Now is the time for all good preservationists to put on their thinking caps! Do you know of a great project, person or organization that deserves recognition with a Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Award, the state’s highest preservation honor?

For almost 40 years, these awards from Preservation Pennsylvania have recognized outstanding preservation practice throughout the state, from walking tours to homeowner rehabs, from bridge preservation to citizen engagement in archaeology. Click here for the nomination form and submission information.

Are there guidelines for eligibility?

The only real limitation is the generous five-year completion window. (Obviously categories like stewardship or education probably have no completion date!)

  • Five year window: Projects nominated for awards must have been substantially completed between June 1, 2013 and January 31, 2018.
  • National Register eligibility is not a requirement for submission.
  • All work must demonstrate good preservation practices.
  • Nominations are welcome from all, whether you are a homeowner, a municipality or an architectural or CRM firm. We want all types of preservation practice represented!

What kinds of projects are recognized?

The awards were established to recognize excellence and to share stories about all the wonderful preservation work going on throughout Pennsylvania. The awards ceremony each fall provides a welcome opportunity to take a break from the day to day work and truly be inspired by the creativity, passion and vision of fellow preservationists. Nominations that highlight projects related to planning, stewardship, education, advocacy, economic revitalization, emergency response and more are welcome. Construction projects may be restoration, rehabilitation or even infill in a historic district. Project sizes vary. They may be small, such as private homeowners reviving an old house or a small business owner giving their storefront a refresh. Or they may be larger endeavors, such as updates to a landmarked building or an adaptive reuse of a former factory.

before and after photos of two brick houses

Wilkinsburg Neighborhood Restoration (Allegheny County), recipient of a 2017 Preservation Planning Award. After more than a decade of effort, the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation has brought real change to a struggling neighborhood, modeling the use of preservation tools to bring about human, economic and social renewal.

What are the award categories?

Below is a listing of available award categories. Each includes an example of a recent recipient.

Special Focus Awards

  • Ralph Modjeski Award for Excellence in Transportation Design, Preservation or Archaeology – For an exceptional effort within the transportation field that results in an improvement in transportation systems while respecting and preserving the best practices of compatible design and historic preservation principles. 2017 Recipient: Walnut Lane Bridge Over Wissahickon Creek (Philadelphia County); 2016 Recipient: Quaker Bridge (Mercer County)
  • Preservation Planning – For projects that demonstrate the best planning and development
    practices to promote historic preservation. 2017 Recipients: Wilkinsburg Neighborhood Restoration (Allegheny County); Carroll Cabin (Fayette County); Washington’s War Tent, Museum of the American Revolution (Philadelphia County)
  • Public Impact Award – Given to a project or individual for excellence in using a historic building as a catalyst to enrich a community. 2017 Recipients: Buddy’s Brew on Carson, Formerly the Sankey Brick Company (Allegheny County); Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center, Formerly the West Chester National Guard Armory (Chester County); The Millworks, Formerly the Stokes Millworks (Dauphin County); Easton Public Market, Formerly Rader’s Dry Goods (Northampton County)
3 story brick building

Buddy’s Brews, formerly the Sankey Brick Company (Allegheny County), recipient of a 2017 Public Impact Award. When T&T Hardware closed after 74 years in business, this building went quiet. The new owner brought back the building’s original 1901 beauty and new business enlivens the neighborhood once more.

Initiative Awards
These awards recognize special initiatives, services, or commitment to preservation values in the previous year by an individual, organization, community, or group in the following categories.

