Next year, preservationists throughout the country will celebrate the 50 year anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. Among other things, this law marked the beginning of the National Register of Historic Places, under the auspices of the National Park Service, as a program to coordinate and support both public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect our nation’s historic and archeological resources.
Of course, preservation actions occurred in this country prior to 1966. Possibly the first organized action was the purchase of George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, in 1860 by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union who raised $300,000 (in 1860 dollars!) to fund the effort. Countless actions by other groups and individuals occurred in the succeeding century, but it took a calamitous preservation tragedy - the destruction of New York City’s Pennsylvania Station (built in 1910) on October 28, 1963 - to galvanize organized action that led to the establishment of the national law three years later.
Here in Lawrence, a similar story is told. While individual preservation achievements, including the Douglas County Courthouse and the Watkins Bank building, were complete by the early 1980s, and other good things were happening, Douglas County Bank's surprise destruction of eight older homes in a square city block bordered by 8th, 9th, Kentucky and Tennessee Streets early on the morning of June 27, 1987, galvanized our local community to pass our own Preservation Ordinance in 1988.
LPA was in the thick of those efforts with great individuals leading the way (some of whom are no longer here) whose actions have placed us forever in their debt. A 50-year anniversary offers us a good opportunity to reflect on those community leaders and those individual property owners who have invested time, finances, and sweat to bring us to where we are today.
But make no mistake, those people and organizations that will do the most to take us through the next 50 years will be the ones who use this time to feel the excitement about where we are going. As I look around our great city, there is no shortage of younger people who understand the value of identifying and protecting specific built and natural environments, and what that brings to the rich diversity of our community’s history and culture.
LPA is working diligently to bring these younger folks into our expanding group, and to help them to learn as they grow, just as we once did. We learn from them as well, as their fresh perspectives and new energies help drive us forward.
In the past several years, our membership group has gotten younger; the Board of Directors is also younger. Additionally, we’ve spent the summer giving our website a great new look. There is a treasure of easy to navigate information here, and our systems are in place to keep that information accurate and up-to-date. From last year’s Annual Meeting in Clearfield to our Old Housewarmings and this spring’s Awards Event at the Cider Gallery, ask anybody who attended, these were great, positive events that brought smiles and a jolt of positive energy to every participant. LPA has a new shine and is ready for the next 50 years!
Early this summer, a letter writer to the Journal World lamented that, “the vast majority of the lions of our community’s preservation and heritage movement of the late 20th century are indisposed…or dead.” This is a bleak world view that LPA cannot share.
LPA chooses to look forward, and look around. There’s so much work to do, and as participants in a greater community, no we don’t get everything we want. But look at all the smiling faces and helping hands around us, a number of them half our age! It’s a great time to be a citizen of Lawrence, and a great day to be working to make it better.
Please pay your dues as generously as you can, and join your friends and neighbors at the Annual Meeting at Eudora City Hall on September 27th. I look forward to seeing you there!
Dennis J. Brown, President
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