Chris Vera, president of the Columbia Historic Preservation Society in Columbia (Lancaster County), PA, joined the Practical Preservation Podcast to discuss Columbia history, legends, and lore. We covered multiple topics, including:

  • Chris’s background as a child growing up in Columbia, whose passion for local history developed from working for elderly neighbors – people who preserved local heritage through storytelling 
  • The Columbia Historic Preservation Society’s role as a center for local Columbia history
  • The Society’s own preservation and adaptive reuse story: transforming and reinventing itself from a circa mid-19th Century Lutheran Church to a historical society, and its brush with destruction due to a case of severe mold contamination, and one former staff member’s desire to tear it down rather than save it 
  • Unique aspects of Columbia historyits nearly becoming the capital of the United States, rich African-American and underground railroad history, the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge Burning, and its historical role as a beacon of industry and railroads
  • Local legends and lore – from cryptids like the Albatwitch (or “apple snitch”), to ghosts said to haunt the buildings and local trails and hills, and the many events celebrating these folk tales
  • Trends and challenges in history and preservation – funding being the number one challenge, followed by garnering interest in and support for these areas

 

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Contact Information – General contact info located at the bottom of this page

Chris encourages supporting local Columbia heritage by visiting the nearby natural and trail areas (start here), as well as learning more about the history of the region from the Columbia Historic Preservation Society and other interesting historical sites to visit. You can also discover more museums, activities, and yearly events, here

There are several opportunities to explore the legends, lore, and supernatural side of Columbia, including the 7th annual Albatwitch Festival on Saturday, October 17th, 2020 – including Albatwitch and Haunted trolley tours – as well as a “Fright Night at the Museum” Saturday, October 31st, 2020 

 

Jeffrey Marshall, the president of Heritage Conservancy in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, joined the Practical Preservation Podcast to discuss the organization’s mission and work conserving and preserving a combination of natural and cultural heritage resources in Southeastern Pennsylvania. We covered multiple topics, including:

  • Jeffrey’s background combining his lifelong loves of nature, history, and architecture with his graduate studies
  • Heritage Conservancy’s function as a non-profit organization in the Southeastern PA region, focused on dual aspects of community and cultural heritage: conservation of open spaces and natural resources and preservation of historic buildings
  • Educational outreach by Heritage Conservancy, including Jeffrey’s “Sherlock Homes” old house detective character, aiding homeowners in “investigations” of their old homes’ histories via consultation or research
  • The conservancy’s work assisting owners of old homes and buildings with applying for National Register status and obtaining conservation land easements or historic preservation easements
  • Challenges and trends in these fields, including decreased interest in conservation and preservation of local cultural heritage and greater numbers of new residents without local roots, resulting in an increased need to teach more community members why local cultural heritage is important to everyone

 

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General contact information

Follow their News & Events webpage or follow them on Facebook to find out about events and new projects!

The conservancy and Jeffrey believe that we are all custodians and caretakers of our collective and local cultural heritage, and it’s important for individuals to do what they can – even if you’re not in the Southeastern PA region, contact them for suggestions on taking action in your own community.

THIS IS A RE-POST OF A BLOG WE ORIGINALLY POSTED SEPTEMBER 2012:

*Updates have been made throughout this piece, including additional terms and new links for sources of those definitions.

 

PRESERVATION TERMINOLOGY: It’s one of the most common barriers between preservationists and those who do not define themselves as preservationists. It is the language we “building-huggers” use.  Below, we share a GLOSSARY of some common preservation terms and their basic definitions, as well as real-life examples.

 

The Rosetta Stone – the ultimate translator. Photo by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash

 

Adaptive Reuse. “The conversion of a building to a use other than that for which it was originally designed, optimally, respecting the historic features of the building” (Source). This definition speaks for itself.

  • Examples: Find a discussion of benefits of adaptive reuse here, as well as a podcast about a local adaptive reuse project here.

Conservation District. Somewhat different from a Historic District, “Neighborhood Conservation districts are areas located in residential neighborhoods with a distinct physical character. Although these neighborhoods tend not to merit designation as a historic district, they warrant special land-use attention due to their distinctive character and importance as viable, contributing areas to the community at large” (Source).  These essentially focus on preserving community character vs. historic fabric. 

  • Example: Queen Village in Philadelphia is a designated neighborhood conservation district. 

Cultural Landscape. “A geographic area, including both cultural and natural resources and the wildlife or domestic animals therein, associated with a historic event, activity, or person, or exhibiting other cultural or aesthetic values” (Source). Simply, it’s a historically significant location evidencing human interaction with the physical environment. 

  • Example: Regionally, Valley Forge is a cultural landscape. 

Easement. “Legal protection (recorded in a property deed) for distinguishing features of the interior or exterior of a property or in the space surrounding a property because such features are deemed important to be preserved. For example, a new property owner may be prevented from making changes or additions to a building, structure, or landscape by an easement in the property deed itself. These are sometimes specified as preservation easements or conservation easements” (Source).  Essentially, a property owner makes a voluntary, legal, agreement to permanently protect a historic property. 

  • Examples: Our previous post includes a discussion of easements and how you can establish one. There are several benefits and incentives to easements, here

Historic(al) Context. This is “a unit created for planning purposes that groups information about historic properties based on a shared theme, specific time period and geographical area” (Source). Whether buildings, monuments, or other objects or spaces, this refers to the circumstances surrounding the item of focus during its time of historical significance or creation.

  • Examples: Historical context is a major point of focus in some of our recent articles, here and here. Current events surrounding monuments to Confederates or other people known for enslaving people also warrant discussion of historical context

Historic District. Related to, but not the same as a Neighborhood Conservation District (see above), “A geographically definable area that possess a significant concentration of buildings or sites that have been united architecturally or historically. Individual buildings in a district need not be individual historic landmarks; they can derive their significance in association with the district. A district occasionally also comprises individual elements separated geographically but thematically linked by association or history” (Source). In other words, this is an area where older buildings are considered significant or valuable for architectural or historical reasons.

