Preserving the past can pay future dividends
Last updated 5/4/2022 at 4:29pm | View PDF
May is National Preservation Month, and, in so many ways, Hinsdale is a veritable exhibit of how retaining historic architecture — whether residential, commercial or public in nature — can enrich a town’s character and enhance its livability.
We have taken the opportunity over the years to bring our readers inside many of these vintage treasures, sharing stories of the people and/or events that brought them into existence and how their caretakers today maintain their essence while still equipping them with the amenities required for modern living and convenience.
This May is no exception as we kick off our monthlong Hinsdale Legacies series with a story on Immanuel Hall (see Page 5). The 122-year-old former church building rose from the corner of Grant and Third streets as the proud home of the faith community made up primarily of German immigrants who had settled in town.
More than three decades after last serving as a place of worship and slated for demolition, the village in 1999 stepped in to purchase it with the help of grant funding. It was later deeded to the Hinsdale Historical Society, and it became a catalyst for more preservation efforts following a decade that saw so many historic homes in town razed to make way for new development.
Immanuel Hall was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a distinction it shares with Hinsdale’s downtown area, the Robbins Subdivision in the village’s southeast section and four local homes: 142 E. First St., 329 E. Sixth St., 8 E. Third St. and 318 S. Garfield Ave.
Established in 1973 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Preservation Month is co-sponsored by local preservation groups, state historical societies, and business and civic organizations across the country with the aim of promoting historic places for the purpose of instilling national and community pride, promoting heritage tourism, and showing the social and economic benefits of historic preservation.
Notable properties have continued to be lost to new construction, prompting village officials over the last year to explore ways to codify preservation promotion. Those deliberations have resulted in considerable momentum behind the creation of an Historic Overlay District. Homes identified as historically significant within the district would be eligible for voluntary preservation incentives, including rebates of the village portion of property taxes for five years with a minimum homeowner investment of $50,000 on eligible exterior improvements, relaxed bulk zoning regulations to enable modernization work on a historic home, and matching grants for 50 percent of eligible projects up to $10,000.
Village attorney Michael Marrs, who helped craft the overlay district ordinance, spoke to motivation behind the measure.
“The idea is to take these historically significant properties in the village, identify them, put them on a list, which will then make them eligible for certain preservation incentives and hopefully incentivize the rehabilitation to extend their lives for generations going forward,” he said.
One doesn’t need to be a history buff to recognize the value and charm that historic preservation confers on the village. So take note this month of the local legacies that bring you pride.