Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Guest Post: National Preservation Month

Today's post was featured in our museum's recent summer newsletter, and was written by Jeff Sheets, Director of the Dickinson County Historical Society.

The month of May is National Preservation Month and this year’s theme is “Discovering America’s Hidden Gems”. The Dickinson County Historical Society, Abilene Heritage Commission and the Heritage Homes Association would like to encourage our residents to explore the hidden gems in Dickinson County. There are many historical gems throughout the county. 

There are 31 properties, four historic districts, two bridges and one steam locomotive listed on the National Register of Historic Properties and one National Historic Landmark in Dickinson County, the C.W. Parker Carousel. In addition, the Heritage Homes Association has marked over 50 homes throughout the county. 

The Dickinson County Historical Society was founded in May 1928 for the purpose to preserve the history of the county. Since that time the historical society has continued to collect and preserve the heritage of our county. The Dickinson County Historical Society was instrumental in creating awareness of the importance of preserving the historic properties in the county. Under the guidance of the historical society a survey was conducted for the city of Abilene in 1979. Also the preservation committee of the Dickinson County Historical Society established a historic driving tour of the county and developed a historic home tour. 

From these efforts the Heritage Homes Association was created. The HHA wanted to develop an organization that would research and document historic homes that were over 50 years old. The idea of the HHA was to mark the home with a plaque that would remain with the home no matter who owned the property. Since their creation, this organization has marked over 50 homes throughout the county. The Heritage Homes Association published a book The Historic Homes of Abilene, in 1994. This organization also took over the historic homes tour and created the annual Homes for the Holidays tour that takes place the first weekend of December. The Heritage Homes Association continues to research and mark homes in Dickinson County. 

The Abilene Heritage Commission came about because of the many historic preservation efforts that were going on in Abilene started by the Dickinson County Historical Society and the Heritage Homes Association. The community saw a need to continue historic preservation and the Abilene City Commission passed an ordinance creating the Heritage Commission in 1996. Along with creating the Heritage Commission, the ordinance also allowed Abilene to become a Certified Local Government. As a Local Certified Government, the Heritage Commission entered into an agreement with the Kansas State Preservation Office to monitor local environment reviews for protecting historic properties, to educate the public on historic preservation issues, and to keep an inventory of all historic properties in the city limits of Abilene. 

The benefits of historic preservation come in many forms. The prime benefit of historical restoration is always education. It also includes both public and private benefits. Historic preservation safeguards a community's heritage, making it available to future generations for civic enjoyment and educational activities. Preservation stabilizes property values and strengthens local economies. In addition, the conservation and maintenance of historic resources and scenic areas fosters civic beauty and bolsters community pride. Finally, historic preservation has been successfully employed to improve business opportunities in many locales. 

Please take the time to discover the hidden gems throughout our county .We need to learn to enjoy our heritage. 

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