Written by Stuart Johnson
One of the objectives of the Partners in the Field program is to increase historic preservation outreach. At the San Antonio Conservation Society (SACS), this is being met by expanding our historic farm and ranch program into neighboring counties. On Saturday, June 5, 2010 the Society held a Historic Farm and Ranch Workshop in San Antonio to provide a platform to help accomplish that goal. The audience of over 50 registrants filled the room to hear a panel of leading preservation authorities share their stories about preserving the historic character of rural South Texas and the Hill Country.
Attendees came from across Bexar, Comal, Guadalupe, Kendall, Medina and Wilson counties, as well as from the Austin area, and included concerned landowners, seasoned preservationists, local non-profit representatives, and historic preservation architects, to name just a few. All were there with the goal of determining the best resources available to help prevent the continued loss of historic farm and ranch properties.
The workshop kicked off with key note speaker Kay Hindes, City Archaelologist for the City of San Antonio, providing an overview of threatened farm and ranch properties within Bexar County and the City of San Antonio’s extraterritorial jurisdiction. She also talked about the influences that different cultures had on the structures built throughout the19th-century. After her presentation, Kay fielded questions from the engaged audience.
The remainder of the workshop was set up with three-person panels presenting on topics such as Utilizing Funding Sources and Government Programs, Preserving Properties: From Stabilization to Restoration, and Protecting Resources by Private Means. After each panel presentation, a question and answer period allowed the audience to follow up on specific areas of concern. In addition to the presentations offered by each of the panelists, handouts on a variety of topics were also made available.
The first group of panelists started with Krista Gebbia, executive director of Preservation Texas (and also a NTHP Partner in the Field) offering an overview of the Texas Most Endangered List and explaining how Preservation Texas can provide services for at-risk historic places. Claude Ross, state program manager of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, followed with a discussion of federal conservation easement programs. Greg Smith, National Register coordinator at the Texas Historical Commission presented an overview of the National Register of Historic Places nominating process.
Following a break for lunch and networking, Leah Brown, program officer of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Southwest Office, kicked off the afternoon’s first panel with a presentation on the Barn Again! program, which offers publications on technical issues, organizes educational workshops and recognizes good stewardship of historic barns. Darby Riley, president of the Leon Valley Historical Society, provided a case study of how the Huebner-Onion Homestead and Stagecoach Stop was saved from the wrecking ball. John Speegle, vice president of speegle & KIM-davis: Architecture, explained how to properly mothball a building (the process of stabilization until funding becomes available for restoration) and why structures should be included in the Historic American Building Survey (HABS).
The final panelists of the day centered their talks around private means of protecting historic properties. Banks Smith, attorney with Schoenbaum, Curphy & Scanlan, provided a primer on conservation easements. Carolyn Chipman Evans, Executive Director of the Cibolo Nature Center, provided a case study on the preservation efforts at the Herff Farm historic farmstead in Boerne, which was listed on the 2010 Texas Most Endangered List. Susan Hughes, Executive Director of Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas, offered an introduction to easement programs and discussed other community programs in which Green Spaces is involved.
Attendees commented that they appreciated the good “mix of single speakers by panel” and enjoyed the “great Q&A following each panel.” A workshop attendee also stated that the “variety of presentations and pacing kept attention stimulated.” There was ample amount of time throughout the workshop and during lunch for attendees and panelist to network, which proved to be valuable. One attendee claimed that the best part was “connecting with people who could help me and learning about agencies and groups available to help with conservation.” As a result of the networking and outreach opportunity, I have already made visits to historic farm and ranch properties in Comal and Guadalupe Counties and have scheduled additional visits to Guadalupe and Kendall Counties. In addition, I will be attending the next community meeting of Citizens’ Alliance for Smart Expansion (CASE), a group working to save historic farm and ranch properties from a planned highway in New Braunfels, Texas.
The workshop was deemed a resounding success by all those who attended. The members of the SACS Historic Farm and Ranch Complexes committee played a vital role in helping me put together an informative and engaging workshop, especially the hard work of committee chair Pat Ezell and vice chair Joanna Parrish. Special thanks as well go out to the City of San Antonio’s Office of Historic Preservation for their assistance. The excitement generated by the workshop was expressed by many as well as the anticipation of further events regarding the preservation of historic farm and ranch properties.
Stuart Johnson is the preservation field representative for the San Antonio Conservation Society.