An article about preservation in Staunton, Virginia caught my eye earlier this week. Historic preservation is much more than just battlefields:
40 Years: Preserving Staunton’s History
STAUNTON — Downtown Staunton is rich in history, unique and charming, the kind of place that makes long-time residents proud to stay and also attracts new investment and residents.
But it wasn’t destined to be that way; it took a group of dedicated and relentless citizens.
That was the theme of the Historic Staunton Foundation’s annual meeting Sunday night at Blackfriars Playhouse, where members celebrated 40 years of preserving Staunton’s architectural history.
“Staunton, Virginia, 40 years ago had a downtown that was really shuttered up,” said Frank Strassler, executive director of the foundation. “Business was leaving quickly.”
It was then, 40 years ago, that the foundation formed to oppose the Virginia Department of Transportation’s plan to build a four-lane highway where the Wharf District is, displacing property that now supports more than a dozen businesses and destroying the train station designed by T.J. Collins, Staunton’s most renowned architect.
Today, not only is the Wharf District thriving, but the foundation has worked with the city and property owners to preserve more than 1,000 historic buildings in and around Staunton, establish five registered historic districts and bring in $50 million in downtown and neighborhood investment directly related to historic preservation…. (Read more)
The article goes on to mention an exhibit, at the R.R. Smith Center for History and Art, entitled “1971 to 2011: Forty Years of Preservation Success.” Using paintings and blueprints the exhibit provides a timeline of preservation in Staunton.
These are the stories I like to hear. Had the original VDOT plan been executed, it may have attracted a few new businesses to the town. But it sounds like Staunton kept a little of its heritage and charm, yet still attracted a few businesses!