If you have an interest in architecture or historic preservation, Mt. Lebanon’s historic preservation board would like to talk to you—and perhaps convince you to volunteer for a project that will distinguish Mt. Lebanon and add cache.
The municipality has hired Skelly and Loy as a consultant to prepare a nomination of a portion of Mt. Lebanon to the National Register of Historic Places. A national register listing is a prestigious honorary designation that places no restrictions on what property owners may do with their properties but provides some desirable advantages, such as tax credits to income-producing properties owners who take steps to preserve and enhance their properties.
The quest for National Register designation results from a cultural resource survey of the community that was conducted by the historic preservation board over three years with the help of a matching grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The goal of the survey was to identify all properties built prior to 1942 and enter them into a database that a consultant could use to define the boundaries of a potential National Register District.
The good news is that Skelly and Loy believes Mt. Lebanon has an important story to tell—that of the community’s rapid and remarkable development as one of the country’s earliest automobile suburbs. The “bad” news is that the consultant estimates there are about 4,000 properties located within the borders of the proposed historic district, and each of those properties needs to be evaluated as “contributing” or “non-contributing” to the district as part of a historic resources inventory. ( In general, a property built before 1942 would contribute, while a property built after 1942 would be included in the district but considered “non-contributing.”)
Much of the data needed for the historic resources inventory is available on existing building inventories, but each building must be field checked to see, for instance, if its historical appearance remains intact or has been substantially altered. Also, representative streetscape photos need to be taken to be included with the nomination.
Historic Preservation Board Bill Callahan says the board is thrilled that the proposed district is so large, but adds that there are many more properties than anticipated when the RFP was issued. If the board is to achieve its goal of completing the nomination this year in conjunction with Mt. Lebanon’s Centennial, the consultant will need help.
No specific experience is required of volunteers—just an interest in the project and some free time. Laura Ricketts of Skelly & Loy will work with the historic preservation board to provide training. There will be a deadline for completing the work, but volunteers’ schedules may be flexible. “We will train you to know what to look for and how to evaluate the resources you encounter,” Ricketts says, “and you will gain practical experience in historic resources survey work while learning about a historically and architecturally rich community.
If you are interested in volunteering, contact Public Information Officer Susan Morgans, firstname.lastname@example.org. Training sessions will be scheduled early in May.