Blog of the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office

Celebrating Preservation Month with the 2022 Community Initiative Award Winners

What better time of year than National Historic Preservation Month to announce the latest round of PA SHPO’s Community Initiative Award winners! The four recipients and their projects showcase a range of preservation success stories, demonstrating the value of volunteers, creativity, and community engagement.

What are the Community Initiative Awards?

PA SHPO’s Community Initiative Awards recognize the hard work and dedication of outstanding organizations, municipalities, agencies and individuals whose work embodies the theme of Pennsylvania’s statewide historic preservation plan, #PreservationhAppenshere. The plan provides a framework of activities and goals that will help Pennsylvanians better understand historic preservation and its benefits, appreciate their shared histories as told through historic places, and balance history and economic development to manage change within their communities.

There is no formal application for the Community Initiative Awards. PA SHPO selects candidates for consideration in the following ways:

This year, PA SHPO considered over 50 candidates this year from different communities across the commonwealth.

This week’s post announces the four winners. Visit us again each week in May for more information about each of our winners and be inspired by what they’ve accomplished! 

The winners are:

Blairsville Area Underground Railroad, Blairsville, Indiana County

Blairsville Area Underground Railroad (BAUR), an entirely volunteer organization of people from Indiana and Westmoreland counties, is recognized for its ongoing dedication to educating residents and visitors about an underrepresented part of the region’s history and its partnership with a local brewery to reach audiences in a creative and accessible way.

Sketch of the head and shoulders of an African American man.

One of the Freedom Seekers labels highlighting local Underground Railroad history.

BAUR maintains a museum, archives, and history center in the former 1917 Second Baptist Church building and highlights many of the area’s Underground Railroad stories through written histories and tours. In 2021 BAUR began an innovative partnership with Levity Brewing Co., based in Indiana, to produce the Freedom Seekers beer series, featuring labels with pictures and stories of the people who were involved in the Underground Railroad in Indiana County. In addition to fundraising for BAUR, the series has increased awareness of this significant part of the area’s history.

Friends of Sheepford Road Bridge/West Shore Historical Society, Lower Allen Township, Cumberland County, and Fairview Township, York County

The Friends of Sheepford Road Bridge, a committee of the West Shore Historical Society, is recognized for its grassroots effort to save the 1887 Sheepford Road Bridge, significant as a rare Phoenix column through metal truss bridge, after investigations showed the structure was no longer safe for vehicular use.

Group of people standing on a metal bridge over water.

A Friends’ event commemorating their Cumberland County Historical Society History Pops! grant and the unveiling of their Save Our Bridge banner.

After organizing in 2020, the Friends were successful in delaying removal of the bridge and worked for two years to find a new owner and to raise the funds to restore it. In April 2022 York County received $1.4 million in Transportation Alternative Set Aside (TASA) funds to rehab the bridge for bicycle and pedestrian use. The West Shore Historical Society, the new stewards, are currently planning preconstruction activities for restoring the bridge.

Concord Township and the Preservation of Spring Valley AME Church, Concord Township, Delaware County

Concord Township is recognized for its stewardship of the historic Spring Valley African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, the focal point for the area’s Black community for a century, and engagement with the descendant congregation.

Black and white photo of one story wood building.

Spring Valley AME Church. Photo source: Concord Township Historical Society website,

In 2014, as part of their Open Space Planning program, Concord Township purchased the church, which had been damaged by fire and sat vacant for more than two decades. In 2019 former congregation members reconnected with the church, giving the Township the opportunity to engage with the local Black community and learn more about the building and the associated cemetery that had lost its markers. The township used Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for interior and exterior rehabilitation work, which was completed in 2022.

Hay Creek Valley Historical Association, Robeson Township, Berks County

Hay Creek Valley Historical Association (HCVHA), a mostly volunteer organization, is recognized for exemplary stewardship of the 1791 Joanna Furnace and ongoing programming. Established in 1975, HCVHA promotes local history and interprets life in this 18th- and 19th-century ironmaking community.

Small stone building with large chimney and arched doors.

A recent Keystone Grant helped stabilize and repair the bosh (the smelting chamber within the furnace structure), which was very deteriorated.

HCVHA volunteers worked diligently to reclaim and maintain Joanna’s buildings and grounds and continue to study the site’s layers of relevance. HCVHA shares the site with a wide range of visitors annually through classes, workshops, tours, archeological investigations, and the ever-popular Hay Creek Festival, celebrating its 47th year in September.

Celebrate National Historic Preservation Month

National Historic Preservation Month was started in 1973 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) to draw attention to older and historic places across the country and to highlight the benefits of historic preservation in the nation’s communities.

One of the easy ways you can celebrate is to send us a Preservation Success Story! Simply use the #PreservationhAppensHere hashtag in your social media posts or share it with us through PA-SHARE. You don’t need an account to submit a success story in PA-SHARE. The steps are easy:

To submit a Success Story through PA-SHARE:

  • Sign in to PA-SHARE with your account or as a Guest User.
  • Go the the Submit page and open the Success Story wizard.
  • Fill in the short form and provide at least one photograph.
  • Click “Submit to SHPO”.

Step-by-step instructions are available in Submitting a Success Story in PA-SHARE. Please contact the PA-SHARE Help Desk for assistance.

Congratulations to the 2022 winners! And Happy Preservation Month!

1 Comment

  1. Ann Hull

    Thank you for featuring “The Old Jail,” and for spreading the word about what we have to offer.

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