This time of year is all about traditions, so I’m keeping one of ours here at the PA Historic Preservation blog: the Year in Review. Its a good time to reflect on all the great preservation in Pennsylvania in 2016. There is so much to choose from that it was hard to come up with my top 5! Once you read through my list, leave a comment and tell me what is on your Top 5 list.
Phew! Historic Preservation Fund Reauthorized!
We all gave a HUGE sigh of relief when we learned that the 114th Congress was able to pass some crucial historic preservation legislation before it adjourned for 2016.
Why? Because the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF), which is not funded by taxes but through a tiny percentage of federal offshore drilling revenue, supports the administration (at the state and federal level) of federal preservation programs established by the National Historic Preservation Act like the National Register of Historic Places, Rehabilitation Investment Tax Credits (aka historic tax credits), Certified Local Governments, and project review under Section 106. PA SHPO and Preservation Pennsylvania staff visited the Hill in March to talk with PA’s representatives about the importance of historic preservation and how critical the HPF is to our work.
I am happy to tell you that on Tuesday December 6th, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4680, the National Park Service (NPS) Centennial Bill. Early Saturday morning, the Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent, sending it to President Obama. If he signs it, which he is expected to do, it will become law. The Centennial Bill marks the first 100 years of the National Park Service and expands it programming opportunities. The bill includes a provision reauthorizing the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF), which expired on September 30th, 2015, for seven years until 2023.
The Historic Preservation Fund is a win-win: using non-tax payer dollars to partner with States and Tribes to help save the important places in your community AND bringing your local voice to federal decision-making. We’ll be back in DC in March 2017 to continue these important conversations with our legislators!
Speaking of the National Historic Preservation Act…
Unless you’ve completely avoided all preservation-related social media this year, you know that 2016 was the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act. To celebrate, the National Park Service, State Historic Preservation Offices, advocacy organizations of all shapes and sizes spent the past year highlighting the importance of the act through programming, education, and lots of cool activities. We have to thank the team behind Preservation50 for giving us all the tools and encouragement we needed to celebrate this important anniversary here in PA.
Here at the PA SHPO, we did quite a bit to help everyone celebrate!
- Jim Vaughan’s post kicked off our year-long celebration in January
- Authored an article or two in Winter 2016 Heritage magazine about the history of historic preservation in Pennsylvania
- Members of the State Historic Preservation Board hosted a presentation and listening session about the past and future of preservation at the statewide conference in June
- Made sure PA’s great historic resources were well-represented in NPS’s #50for50 social media campaign in August
- Introduced the Community Initiative Awards at Preservation Pennsylvania’s 2016 Historic Preservation Awards ceremony in October
There is more but I need to save room for my last 3 things…
All the Cool Kids Went to Lewisburg
The 2016 Statewide Conference on Heritage was a HUGE success! Its December – a long way from the perfect spring week in June – and I still hear from people about how much they enjoyed the conference. A big part of the success was the change from a typical impersonal conference venue to a wonderful small-town Pennsylvania community.
The planners of this year’s Statewide Conference on Heritage decided to embrace the preservation field’s renewed emphasis on community by eschewing a typical conference venue in favor of the delightful opportunity to make meaningful connections in Lewisburg. This community connection was accomplished through the presentation of engaging conference sessions inside several of the many wonderful local businesses that thrive along historic Market Street in Lewisburg, rather than limit conference operations in one space or conference center.
The conference included an engaging plenary by Chris Wilson from the Advisory Council as well as sessions on hot topics like lead paint, planning for town and gown communities, working with vernacular buildings, the new and improved PA SHPO archaeology guidelines, and so much more. The last day of the conference also included the first ever Symposium on Flooding & Pennsylvania’s Historic River Towns, which was a resounding success and provide a ton of information and food for thought as we continue to work against climate change.
If you didn’t make it this year, take a look at this ICYMI post by PA SHPO-er Elizabeth Shultz to get the full scoop. Stay tuned for information on 2017’s conference, which promises to be just as good!
Connecting, Connecting, and more Connecting
In May, we announced our ‘Community Connections’ campaign, the outreach and planning effort for Pennsylvania’s next statewide historic preservation plan.
The timing of the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) this year coincides nicely with our kicking off the planning process for the next statewide historic preservation plan in 2018. Both initiatives provide an opportunity to deepen our understanding of community, the connection between community and historic preservation, and craft a plan to help us launch the next phase of the preservation movement in partnership with communities old and new, traditional and non-traditional.
The foundation of any good planning effort is engagement, so we created “Community Connections: Planning for Preservation in Pennsylvania” as the engagement strategy for the statewide preservation planning process. Generally, this is a two-pronged strategy: 1) engaging the public through an online survey and regional Open Houses and 2) collaborating with our many partners through a State Plan Task Force, focus groups, and regular updates. The PA SHPO is the facilitator of this planning process because its not our plan – its Pennsylvania’s plan!
With your help, we’ve been making great progress. In April, we launched the online public survey and in May, we announced the start of this whole big process. In June, the Statewide Plan Task Force convened for the first time, which is a group of external advisors that includes some of Pennsylvania’s best and brightest historic preservation and planning leaders. In September, we issued invitations to over 150 regional and statewide organizations and agencies to join us as a Planning Partner. The response has been great so far!
Throughout October and November, we also hosted 9 Open Houses throughout the commonwealth for people to come and talk with us about preservation in their communities. The response was positive and welcoming! We learned an incredible amount and have a wealth of great information to think about now, and for the future.
My biggest news is that 3,163 Pennsylvanians took the public survey! This is 1,000 more people than the last time we issued a statewide plan survey in 2012. Stay tuned for posts in 2017 sharing what we’ve heard.
I know, I know, this may sound corny but its true. Pennsylvania is lucky to have so many dedicated, talented, and passionate people who believe in the positive power of historic preservation. Thank you for all your hard work in 2016 and I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store!