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December 04, 2016
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Preserving a community’s assets

Preserving the historic resources of a place is as much about preserving a cohesive community as it is about preserving buildings. In Milford’s case, its special character is inextricably tied to the charm of its historic district. But more than charm, historic preservation brings economic, cultural, social and even environmental benefits. Economically, it increases property values and attracts visitors; in a village where tourism is economically important, one need only look at the contribution that saving the old Hotel Fauchere has brought to reinvigorating a vibrant village life (not to slight the arts community or other efforts that have also contributed to the same). Culturally and socially, a community benefits when citizens take pride in telling their story, in which visual reminders of the past help connect people to the place they call their hometown. Environmentally, reusing and repurposing old buildings for modern uses and retrofitting them for energy efficiency rather than demolishing and sending the debris to a landfill is a greener and more sustainable practice.

We are reminded of a similar situation in Bucks County, PA in the late 1950s at a time when the historic preservation movement in the U.S. was only beginning to gain momentum. Those Bucks County commissioners, finding their 1878 courthouse in Doylestown no longer adequate for running modern government, decided to tear it down and replace it with a contemporary courthouse and office building totally out of character with the rest of the historic town. Among those old enough to remember, there are still those who lament the loss of that landmark. Its destruction forever changed not only the streetscape, but also diminished the borough’s original charm and character.

With regards to Pike County today, we find this paragraph of Sean Strub’s opposition letter, which so far has garnered 275 citizens’ signatures, most compelling: “If a chain store proposed demolition of the Kenworthey House to build a big box similar to the proposed courthouse annex, we are confident that virtually every member of the borough council and the architectural review board would be united in their opposition. We must hold ourselves—the collective government we share in a democracy—to the same, or an even higher, standard.”