Each year countless Pennsylvanians work to preserve the Commonwealth’s legacy that is reflected in our traditions, historic built environment, and our cultural landscapes. In 2008, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) partnered with Preservation Pennsylvania, Inc. to create two special awards to honor those who have demonstrated exemplary leadership in the field of historic preservation.
The 2013 Historic Preservation Awards were held on September 27 at the Sunnybrook Ballroom in Pottstown. Sunnybrook was constructed in 1931 and soon became famous for having the largest dance floor east of the Mississippi River (18,000 square feet of dance floor!). Sunnybrook is also an entertainment landmark, hosting in the Big Band Era popular musicians such as Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, and the ‘King of Jazz’ Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra. Sitting under the 18 foot ceilings gives all a sense of grandeur. The voluminous dance hall and nostalgic atmosphere was a perfect venue to celebrate all of the award recipients. Sunnybrook was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. Commissioner William Lewis presented the two PHMC Awards on behalf of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
Theme Award, The Land of Penn and Plenty: The Moose Exchange, Columbia County
Annually, the PHMC adopts a theme to focus the Commission’s efforts in public education, scholarship, promotion, and grant making. The idea for an annual theme originated in the Historic Preservation Office nearly ten years ago and was later expanded to an agency-wide initiative to draw attention to a specific facet of Pennsylvania’s history. Recipients of the PHMC’s Annual Theme Award have successfully completed an innovative project, program, or initiative embodying the PHMC’s previous annual theme. In 2012, the PHMC selected the theme of The Land of Penn and Plenty, a celebration of the important role of agriculture and food in our history.
When the Loyal Order of Moose in Bloomsburg moved out of their 1949 Art Deco Lodge Building in 1999, a local citizen, Drue Magee purchased the building because of her love of history and her community. Starting in 2009, she recruited an enthusiastic group of volunteers who shared her goal of making the building an anchor for the west end. Tenant spaces quickly filled with artists, a graphic designer, a record store (with vinyl LPs), a comic book shop and a few others.
In 2012, the property was transferred debt-free to 203 West Main Street, Inc. to serve in perpetuity as an arts and community center. The first-floor kitchen was renovated to operate as a fully-licensed commercial kitchen. Dozens of volunteer hours went into the newly-named Community Kitchen, turning it into a space where local entrepreneurs can develop and build their successful food businesses. Non-profit groups and individuals can use the kitchen for baking for a fundraiser, canning produce or bringing friends together for an evening of cooking and eating. The kitchen is also used for educational programs such as Penn State Extension’s “Dining with Diabetes” program and Bloomsburg University’s continuing education courses in soups, breads and meal planning.
During the winter months, the Moose Exchange serves as the location for an indoor farmer’s market enabling the successful outdoor market to extend their season. In February 2012, the Exchange completed the exterior finishing touches with the lighting of a renovated neon sign that fit the contours of the original sign. This young non-profit has made great strides in returning this landmark building to its intended place at the center of regional life.
Visionary in Historic Preservation Award: Jean H. Cutler, Dauphin County
The second PHMC award given annually is the Visionary in Historic Preservation Award which is presented to an individual or organization who has demonstrated leadership in helping Pennsylvania communities embrace strong preservation values. This award honors stewards who have demonstrated extraordinary effort and innovation in educating and planning for the future of the Commonwealth’s cultural and historic resources. The Visionary in Historic Preservation Award is given at the discretion of the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission who serves as the State Historic Preservation Officer for the Commonwealth.
Jean H. Cutler, former director of the Bureau for Historic Preservation at the PHMC, laid a solid foundation of policies in the Commonwealth that positions Pennsylvania to be a leader in historic preservation. Her vision and efforts to connect the historic preservation and environmental movements have given the field a new momentum.
Jean’s vision for historic preservation included the creation of Pennsylvania’s annual historic preservation themes to highlight and promote the Commonwealth’s vast historic resources. Jean was also the creator of the Visionary in Historic Preservation Award and as a true leader at the statewide and local level she is always looking for new ways to promote Pennsylvania’s historic communities as great places to live or to visit.
In the short months she’s been retired from the PHMC, Jean has dedicated her time to helping Harrisburg become the model for successful revitalization strategies. She’s aligned with numerous neighborhood initiatives and has infused historic preservation into the heart of each effort. Her current projects range from assisting the Camp Curtin Community Neighborhood United Project capitalize on the area’s railroad and Civil War history to promote civic pride and reinvestment — to being actively engaged with Harrisburg’s City Beautiful Conservancy to encourage citizens to become involved in maintaining the city’s public parks. Jean remains faithful to the benefits of historic preservation. She is a conservation champion in Harrisburg; and is actively rallying support to creatively tie the city’s future to the preservation of its past.
The 2013 PHMC annual theme is Civil War 150. Keep an eye out for Preservation Pennsylvania’s call for award nominations in the spring of 2014. If you know of a Visionary in Historic Preservation who should be honored, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to our partner, Preservation Pennsylvania, for sharing photographs from the awards ceremony.