  • Example: There are a number of historic districts here in Lancaster, PA.

Historic Fabric. “The physical material of a building, structure, or city that is historic” (Source). Not literally referring to fabric/textiles (although it could!), fabric in this case is just the original physical materials making up a historic structure.

  • Example: The historic fabric of a property is what makes it relevant to preservationists and lovers of history – check out our archives

Historic(al) Integrity. This is “the authenticity of a property’s historic identity, evidenced by the survival of physical characteristics that existed during the property’s historic or prehistoric period” (Source). Preservation is more than saving a building – even if a building remains standing, it may not have the same meaning if the most important parts of the historic fabric are gone, aka it loses its historic integrity.

  • Examples: There are potential consequences to lost historic integrity, as noted here. The National Park Service discusses this in greater detail here, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation discusses the importance of this aspect for seeking National Register Status, here

Historical Significance. “Having particularly important associations within the contexts of architecture, history, and culture” (Source). This may refer to a building’s or other object’s direct association with historically significant or important people, events, or information, or even something that affords historically significant information.

  • Examples: The National Register discusses more details about historical significance here.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation provides clarity and suggestions for interpreting and determining historical significance for those seeking National Register Designation here and here

National Register of Historic Places. “The comprehensive list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects of national, regional, state, and local significance in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, and culture kept by the National Park Service under authority of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966” (Source). It is the official list of historic places and objects deemed worthy of preservation. 

  • Examples: You can find a list of locations in Pennsylvania on the list here. The National Trust provides information on how to apply for this status, here.

Period of Significance. “The span of time in which a property attained the significance for which it meets the National Register criteria” (Source). Historical properties may witness or survive many potentially significant events, but generally one specific time or event determines the property’s significance and eligibility for the National Register.

  • Example: The Eisenhower National Historic Site in Gettysburg, PA represents a property made eligible for the National Register due to the significance of a later period in its existence; namely, only once it was purchased by President Eisenhower. 

Preservation. “Focuses on the maintenance and repair of existing historic materials and the retention of a property’s features that have achieved historic significance” (Source). Preserving something means protecting and maintaining the historic features as close to the original as possible – this is the heart of what we do!

  • Example: The National Park Service discusses preservation in detail here

Reconstruction. “Reconstruction is defined as the act or process of depicting, by means of new construction, the form, features, and detailing of a non-surviving site, landscape, building, structure, or object for the purpose of replicating its appearance at a specific period of time and in its historic location” (Source). Sometimes missing or damaged-beyond-repair aspects of a historic property need to be totally reconstructed using the same methods and materials to get as close to the original as possible.

  • Example: Pennsbury Manor outside of Philadelphia is a well-known example of a complete reconstruction.

Rehabilitation. “Rehabilitation is the process of returning a property to a state of utility, through repair or alteration, and makes possible an efficient contemporary use while preserving those portions and features of the property which are significant to its historic, architectural and cultural values” (Source). This process basically makes something useful for contemporary use or living while retaining or protecting the most important historical aspects” (Source). This is basically the same thing as adaptive reuse (see above), although, unlike adaptive reuse, rehabilitation may include projects that are more likely to use properties for the same (or similar) tasks as the original use.

  • Examples: This silk mill is still being used for production, but with a new product. 

Restoration. “Restoration is returning a site to its original form and condition as represented by a specified period of time using materials that are as similar as possible to the original ones” (Source). Closely related to Reconstruction because Restoration sometimes involves reconstruction methods, but with the added specification of restoring a property to a particular time (which may involve removing evidence of other periods). 

  • Example: Here’s a complete restoration project we were involved in.

Section 106. “The Section 106 review process is an integral component of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966. Section 106 of the NHPA requires that each federal agency identify and assess the effects its actions may have on historic buildings. Under Section 106, each federal agency must consider public views and concerns about historic preservation issues when making final project decisions” (Source). This applies only to agencies affiliated with the federal government (who are proposing projects that may impact historic properties), but as a member of the public, it allows your involvement to voice concerns and ask questions. 

  • Examples: The National Park Service and the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation go into more detail here and here. More information for the layman is available here from The National Trust.

SHPO. “State Historic Preservation Officer –an official within each state appointed by the
governor to administer the state historic preservation program and carry out certain
responsibilities relating to federal undertakings within the state”
(Source). You may hear this acronym pronounced to sound like “Shippo” – it may refer to the Officer or the Office in each state for historic preservation.

  • Example: Here is a guide as to what State Historic Preservation Officers do, and here is the link to the SHPO (office) for Pennsylvania.

Standards and Guidelines. “The Standards are neither technical nor prescriptive, but are intended to promote responsible preservation practices that help protect our Nation’s irreplaceable cultural resources. For example, they cannot, in and of themselves, be used to make essential decisions about which features of the historic building should be saved and which can be changed. But once a treatment is selected, the Standards provide philosophical consistency to the work” (Source).  The standards (Preservation, Rehabilitation, Restoration, and Reconstruction) are what the Secretary of the Interior and the National Park Service recommend, to hopefully homogenize treatment of historical properties and sites nationally. The guidelines (here) provide more detailed information on execution of the standards.

  • Example: The National Trust provides more information on how to interpret these. 

 

An interesting end note:

The term “historic preservation” is unique to the U.S. and is a relatively new term – it originated in the 1960’s in response to an urban renewal planning movement that would eventually fail.  Other English-speaking countries use different terms like “architectural conservation”, “built environment conservation”, “built heritage conservation” and “immovable object conservation”. 

