Pennsylvania Historic Preservation

Blog of the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Office

Pennsylvania At Risk: Twenty-Year Retrospective of Pennsylvania’s Endangered Historic Properties

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Preservation Pennsylvania established the annual Pennsylvania At Risk list in 1992, making us the first statewide preservation organization in the United States to have an annual roster of endangered historic properties.  Since 1992, we have listed and worked to preserve more than 200 endangered historic resources, including individual buildings, historic districts and thematic resources statewide.  

Hershey_factory

Added to Pennsylvania At Risk in 2012, the Hershey Chocolate Factory is scheduled to be demolished over the next 12 to 18 months. This endangered property received unprecedented outreach from people concerned by the loss of this iconic historic property. Photo courtesy of Bryan VanSweden, PHMC-BHP

For 2012, as we celebrated the 30th anniversary of our organization, Preservation Pennsylvania is presenting a 20-year retrospective edition of Pennsylvania At Risk in 2013.  In this issue, we revisit one of the amazing historic places across the Commonwealth that was listed in each of the last 20 years, and we added a new one for 2012. These historic resources include houses, schools, churches, theaters, and medical facilities, as well as a wide range of industrial properties. The featured properties also include a bridge, a train station, a cemetery, an archaeological site, and even a roller coaster and a bandshell. This is just a small selection of the historic resources that make Pennsylvania special, and are worthy of our attention and preservation.  Some of these places have been rescued from extinction through preservation and rehabilitation efforts, but others still need our help. 

Leap-the-Dips

Since its inclusion in Pennsylvania At Risk in 1995, the National Historic Landmark Leap-the-Dips roller coaster has been restored and is open to visitors to Lakemont Park from April through October

 

Approximately 18% of Pennsylvania’s At Risk properties have been lost, having been demolished or substantially altered. Another 32% have been saved, or are in a condition or situation where the identified threat no longer poses a problem for the historic property.  But approximately 50% of the At Risk resources remain in danger. 

By monitoring these properties over the past 20 years and working with individuals and organizations trying to preserve them, we have learned many valuable lessons.  These lessons are called out throughout the Pennsylvania At Risk publication, and are summarized here. 

  • Saving historic properties is often a slow process, and one that requires creativity and persistence. 
  • Amazing rehabilitation projects are happening across Pennsylvania.  

    The Elizabethtown Station is one of several Pennsylvania At Risk properties that has gone from being endangered to receiving a state or national preservation award.

    The Elizabethtown Station is one of several Pennsylvania At Risk properties that has gone from being endangered to receiving a state or national preservation award.

  • Nothing is ever really “saved.”  Without ongoing maintenance, even “saved” resources can become endangered again. 
  • The best form of preservation is continued occupancy and ongoing maintenance.
  • Local advocacy matters.  Local groups and organizations that are focused on or interested in preserving the places that matter to them are a critical factor in recovering endangered historic properties. 
  • Pennsylvania is experiencing economic benefits as a result of preservation activities.
  • We are learning from the losses.  Looking back we are able to identify trends and critical factors that contribute to the loss of historic properties.  Once we recognize these factors, we can work towards change that will help protect other properties in the future. 
  • Our work is not done.  There are still many historic resources in Pennsylvania that need our help.

 We are always eager to hear how Pennsylvania At Risk properties in your area are faring today, or if there are any that ought to be included in the list this year.  So please get out there and visit the historic places around you, and let us know what you find.  Contact Erin Hammerstedt at (814) 571-2444 or ehammerstedt@preservationpa.org to discuss the historic places that matter to you.  For more information, please visit Preservation Pennsylvania’s website.

Author: Erin Hammerstedt

Guest contributor Erin Hammerstedt is a Field Representative for Preservation Pennsylvania, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people protect and preserve the historic places that matter to them. In that role, she travels around the Commonwealth providing free technical assistance to help people with their preservation projects and challenges. Erin’s prior work as an architectural historian and historic preservation consultant, preparing conditions assessments and preservation maintenance treatment plans, identifying, documenting and evaluating historic properties as part of the compliance review process, and staffing a local Historical and Architectural Review Board have helped to prepare her for the wide variety of projects she assists with in Pennsylvania today.

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