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December 04, 2016
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History matters; A canal park is born

Local history is a source of pride no matter where you live. Philadelphia may have its Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, but our area’s historic sites are no less important to local residents. Take Honesdale, for example: named after Philip Hone, the president of the D&H Canal in 1825 and 1826, he was also the mayor of New York City in those same years. Coal from the Lackawanna Valley mines to the west was the economic engine that drove the canal, transporting black gold to the canal’s terminus at the Hudson River where it continued on its way downriver to heat homes in New York City. Little wonder that Honesdale and New York City have always had some special ties even to this day, if one can judge by the number of New Yorkers who visit and move here. This is just one example of how knowing local history helps explain a place. The knowledge adds a rich texture to and clearer understanding of a community.

Preserving artifacts, memorabilia, photographs and writings is not just some idle business of historical societies. These things tell us something about who we are, often quite literally. (Did you know that one of the busiest roles of the WCHS research library is helping people with genealogy?) And when it comes to buildings, architecture and even parks, historic preservation helps keep towns attractive, alive and livable, giving people a stake in their communities.

In addition, heritage tourism, as it is called, also offers the potential to make real contributions to local economies, offering an attractive, clean form of economic development.

So the next time someone tries to tell you they’re not interested in our local history because it’s of little value, tell him or her that historic places are true assets of a community and that knowing our roots is an important way to understand our present.