 

Tell us your thoughts…

What other preservation terms do you find confusing?
Are you still unsure of what the terms defined above mean?
What is the preservation term that endears itself the most to you?
How do you clarify confusing preservation terms?
What is the most commonly misunderstood preservation term you run into?
Let us know in the comments below…

PART 3 PRESERVATION MONTH 2020 SERIES

LAST WEEK WE PRESENTED PART 2 on How to Preserve a Building. Part 3 of this series focuses on the economic benefits of preservation. If you’re reading this, you likely already know the qualitative benefits of preservation for communities – aesthetic appeal, educational opportunities, sustainability, and revitalization – but there are also proven quantitative benefits, including economic ones. Although Jane Jacobs – the innovative urbanist and activist – made statements that were not initially supported by factual data, many of her observations have since been corroborated since she first made them in the mid-twentieth century. Specifically, in her ground-breaking book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs stated regarding old houses: 

“Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings.”

Most writers who’ve analyzed her work and this quote agree that her point was that we rely on the past to build the future, and must refine what worked before in order to meet new needs. In another way, this idea also refers to the reality that businesses (especially newly-launching start-ups) or homeowners need older buildings for their often lower price-points and economic benefits, compared to newer (often more expensive) construction. So, the benefits of old buildings for “new ideas” is both conceptual and practical. Read on to learn more about the economic benefits of preservation.


Photo by Brandon Jean on Unsplash

 

QUANTITATIVE BENEFITS OF PRESERVATION:

The following categories are small a selection of some of the most commonly examined areas of benefit, although many other representative areas of value have been studied and described, including those listed here.

  • Real estate value. Historic designation is a ubiquitous component of preservation in cities and neighborhoods, and one of the most common means of preserving multiple dwellings or buildings. However, common negative assumptions about formally-designated historic districts abound; fear of restriction and violation of property owners’ rights – including untenable regulations and decreased property value – are concerns typically voiced by those opposed to preservation and historic designation. While many preservationist and urban experts agree that more rigorous study must continually be done to examine these concerns, valuable information has been gleaned from existing data analyses that reveals the economic benefits of preservation, and some of the findings do contradict these negative assumptions and arguments against preservation/designation. Community historic preservation has been shown to increase real estate value. Place Economics noted that repeated studies over the past 30 years refute the aforementioned arguments against historic designation and preservation in terms of impact on property value.  While they agree it is often true that increased property value equates in increased property taxes (which can be challenging for some homeowners), simultaneously, they found that the “cash flow problem is offset 40 to 67 times by the increased wealth.” Based on a 2012 study in Pennsylvania specifically, an analysis of 3 separate Pennsylvania historic districts revealed significant property value increases. Homes in designated historic districts realized greater value than homes in non-designated areas, had immediate 2% value increases compared to other homes, and appreciated at an annual rate of 1% higher than other homes. This positive effect spread to homes near the designated district, with those prices increasing 1.6% with each mile closer to the district. 

 

  • Local business promotion/New jobs. Place Economics discussed not only how small businesses are a boon to cities, but also focused on the advantages of small and local businesses housed in historic districts and historic buildings. Among those old-building benefits they point to attractive, small spaces, and competitive rent prices. They cite various cities where a large percentage of small or local businesses are located in historic districts. In some cases, those same districts account for a larger percentage of female and minority ownership. Many of these historically-located businesses are start-ups, which in and of themselves typically account for a significant percentage of new job creation in many cities. David J. Brown of the National Trust for Historic Preservation also noted the power of preservation itself for creating new jobs, including those that cannot be outsourced.

 

  • Neighborhood diversity/Affordable housing. While many still assume historically-designated neighborhoods are made up of upper-class, mostly Caucasian people – and while that is still the case in some places –  there are increasing exceptions. Place Economics shared several illustrative cases of diverse historic neighborhoods, in terms of racial, ethnic, and economic heterogeneity. A related point is that this diversity allows for more affordability in some of these districts, another contradiction to the stereotypical view of over-priced historic homes, and are credited with being part of the solution to lack of affordable housing in cities. Donovan Rypkema discusses old buildings and affordable housing in-depth.

 

  • Sustainability. We’ve discussed the sustainability benefits of preservation numerous times over the years, and recently were fortunate to discuss these things more directly during a podcast interview with Amalia Leifeste and Barry Stiefel, authors of Sustainable Heritage: Merging Environmental Conservation and Historic Preservation. Place Economics also cited several pieces of literature on the topic, in addition to Leifeste and Stiefel’s book. A summation of their cited findings indicates that compared to new construction and development (even when new construction uses allegedly “Green” or sustainable new products), historic buildings not only contribute less to pollution, waste, and use of resources including energy, they have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

 

  • Heritage tourism. Place Economics reports that “Consistent findings in both the US and internationally indicate that heritage visitors stay longer, visit more places, and spend more per day than do tourists with no interest in historic resources.” Heritage tourism as an industry contributes significantly to jobs for locals as well as revenue for the local economy, as the services these tourists consume extend beyond the heritage tourism services alone. These other services include local lodging, food and beverages, local transportation, retail purchases, and entertainment. PHMC’s economic report for Pennsylvania also examined heritage tourism, and included a review of 3 sets of locations which collectively accounted for 32 million visitors annually, as of 2011. An estimation of local expenditures from heritage tourism visitors in 2010 indicated visitor spending accounted for $1 billion annually for Pennsylvania, in the previously-mentioned service categories. 

 

This is by no means an exhaustive guide, but we hope this general overview will give you a sense of some of the most pertinent economic benefits of preservation, historic designation and adaptive reuse. We also hope it will encourage you to explore the topic further on your own. For more in-depth study, you may refer to some of the following resources:

 

Next week: PART 4 OF THIS SERIES focuses on the Substitute Materials.

