New preservation group on the rise

Published 2:38 pm Tuesday, July 19, 2016

With assistance from Preservation Virginia, Farmville residents are starting an organization dedicated to preserving historic architecture.

“There’s not really a formal voice in Farmville for historical preservation, so I was really interested in trying to form a group that could have a united voice, and so I got in touch with the folks with Preservation Virginia … They help guide people,” said Sherry Swinson, Longwood University’s Hull Springs Farm executive director, who has led the efforts to start a Farmville preservation group.

Preservation Virginia was established in 1889 to save and protect historical homes and landmarks. Their mission is “to make Virginia’s communities and historic places of memory stronger, more vital and economically sustainable through preservation, education and advocacy.”

The organization has saved over 200 historic locations, including Historic Jamestown and Patrick Henry’s Scotchtown.

Currently, Pamplin is listed by Preservation Virginia as one of 2015’s Most Endangered Historic Places.

Swinson said that she would like to see the group promote revitalization in Pamplin. She emphasized the importance of the small town and its relationship to the High Bridge Trail State Park.

“Anything we can do to promote preservation, especially in an area like Pamplin, would certainly be a goal,” Swinson said.

On May 26, Swinson held a meeting to gauge citizen interest. “We had a great crowd,” she said.

“It seemed to be a very enthusiastic group,” said Chief Executive Director of Preservation Virginia Elizabeth Kostelny. “Everybody seemed to be interested.”

According to Swinson, about 50 people expressed interest in becoming members during the meeting.

The group will meet quarterly, Swinson said, to discuss issues related to preservation.

“We would be the people who would get out information about tax credits and things that would incentivize people to work on (preservation) projects … I see us being … an informational arm and just bringing voice to preservationists,” Swinson said.

“We think this is an opportunity … to talk about some of the great things that are going on down in the downtown area, where there’s an effort to rehabilitate buildings and bring them back into use,” said Kostelny. “It’s an opportunity to support the college (Longwood) as they think about expanding their campus … and it’s just a great way to share the new tools that help promote heritage tourism or historical rehabilitation tax cuts and the Main Street Program.”

Swinson was inspired by individuals who have worked to maintain Farmville’s historical buildings.

“Part of the reason people like to come to our little downtown is because the preservation of the architectural significance of our downtown buildings,” Swinson said.

“This is a great opportunity for Farmville and we’re so grateful for those individuals locally that are leading that effort,” said Kostelny.

According to Swinson, those interested are still deciding on a date for an organizational meeting to formally establish the group.

“We will have some people from Preservation Virginia there to really help us establish a mission statement and whatever else we need,” she said.

Swinson also mentioned the possibility of getting Longwood students involved with the organization.

“Students not only could examine the historical and cultural implication of a site, but also weigh its contribution toward the area’s economic development/tourism endeavor. Linking our past with the future is important on so many levels. To have the future generation engaged and giving voice to how our area is shaped is vital.”

For more information on the organization, visit http://preservationvirginia.org. Those interested in being a part of the organization can contact Swinson by email at sherryswinson@gmail.com.