Your 15 minutes of fame might be closer than you think. As a matter of fact, you might be living in it.
Thursday night, Feb. 28, Joe DeRose from the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS) and Rowan Davidson from Legacy Architecture presented the results of an intensive historical preservation survey completed last October in New Richmond.
In 2018, the city was awarded a $24,900 grant to conduct the survey of historic properties. The grant funding comes from the National Register of Historic Places program run by the National Park Service. The grant program is administered statewide by the WHS.
"This project by itself does not list those properties but it identifies which ones may be eligible for listing either by themselves or as part of historic districts," explained DeRose.
The city selected Legacy Architecture to conduct a survey of more than 500 buildings both residential and commercial within the city limits. The surveyors started from a database assembled from the last survey conducted in 1983 updating that information and adding to it as appropriate. Buildings were photographed and entered into a spreadsheet along with specific comments as to condition and significance. The purpose of the survey was to "identify structures and districts with architectural integrity and historical significance that are potentially eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places."
Prior to conducting the physical survey last October, Davidson researched everything ever written about the city and its architecture from a variety of sources including the state historical society archive, fire insurance maps, the city's GIS database, building permits, tax assessor information, even early phone books. Upon completing the week-long survey, he tabulated the spreadsheet information and conducted additional research reviewing historical accounts provided by individual community members as well as churches, newspapers, schools, cemeteries and the Heritage Center.
"There are some people in the room tonight who contributed greatly to the history of New Richmond with their writing and researching since the 1960's. I used a lot of Irv Sather and his wife's and other people's research and books to start constructing this report," said Davidson.
A month prior to writing up the final report, Davidson returned to New Richmond with the state historic preservation officer and together they spent nine hours driving all throughout the city reviewing the information put together by Rowan and his colleagues getting her official opinion on their work.
For a building to be eligible for listing in the Register, it must be at least 50 years old and it must still exhibit historic integrity.It must look like it did when it was originally constructed or when the event that made it historically significant took place. Finally, it meet at least one of four criteria that measure its historic significance:
• Whether the building is associated with significant historical event(s)
• Whether the building is associated with a significant person who lived there and why were they significant
• Architectural type, period, method or a master architect designed it
• A building has or may yield important historic or prehistoric information that contributes to the state's archeology record
Buildings can also belong to an historic district which can be recognized in the Register.
"When you walk into the West Side Historic District (in New Richmond), the bulk of the buildings were constructed between 1870-1930. When you go there, you have a sense that you're stepping back in time. The important thing to remember with historic districts is, what gets listed is that boundary. Everything within that district is listed in the National Register whether it was built last week or a hundred years ago. Buildings in these districts are categorized in two ways, ones that contribute to their significance and ones that don't contribute, but they are all listed in the National Register," explained DeRose.
Davidson told a group of curious residents that the survey and subsequent research had revealed a total of 211 "resources" (properties) of architectural and historical interest. The final report is broken down into chapters such as government, industry, architecture, educatio, religion, notable people, etc.
Those resources included:
• Seven resources potentially eligible individually for listing in the National Register for architectural significance
• Two historic complexes potentially eligible for listing (six resources)
• Two historic districts potentially eligible for listing (54 resources)
Davidson also noted that 33 resources already listed in the National Register were not included with these results, 60 previously surveyed resources had been demolished (including New Richmond Roller Mills, New Richmond High School and the Congregational Church) and were not included with these results and 287 previously surveyed resources now lack integrity and were not included with these results.
The individual resources are:
• The A. L. Lyman House (built 1872) on East First Street
• The Gem Theatre (built 1913) on Knowles Avenue
• A ranch style house (built 1949) at 556 E. Second St.
• First Lutheran Church and Annex (built 1952) on Third Street
• Carlton A. Friday Memorial Library (built 1963) on First Street
• A ranch style house (built 1963) at 911 W. River Drive
• Immaculate Conception Catholic Church (built 1966) on Washington Avenue
"A lot of famous people lived in New Richmond, but most of their homes are already listed in the existing West Side Historic District," explained Rowan.
The two historic complexes were the New Richmond Golf Course (builtin 1923) for its clubhouse and out buildings and Sunshine Courts (built in 1968) affordable housing complex.
The newly proposed East Side Historic District (built 1880's-1929) contains 18 contributing resources (three already listed) and three non-contributing resources; it's located in the blocks between East First and Third streets running east from Arch Avenue.
The other newly proposed Downtown Historic District contains 36 contributing resources, eight non-contributing resources and includes buildings on both sides of Knowles Avenue stretching from the river south to just past Third Street.
"Kudos to the business owners that have put so much work into these properties that now it is a potential historic district. Congratulations to all the property owners," said DeRose.
"Another reason why I think if this (new Downtown Historic District) were nominated successfully, which it would be if it were, is the history of the tornado. The rebuilding of the city is so unique in the state and even on the national level it would be even more than just the commercial history of its architecture but perhaps related to that event as well, a marking of its history," added Rowan.
A bound copy of the survey is available to see at City Hall and a PDF version should be available on the city's website shortly: newrichmondwi.gov
DeRose informed audience members that if they succeeded in getting their property listed in a register, they are not required to open it up to the public. Opening it to the public is voluntary on the part of the owner. The Registry programs are primarily honorific as opposed to regulatory programs.
Owners can make any modifications to their property that they like as long as they are not using federal or state funds to pay for the work.
"The National Register is not a regulatory program for private property owners. The only time my office gets involved is if you are using state or federal funds, permits or licenses. Then my office is going to review the work that's done on those properties to try to make sure it is in keeping with the character of the resource. If you are using private money, you can do what you want," said DeRose.
The next step is for the city and individual home owners to decide whether or not to pursue the nominating process. In the case of the city, it can apply for a Certified Local Government (CLG) grant to help pay for the costs associated with nominating the new historic districts.
DeRose explained that the application process to nominate an eligible resource for the Wisconsin Register is identical to the process for the National Register so the state typically recommends that both be applied for at the same time so that the processes can run parallel.
Here is where fame can pay off.
The economic benefits to being listed include tax credits for construction or restorative work you do on your building. To receive credit, your work has to conform with state and federal guidelines and must be approved before you start, the idea being to preserve the historic character of the building. For work that qualifies, you receive a tax credit, you can deduct 25 percent off of your state income tax owed (not property tax). You have to spend a minimum of $10,000. The improvements can be completed over a period of up to five years. The type of exterior work that typically qualifies includes tuckpointing, new roof and window repairs. Interior work that qualifies includes things like a new furnace or rewiring.
If your property produces an income, getting listed in the National Register could make you eligible for a 20 percent deduction off of federal income tax owed in addition to the 20 percent off your state income tax owed.
For more details about tax credit programs go to: wisconsinhistory.org/taxcredits.
For additional questions about the Register program and application process, contact Joe DeRose at 608-264-6512 or email@example.com