Dan Godfrey, of RLPS Architects, joined the Practical Preservation podcast to discuss information about the firm and the recent adaptive reuse project at the Wilbur Chocolate Factory in Lititz, PA. We covered a multitude of topics including:

  • His background in architecture
  • The wide geographical and type of project scope of RLPS
  • How the adaptive reuse project at Wilbur Chocolate Factory came together
  • Trends and challenges in adaptive reuse, including mixed desire by some to save old buildings and difficulty with change
  • Elements of the adaptive reuse at Wilbur, including shops and hotel open to the public

 

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THIS IS A RE-POST OF A PODCAST INTERVIEW WE ORIGINALLY POSTED January 2019:

Chad Martin from Partners for Sacred Places met with me to discuss the work he does helping to preserve religious buildings from demolition through adaptive reuse and the creation of community resources.

Some of the topics we discussed include:

  • The economic impact of preservation.
  • How the work Partners for Sacred Places allows congregations and parishes to continue their mission as a community resource without selling their valuable real estate to developers.
  • The National Fund providing capital grants for preservation needs.  As Chad explains, when a church is choosing between giving money to programs that care for basic human needs and repairing the stained glass the restoration project goes to the bottom of the list.  The National Fund helps to ensure both needs are met.

Contact information for Partners for Sacred Places plus additional resources:

Website

Direct Contact Info

Facebook

Facebook page Danielle referenced: https://www.facebook.com/abandonedamerica.us/

Bio: Chad Martin, Director, National Fund for Sacred Places
Prior to his role at Partners, Chad was a pastor at Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster (PA). During his pastoral tenure the congregation developed an in-house art gallery, redeveloped an award-winning parking lot in accordance with the city’s green infrastructure plan, and substantially increased building use by community partners. Prior to this, Chad was the Ceramics Studio Coordinator at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (Pittsburgh, PA). He has served on several boards of directors in Pittsburgh and Lancaster, including as a founding board members of the Union Project – an example of best practice for adaptive reuse of a historic religious property – and as Assistant Moderator of Atlantic Coast Conference (MC USA). He has written articles on art and/or theology and spirituality for several publications, including Ceramics Monthly, Worship, and Conrad Grebel Review. His ordained for pastoral ministry in Mennonite Church USA. Chad is a graduate of Goshen College (BA), Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (MA), and Leadership Lancaster.

 

Stephen McNair of Mc Nair Historic Preservation joined the Practical Preservation podcast to share with us his experiences and the services his firm provides.  Listen to learn: 

  • Potential issues with historic tax credits
  • Trends in adaptive reuse
  • Economic incentives for commerical use preservation projects
  • The biggest obstacles and challenges for planning historic projects

Contact:

Website

Facebook

 

Chad Martin from Partners for Sacred Places met with me to discuss the work he does helping to preserve religious buildings from demolition through adaptive reuse and the creation of community resources.

Some of the topics we discussed include:

  • The economic impact of preservation.
  • How the work Partners for Sacred Places allows congregations and parishes to continue their mission as a community resource without selling their valuable real estate to developers.
  • The National Fund providing capital grants for preservation needs.  As Chad explains, when a church is choosing between giving money to programs that care for basic human needs and repairing the stained glass the restoration project goes to the bottom of the list.  The National Fund helps to insure both needs are met.

Contact information for Chad Martin plus additional resources:

Partners for Sacred Spaces
215-567-3234 x19

Facebook page Danielle referenced: https://www.facebook.com/abandonedamerica.us/

Bio: Chad Martin, Director, National Fund for Sacred Places
Prior to his role at Partners, Chad was a pastor at Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster (PA). During his pastoral tenure the congregation developed an in-house art gallery, redeveloped an award-winning parking lot in accordance with the city’s green infrastructure plan, and substantially increased building use by community partners. Prior to this, Chad was the Ceramics Studio Coordinator at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (Pittsburgh, PA). He has served on several boards of directors in Pittsburgh and Lancaster, including as a founding board members of the Union Project – an example of best practice for adaptive reuse of a historic religious property – and as Assistant Moderator of Atlantic Coast Conference (MC USA). He has written articles on art and/or theology and spirituality for several publications, including Ceramics Monthly, Worship, and Conrad Grebel Review. His ordained for pastoral ministry in Mennonite Church USA. Chad is a graduate of Goshen College (BA), Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (MA), and Leadership Lancaster.

Transcript:

Announcer: Thank you for tuning into The Practical Preservation Podcast. Please take a moment to visit our website: practicalpreservationservices.com for additional information and tips to help you restore your historical home. If you’ve not yet done so, please subscribe to us on iTunes, Stitcher, and SoundCloud. And also like us on Facebook. Welcome to The Practical Preservation Podcast, hosted by Danielle Keperling. Keperling Preservation Services is a family owned business based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, dedicated to the preservation of our built architectural history for today’s use, as well as future generations. Our weekly podcast provides you with expert advice specific to the unique needs of renovating a historic home, educating by sharing our from the trenches preservation knowledge and our guest’s expertise, balancing modern needs while maintaining the historical significance, character, and beauty of your period home.

Danielle: Thank you for coming into The Practical Preservation Podcast. We’re actually doing this interview in person. And today we have Chad Martin with us, the director of The National Fund for Sacred Places. Prior to his role at partners Chad was the pastor at Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. During his pastoral tenure the congregation developed an in-house art gallery, redeveloped an award winning parking lot in accordance with the city’s green infrastructure plan, and substantially increased building use by community partners. Prior to this, Chad was a ceramics studio coordinator at The Manchester Craftsman’s Guild in Pittsburgh. He has served on several boards of directors in Pittsburgh and Lancaster, including as a founding board member of The Union Project, an example of best practice for adaptive reuse in the historic religious property. As an assistant moderator of The Atlantic Coast Conference MCUSA, he has written articles on art and/or theology and spirituality for several publications, including Ceramics Monthly, Worship, and Conrad Grebel Review. He is ordained for pastoral ministry in The Mennonite Church, USA.

