Some days it can be tough to be a preservationist. Demolition takes place after a hard-fought battle. Funding for a project doesn’t come together. Local government approves a terrible design for development on a historic landscape. We’ve all been there with a bad case of the preservation blues.

Which is why the opportunities to celebrate the wins are so very important. The glorious rehab that puts new life into an old place. The decision-making and number-crunching that finds rehab is a better option than demolition. The people who dedicate their lives to saving places that matter in their community. The talented craftspeople and companies that take on these challenges and work wonders.

Now accepting submissions for the 2017 Historic Preservation Awards!

Do you know of a person or project that deserves recognition? Why not celebrate Preservation Month by submitting a nomination to Preservation Pennsylvania for the 2017 Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Awards.  Visit the Preservation PA website at for the guideline submissions and form. (Note: National Register eligibility is no longer a requirement, given that so many places in the commonwealth have not yet been surveyed. All work must demonstrate good preservation practices. Eligible projects must have been completed in the last five years: June 1, 2012 – January 31, 2017.)

You might nominate a planning or advocacy effort, or an outstanding construction project or, a new category this year, new construction in a historic district. Help us recognize the best of preservation in Pennsylvania!

The awards ceremony each year is an opportunity to meet dedicated men and women and learn about the tremendous work being done all across the state in construction, advocacy, planning, design, education and outreach. Here are just a few of the ways the awards recipients have inspired us over the last few years.

Darrin Heckman and Carol Bear Heckman receive the Grassroots Advocacy Award from Board Chairman Peter Benton.

A few good people can make a big difference.

We’ve honored some groups who may have started small, but had a strong vision of how to make change happen. The Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh (2013 Chairman’s Award) engages young people in education and advocacy programs, including their Top 10 Event and Preservation Opportunities list that put a positive spin on traditional endangered property lists. The Cresson Tuberculosis Sanatorium (2014 Grassroots Advocacy Award) recognized an effort that started as a website created by a former patient that became a hub for an online community to share stories and photos and led to the creation of a group that holds reunions and advocates for recognition of the history of the sanatorium and preservation of its history, including a state marker unveiled in 2014. Last year, Carol Bear Heckman and Darrin Heckman received the Grassroots Advocacy Award for the work they are doing in Bath to preserve old buildings and help revitalize the main commercial corridor. In each instance one person launched an effort that was transformative. Dream big! Make things happen!

Sometimes miracles happen.

We loved the story of the 1884 Quaker Bridge that received the Ralph Modjeski Award last year and it shows that at the darkest hour, sometimes preservation can prevail. Efforts to save the bridge had stalled, and crews were on site with cutting torches, ready to start demolition. At the last minute, Brian Yedinak of PennDOT District 1-0 was able to delay demolition to give the advocates more time to find funding and unravel the many bureaucratic complications connected with the preservation effort. The bridge will become the centerpiece of a new park.

The Quaker Bridge (1884) will become the centerpiece of a new park.

Want to save the places that matter? Plan ahead.

When a local landmark has been in place a century or more, the community is lulled into assuming it will stand for another century. Our Pennsylvania At Risk list demonstrates that without local planning and preservation protections, nothing is safe. The awards have celebrated efforts to identify local resources, spark community conversations about history and which places create a special sense of place, and to create a vision that plans for the future. In 2014 we honored the City of Lancaster’s decades-long preservation ethic, dating all the way back to their Historic District Ordinance in 1967. Also recognized was the Brandywine Battlefield Task Force planning partnership at the local, county, state, and federal levels to manage growth across a complex landscape.

Preservationists love amazing places and spaces.

As building enthusiasts, we all love seeing the before and after photos that take your breath away. We admire the restored details — flowery moldings, colorful tiles, elegant cornices, and so on. And you feel the joy knowing that another great structure will last for the next generation to enjoy. We love cheering on the people who make these projects happen. The historic schools that were rehabbed instead of being demolished (2016 and 2014 Reading School District, 2013 Park Place School). The one-of-a-kind buildings like the Victorian glass house (2016 Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens) and the former pachyderm house at the Philadelphia Zoo (2014 KidZooU). The industrial sites reclaimed and transformed into community space (2013 The Stock House/Bethlehem Steel Complex). The revitalized theaters that will continue to entertain and inspire (2013 Bucks County Playhouse, 2012 Campus Theater).

SMP reimagined the former elephant house designed by Paul Cret into KidZooU.

Help us highlight all the tremendous preservation work being done across Pennsylvania. Nominate a person or project for the 2017 Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Awards!


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.