LITTLETON, NH-- Understanding the significant social and economic value of historic preservation were top priorities for the more than 175 people who attended the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance’s biennial preservation conference on May 31 in Littleton.
The conference featured a keynote address by Thompson M. Mayes, vice president and senior counsel of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and author of “Why Old Places Matter: How Historic Places Affect Our Identity and Well-Being.”Mayes offered insights into how to talk about the meaning and value of historic buildings, neighborhoods and downtowns for individuals and communities.
“In a world that is constantly changing,” Mayes said, “old places provide people with a sense of being part of a continuum that is necessary for them to be psychologically and emotionally healthy.”
Attendees learned about the positive impacts of preservation through case studies drawn from the towns of Belmont, Bristol, Canterbury, Durham, Harrisville, Lancaster, Middleton and Rochester, as well as from properties around Squam Lake.They also attended sessions on conserving rural landscapes and revitalizing main streets and downtowns.
Littleton Town Manager Andrew Dorsett highlighted the combined use of historic stewardship and entrepreneurial strategies by local organizations and businesses as critical for his community’s success in building a vibrant downtown and attracting young families. Will Stewart of Stay Work Play New Hampshire led the discussion of changing demographic trends across the state, while Senator David Watters addressed the need to plan for coastal resiliency.
Recognized experts in historic preservation and community leaders led sessions focused on preservation tools and strategies for saving and repurposing historic municipal buildings and other community landmarks, as well as best practices for effective communications and fundraising. Another session explored the untapped potential of the state’s extensive networks of hiking and rail trails to connect to and stimulate the economies of historic villages and downtowns.
“It’s inspiring to see the growing understanding of preservation strategies and benefits in an era of many competing demands,” said Andrew Cushing, field service representative for the Preservation Alliance. “Both older and younger people are drawn to authentic and historic places, which can play a significant role in strengthening local economies and creating more vibrant communities.”
Attendees enjoyed tours of Littleton’s historic landmarks with Richard Alberini,president of the Littleton Historical Society, along with tours of the River District and Shilling Brewing Company by John Hennessey and Chad Stearns of the Littleton River District Commission.
The preservation conference concluded with a networking reception at the Littleton Community House, a Victorian mansion on Main Street that serves as a center for community events and activities. George Mitchell, a member of the Community House’s board, described plans for the final phase of the building’s restoration and rehabilitation. The building was previously listed to the Preservation Alliance’s Seven to Savelist and in 2018, it won a Preservation Achievement Award.
The preservation conference is held every other year; the next one will take place in spring 2021.
Sponsors for the preservation conference include the following: Bedard Preservation and Restoration; Fifield Building Restoration & Relocation LLC; Northland Forest Products; The Rowley Agency; Sheehan Phinney; Arch Weathers Historic Sashworks; New Hampshire Conservation and Heritage License Plate Program (Moose Plate); Sash and Solder; and SMP Architecture.
The Preservation Alliance supports and encourages the revitalization and protection of historic buildings and places, which strengthens local communities and economies. The organization’s current priorities include providing expertise and assistance to community leaders and promoting the use of easements, barn preservation and tax incentives. For more information, contact the Preservation Alliance at (603) 224-2281 or www.nhpreservation.org.