Danielle: Chad is a graduate of Goshen College, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and Leadership Lancaster. Chad, thank you for joining us for The Practical Preservation Podcast.

Chad: Absolutely. It’s a delight to be with you.l

Danielle: Thank you again. How did you get started in preservation? I know you kind of came about it in a round about way.

Chad: Yeah, that’s a great question. So as I was saying kind of coming into this, I do not come at this work from a preservation background. Although I should say, I can maybe start that by saying what we do with The National Fund [crosstalk 00:02:55] for Sacred Places. So Partners for Sacred Places was formed as a nonprofit. We’re a national nonprofit organization based in Philadelphia, formed in the late 1980’s. So almost 30 years ago. At that time in the preservation world there was this kind of brewing conflict, and definitely a robust conversation going on in urban centers like New York, Boston, and Chicago where there was this tension between communities of faith, congregations and parishes, and the preservation community. It was the first time in this country where you saw development pressures for property kind of wooing congregations to consider selling their buildings, or selling heir rights, or those kinds of dynamics-

Danielle: For the real estate?

Chad: For real estate development. Congregations that may have been struggling saw this as an opportunity to endow their programs for years into the future by selling valuable property, which was of course in direct tension with historic preservationists in those very same communities saying, “Even as development pressures increase, we want to be preserving buildings that matter to the community.” So those came [crosstalk 00:04:18].

Danielle: … have stood there for how long [crosstalk 00:04:20] so much a part of the community’s history.

Chad: Exactly. So in places like New York and Boston churches that have been there for 300 years or more, in some cases. So, out of that tension, and like a lot of urban development things, New York was leading the way with some of these conversations. Out of that, Partners was formed as a nonprofit that tried to bridge that gap, and some of that tension, between the preservation community and the interests of congregations. So that’s a kind of long backstory to say that’s the backdrop of the work we do at Partners. Over the years we have had a vested interest in how preservation can enable congregations and parishes to follow their mission of serving their communities, rather than losing their buildings, or selling buildings as a way to [crosstalk 00:05:19].

Danielle: … continue their mission.

Chad: Yeah.

Danielle: I don’t know if this is something that you directly work with, but the churches that get closed in those communities, do you work with those buildings then to find a suitable reuse?

Chad: Yeah, absolutely. The program I direct is The National Fund, which is a new grant making program funded by the [00:05:43] endowment in order to make large capital grants with congregations that are thriving, that have preservation needs in their buildings.

Danielle: Okay, so you’re more that other end of the spectrum where there’s people still attending, but they just don’t have the money to upkeep necessarily that building?

Chad: Exactly. And you know, there’s a wide range of capacity in there. But, virtually every leader of a historic congregation will tell you no matter how well endowed they are there’s always a need for more. Preservation of buildings is expensive, and often for churches falls to the bottom of the list. If they’re choosing between giving money to programs that take care of basic human needs like food, clothing, shelter, if they’re choosing between that and repairing the stained glass windows, usually they’re going to do the program stuff and hope that some day they get to the windows.

Danielle: I know one thing that really opened my eyes to the role of churches and preservation, and promoting art and all of that, was St James just underwent a big restoration project where they worked on safety. I went through a presentation where they talked about all the different things they did to make it for future use, but also respecting that historic. And one of the things that Father David said … I went on a field trip where they were making the clay tiles by hand still at The Mercer Tile Works. He said churches have always promoted that kind of work, and he felt like it was his duty to be a patron and keep that skill and that craft going. And I thought, “That’s really the type work we do, too.” And it opened my eyes to the role of the church. And then I thought back of my history, of the Renaissance, and all those painters, and all of that whole thing. It kind of tied it together in my mind.

Chad: Yeah, absolutely. Historically, churches have been literally the temples at the center of civic life. The story of the 20th century, and now into the 21st century, as you kind of alluded to, is that church participation has been declining. The role of the Christian church, at least, in civic life is very different than it was 100 years ago, or 200 years ago. And yet we still have these vestiges to that era in the physical buildings. Our work is really to step into that gap and say, even as the religious landscape of the country changes, how can we continue to preserve these facilities as a community resource? And usually now it takes more than just the members of the congregation to make that happen. It takes really a full community saying, “This is a resource that matters to us.”

Danielle: And it’s important.

Chad: Yeah. Which really I’m sure puts it in line with many other preservation efforts. No preservation effort happens without a broad [crosstalk 00:08:43] coalitions.

Danielle: And there’s often a discussion of the economic impact of preservation. And I know, prepping for this, reading the economic, you even have things on the website talking about the economic impact of churches in communities, and I had never thought about that. But that really is something that is valuable and should be highlighted so that people aren’t just saying, “Oh, that’s a building that doesn’t pay taxes.” All of those things that go into those community discussions.

Chad: Yeah, absolutely. You’re hitting at the heart of a piece that has been really important at Partners. Very quickly, in it’s early days at Partners in the late 80’s and early 90’s, these conversations started emerging about, “Why should we save these buildings?” Which pushed our staff back to articulating a narrative about why these places matter. And when you’re talking about things like a tax base, and increasing revenue for cash strapped cities looking for revenue wherever they can, that quickly turned to an economic conversation. Church folks aren’t really used to speaking in economic terms about the value of what they do, but I think that’s one of the really important contributions our organization has made over the years. Going back to the mid 90’s, late 90’s, our organization helped sponsor a major research project looking at the economic value of what churches provide. I say churches, but really communities of faith of any religious tradition. So they’re a community. Really aside from everything they do that is the focus of their worship or religious life, looking at the economic impact of employing people in a community.

