Friday, March 23, 2007

Historic Preservation

What Concepts Regarding the Preservation of Rumford Falls Architecture are we Hoping to Promote? We ultimately want to promote not just the preservation of the many beautiful individual buildings but also the idea of preserving Rumford Falls - the entire historic neighborhood - as a consistent architectural entity. We aim to promote the idea of preserving the area in as intact a form as possible, where residents and visitors with a little imagination can get the feel for a turn-of-the-last-century Maine mill town. We want to promote an understanding of the historic economic circumstances which created this consistent architectural legacy (discussed above) and provide a vision of how the preservation renaissance and promotion of a voluntary, but coordinated, historic theme will benefit members of the community and the local economy going into the future. We want to spread the idea that there is something special here. It is rare to have a town with such an abundance of historic architecture, let alone an abundance from a consistent time period, with complimentary but diverse styles and with very little newer construction. While we have met many here who love Rumford and have long appreciated its unique historic character, we have also been surprised to find many who do not seem to understand what we have here. We want to encourage any long-time residents who may consider much of Rumford Falls to be just old buildings - having developed their ideas while the area was in slow decline - to envision the architectural legacy in Rumford Falls with a new eye. Although it might be easy to see some of the unpainted and poorly maintained buildings and to assume that each of these is on its way out, we believe that these properties really can be opportunities for those who have the foresight to invest in a vision of Rumford Falls' future. Most of the beautiful historic communities in Maine and beyond have gone through cycles of boom and recession before being recognized and restored to a vision that capitalizes on their historic past. Time has a way of taking what was once seen as old and passed over and restoring it with new life that grows from new found appreciation for historic styles. Anyone who has lived long enough in Maine can, undoubtedly, point to towns that once were neglected and run down - with low real estate prices and a questionable future - and can testify to the change that occurred as more and more people looked past the temporary outward appearances and saw a historic vision that appealed to them. We believe that the historic preservation of Rumford Falls is inevitable. There are too many historic homes and buildings that have survived through the dangerous stage when they are just considered "old" and have reached a historic status where they can always expect to be valued and maintained. But the shape that this preservation takes on a community wide level is still to be determined. Many beautiful historic buildings are still in danger of being lost. Also, the future form of any new construction and development and maintenance of open spaces remain to be influenced. In addition to promoting the renovation of historic buildings, we hope to promote the adaptive reuse of buildings and exterior facades. We want to encourage the creation and defense of new open spaces in place of buildings which are no longer capable of preservation and promote preservation and maintenance of existing open spaces. Because space in proximity to the mill at the time of the building boom was at a premium, yards tended to be small and intentionally planned parks were rare. Creating and maintaining open space will prevent blight, maintain the consistent architectural image and produce a higher quality living environment for residents by creating local parks that will beautify the community and may serve as sites for formal and informal neighborhood gatherings. We hope to identify endangered properties (with the assistance of other preservation-minded individuals) and work with owners to encourage improvement and preservation of the property, or find a buyer interested in preservation or conversion to open space. We hope to prevent/retard/persuade against any new construction that is not consistent with a historic theme. We hope to promote the economic self interest of adding historically consistent facades and elements to existing buildings currently outside the historic theme. This will contribute to and enhance the overall historic character of Rumford Falls, increase the value of these properties for their owners and generally make Rumford Falls a nicer place to live in and visit. In addition to trying to widen the circle of local believers, we plan to promote Rumford Falls to those "from away" as an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a preservation renaissance by purchasing and preserving their own historic properties while being part of a larger preservation program from which the entire community is benefitting. We hope to help both current residents and those from away to understand the synergy of preservation. To facilitate reaching our goals, we hope to identify allies and opponents of our ideas. We will work to support and network allies and to persuade our opponents while helping people see how the community will benefit from a coordinated effort of preservation. (Shared momentum will promote speedier change, appearances will improve, community-conscious neighbors will be more likely to remain, new community-conscious neighbors will join the effort, those who wish to sell their homes will find ready buyers at reasonable prices, those who stay will have a higher quality town of which they can be proud, etc.). We hope to provide a social network/outlet for like-minded individuals so that they can be updated on preservation successes, partake in ongoing efforts by their neighbors to preserve their properties and, most importantly, inspire as many people as possible to spread the good word concerning Rumford Falls' revitalization through historic preservation. Finally, through this website, we hope to preserve the story of this town and its people. As this project matures, more and more properties will be available for viewing on the online "Tour of Rumford Falls" and people will have a place to collect and share their stories of these buildings and its occupants. Not everyone is interested in historic preservation, but many are and we hope to provide a valuable resource for those who see a future for Rumford Falls that builds on the strength of its historic past.

No comments: