Historic Preservation group ready for coal camp house project

The Cumberland coal camp south of Kemmerer. The Kemmerer Historic Preservation Commission is seeking information on houses that were moved from the coal camps into Kemmerer.

The Kemmerer Historic Preservation Commission has been revived, and the group is all set to tackle its first historic preservation project — identifying and recording houses that were moved from surrounding coal camps into Kemmerer.

“Residents with information could help us identify these buildings, who brought them to town, who owned and lived in them, and when they were brought here,” said Linda Goetz, commission chair.

Goetz said the idea came from a recent history night at the library, when local historians were discussing life in the coal camps and someone mentioned that a local house had been relocated from a coal camp. 

The event will be held at the Kemmerer library on Tuesday, Jan. 29, at 7 p.m., and on Saturday, Feb. 2, from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Interested locals can attend to provide the Historic Preservation Commission with information or help document information given at the event.

“We don’t think there’s another project like this in the state,” Goetz said. “Usually buildings like this wouldn’t be eligible (for historic designation) because they’ve been moved, but the historic integrity is still there because of where they came from.”

Project grants from the State Historic Preservation Office are usually based on geography, but this project would be based on a unique theme — buildings that were relocated from coal camps. The Kemmerer post office was similarly designated as a historic place as part of a theme of historic post offices in Wyoming.

Members of the recently revived Historic Preservation Commission are Linda Goetz, John Sawaya, Mary Sawaya and Jen Barnett. Goetz said the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office records date the group’s origins to 2005, but activity and record-keeping has been sporadic since then.

“I see our purpose as preserving the community’s architectural history,” said John Sawaya. “It provides a baseline for what the town was and offers focus for what it can be. We’re not entirely about looking backwards. We focus on both directions.”

As a certified local government, the group is eligible for state and federal grants to pursue historic preservation projects. The Kemmerer Historic Preservation Commission was once a sub-committee of the zoning board, but is now its own entity that will work with the zoning board and the city council.

“We’ll be made aware of potential demolitions and new constructions so that we can give our recommendations to the city council,” Goetz said. “We want to be a resource for citizens. On the board we have both long-time residents and cultural resource professionals. We can educate people about our historic buildings so that we can preserve and enhance them.” 

Goetz outlined the process of recording a building or site in order for it to be submitted to the National Register of Historic Places. A building’s local significance plays a role in its potential designation.

Recording a historic building involves taking photographs of the building’s exterior and designating the style of architecture and exterior features.

Part of the process is determining whether the features are originals or replacements; the extent that the features have been changed can determine whether the building still maintains its historic integrity.

“We also research who designed and built the structure, as well as the history and what happened there,” Goetz said.

The commission is also looking into several grants to help with projects. The group has already received a grant from the State Historic Preservation Office for member training.

A Historic Tree Grant could go toward maintaining Kemmerer’s designation as a Tree City.

“We’re not just about historic structures but also things like trees and landscapes, and this grant could help us date them and create a fuller picture of when trees were planted,” Goetz said.

Another potential grant is a Historic Revitalization Grant from the National Parks Service. This grant could provide funds for rehabilitating some buildings in downtown Kemmerer that are already on the National Register of Historic Places or could be eligible. The commission is working with the City of Kemmerer on these grant applications.