From June 6-8, 250 of Pennsylvania’s spiffiest preservationists made Lewisburg, PA the most happening scene in the Commonwealth during the 2016 Statewide Conference on Heritage, and – by all accounts – every beach bunny, bookbuster, cat, chick, cool head, dove, dude, flap jaw, flower child, fox, hodad, hot dog, hunk, mop-top, mover, skirt, and teenie bopper in attendance had a totally way out blast! As you whiz kids out there may know, 2016 is the year that the preservation community is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the utterly rad National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, and part of that wicked celebration involves recognizing, praising, and engaging with Pennsylvania’s diverse and awesome communities that exist throughout the state.
In keeping with the celebratory Preservation50 goals to “unite partners across sectors in the largest, most diverse, and most collaborative preservation coalition in history; organize discussions of critical topics that connect lessons learned with new strategies; lay the groundwork for greater credibility and influence in subsequent years; [and] forge programs that build the capacity of emerging leaders capable of transformative action,” 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.
One of the highlights of the conference was the opportunity for all attendees to interact with the Campus Theatre, a meticulously restored Lewisburg community landmark. Centrally and prominently located on historic Market Street, the David Supowitz-designed art deco Campus Theatre has been a cultural mainstay of the Lewisburg area since January of 1941, and it continues to serve the public today through a model town-and-gown partnership between Bucknell University and the non-profit group The Campus Theatre, Ltd. The fruits of this flourishing and exemplary preservation partnership were highlighted during conference sessions that included the plenary session entitled “If the Past Teaches, What Does the Future Learn?” which featured Lewisburg Mayor Judith T. Wagner, Christopher Wilson of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and Jason Illari, the Executive Director of the Cumberland County Historical Society, as well as other sessions like “A New Generation of Highway Planning: Balancing Transportation and Landscape” with SEDA COG’s Steven Herman, Brenda Barrett of the Living Landscape Observer, Matt Beck of PennDOT, Trish Carothers of the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership, and Kelly Rossiter of PA DCNR. These sessions, as well as others that were held in the Campus Theatre, served to demonstrate the importance of building, maintaining, and nourishing partnerships between preservation organizations and various community advocacy and governmental allies.
The other conference sessions venues – the Bucknell University Barnes & Noble bookstore and the cherished local eatery Elizabeth’s Bistro – were located near the Campus Theatre on historic Market Street and both businesses further represent the assets that community connections are to the successful completion of historic preservation goals. Bucknell University’s Barnes & Noble bookstore is a successful Rehabilitation Investment Tax Credit project, and the interior retains charming original details while being a thriving community asset. Barnes & Noble hosted conference sessions that included “They Can’t All Be Victorians: When Old Houses Have No ‘Style’” with Pamela Reilly of DCED, Jerry Clouse of McCormick Taylor, and Lu Donnelly, and “Diving Deep into PA SHPO’s Updated Archaeological Guidelines” with Douglas McLearen, Kira Heinrich, and Steve McDougal, all of the PA SHPO. Elizabeth’s Bistro is a charming local restaurant that is located within a carefully maintained historic building on Market Street, and the restaurant clearly embraces its historic architectural details on both the interior and exterior. Thus, Elizabeth’s Bistro very appropriately hosted conference sessions that included “Community Revitalization: Preservation Gut Check” with Scott Doyle of the PA SHPO, Josh Hankey of Royal Square Development, and Trey Barbour of Trek Development.
In addition to formal conference sessions, the 2016 Statewide Conference on Heritage embraced the theme of community connections by further encouraging conference attendees to become familiar with Lewisburg via organized walking tours with knowledgeable local guides – such as Lewisburg’s Elm Street Manager, Samantha Pearson, who led the “Going with the Flow: Rivertown Walking Tour,” and Tom Greaves, Ted Strosser, Linda Sterling who each lead walking tours of different neighborhoods of Lewisburg. These tours, as well as other conference-orchestrated events, encouraged conference attendees to stroll through local businesses and dine in a number of the many local independent restaurants that are found in downtown Lewisburg.
The events, sessions, and networking conversations that served to connect those members of Pennsylvania’s professional preservation arena with community advocates and local partners, businesses, and passionate citizens were all made possible through the contributions of the conference sponsors, and the organizers and attendees of the 2016 Statewide Conference on Heritage are extremely grateful for their support!
Last, but certainly not least – a huge thank you goes out to the City of Lewisburg – Mayor Judith T. Wagner, Lewisburg business owners, and Lewisburg residents – all of whom welcomed a deluge of preservationists into their city with open arms and truly demonstrated the impossible-to-understate significance of the role that diverse community partners have in successful historic preservation in the Commonwealth. Here’s to the next fifty years of heritage celebration in Pennsylvania!
Elizabeth Shultz is a Cultural Resources GIS Specialist and Survey Coordinator at the Pennsylvania SHPO. She has a BA in Public History from the honors college at Lock Haven University, a master’s degree in Historic Preservation from Tulane University’s School of Architecture, and is a National Development Council certified Historic Real Estate Finance Professional.