Chad: The effects of providing services that are often appreciated by the community but under the radar in terms of a dollar amount in the sense of what’s the true value of this? And then we did a major update to that research just in the last couple of years. And we’ve dubbed that the economic halo effect, meaning it radiates out. It’s not just what happens in the doors of the church. You know I, just a couple months ago, visited one of our awardees, which is a Catholic basilica in Milwaukee. It’s an amazing facility. This is not very typical for religious buildings. It was the most visited tourist site in Milwaukee, like the highest rated by Trip Advisor for a couple of years. So they’re definitely a major asset to that community. And we did a halos study of the economic impact of the basilica and the community. They’re a destination wedding venue because it’s such a grand space, so people will come from out of town to have a wedding there. What’s the economic impact of all the guests who come and spend the night there, buy meals there?

Danielle: Right, everything that goes into a wedding.

Chad: Yeah. All the baptisms that happen there, the extended family that come in maybe from the broader region, maybe from even hours away. And we worked to have conservative estimates of that, so this isn’t guesswork. But honestly saying, “What’s the economic activity going on around that place?” And in their case it was in the millions of dollars annually that ripple out from what they do as a basilica that’s not about the dollars spent on a baptism, or the dollars spent on a wedding, or a worship service, but it’s all the dollars spent in the community.

Danielle: The people employed and all the things that go into making the celebrations.

Chad: Yeah. So that’s become an important part of our work, to help congregations tell their story well about why they matter to the [inaudible 00:12:42]. And in some of the cases where churches close frankly they don’t matter a whole lot. They haven’t figured out how to transcend all the changes around them to stay relevant to that community. And we try to be honest with communities when they’re in that place too. But there are many historic congregations that continue to serve their communities in meaningful ways that are often under the radar, and not seen by the broader community as fully as they could be.

Danielle: It’s very interesting to me to look at it because that’s often the way that they look at restoration because restoration is so much more labor intensive than new construction. You’re going in and repairing things rather than buying new materials. You’re not just installing things. Looking at it through that lens I can definitely see how a church, I had never looked at it that way, but how a church does impact the community and all the people around it.

Chad: Yeah, absolutely. Even if folks aren’t always fully aware of what happens inside the doors of a religious space they become symbols to the community. So fi they’re lost to a community how do you quantify what the loss is? And you know, that transcends churches. That’s a historic preservation-

Danielle: Oh, yeah. And that landmark building.

Chad: Yeah, what happens when we lose these landmark buildings? And of course we can’t save all of them. The preservation community is well aware of that, we can’t save all of them.

Danielle: But there are some that are worth definitely saving and preserving so that we have them into the future.

Chad: If I could I wanted to circle back to your question about how we [crosstalk 00:14:26] churches.

Danielle: Sure, definitely.

Chad: … that are not thriving, and what happens with those buildings. Because that is really one of the emerging questions for an organization like ours. In the changing religious landscape we live in right now, increasingly I think this is probably in every community across the country, that’s definitively in every urban community across the country. There are grand historic church buildings that are in disrepair, or facing challenges because either the congregation is dwindling and dying, and ends up closing its doors. Maybe a church sees the writing on the wall and they sell the building, then another congregation steps in. These in some ways are some of the real fun success stories of the work. In some cases there’s no longer a viable congregation that makes sense for a property, but it is still seen as a community asset. So the community rallies to say, “How can we take ownership of this?” That’s really what I was part of with The Union Project in Pittsburgh 10 or 15 years ago.

Danielle: So the building, what did you transform it into? Or how did you reuse it?

Chad: That’s a great adaptive reuse story. That was a crumbling church building. The actual bricks and mortar stories of like hauling trash? That could be a whole podcast itself, just the horror stories of bringing back to life a building that’s been neglected for decades. Numbers of dead pigeons and things like that.

Danielle: Oh yeah, I’ve been there.

Chad: I’m sure you have. Probably everyone interested in this kind of conversation has been there. First of all, the group who bought it was just a group of community members who came together and had a vision for like, ‘We literally walked by this church building every day to get to the bus stop and go to work. It was a symbol of our community and yet it was just falling apart in front of our eyes.”

Danielle: Was it not being used?

Chad: Yeah, there was technically a congregation of like five people meeting around a space heater in a backroom. It clearly had become overwhelmed years ago, and it just was in total disrepair. This was years of sweat equity, but we built a nonprofit organization that was a non sectarian, non faith based, nonprofit organization. Although many of us came from a perspective of communities of faith being important to our formation. Came together to form a nonprofit organization and cast a vision of really developing it as a kind of multipurpose community center. They still exist as an organization, and they still have been taking good care of that building. The uses have kind of shifted a little bit over time as they’ve moved into their own vision, and the founders stepped away. The original vision was around arts, community and faith. So early on we did actually find a congregation that was looking for a home that was brought in as a tenant, and they’re still there. But they’re there as a tenant, they’re an equal partner at the table with all sorts of other nonprofits, community groups. So now it’s used for an event space, a wedding venue.

Chad: There are art studios in the basement, there are nonprofit offices in what would’ve been Sunday school rooms back in the day. And it really came back to life as a community resource.

Danielle: And now the building is being used, and it’s used often. It’s not just sitting there and just used one day a week. And that’s what the building is meant to do.

Chad: Yeah. So in many ways it is serving the kinds of purposes it was built to do in the first place. 150 years ago congregations had a prominence in the community where they could do that tall under their own umbrella. You know, people’s lives revolved around around the life of the church. That’s just simply not true in many cases now. So many of the same kind of services and activities happen there, but they’re under an array of organizations that all are there to serve the community. Some are faith based and some aren’t and they’ve got to find ways to work alongside each other.

Danielle: That made me think of even the parochial schools and the building sitting empty now. There is space there that could be used, and I know that probably falls outside of what you do. Do you focus just on the-

Chad: Yeah, although very closely aligned.

Danielle: I know just in Lancaster there are several buildings that are sitting empty that could have some kind of community center or support kind of thing.

Chad: Well, yeah. And I think truly Lancaster is seeing this go on in every community across the country. It is certainly happening in Lancaster. I’ve lived here 10 years, been here longer. If I think of just the 10 years I’ve been here I have seen historic churches sold by their founding congregation to another congregation. I’ve seen that happen three or four times just in the 10 years I’ve been here. I see churches that I know there are only a handful of people showing up on Sunday morning. Some day really soon that church is going to be on the market and we’re all going to wonder, “How are we going to deal with that hugs, landmark building?” And we’ve seen others. This is one of the interesting things. This certainly happens in other urban centers too. There have been at least two, and maybe three, just in Lancaster that have been converted to high end residences. So Partners vision is, it is best that these are restored as community assets of the community. But there are cases where we kind of walk alongside churches that end up being abandoned.

Chad: You know the saddest stories are wend then are demolished. But it certainly happens, and I think increasingly there’s a very real earnest reality that we have to be strategic. We, meaning everyone involved in this work, about which places can be saved with integrity, and which ones probably can’t. Because there are just too many in flux right now

Danielle: There are. I went through the parochial school in Lancaster. If you look at the number of Catholic churches that are in close proximity to each other, and because they were built for different ethnicities, or different congregations, different nationalities. That’s very hard to sustain, and those are very hard conversations to have because if you don’t have enough people attending to sustain it then you get to that point where the building’s worth preserving, but can it stay in this form or does it need to transform? I think if you go through the criteria for a national landmark I’m sure most of them would be on the register. But then you have to think, you know how Christ Church is one of the ones that you funded. That is definitely tied to our national history. But then you have the other ones that are still very important because they’re tied to people’s history, but maybe they’re not as noteworthy and they didn’t have the famous people. And that is a balance, and I think that would be really hard because the buildings are mostly all beautiful, and even in disrepair are beautiful.

Danielle: I don’t know if you’re familiar, there’s a book that’s like abandoned places. I can’t think of the author’s name, but he went into these places and there’s one church in Philadelphia that he went to every day as it was being demolished. Even those pictures are beautiful, as have the building’s gone.

Chad: Yeah, the photography can be beautiful, but the place is heartbreaking.

Danielle: Yeah, it is. So I don’t envy the position you’re in. We usually get involved when people are ready to save something. We don’t have to make those hard decisions.

Chad: Help decide. Well, and we don’t really either. Although with the grant making program we’re often in the same boat where we come alongside whenever we can. Although with the grant making program we do face these hard choices. So with the national fund, this was created to speak into all the things we’re describing, and actually get some financial resources to these congregations. But even still we’re funding like 12 across the country this year that really [crosstalk 00:23:24].

Danielle: How many applications do you get?

Chad: We’re in our second year of the program. The first years was an invitation only round. So we have about two weeks to go until our due date for the first fully open application round where we marketed this across the country. So it’s still a little bit yet to be seen, but it’s looking like we will have something like 100 plus applications for about 12 slots.

Danielle: Those are hard choices.

Chad: And behind those 100 there’s probably another 1000 that would technically qualify for our program, but do they rise to the top is the most important right now. I should tell a couple stories though.

Danielle: Oh, sure. Definitely.

Chad: [crosstalk 00:24:08]. It reminds me of the range of places we do find because you’re exactly right. We have to be strategic. We look at a couple factors. We’re going for a building that’s really significant maybe in a couple of different ways. It might be architecturally significant. The history of the congregation might be significant. So in the case of Christ Church in Philadelphia It hits both of those. But, however you want to rank that they’re in the top of both of those. Ben Franklin is buried in their burial ground, the building is this amazing Colonial era building. But the other piece that’s really important to us, and this goes back to the kind of research we were talking about earlier. I think really the whole preservation community is moving this way too, where the line I’ve even heard. Stephanie Meeks, the director of The National Trust for Historic Preservation, uses this line frequently that this is not just about bricks and mortar, and preserving these places completely outside of their context. It’s about taking care of spaces that still matter to their community.

Danielle: And I think, at least in the preservation community in Lancaster, in the organizations there’s an organization just devoted to saving places, and then one that’s devoted to the people’s stories. And I think to marry those two would really make more people realize that preservation is about all of our history, it’s collective.

Chad: So Christ Church is a great example because, for all their noteworthiness architecturally and historically, there are other churches that rise to that level in the country, but one of the real stand out features of Christ Church is they have really worked hard over the last couple decades to be completely relevant as a community resource for Philadelphia.

Danielle: I wasn’t aware of that. That’s great.

Chad: Yeah. Oh, it’s a fantastic story. One of the ways they have done that is opened their, it’s called Neighborhood House, but it would be kind of a parish house that’s adjacent to the church building, which is historic in its own right, but it’s like 155 years old or something like that. They have fully restored and updated that facility to be used as a multipurpose venue, mostly as a theater [inaudible 00:26:32].
Danielle: Oh, that’s interesting.

Chad: These numbers aren’t exact because it’s off the top of my head, but it’s something on the order of like 150 plus arts organizations have used their facility as a venue in the last year.

Danielle: Oh, that’s great. So that’s like every other day.

Chad: Yeah, it’s almost every day there is a theater group in their building either rehearsing or performing. So that’s amazing.

Danielle: Yeah, it is.

Chad: This 300 plus year old congregation that has this weight of history, that on its own it would be reasons to put [inaudible 00:27:10] into saving it. What really puts it over the top is the way they have worked. And as a former pastor this is what matters to me more than just a place that mattered in history.

Danielle: Yeah, and I was going to ask about that. Do you feel like that brings you a different perspective in [crosstalk 00:27:24]?

