Five Ways to Avoid Disaster with Historic Buildings
Whether for public or private use, historic structures are important parts of our communities. Owning and maintaining a historic building, however, can bring unique challenges. But with a little planning you can keep these problems from growing into , full blown disasters.
The City of Muncie, Indiana recently experienced a storm that severely damaged the historic Muncie Fieldhouse. Built in 1928, the fieldhouse has been the center of the Muncie community for generations, but due to budgetary issues, maintenance and care had not been able to keep up with the needs of the building, leading to larger structural problems. Now, the damage from the recent storm is so severe that the future of the fieldhouse is in jeopardy. Losing the Muncie Fieldhouse would be a significant loss for the community.
While it is impossible to predict when a severe storm may damage a specific historic building, proactive steps can help prevent the further deterioration or loss of a historic structure. Below are some ways that private owners and the public can help aid in historic preservation of buildings, which contribute so much to our communities:
Capitalize on community interest
Getting the community involved and excited about your historic property is a great way to help raise funds, create allies, and find resources to help you with your building. There may already be a group that values your building. You may just need to look around and connect with them. Some of these groups might be your local historical society, town historic preservation commission, or a local university. All of these would have expertise and resources to help you maintain your historic property.
Another way to fund upkeep for your historic property is to crowdsource funds. There are many effective ways to involve interested parties and raise funds. By creating a goal and stating your purpose, you can connect with people who value your project and want to help fund you. Through this you will involve others who can help raise the money you need for larger projects.
Apply for grants
Finding the funds for larger maintenance needs can be difficult. But there are numerous grants available to help with historic preservation projects, such as building rehabilitations and reconstructions. Grants come from a variety of sources and have various requirements. You can apply for these grants on your own, but you may wish to consult with a professional architectural historian, who can help you determine the best course of action in pursuing grants for your historic building. An architectural historian would also be able to help navigate the language and complexity of these historic preservation grants.
Consult with an architectural historian
Regardless of your funding sources, it can help to contact an architectural historian. Even a brief discussion may help clear up some questions or help point you in the right direction. A more developed and professional relationship can help you research your historic property and learn about its original use and significance, or help determine eligibility in the National Register of Historic Places, which in turn opens more grant possibilities and provides some legal protection for your property. An architectural historian can also help apply for historic properties tax deductions. If you have access to a professional, they can help you better understand your historic property, guide you through maintenance projects, and help you prepare for the future upkeep and preservation of your building.
Which brings us to the most important step;
Keep up with maintenance