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Thread: Historic Preservation in Small Towns

  1. #1

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    Historic Preservation in Small Towns

    Hi - I am a grad student working on my final paper to fulfill my program requirements. I am trying to find out the effects of historic preservation in regards to “reenergizing” small towns that are not, nor will they ever be, tourist destinations. Specifically I am interested in towns located in the Great Plains region.

    Essentially I am trying to identify the tangible (economic) and intangible (i.e. increase in community pride) effects of historic preservation, specific to small towns (if possible). Can anyone recommend articles or other reading material on this subject? I am already looking at the Main Street Program but I would like to see if there are any other sources of information.

    In addition, does anyone know of a town(s) for possible case studies?

  2. #2
    Hello, Small Towner and welcome to Cyburbia. You've posted on a Sunday afternoon, probably one of the slowest times in these forums, so be patient and more folks will chime in during the work week.

    I would suggest contacting the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) in the states you are interested in, or checking out their websites, for leads on preservation experiences in small towns. I'd look for contact information in the communities and get in touch with folks. Most likely, they will be THRILLED to have a grad student inquiring about their town and will be very happy to share their time.

    Community pride is a real factor in some preservation projects -- sometimes even when the bottom line says "no way".

    Good luck and stick around. Cyburbia is a great resource and a lot of fun people.
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
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  3. #3
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    If you are truly looking at the Great Plains, by which I mean Montana, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and parts of Kansas, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas, then I don't think you will find that historic preservation has much value in cities not drawing tourism. The small rural towns in this region are still largely service centers for the local population, and this is a rapidly eroding role. The uses you will find in these communities are not ones which are impacted by a location in a historic building, and the cost of renovation is going to be prohibitive in most cases.
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  4. #4

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    Thank you for your replies and the warm welcome.

    My curiousity in this subject actually came from two towns (my hometown and my childhood hometown) located in central Montana and eastern Colorado with populations around 1,000. Both are county seats that service the surrounding agriculture community. In addition, both have prominent, centrally located buildings that have been listed on each state's historical register.

    I am wondering if the restoration of these buildings might serve as a catalyst for developing a place-based economic development strategy. Maybe it is an idealistic thought but if a community reinvested in itself, to make it a nicer place for the community members, then others might eventually be attracted and bring small export-oriented businesses with them. This could be a long process and a very grassroots effort by the community Maybe investment in their cultural heritage is a starting point?

  5. #5
    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    You have looked at the main street program. It has

    Broad based view of economic development throught historic preservation. Look particularly at job creation and job retention and import substitution. Also, note that historic renovation typically uses local artisans & workers, materials from local suppliers, and those people buy lunch in town. New constructon imports pre-constructed materials and requires a lot less local labor than rehabilitation.

    http://www.columbia.edu/cu/china/DRPAP.html

    Increased tourist revenues

    http://www.tia.org/Press/pressrec.asp?Item=164

    There are several studies showing the value of properties in historic districts retain or exceed values of similar properties in non-historic districts.

    Also, there was the Peck Report by the GSA which showed that maintenance of historic buildings is often less expensive than maintaining new buildings.

    A lot of my links to these reports have expired. You may want to google some of those subjects.

  6. #6

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    Historic preservation as a stand-alone strategy is unlikely to work for any of the small towns out on the Plains. But it can be part of a larger effort that may help. What works depends on the town, its cultural and political history, and a lot of factors that one cannot control, like proximity to an interstate highway, distance to a larger community, etc.

    A place that has made a major investment in an historic courthouse, and where some entrepreneurs have also been at work is Cottonwood Falls, KS. A good case study there would be helpful. Other small towns out on the plains that you might want to look at include Valentine and Chadron, NE. I am trying to remember the name of another small place in Kansas, but will have to think about that.

    Overall, community revitalization in really small places is difficult, but there are some strategies. The Planning for Results Guidebook, which is available for a modest sum from the National Association of Counties is a resource you may want to check it out. It presents an assets/place based philosophy for communty development in Chapters 3 and 4.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    This might help as a potential resource. I used to run from my school in DC to Hyattsville--well, to the DC/MD border. You might want to call over to the UMD planning program and see if anyone could offer some assistance there too.

    http://www.preservenet.cornell.edu/

  8. #8

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    What about studies on the intangible side?

    Quote Originally posted by Wulf9
    There are several studies showing the value of properties in historic districts retain or exceed values of similar properties in non-historic districts.
    Thanks for the information I will definately check out these links. Do you know of any studies regarding the intangible benefits of preservation? Things like increased community pride and public participation?
    Last edited by giff57; 24 Nov 2004 at 12:49 PM.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    ...I am trying to remember the name of another small place in Kansas, but will have to think about that....
    Ellinwood? I was impressed when I drove through in sprinhg of this year. The first thing I noticed was the entrance sign and the ornamentation on the streetlights. Each light post had a sheath of wheat stalks fabricated from metal, not the stereotypical ornamentation everyone buys from a handful of companies. The main street in the downtown is brick, as are many in rural Kansas. Nice touch. There are several historic buildings, including a very nice former hotel which is now an antique shop. It is across the street from the former rail yard, which is still recognizable by the architecture and orientation of some of the remaining buildings. This might be a very good town to look at.
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  10. #10
         
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    Check out the City of St. Charles, Missouri website. We have an incredible Main Street as well as several other historic districts. It is authentic and has overcome the installation and removal of the ever so popular "pedestrian mall". Our Main Street is over twenty city blocks long with authentic architecture. We do everything we can to preserve every element of the buildings and have strong committees dedicated to the districts. In our planning department my main focus is the historic districts. I can discuss with you the things this city has done to turn the street around and what efforts we take currently to ensure the preservation of the buildings. Here is the website, you may have to look around to find information about the districts, but I do think our design guidelines are posted there and as I said I would be happy to discuss some of the things that we do here to preserve our incredible districts.

    http://www.stcharlescity.com/

  11. #11

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    The National Trust has lots of info on the tangible benefits of preservation.

    Its not Ellinwood. Farther west, on Kansas 96.

  12. #12

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    Thanks!

    Thank your for all of the great replies and good ideas. They have been very helpful.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Queen B's avatar
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    Lee, wow Cottonwood Falls, you are talking my neck of the woods. And as a matter of fact my mother actually abides there. Such a small world. Cottonwood Falls and that area made a push a few years ago but mostly it was also had a tourist connection with the Tall Grass Prairie project and the push for the new national park. Interesting aside, they have no zoning in that county. Evedenced in the fact that there is a new adult entertainment establishment recently opened.

    Lindsborg, Ks has done a nice job with preservation. They have a tourist base but draw on Swedish heritage. They have a large number of historic homes.
    Of course there is also Abilene Ks. But I will let Budgie speak to that One.

    Most of these small towns have good historic bones but if you are not going for tourism there still must be a draw to get and keep resident. Actually we have some small neighboring towns that are giving away land to draw people.
    It is all a matter of perspective!!!

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