Historic Preservation

I read a wonderful article today in the latest edition of Preservation, the magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The article is about what has been done in Staunton, Virginia, and beautifully describes what we are trying to do, admittedly with less to work with, here in Pocahontas: using historic preservation and rehabilitation to revitalize out town, and in particular our downtown.

A few quotes from the article:

It was 1980, and [Janet] Thomas,  on the advice of my tablemates–Kathy and Bill Frazier–had forked over $1,200 to restore the Beverley Building’s 1888 façade. “It was a lot of money,” says Thomas, a fixture at her family’s restaurant for almost four decades. “But we wanted to put the [restaurant] building back like it was when it was built.”

This is exactly the feeling I have regarding the Lesmeister Guesthouse and The St. Charles, but $1,200 sure won’t touch the cost! This single $1,200 investment in Staunton put an end to years of tearing down wonderful Victorian era brick buildings in Staunton’s downtown (to “modernize” it and create more parking).

All you have to do is look around at the beautifully maintained buildings designed in an eclectic mix of architectural styles to realize that historic preservation drove Staunton’s renaissance. In the city’s five distinct historic districts, property values have climbed by 279 percent on average since 1983. Since 2000 alone, more than $50 million in private investment on historic tax-credit projects–from single-family homes to mixed-use commercial projects–has poured into the city.

Year after year, the Historic Staunton Foundation documented the amount of money invested in preservation and its positive economic effects. City council members and city managers eventually got on board.

This is what we currently face in Pocahontas, trying to convince city officials of the value our city could realize by following Staunton’s example. We have a visionary mayor who’s definitely on board, but convincing the city council isn’t easy.

“Most businesses that come to look at Staunton respond very well to the central business district, whether they are retailers or manufacturers looking to locate on the city’s perimeter.”…[Bill Hamilton] says the manufacturer’s top five criteria are, in order, historic preservation, cultural attractions, a music scene, a local-foods movement, and environmental sustainability.

Staunton, VA, is 30 years ahead of us, but with the steps I’m taking, along with several other good people, life is only going to get better in Pocahontas!


Downtown Staunton, Virginia

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