Author Archive

Notes from the Field: Demolition of the Seneca County Courthouse in Tiffin, Ohio

Posted on: June 18th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Members of Heritage Ohio gathered at the courthouse in Tiffin, Ohio to tell county commissioners “This Place Matters!”

The Seneca County Courthouse was constructed beginning in 1884 and designed by Detroit architect Elijah E. Myers, who also designed four US state capitol buildings (Idaho, Michigan, Colorado, and Texas). The county spent $214,000 on its construction in 1884, equivalent to $44.6 million in today’s dollars. The elegant structure once featured a massive clock tower, but this was covered in 1940 with a more modern design. The Seneca County Courthouse was vacated in 2003 to allow for renovation. In August 2006, the county commissioners voted to demolish and replace the structure, claiming that renovation costs would far outweigh the price to build a new courthouse, a contention which has been continuously disputed.

The Tiffin Historic Trust, Heritage Ohio, Preservation Ohio, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and other concerned groups and citizens have been contesting the Commissioners’ short-sighted action, but unfortunately demolition is imminent and salvage work has begun. Should demolition take place, it would be the first Ohio county courthouse to be lost in 35 years, and ironically this would come at a time when other counties are investing heavily in these iconic community landmarks.

The courthouse got a reprieve on Tuesday, June 10th, when the Tiffin Design Review Board voted 5-0 to deny a certificate of appropriateness for demolition. A group of preservationists representing the state-wide interest in the issue provided testimony to the review board, and all were delighted that the board decided demolition of the building would cause an adverse effect on the downtown historic district. By no means is the courthouse “saved,” though. The denial of the certificate creates a 90 day review period where the board will meet with the county applicant to discuss possible solutions. In addition to auctioning off the contents the first week of June, the county has already advertised for demolition bids.

To call attention to the plight of the courthouse, Heritage Ohio has organized a “This Place Matters” rally on the Seneca County Courthouse lawn on June 22nd. Participants will let the county commissioners know that “This Place Matters,” following the theme of Preservation Month 2008, not just to Tiffin, but to the entire state of Ohio and across the Midwest. The award winning Courthouse Girls from Farmland Indiana will be offering their support. Please come support us, or contact Heritage Ohio for more information on how you can help.

-- Joyce Barrett and Jennifer Sandy

Joyce Barrett is the executive director of Heritage Ohio and Jennifer Sandy is a program officer in the Midwest Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

 

Belle Grove Plantation, Middletown, VA © 2008 NTHP

In June 2007, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approved a Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for widening Interstate 81 through the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, despite significant objections from the National Trust and other preservation organizations. Significantly, FHWA invoked a new optional short statute of limitations for the Tier 1 decision, which allows only 180 days from the decision to file suit – a provision added in the SAFETEA-LU transportation reauthorization legislation passed in 2005. Following an unsuccessful attempt to persuade FHWA to withdraw its shortened statute of limitations for the Tier 1 decision, the Trust opted to join a lawsuit, which was filed by the Coalition for Smarter Growth, Shenandoah Valley Network, Scenic Virginia, Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, and others in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia in December 2007.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Legal Defense Fund (LDF) Advocacy Updates

Posted on: June 9th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Grand Central Terminal, New York, NY © 2008 NTHPThe Law Department of the National Trust for Historic Preservation is excited to begin posting National Trust Legal Defense Fund (LDF) advocacy updates to the PreservationNation blog. In the past we have published a newsletter several times per year that describes various projects we are working on in the Law Department. Our initial posts to the blog, which will begin appearing over the next few days, will come directly from our most recent May 2008 LDF Update Newsletter with the expectation that future updates will be posted as developments on existing and new advocacy issues occur.

For those who are who are unfamiliar with the LDF, it is the legal advocacy arm of the organization. Through the LDF, the National Trust carries out litigation and legal advocacy to ensure the effectiveness of preservation laws at the federal, state, and local levels. LDF staff lawyers respond on many fronts to help communities around the country protect their heritage, their homes and businesses, their neighborhoods, and their history.

