Community journalism the way it was meant to be

The mission of Preservation Month never gets old

May is Preservation Month, and every year in observance the National Trust for Historic Preservation announces its Most Endangered Historic Places list. The list won’t be unveiled until May 9, but Hinsdaleans could probably come up with their own local roster.

For years many in town have believed the village’s architectural heritage was under attack as redevelopment erased distinctive home after distinctive home in the pursuit of livability over legacy. But do they have to be mutually exclusive?

This year’s Preservation Month theme is “People Saving Places.” The theme couldn’t be more appropriate for Hinsdale, where community members and elected officials endeavored to turn the teardown tide, culminating in the establishment last year of the Historic Overlay District to protect vintage homes. The district includes virtually all of the village, and residents within the district can seek approval for inclusion on the Historically Significant Structures Property List for access to voluntary preservation incentives to promote homeowners’ restoration and rehabilitation work. Incentives range from zoning relief to property tax rebates and matching grant funds.

The approval process entails an application by the property owner or the village, completion of notification requirements by the village, a public hearing at the historic preservation commission and final consideration by the village board. If approved, a notice of inclusion on the list will be recorded against the title of the property to make future property owners aware of the availability of the preservation incentives.

Preservation Month began as National Preservation Week in 1973. In 2005, the National Trust extended the celebration to the entire month of May and declared it Preservation Month to provide an even greater opportunity to celebrate the diverse and unique heritage of our country’s cities and states, according to the National Preservation Trust’s website at http://www.savingplaces.org.

The National Register of Historic Places also participates in the effort as the official list of the country’s historic places worthy of preservation. In Hinsdale, both the Robbins Subdivision in the village’s southeast section and central business district are included.

Each year the agency lists featured historic properties across the country to bring attention to the value of preservation. The nearest to our area among this year’s entries is the Downtown Churches Historic District in Sheboygan, Wis., a cluster of four religious buildings representing four distinct faiths. Likely you have your own favorite structural slice of antiquity either nearby or at a favorite destination that you can thank place savers for pouring their time, energy, and resources into its continuing existence.

As the National Trust for Historic Preservation suggests, let’s give a proverbial high-five to those making such efforts, both big and small, like staff and volunteers of the Hinsdale Historical Society, historical preservation commissioners and homeowners like Katie and Dan Gjeldum (see story on Page 5 — and keep watching for more Hinsdale Legacies stories this month).

And to make a tax-deductible donations to Hinsdale’s Historic Preservation Fund in support of preservation projects throughout the village, email Bethany Salmon, village planner, at [email protected].