  • Communication – For exceptional quality preservation/heritage publications or outstanding media coverage of preservation/heritage efforts or issues. 2016 Recipient: Preservation Erie (Erie County)
  • Community Involvement – For individual or organizational involvement in community preservation/heritage issues or projects. 2017 Recipients: Conneaut Lake Town Hall, formerly the High Street Church (Crawford County); Musselman/Vesta Iron Furnace Center (Lancaster County); 2016 Recipient: Friends Housing Cooperative (Philadelphia County)
  • Education – For innovative and exceptional preservation/heritage educational programs or curricula. 2016 Recipient: Zimmerman Center for Heritage (York County)
  • Emergency Response – For quick action to repair and/or preserve a historic resource after a threat or catastrophic event. 2013 Recipients: Erwinna Covered Bridge (Bucks County); Hillsgrove Covered Bridge (Sullivan County)
  • Grassroots Advocacy – For the efforts of individuals and organizations to help communities protect and preserve the historic places that matter to them. 2016 Recipient: Carol Bear Heckman and Darrin Heckman (Northampton County)
  • Stewardship – For exceptional stewardship efforts by an individual or group on behalf of a significant historic resource or resources. 2017 Recipient: Keim House (Berks County)
  • Sustainability in Historic Preservation – For the continual use and sustainable rehabilitation of an existing building; one that has conserved materials and energy; prevented environmental, social and economic impacts of demolition; and taken into consideration embodied energy. 2016 Recipient: Pottstown School District, Rupert Elementary School (Montgomery County)
Children outside school

Rupert Elementary School, Pottstown School District (Montgomery County), recipient of a 2016 Sustainability in Historic Preservation Award. Demolition seemed like a certain outcome for this 1928 school building, yet in 2015 a rededication ceremony celebrated the restored school, which was expanded with a new addition and Certified LEED Gold — all accomplished at a lower cost than replacing the school.

Honor Awards
The Honor Award recipients are selected by the Executive Committee of Preservation Pennsylvania. While applications are not accepted for these awards, suggestions are welcome.

  • F. Otto Haas Award – This award is named for noted preservationist and philanthropist F. Otto Haas (1915-1994), as standing recognition of his service and contributions to historic preservation. This award honors outstanding individual or group achievements in the field of historic preservation. 2017 Recipient: The Progress Fund (Westmoreland County); 2016 Recipient: Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, SHPO (Dauphin County)
  • Henry A. Jordan Award – This award is named for Henry A. Jordan (1936-2010), a former Preservation Pennsylvania Board Chairman and life-long supporter of the historic preservation movement. In keeping with Henry’s belief that it is at the local level where real historic preservation occurs, this award honors outstanding historic preservation efforts at the local/regional level. 2017 Recipient: James L. Brown IV (Philadelphia County); 2016 Recipient: City of Lancaster (Lancaster County)

Construction Awards
Construction Awards honor outstanding examples of:

  • Private/Homeowner/Small business rehabilitation
  • Restoration
  • Rehabilitation
  • Infill/new construction in a historic district
  • Documentation (pre-construction)
3 story clapboard building

Kidder Wachter Architecture & Design, formerly the Dickson Tavern (Erie County), recipient of a 2017 Construction Project Award. Dating from 1815, this National Register-listed building might have had a very different future if not for the thoughtful update it received, making both design and structural improvements that will help ensure a productive future as comfortable office space.

Nominations are welcome from developers, municipalities, small business owners and homeowners. Nominations should include information about the resource’s history, any listing in local or national historic districts, or inclusion within the boundaries of a designated heritage area. If the project is adaptive re-use, please indicate the building’s original use.

Work completed should follow good preservation practices. All information submitted should demonstrate how the work was undertaken in a way that respects, preserves, and maintains the resource’s historic character and integrity.

PLEASE NOTE: The award is given to the PROJECT rather than individual architects/engineers/ consultants.

We look forward to reviewing this year’s submissions and seeing a panorama of the great preservation projects Pennsylvania’s preservationists have been working on!

4 story factory

Big Mill Apartments, formerly the Curtis & Jones Company Shoe Factory (Berks County), recipient of a 2017 Construction Project Award. Despite setbacks including a four-alarm fire when the project was almost three-quarters completed, this tax credit adaptive reuse project rose from the ashes and now provides 69 apartments, with a pizza restaurant and pediatric clinic as neighborhood amenities.


This week’s post is by Sabra Smith. Sabra is Communications Director for Preservation Pennsylvania, the commonwealth’s only statewide, private, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the protection of historically and architecturally significant properties. She received a Master’s Degree in Historic Preservation from the University of Pennsylvania School of Design and now blends her love of old buildings and their stories with a curious compulsion to create #hashtags on social media. #PreservationMonth #PreservationHappensHere.