The LDF’s first goal is to avoid the need to go to court at all by using advocacy to encourage better government decisions that protect historic sites, neighborhoods, and landscapes. But when it becomes necessary, the LDF is prepared to litigate to protect the nation’s historic resources.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Notes from the Field: Protecting Historic Belle Grove Plantation

Posted on: May 7th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 283-acre property and 1797 manor house at Belle Grove Plantation is a National Historic Landmark and the heart of the 3,500-acre Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park.

Belle Grove manor house with quarry waste pile. (credit: National Park Service)Unfortunately, Carmeuse Lime & Stone, a Belgian mining conglomerate, is trying to rezone 639 rural acres immediately adjacent to Belle Grove and the National Historical Park in order to radically expand Carmeuse’s industrial quarry operation. The Frederick County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on April 28, 2008, and may vote on the rezoning application at the Board’s May 28 meeting.

The National Trust and Belle Grove, Inc., the nonprofit partner which operates Belle Grove Plantation, are gravely concerned that the rezoning and quarry expansion would severely harm Belle Grove and the National Historical Park. (Please see the National Trust’s April 22, 2008 letter to Frederick County.) Preservationists anticipate visual intrusions harming our world-famous scenic vistas, vibration damage to historic structures from quarry blasting, and threats to public safety from the parade of heavy quarry trucks that will travel along the Valley Turnpike (Route 11) through the National Historical Park and historic Middletown. The quarry expansion, as planned, also would destroy 500 acres of well-preserved Civil War battlefield just outside of the boundaries of the National Historical Park.

The National Trust and Belle Grove, Inc. have requested that Carmeuse systematically analyze and commit to avoid, reduce, or mitigate potential harm to scenic vistas, impacts from heavy truck traffic, and vibration damage from blasting. Carmeuse has not followed through or attempted to meet with the National Trust or Belle Grove. Nevertheless, we remain open to discussing with Carmeuse mutually satisfactory ways to expand the quarry without irrevocably harming Belle Grove, the National Historical Park, and the Civil War battlefield.

Carmeuse’s ill-considered quarry expansion, as currently proposed, is opposed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Belle Grove, Inc., Virginia Department of Historic Resources, National Park Service, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, Civil War Preservation Trust, APVA – Preservation Virginia, National Parks Conservation Association, and Preserve Frederick.

-- Rob Nieweg

Rob Nieweg is the Director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Southern Field Office

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Notes from the Field: Preservation & Redevelopment of Historic Fort Monroe

Posted on: April 29th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Fort Monroe is scheduled to close in 2011. (Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park)Fort Monroe is an early 19th century stone fortress with moat located on Hampton Roads at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The 570-acre military post has served the nation as a coastal defense work and artillery school, and is active today as the home of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. Fort Monroe played a key role in hastening the end of slavery, as the first refuge for escaped “Contraband” slaves. Like Mount Vernon and Monticello, Fort Monroe is a one of our country’s 2,500 designated National Historic Landmarks.

In 2011, the Army will vacate Fort Monroe, pursuant to the Base Realignment and Closure Act. Fort Monroe will automatically revert to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Since 2005, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has been intensively engaged in advocacy and historic preservation planning for Fort Monroe. The National Trust has participated as a member of the City of Hampton’s master plan steering committee and the Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority’s historic preservation advisory group. We also participate as a consulting party to the Section 106 review process pursuant to the National Historic Preservation Act, which is ably led by the Army and Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation and many others are working now to envision a bright future for Fort Monroe and to explore the most effective historic preservation strategies for the benefit of the public. To that end, the National Trust has joined with four statewide and national preservation organizations to express our shared perspective on the future of Fort Monroe. Our shared position is described in an April 18, 2008 letter to the Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority from the National Trust, APVA – Preservation Virginia, Civil War Preservation Trust, and National Parks Conservation Association.

There is an active debate about the preservation of Fort Monroe. We welcome your comments on our shared letter and the future of Fort Monroe.

-- Rob Nieweg

Rob Nieweg is the Director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Southern Field Office

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.