Buying property in a Historic District comes with certain responsibilities. “We are only the caretakers of these houses, which were here before we owned them and which will be here after we are gone. They contain the wood from the old-growth forests, they are monuments to the skill of those who labored to build them, they represent our cultural heritage.” – Jane Powell
You may not think of yourself as a preservationist, but at heart, most people are. In simple terms, historic preservation means safeguarding the existence and appearance of historic elements of the community. It’s not only a ‘bricks and mortar thing’ but a safeguard that preserves the context of our stories. We’ve all heard someone say, “It broke my heart when that building came down.” Charles Dunn’s Facebook page, Rocky Mount Way Back When fills an insatiable need we have to remain connected to our past.
In our hands, we hold a two-sided coin. There is often real tension between those who favor preservation and those who see rehabilitation as an acceptable way of dealing with historic properties. The increase in investor and homeowner sales in our Historic Districts is exciting, a cause for celebration as we welcome all our new neighbors. My concern is that we find a shared language that communicates Rocky Mounts Historic District guidelines as a worthy and advantageous endeavor to a burgeoning group of young, hardworking investors, flippers, and contractors. We’re all addicted to HGTV and when Chip & Johanna Gaines find a problem that is going to cost them money, we groan. We want Rocky Mounts version of HGTV investors to be wildly successful and save money where they can, BUT, when you invest in a Historical District property, you take on an additional responsibility. You have to know and accept this UP FRONT. In embracing the long view, you will see that you have embarked on important and exciting work that leaves your thumbprint on the preservation of Rocky Mount’s past and future.
We trust our Historic Preservation Commission to hold the line in protecting the character of the neighborhoods where people already live and expect that protection. If you don’t embrace the preservation angle in your heart, the Commission becomes a group of ‘badass’ folks out to make life difficult. (An unfair label to hang on a dedicated group doing the job we have given them to do – preserving the integrity of our historic neighborhoods.)
I have written a version of a compelling objection that illustrates how tough it is to find a response both sympathetic to a problem blocking a Certificate of Appropriateness while remaining steadfast to the task set before the Historic Preservation Commission.
“Why are you insisting on these rules and regulations, when I’m the good guy here. I’m fixing an otherwise over-looked house that is spiraling downward. I am willing to put money into the project to improve the neighborhood. There’s a boarded up house, for heaven’s sake, next door.”
JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR PART TWO