Pennsylvania Historic Preservation

Blog of the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Office

Spotlight Series: Preservation At Work in Bradford

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45 communities in Pennsylvania have a formal working relationship with the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (PA SHPO) on a variety of preservation-related programs and projects.

Known as Certified Local Governments (CLGs), these communities represent a broad geographic, demographic and economic swath across the Commonwealth. From Philadelphia (Pop. 1.5 million) to Mercersburg, Franklin County (Pop. 1500) and located in over a third of Pennsylvania counties, the CLG program provides exclusive funding and technical assistance for local governments.  As you may remember from this post a few months ago, the CLG program is one of several federal programs administered by the PA SHPO; in this case, the National Park Service provides guidance, rules and funding for the CLG program.

Three CLG communities in the PA SHPO Western Region provide a glimpse into the range of preservation activities CLGs can sponsor. Over the next few months, we’ll illustrate how the City of Bradford, Moon Township and the City of Pittsburgh have used the CLG program to leverage their preservation programs.  We’ll turn our spotlight on Bradford first.

Bradford, McKean County is near the New York border in an uncommonly beautiful part of the state known as the PA Wilds. Home to the world famous Zippo Lighter Company (housed in a fabulous post-modern building), Bradford grew into a city during the late 19th century Pennsylvania oil boom.

1955 Zippo Company Headquarters. Source: Erin Hammerstedt/Preservation Pennsylvania, 2014.

1955 Zippo Company Headquarters. Source: Erin Hammerstedt/Preservation Pennsylvania, 2014.

An early adopter of using preservation as an economic and community development tool, Bradford passed a preservation ordinance in 1971. In the early 2000’s the City received Keystone Historic Preservation Project grant funding from the PA SHPO to rehabilitate their Old City Hall.

1897 Bradford Old City Hall. Source: Source: Erin Hammerstedt/Preservation Pennsylvania, 2014.

1897 Bradford Old City Hall. Source: Source: Erin Hammerstedt/Preservation Pennsylvania, 2014.

A CLG since 1999, Bradford’s compelling history and significant architecture provide a sturdy foundation for a large National Register of Historic Places historic district in the city. In addition to CLG status, Bradford is a designated Main Street and Elm Street community and in recent years the City has taken advantage of their CLG status and collaborated with local preservation and community development organizations to implement several forward-looking preservation projects.

Downtown Bradford. Source: Erin Hammerstedt/Preservation Pennsylvania, 2014.

Downtown Bradford. Source: Erin Hammerstedt/Preservation Pennsylvania, 2014.

Using funding available only to CLGs (and with significant PA SHPO technical support) in 2013 the City undertook an analysis and update of their historic preservation ordinance and historic building inventory to provide the City’s Historical and Architectural Review Board (HARB) and property and business owners the best information possible.

In 2014 the City received CLG funding to create a redevelopment/reuse study for a former Elks Lodge. This project helped Bradford clarify the most viable and practical investment potential for a significant “white elephant” building in the historic central business district.

Former Elks Lodge building, downtown Bradford. Source: Erin Hammerstedt/Preservation Pennsylvania, 2014.

Former Elks Lodge building, downtown Bradford. Source: Erin Hammerstedt/Preservation Pennsylvania, 2014.

This past year, the City used CLG funding to help pay for updated design guidelines for use by the HARB and to help guide downtown property and business owners in support of the City’s thriving Main Street program.

“The Tin Ceiling” in downtown Bradford. Source: Erin Hammerstedt/Preservation Pennsylvania, 2014.

“The Tin Ceiling” in downtown Bradford. Source: Erin Hammerstedt/Preservation Pennsylvania, 2014.

Each of these CLG-supported projects included significant public input and outreach efforts. These efforts, augmented by assistance from Preservation Pennsylvania and PASHPO staff has helped Bradford businesses and residents better understand the imperative of implementing good design principles in their historic downtown.

“Beefeaters” re-purposed former library, downtown Bradford. Source: Erin Hammerstedt/Preservation Pennsylvania, 2014.

“Beefeaters” re-purposed former library, downtown Bradford. Source: Erin Hammerstedt/Preservation Pennsylvania, 2014.

In fact, the City’s CLG program has helped promote preservation principles on a broader scale. The City participated in a recent historic preservation workshop sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford with participation by the Bradford Main Street program, the McKean County Economic Development Department, the Bradford Area Chamber of Commerce, the PASHPO and Preservation Pennsylvania. This workshop precipitated discussions about developing a long-term preservation education continuing education program hosted by U-Pitt Bradford. Our hope is this effort will create the foundation for a model regional preservation outreach and education program.

Historic duplex, downtown Bradford. Source: Erin Hammerstedt/Preservation Pennsylvania, 2014.

Historic duplex, downtown Bradford. Source: Erin Hammerstedt/Preservation Pennsylvania, 2014.

Bradford has leveraged technical assistance by the PASHPO and relatively small amounts of CLG funding to reap significant benefits for the community. City elected officials, City Administrator Teri Cannon, Economic and Community Development coordinator and past Bradford CLG staff Anita Dolan and current CLG staff Chelsea Schwab have, among many other duties, provided excellent leadership for the City’s CLG program.

The PASHPO applauds Bradford as a model for implementing the kind of practical preservation program we who work in the CLG program hope to foster.

May 2015 Community preservation workshop in Bradford.

May 2015 Community preservation workshop in Bradford.

If you’d like to learn and see more about the City of Bradford, please visit their website and take some time to scroll through their impressive photo galleries. If you’d like to learn more about the CLG program in Pennsylvania, please visit the PA SHPO website or contact one of our community coordinators.

 

Author: Bill Callahan

Bill Callahan is the western Pennsylvania Community Preservation Coordinator for the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (PASHPO). The PASHPO is part of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and Bill is located at the Fort Pitt Museum in Pittsburgh. The PASHPO is responsible for implementing state and federal historic preservation programs throughout the Commonwealth. Bill has nearly 30 years’ experience working with federal, state and local historic preservation programs in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Nebraska and has also worked in the private sector, for several years managing two businesses in an historic downtown. Contact Bill at wcallahan@pa.gov and 412-565-3575, 601 Commonwealth Place, Point State Park, Building B, Pittsburgh PA 15222-1212.

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