Greene County Heritage Workshop
More than 40 owners and caretakers of historic buildings in Greene, Washington, and Fayette counties gathered in Waynesburg on November 4 for the first “Greene County Heritage Workshop: How to Care for Your Historic Building(s),” sponsored by PHLF and 16 local co-sponsors. A full-day’s program of preservation topics, resources, and inspiration was presented by state, regional, and local officials, along with PHLF staff and local experts.
At the end of the day, one participant wrote: “Names of sources, details and examples were excellent. I feel overwhelmed but I now have a road to follow.” Another wrote: “It was a very enlightening day.”
The program began with Bill Callahan, Western PA Community Preservation Coordinator of the State Historic Preservation Office (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission), stating that “It is an economic imperative for communities like Waynesburg to use historic preservation as a 21st-century development strategy. Heritage tourism is a major industry. By saving historic places, a community provides meaningful, authentic experiences for citizens and for visitors––and maintains a sustainable, healthy built environment. Preservation is a design ethic for creating sustainable, livable communities in the 21st century.”
Johnna Pro, Regional Director of Community Affairs for the PA Department of Community and Economic Development, explained that the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) has matching fund programs for community revitalization. They are very competitive, but if you have a good solid project, she wants to hear about it. DCED encourages communities to find corporate sponsors to partner with them since corporations receive tax credits through the Neighborhood Partnership Program. She also recommended the community development program of the Federal Department of Agriculture.
Architectural historian Lu Donnelly shared images and information on the many architectural treasures in Greene County. She showed examples of the buildings that contribute to Greene County’s significant architectural heritage, including farms and outbuildings, covered bridges, historic religious properties, residential buildings, a rare, surviving coal patch town, main streets, civic and commercial buildings, rural churches, and academic buildings ranging from one-room school houses to universities.
Clare and Duncan Horner spoke about their c. 1880 farm of 70 acres in Greene County. Since their goal is to keep the land together and maintain the historic buildings, they donated a conservation easement to PHLF, thus protecting the farm and buildings in perpetuity. The Horners talked about the process of donating an easement and the benefits that have come from their on-going relationship with PHLF.
While enjoying a complementary box lunch, participants watched “Through the Place,” a feature-length documentary highlighting the history, achievements, and impact of PHLF since its founding in 1964. The regional preservation story was set within the context of the preservation movement nationwide and includes comments from nationally recognized architects, preservationists, authors, and historians.
Practical tips were the focus of the afternoon sessions. Architect Ken Kulak and Bryan Cumberledge, Waynesburg Borough Code Enforcement Officer, emphasized that building codes are about life-safety issues. They discussed how architects and local officials can work together with property owners from the outset of a project to effectively navigate building rehabilitation projects. Historic construction expert Fred Smith showed samples and evaluated options for the repair or replacement of historic windows and doors.
Participants agreed that the workshop format was effective and would serve as a model as PHLF develops additional workshops in 2018. PHLF funded the workshop thanks to donations to its 50th Anniversary Fund. More than 65 members and foundations contributed to PHLF’s 50th Anniversary Fund between 2014 and 2017. One of the goals of that fundraising effort was to help PHLF provide technical assistance to main streets and historic neighborhoods throughout the Pittsburgh region, with a particular emphasis on outlying counties where no local preservation organizations exist to assist concerned citizens.