Kemmerer Main Street presents on historic resource preservation

Linda Goetz, Kemmerer Main Street secretary and treasurer, presents about historic resource preservation at the Kemmerer Library on Thursday, Nov. 2. The lecture was the first in a series. (GAZETTE PHOTO / Theresa Davis)

Kemmerer Main Street hosted a special lecture titled, "Echoes of the Past: Preserving our Historic Resources" on Thursday, Nov. 2, in the Kemmerer Library.

Linda Goetz, secretary/treasurer for the Kemmerer Main Street committee, gave the presentation. Goetz reminded the audience that this Main Street lecture was the first in a series, and the committee wanted the public to help determine what the next lectures would be about.

"Examining what makes something a historic resource helps us see stuff we see every day in a slightly different light," Goetz said.

Goetz emphasized that historic preservation helps keep historic districts intact.

"Historic districts are often composed of buildings from several different time periods," Goetz said. "When buildings are allowed to fall into neglect, people notice what's not there instead of what is."

Kemmerer does have a historic district — the J.C. Penney Historic District — but it doesn't include all of the Triangle.

Goetz defined cultural resources and explained how to determine what is a historic resource.

"It often takes grassroots efforts to protect historical sites," Goetz said, giving the example of women who held bake sales to help restore Mt. Vernon, the home of George Washington.

Guidelines for historic preservation were outlined in the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act. Before that, the process to determine historical significance was arbitrary.

Goetz explained the eligibility guidelines for a site to be included in the National Register of Historic Places.

Guidelines include age, significance, integrity and design.

Goetz stressed that a building or site doesn't have to be of national or global historic significance — local history is just as much a criteria for historic designation.

Integrity focuses on if "someone from the past would recognize their own home, or has it been changed too much from the original?”

"A dilapidated building that hasn’t been altered may be more eligible for historic status than one in good condition that has been changed too much from its original design," Goetz said when explaining building integrity.

Goetz delved into the treatment of historic resources by explaining the difference between rehabilitation and restoration.

The Ellis Island station has been rehabilitated — it's not exactly like it was historically, but it's been converted into a museum of sorts that still has a historical feeling.

"Restoration is trying to build a time machine," Goetz said. "The J.C. Penney home is a great example — you walk in and feel like Mr. Penney could be there."

Goetz said restoration projects don't always have to be extensive;  they could be as simple as replacing a roof.

She also explained the importance of oral histories in determining historical significance.

"Families — especially around here — have generations of stories about buildings and events," Goetz said. "We want to get that info written down so it can be a resource for people in the future.”

Goetz also mentioned monetary benefits of preserving historic resources.

"If you have a historic home, and you can keep certain features of an era intact, people will pay more money for those character-defining features," Goetz said.

Goetz also mentioned non-residential properties can receive historic tax credits.

"It's your property, so you can do what you want, but the rule of thumb is repair rather than replace," Goetz said.

Residents are encouraged to contact Goetz and the Kemmerer Main Street Committee if they are interested in more about historic preservation.