Preservation helps us appreciate city’s history

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 12, 2014

The month of May is National Historic Preservation Month, a time to highlight historic sites and places in our community and celebrate the work taken to restore, care for and maintain these tangible pieces of our past.
Salisbury has a rich heritage of historic preservation and a varied historic fabric to explore. Over the next few weeks, a series of articles will cover topics related to historic preservation and will focus on preservation efforts in Salisbury and the positive impact historic preservation has had on our community.
The National Register of Historic Places, maintained by the National Park Service, is the honor roll for historic properties. Buildings and districts are the most well-known items listed on the Register, but historic preservation includes more than just buildings.
The National Register also recognizes sites, such as the Salisbury National Cemetery, structures like the Wil-Cox Bridge, and objects such as the Confederate Monument on West Innes Street.
The National Register lists these things to reflect all of the different components that are the physical and visual reminders and legacy of the residents of Salisbury before us. It is the collection of these properties and objects that make up our heritage as a community and make Salisbury the community it is today.
The most recognizable part of the National Register of Historic Places are historic districts. Historic districts are groups of buildings, properties or sites that are designated because of their historic or architectural significance.
When deciding whether to accept a nomination to the Register, the National Park Service considers whether the architecture and details of the building are well-preserved and if they represent a particular architectural type, period or method of construction, or if they just have a high artistic value. For example, the National Park Service (NPS) would want to know if the gingerbread trim along the porch and the eaves of a Queen Anne style house was still there and whether it is original or if has been replaced.
The National Park Service also considers the historical significance of a building and what it can tell us about the history of its community or a particular person associated with it. Some buildings are considered significant or important as individual structures, but some are classified as such because they are part of a larger group of historically significant property.
The Salisbury Depot is considered significant by itself and because it played a role in the economic growth of Salisbury through the railroads, while a home in Fulton Heights would generally be considered significant because it was part of a platted and planned neighborhood that was intentionally developed in the early 20th century.
Salisbury currently has 10 National Register Historic Districts and five Local Historic Districts. The differences between the two districts are often misunderstood and can be complicated, especially when an area is designated as both a National Register Historic District and a Local Historic District.
National Register Historic Districts are designated at the federal level. It is considered an honor to be listed on the National Register because it means the resource has been researched and judged according to established procedures and found worthy of preservation. Historic Districts that are designated by the National Register only are not subject to any design guideline review at the local level but may be eligible for tax credits for rehabilitation.
Locally designated historic districts in Salisbury, however, are covered by design guidelines which do regulate what happens to the exterior of properties through review by the Historic Preservation Commission and the Certificate of Appropriateness process. Salisbury’s local zoning ordinance allows for this regulation through the Local Historic Overlay district to encourage restoration and preservation of historic structures.
The preservation of historic resources plays a vital role in the effort to educate future Salisbury residents and visitors, both young and old, about the history that our forbearers left for us to discover. This well-preserved legacy provides Salisbury’s current population and future generations thereafter the opportunity to see, touch, and utilize the historic resources that are such a part of what makes Salisbury the community it is today.
Catherine Garner is a planner with the city of Salisbury.