Landmarks of Delaware's historic past have become heritage tourism attractions. They are part of Delaware's economic engine in large cities and small towns alike. Experts and ordinary citizens all work together. These are just some of the many ways preservation matters.
Preservation50 is the national multi-year celebration of the National Historic Preservation Act. The act, now 50 years old, has transformed the face of communities from coast to coast. It established the legal framework and incentives to preserve historic buildings, landscapes and archaeology. Preservation50 reveals the great value that history delivers to the American people. Its aim is to build a community that leads preservation for the next 50 years.
The built landmarks of Delaware’s historic past have become heritage tourism attractions. They are part of Delaware’s economic engine in large cities and small towns alike. Preservation50 projects and activities are statewide and chaired by Kim Burdick.
On Jan. 11, twenty enthusiastic people gathered at historic Belmont Hall Conference Center in Smyrna to share their plans. This 1771 Georgian house was bought by the state in 1980 and it is administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs and the Friends of Belmont Hall.
Here are some of the ways people are contributing to Preservation50:
Craig Lukezic is mapping archaeology in the First State by video. One of the difficulties is the long-standing Delmarva practice of moving structures which adversely affects studying houses’ original sites. Beverly Laing, in charge of Preservation50 for the State Historic Preservation Office, said the SHPO’s webpage will have a place for citizens to say “What preservation means to me” with up to 300 words about success stories and fun in preservation. In Lewes a lecture series started with a Jan. 16 talk on archaeology at Ferry Farm, George Washington’s birthplace and home farm. In Dover, the Division of Arts and Cultural Affairs’ Black History Month series, on preserving African American history and stories, is coming each Saturday in February, 1 p.m. at the Old State House. At the National Heritage Park, The Green, twelve stations introduce fourth graders to the value of hands-on preservation in a significant Delaware setting. From Wilmington, Bayard Martin, head of Quaker Hill Historic District, noted that his group is working on a symposium and walking tour. Both St. Peter’s Cathedral and Wilmington Friends Meeting are marking 200 years of their worship sites in 2016, the Quakers in their third meeting house on the same grounds at 4th and West Streets. Delaware City was represented by David Orr, recently retired after a long archaeology career at the University of Delaware and Temple University; Debra Martin, Historic Preservation Planner, City of Wilmington and board member of the Underground Railroad Coalition of Delaware; and Kate O’Donnell, former member of the Kent County (Md.) Historic Preservation Commission and secretary of the newly founded Delaware City Heritage Association. Orr and O’Donnell are involved in the Friends of African Union Church Cemetery in Polktown near Delaware City. Carlton Hall spoke about the Green Book Travel Guide for African Americans, published 1890-1965 and often referred to as the Negro Motorist Travel Guide. Mr. Green, a native of Harlem, developed the guidebook for travel in the pre-Civil Rights era. Chris Mlynarczyk, of the 1st Delaware Regiment, is on the board of the Hale Byrnes House in Stanton. Their Sunday afternoon speakers series called “This Place Matters” begins in April. From Bethany Beach, Dan Costello described the gift of a 1905 house to the town for a Sussex County-wide preservation group museum once it has been moved “a little.” Marcos Salaverria of the Lewes Historical Society described awards to students involved in the 1665 Ryves-Holt house preservation. Katie McDade spoke about activities at the George Read II House and Gardens in Old New Castle with focus on African American programming. The first will be Feb. 28, highlighting the Underground Railroad. Carolyn Roland, old house specialty realtor and architectural historian, spoke of the Friends of the Frank Furness Railroad Station in Wilmington and activities of the Chester County Preservation Network. University of Delaware Ph.D. candidate Michael Emmons, at the Center for Architectural Preservation and Design, is spearheading the resurvey of the Delaware City National Register District. Since the 1980s, many structures have undergone alterations and deserve fresh appraisals. Camden civic leader and historian, Kay Wood Bailey, was Director of the Smyrna Prison Arts program. She has researched the Underground Railroad and Star Hill in Wyoming, Kent County. Larry Nagengast, retired News Journal feature writer, is involved in recording old school buildings, many pre-dating desegregation. .
These are just some of the many ways preservation matters.