each year we are stunned by how much good work is happening out there and the challenges that are being overcome along the way. Many of these award projects have come all the way from being endangered and listed in Pennsylvania At Risk to receiving state recognition for a job well done, including three this year. And, in fact, some of these projects have even gone on to win national preservation awards.