November 02, 2011

Reaching for the Bronze Plaque

Jenny and I are heading up to Hartford tomorrow morning to listen to the state Review Board weigh in on our home's nomination for the National Register of Historic Places.
I spent a long time working on the nomination form (with some key help from my friend Tod Bryant), which we had to submit to the State Historic Preservation Office in August.  We also had a pre-submission site review by the state during the summer.  From what I have been told, our nomination should be well received, but it's still a little nerve wracking.

If the state approves our nomination, it goes on to the U.S. Department of the Interior for final review in the next few months (why does this sentence make me think of the classic "I'm Just a Bill" song from Schoolhouse Rock?).  After that comes a month of hazing, the probationary period, and finally the revelation of the secret National Register handshake.

Off to the Dept. of the Interior?
The process is long, and requires more paperwork than I have had to deal with since applying to college.  And for all of that work, if you make the cut, you have to purchase that nice plaque yourself.  That hardly seems fair.  That said, it would be an honor for the house to be recognized, and it provides a small extra layer of protection for our property should the state ever want to do something like run a highway through our property, which actually happened in the 1930s, when Connecticut appropriated part of "our" farm for the Merritt Parkway, a road which itself is now on the National Register of Historic Places.   My hope is that it also might make it a little easier for us to access some grant money to stabilize our badly deteriorated 18th century barn in the next few years.   We shall see.   In the meantime, please cross your virtual fingers for us.

Nota bene: Most people seem to think that being on the National Register ties your hand with regard to working on your house, but that certainly is not the case.  The current This Old House series in Bedford, Massachusetts disproves that theory - that house is on the National Register, and they are doing a lot of work that is really more renovation than period restoration.  Sadly, it is not even unprecedented for buildings on the National Register to be demolished. The publicity from something like that can't be good, however, so would-be condominium developers and those interested in bulldozing an old house  and building a McMansion (if either of these species still exist today) need not apply at our door.

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