HPB, HSMTL. Who does what?

If you’re a history buff who can identify which battle of what war took place when, and why, here’s a question for you: What is the difference between the Mt. Lebanon Historic Preservation Board and the Historical Society of Mount Lebanon? Gotcha?

Don’t feel bad; you’re among hundreds of folks who get these two organizations—both important to Mt. Lebanon’s history—mixed up or, even worse, think they’re one and the same.

Members of the HPB

So here’s a primer. The Mt. Lebanon Historic Preservation Board is a seven-member volunteer board that advises the commission on matters pertaining to historic preservation. Since its inception in 2001, the board has included architects, preservationists, designers, lawyers, archeologists, environmentalists, landscape designers and others with specific expertise that can help maintain and improve our community’s historic resources.

For the past two years, the board worked diligently to have a Mt. Lebanon district of more than 4,200 properties built before or circa 1945 listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Mt. Lebanon received that prestigious honorary designation this past fall.

Moving forward, the board will work with a municipal consultant to propose a Virginia Manor historic district that would be overseen by a historic architecture and review board (HARB). This local historic district, which would need commission approval, could not bypass Mt. Lebanon’s zoning ordinance but the ordinance creating it would set certain standards, determined with input from residents, as to what could or could not be done to any portion of a house that is visible from the street. [The commission could enact ordinances making other subdivisions historic districts, if requested by residents or if the municipality deems a historic subdivision to be “threatened.”]

Down the road, the historic preservation board plans to work with the planning board and zoning officer to strengthen residential design guidelines for additions to existing construction. Current design guidelines apply only to new or infill construction.

President of the Historic Preservation Board is Yvette Yescas. She provides useful information about preserving our local history as a regular contributor to mtl’s LeboLife blogs.

Historical_Society_logoThe Historical Society of Mount Lebanon works closely with the Mt. Lebanon Historic Preservation Board, but its mission and membership is different. The historical society is a 501c3 nonprofit organization with a large membership who care about preserving and remembering Mt. Lebanon’s history—not just the built environment but also the people, places and events that shaped the community. Its mission is to “serve and promote the community by collecting, preserving, interpreting and sharing its history in ways designed to inspire our present and guide our future. “

In the small space the society has occupied at 200 Lebanon Avenue since 2009— in the basement of the Spanish-style house at 794 Washington Road it currently is purchasing and restoring—it has amassed a large collection of historic items. There are too many to put on display, but many are showcased in special exhibitions. The society holds educational programs at the library, offers historic walking and trolley tours and sponsors an annual fund-raising dinner featuring a prominent guest speaker.

Currently its board of directors, headed by Jim Wojcik, is spearheading a campaign to help fund the restoration of the building.

The Mt. Lebanon Historic Preservation Board doesn’t need your money—municipal boards and authorities don’t have budgets; their (minor) expenses are covered by administration. The board is interested in your input, however, and invites you to observe or comment at any regular meeting. Meetings are at 5 p.m. the third Monday of each month in the municipal building. If you are interested in applying for board membership, you may apply online.

The Historical Society of Mount Lebanon does want and need your tax-deductible donations. The society gets funding from dues, grants and an annual allocation of several thousand dollars from the municipality, but its needs are expanding. To find out more about the society, donate or become a member, visit www.lebohistory.org.