Building a strong community isn’t always about what we create outwardly and add to our community to make it more vibrant and experiential; much of the time, strong communities are built around creating a consensus about what is important to take care of, maintain, and save.
It’s one thing to plant a beautiful flower garden – it’s a wholly different thing to make sure the garden is watered and fed well-enough to thrive continuously.
Marietta’s historic buildings were crafted with the founding of our city by the most skilled handcrafters, carpenters, woodworkers, stoneworkers, and artisans. Their work is still on display all throughout downtown Marietta – from the Unitarian Church to the Dime Bank Building to the Front Street Shops, you can see ornate facades on each. The charm of Marietta’s historic buildings is here today for us to enjoy because property and business owners, property managers, and community members invested in their upkeep.
Despite the best efforts of our community, though, some of Marietta’s most treasured historic places have become endangered. Places like The Anchorage, the Start Westward Monument, the Mid-Ohio Valley Players, and the Historic Harmar Bridge are valuable assets to our community and we are now in a position to save these structures for generations to come to continue enjoying.
The foundation of the entire conversation we are leading on historic preservation is economic development. Sure, our history is valuable enough in its own right to warrant the level of advocacy now required of us to ensure these historic beauties stand. But, preservation is more than that. Preservation creates jobs. Preservation increases our property values. Preservation increases our quality of life. Preservation is inclusive and environmentally-focused. Preservation attracts investments by protecting investments. Preservation brings tourism. Preservation is the essence of Main Street revitalization.
So, how do we preserve our historic buildings and save the community we love the most? We educate ourselves on what tactics preservationists use to restore and maintain historic properties. We equip our minds with knowledge founded on research. For example, did you know that historic preservation projects drive more revenue into the local economy than new construction projects, ranging anywhere from 10-40%? Did you know that 25% of material added to landfills is demolition and construction waste? Did you know that 70% of U.S. leisure travelers participate in cultural/heritage activities when they travel? Did you know that homes in historic districts receive higher sales price premiums, some as large as 131%, over comparable properties in non-designated districts?
Sounds good, right? It seems like historic preservation is something everyone can get behind. And it’s true – it’s something we all can and should truly get behind. But, there are some hurdles. There’s a few misconceptions about what historic preservation means for a property owner. I’d like to address a few of those misconceptions, briefly.
#1: Historic preservation impedes personal property rights.
Historic preservation asks property owners to be considerate of the historic integrity of the structure they are responsible for. These considerations are often paired with ordinances and permits through a local municipality to ensure the value of a property stands for our community-at-large, as opposed to being led by the whims of one individual. So, sure, owners of historic properties are not allowed to do whatever they want to their property. Property owners aren’t allowed to do whatever they want to their home anyway, regardless of whether it is historic. Take out your trash, mow your lawn, fix your roof, repair your fence, and generally maintain the quality of your property. Property owners don’t own their property in a vacuum – it matters to our neighbors how well we as individual property owners maintain our property. The consequences of poorly maintained properties are dire, and the opposite is true: the reward for well-maintained properties is higher property values, curb appeal community pride, and economic development.
#2: Historic preservation means a property needs to look boring.
I know, I know – for some of us, history is tied to dusty, old books on a dusty, old bookshelf high up in a dusty, old corner in a dusty, old house that clearly hasn’t yet learned of the invention of brooms. But, that’s just not true! Marietta’s history is exciting and tells the story of progress for our community – it’s full of vibrant characters pioneering their way into the Northwest Territory, sailing the seas, building homes from scratch and putting Ohio on the map. Marietta’s founders were artists, urban planners, educators, sailors, historians, women, men, and children. If our history is vibrant and alive, why shouldn’t historic properties reflect that? Historic properties aren’t meant to stand for the sake of being ogled at – they’re meant to be adapted for modern reuse and continuously integrated into the fabric of our modern-day community.
#3: Historic preservation means you are severely limited on your choices of paint colors.
This misconception goes along with #1 and it’s striking how often this concern is raised. There’s nothing much to say for this outside of it’s just not true – not even a little, tiny smidgen of a bit. There are literally hundreds of paint colors to choose from for your historic property, hot pink included, lime green, and fluorescent yellow included. If you don’t believe me, I compel you to visit the OTR in Cincinnati.
#4: Historic preservation is costly, painstaking, and not worth it in the slightest.
This concern is real, actually. That being said, there are a number of entities that exist solely to support historic property owners in things like funding, ADA compliance, property codes, historic tax credit applications, permits, historic restoration do’s and don’t’s, etc. Historic property owners are not alone in their charge of maintaining and restoring their properties. Regardless, though, it is absolutely worth it for all the reasons shared above.
Strong communities don’t happen by accident, and Marietta Main Street is leading the efforts to revitalize downtown Marietta through historic preservation, business enhancement, promotions, and quality design.
Learn more about historic preservation and what you can do to #SaveMarietta by visiting the Historic Preservation: A Series program page on Marietta Main Street’s website: www.mariettamainstreet.org/historic-preservation. Donate to Marietta Main Street to support their efforts in revitalizing downtown Marietta by visiting www.mariettamainstreet.org/donate.