In the late 1800s, Central Bridge was one of Schoharie County’s agricultural and industrial hubs, transformed by the railroad, with elegant homes like the Daniel Webster Jenkins House.
Convinced the bones of that Central Bridge are still there, the Civic Association is looking into the possibility of creating a historic district in the hamlet.
Homes in designated historic districts are eligible for tax credits, but just as importantly, it’s a way of preserving the history of a community and of telling its story, Erin Czernecki of the State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation told about 20 members of the CBCA and supervisors Alan Tavenner and Earl VanWormer Wednesday.
Also on hand to explain the process were Virginia Bartos, of the National Register, and Jessie Ravage, a preservation consultant who’s worked with the Jefferson Historical Society on creating a historic district there.
Historic districts “tell the story of a community,” Ms. Ravage said, which means they don’t just include “a few pieces [properties] at the top of the economic spectrum.
“It’s not about whether George Washington slept here. And just because it’s not pretty doesn’t mean it’s not important.”
The first step in creating a historic district is a survey that gathers information to help answer questions that include why the community was first settled, how it developed, what sort of architecture it has, when it was built and how much of it is intact, Ms. Czernecki said.
Properties within a historic district must be contiguous and must be at least 50 years old.
“Outstanding gems” could be eligible for National Registrar listing, a designation Rosemary Christoff Dolan received for her 1884 Daniel Webster Jenkins House at 207 Church Street in 2018.
Surveys bring a lot of valuable information together in a single document, Ms. Bartos said, and often, can be used as a starting place for grant applications.
There are a couple of different types of surveys, Ms. Ravage said, a “reconnaissance” or more general survey, which includes representative photos, descriptions of outbuildings, and approximate construction dates; and an “intensive” survey, which records information house-by-house.
Most communities begin with the first, she said—though concerned by plans for a Dollar General there, Jefferson skipped straight to the second. (See related story.)
And sometimes, surveys show there isn’t enough for a historic district.
The process can be time-consuming, Ms. Bartos warned, and all of the speakers stressed that it needs community buy-in.
“We’ve had some projects stopped in their tracks” because by residents who didn’t understand the process or their goal, she said.
Information on historic districts is available on the state website, NYSparks.com/shpo or by calling (518) 237-8643.
The CBCA hopes to apply for a Preserve New York grant that would fund 80 percent of the cost of a survey, leaving the organization responsible for about $3,000.
Deadline for the application is March 2020.