Clement shares insights on preservation at opening of state conference

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 17, 2015

By Mark Wineka

SALISBURY — Ed Clement would scoff at the idea he’s the Father of Preservation in Salisbury, but if he isn’t, he’s close.

Clement spoke Wednesday afternoon at Preservation North Carolina’s annual conference in Salisbury about the importance of revolving funds in the saving of historic properties. But Clement, founding president of Historic Salisbury Foundation in 1972, also took time to give preservationists in the room a list of marching orders.

Here are some of them:

• Preservationists have to become real estate experts. “Let’s know more than the other people,” Clement said, because a preservationist never knows when he or she might have to take immediate action to save something worth saving.

• Set up a defense fund. Clement told his preservation colleagues “we’re going to be playing a lot of defense” in coming years, and emergency funds have to be at the ready. It might not be a bad idea to consider a state defense fund that can be used by local groups, he added.

• Be involved in planning — all facets of local planning.

• Go after real estate “gives.” Property donations through wills can mean as much as monetary contributions, Clement said. Historic Salisbury Foundation was in dire financial straits one year but was helped enormously when two faithful supporters who died willed the organization their homes, which were sold later to help HSF with its budget.

• Tell the preservation story and what it has meant to your community.

• Maintain high standards of rehabilitation, inside and outside historic properties.

• Stay grounded in history. Yes, talk about the economic impact of historic preservation, Clement said, but remember the fundamentals as to why it’s important to a community’s history, arts, architecture, aesthetics and culture.

“These things brought us to the table, and they will take us forward,” Clement said.

A standing ovation followed Clement’s remarks.

“Once a visionary, always a visionary,” said Myrick Howard, president of Preservation North Carolina and a man Clement hired 37 years ago while serving with Preservation North Carolina.

Salisbury is serving as host for PNC’s annual conference for the first time since 1996. Speakers, training, workshops, awards, social gatherings and historic tours are all part of the three-day conference, which ends Friday afternoon.

Opening presentations were held Wednesday afternoon at the 1854 Rowan Museum. A reception followed Wednesday evening at the Hall House, followed by tours of four historic homes within walking distance of the reception.

Today’s morning and afternoon sessions will be held at St. John’s Lutheran Church, followed by a preservation celebration at the N.C. Transportation Museum and a young professionals gathering even later at Go Burrito!

Friday morning’s presentations and awards ceremony will be held at the Meroney Theater, followed by a luncheon at the Depot and a “Germanic Heritage Ramble” through Rowan County Friday afternoon.

Forty years ago, Historic Salisbury Foundation and Preservation North Carolina were the first to establish revolving funds — now a common tool employed by preservation organizations. Clement thinks it was an identifying moment and a true beginning to historic preservation on a statewide scale.

Salisbury’s revolving fund started in 1975 with the first OctoberTour of homes, which generated $5,000. The HSF board voted to establish a revolving fund with that $5,000.

“It was the quietest ‘yes’ vote in our history,” Clement said, because no one was sure quite how it would work.

Money in a revolving fund is used to purchase or take options on endangered properties. Often, some stabilization work and marketing are done before the properties are resold with protective covenants to interested buyers. Money from the sale goes back into the fund to save other properties.

Over 40 years, HSF has been able to attach protective covenants to 110 properties through its revolving fund work.

Revolving funds protect, as they save and as they revitalize, Clement said. Their use throughout the state represents a story of real progress, he added, “but it’s still a sleeping giant.”

For the Historic Salisbury Foundation, a 15-person real estate committee makes decisions related to the revolving fund. In recent years, HSF also has relied on Marine Doug Black to lead a team of volunteers who work to stabilize HSF revolving fund properties before they are sold. Clement said the team is called “The Col. Black Brigade.”

Clement had words of caution for preservationists in the years ahead. He told them not to think of historic preservation as a mature movement yet. They still need to be involved, outspoken and strong defenders and stewards, Clement said.

The challenges ahead will be more complex, and there will be new kinds of pressures on historic buildings, neighborhoods and towns, Clement said, adding that historic properties saved in the past may find themselves in danger again.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.