Museum Sponsors Preservation Delaware Workshop

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By Terry Rogers

On Wednesday, September 14, the Milford Museum sponsored a workshop for Preservation Delaware Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of Delaware’s architectural heritage and historic settings. The group’s mission is to use education, public policy initiatives and technical assistance to preserve locations, buildings and areas in Delaware that are important to the state’s history.

“We are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Historic Preservation Act,” said Gwen Davis of the Bureau of Cultural Affairs. “This act of legislation established policies and programs designed for historic preservation. We decided to hold this workshop in an effort to get ideas from those in the state whose goal is to preserve history on how we can promote historical preservation in Delaware.” Ms. Davis said that the bureau was currently working on a portal and website that would help people discover more of the history of the state as well as planning a conference in the spring to help move historic preservation forward.

Those in attendance discussed the various ways their towns or agencies were working toward historic preservation. Jan Broulik, co-owner of the Causey Mansion in Milford, said that one of the goals of Milford’s recently created Historic Preservation Committee, a sub-committee of Downtown Milford Inc, was to develop a grant fund that would be used to help owners of historic homes repair the facades of the buildings in order to avoid demolition of properties that were important to Milford.

“We need to let people know there are assets out there that people can tap into to help maintain and upgrade their homes,” Kate David, a member of the Milford Historic Preservation Committee said. “It is important to let people who own historic homes that there is help out there. Many may not even be unaware the home the live in is historic.”

Several members of the workshop said that one of the difficulties they faced was with homeowners who misunderstood what it meant to have their home placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. In some cases, there was significant resistance when it was suggested that an area or building be listed on the registry.

“I believe many people who resist placement on the registry have an understanding that they will be restricted in what they are permitted to do to their property,” said Claudia Leister, Executive Director of the Milford Museum. “In fact, registering a house with the historic registry has no bearing on homeowner’s rights.” According to the National Park Service, which controls the registry, the federal government has no restrictions on the use of their property as long as there are no Federal monies attached to it. However, states and towns may have historic preservation laws that must be followed before changes can be made to a property that is listed on the registry. At this time, Milford has no such restrictions.

The National Park Service says that adding a home to the historic registry allows the owners of the home certain benefits. The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires that federal agencies allow the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation an opportunity to comment on projects proposed by the government that could affect historic properties, thereby protecting those properties. In addition buildings or areas listed on the historic registry are eligible for certain tax provisions.

Owners of properties on the register may be eligible for a 20 percent investment tax credit for certified rehabilitation of income-producing certified historic structures. Other tax deductions are available for charitable contributions for conservation purposes as well. Owners of historic properties are also eligible for federal grants used for historic preservation. These grants are available to private and commercial property owners in order to maintain, manage or dispose of their property. Grants are available through the Heritage Preservation Services division of the National Park Service.

In an effort to promote historic preservation throughout the state, the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs launched Preservation 50, which will be celebrated throughout 2016. The celebration is designed to recognize the 50th anniversary of the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, a moment when the federal government officially recognized the value of preserving and protecting the places that reflect its historic heritage. Those interested in volunteering for the Delaware Preservation 50 celebration can contact the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs at 302-736-7437 or email Bev Laing at bev.laing@state.de.us