Chad: Yeah, totally. We have other staff who come from much more traditional preservation background. And I really respect and, as a newcomer to this work, I learn a lot from what they teach me. But that being said, my perspective is often driven by what’s the impact of these congregations now? And not just in traditional social service ways, but are they finding innovative, dynamic ways to engage with the community?

Danielle: Yeah. I think that is an interesting perspective, and I think that in this type of work, in preservation, and having the different perspectives helps everybody see that it’s not just a static place in history, it’s an evolution. And the impact now is just as important if we can balance both, and honor both.

Chad: Yeah. So that’s a real important piece for our program, we’re constantly looking for both of those pieces. And we end up saying no to some projects who don’t understand why we said no to them. [inaudible 00:28:34] like, “But don’t you understand how important this building is?” “Yes, and you’re not doing anything with it right now.” So it’s really important to us that it’s continuing to serve its community. That being said, there are also these other situations. Christ Church, that I was just describing, they’re a great example. They have lots of resources and there’s always a need for more. So we’re [crosstalk 00:28:58] but really they have access to a lot of resources. We work with some others that are in really tenuous situations. So I think of a really wonderful little African Methodist Episcopal Zion congregation in North Carolina that we’re funding this year. They got on our radar because they’ve been out of their building for 10 years because it suffered hurricane damage. They got on our radar because they were listed as one of the most endangered places by The National Trust a few years ago.

Chad: So the National Trust brought them to the table. They have capital needs beyond what they can muster themselves. Even though they have continued to thrive, they’ve been meeting off location for 10 plus years.

Danielle: And they’re still-

Chad: Yeah, they continue to thrive, continue to serve their community in lots of important ways. This is a church built by a prominent African American freedman soon after The Civil War. The congregation was formed in the Reconstruction Era after The Civil War, the church was built in the 1890’s by one of the most prominent African American families in that community in North Carolina.

Danielle: So it’s a lot of history too?

Chad: There’s a lot of history there. And it’s a more simple looking, kind of country, North Carolina church, but what an important place historically.

Danielle: And from a historical perspective, because I’m sure at that time it was the education center, and the community center, and everything else that, that Reconstruction era required.

Chad: Exactly. It’s a classic Reconstruction era story. White folks from the north came down and started the school next door, and eventually the same African American builder built he school next door. And what an amazing legacy of a community that probably was severely lacking in resources and had every obstacle, still built a beautiful little church.

Danielle: And that was probably their safe place, too?

Chad: Yeah.

Danielle: Within the community. It’s not as prominent, but it’s definitely an important piece of our history.

Chad: Yeah, and in that case the goal is to get them back in that building so that they can reestablish that sense of home.

Danielle: How do you work with the congregations? Do you do a matching funds? Or how does that process work?

Chad: Yeah, that’s a great question. Our grant making program has a couple different pieces to it. One, and this is kind of the hook for everyone, is the big capital grant. Of course, they would all love to get $250,000 from us. And anyone who’s awarded in the program, the goal is sincerely to get them that money. But along the way we do a lot of capacity building, and assistance with their project. So we have small planning grants that help pay for things like architectural fees or-

Danielle: Project development?

Chad: Yeah, project development. All those things that add up for any project along the way. And those are modest sized planning grants, but the goal is to have at least enough in the planning grants so encourage them to do all that good professional project work. And then each congregation is expected to participate in a group training. We do a couple different levels of that, but the basic on is simply like, “How do you run a good capital campaign as a church?” Many of these congregations have not done a capital campaign in a generation, or maybe ever. And you know that North Carolina church, they’re doing great. They’re a hardworking church, but they don’t have a big budget, and they’re looking at like a million dollars to be able to get back in the building.

Danielle: Right. And for a smaller congregation that’s very daunting.

Chad: That’s a big deal. So just getting the some basic tools for how do you set up an effective campaign. All the while encouraging them to get professional help with that too.

Danielle: That was what I was thinking was, could they even plan stages so that they’re protecting the building, and that’s how we [inaudible 00:33:21]. So you stop all the water and elements from getting it. And then you’re stabilized. And then you can move forward from that, and that gives people encouragement too that they’re actually making progress. 

Chad: Exactly. Some projects are a once and done thing, and some are phased. And then we also wrap in some kind of customized consulting services that are often either in the realm of capacity building or using a set of skills and expertise that our staff have to help them get a step down the road with something related to their building and their mission. That could be really wide ranging. Our staff bring a wide variety of experiences. Everything from very traditional preservation considerations, to capital campaign expertise, to expertise in training up the congregation on, “If you want to share your space more for community life, how do you do that?” Do you make that part of who you are? So we’ll step in and offer a few days of free consulting work [crosstalk 00:34:29].

Danielle: I think that’s probably very important too. Do you do that for the grant recipients?

Chad: Yeah. We were talking earlier about 12 slots out of this 100 plus or whatever. So they apply for the program and we award a cohort into the program, this year it’ll probably be 12, and then each of those 12 get everything I just described.

Danielle: That’s very, very cool. Well that’s very interesting. Did you have anything else that you wanted to share? I feel like we’ve covered a lot of things.

Chad: Great question. I don’t think so, I think that’s an okay place. We could follow lots of other trails with this, but-

Danielle: I think we’ve covered what you do, and why you do it, and why it’s so important to not just the congregation, but to the greater community. How can our audience get a hold of you?

Chad: Great question. Partners for Sacred Places is the organization I work for, and we have a website, which is sacredplaces.org. You can visit that website and learn about the array of things we do from training to consulting, to grant making. The program that I direct is The National Fund, and it has its own stand-alone website. I should say that program is in partnership with The National Trust for Historical Preservation, which is the largest national preservation organization. The website for The National Fund is fundforsacredplaces.org. My phone number is on the Partners website, my email is on both websites. I’m always glad to talk to people more about this program.

Danielle: Yes, thank you for coming in and speaking with me. I enjoyed it.

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