2016 will be a big year in Kentucky as celebrations commemorate the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), establishment of the Kentucky Heritage Council and the economic and social impact historic preservation programs and policies have contributed over five decades. An agency of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, KHC is responsible for the identification, protection and preservation of prehistoric resources and historic buildings, sites and cultural resources throughout the Commonwealth.
A kickoff event took place Jan. 13 when the agency sponsored Kentucky Heritage Council Day at the Capitol. KHC staff were on hand in the Rotunda to answer questions about Kentucky’s architectural heritage, state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits, the National Register of Historic Places, historic sites survey, archaeological research, and Native American and African American heritage resources.
Representatives of Kentucky Main Street Programs (KYMS) from across the state were set up on the 2nd floor of the Capitol with information about their communities and the economic return on investment that participation in this program has generated. In 2015, a cumulative total of $72 million – private investment of $42 million, paired with $30 million of public improvements – was reported by 44 participating communities.
Created in 1979, Kentucky Main Street is one of KHC’s flagship programs and the oldest statewide Main Street revitalization program in the nation. Based on a Four-Point Approach® developed by the National Main Street Center, KYMS works to support downtown commercial district economic development within the context of preserving historic buildings. Over three decades, $3.9 billion in public-private investment has been generated throughout the state by KYMS communities.
“Over the last five decades, the Kentucky Heritage Council has proudly partnered with citizens, advocacy groups and government entities to document, promote and protect the unique heritage conveyed by Kentucky’s historic resources,” said Craig Potts, KHC executive director and state historic preservation officer. “Through our presence in the Capitol, including a special long-term exhibit developed to highlight our diverse programming, we hope to communicate the value of Kentucky’s historic places, not only as significant economic and educational assets, but as important components of our collective identity as Kentuckians.”
Kentucky Heritage Council Day at the Capitol took place in conjunction with the Kentucky Main Street Winter Conference, with the theme “Creating Healthy Downtown Communities.” Speakers and presentations focused on how good community design and preserving traditional historic neighborhoods promotes both good physical health – encouraging walkability, social interaction and concern for neighbors – and a healthy bottom line, through economic policies that support local investment, business development and heritage tourism.
Passed in 1966, the National Historic Preservation Act was landmark legislation that came about as a response to destructive urban “renewal” policies and the widespread construction of interstate highways cutting swaths through the American landscape. The NHPA established a leadership role for the federal government to protect and preserve our nation’s historic buildings and paved the way for the establishment of state historic preservation offices, including KHC.
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What was going on in 1966? "Bonanza" was the most popular show on television, "Thunderball" with Sean Connery as James Bond was the most popular movie, Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" was the most popular song, and transistor radios were what passed for high-tech listening devices.
Mass-produced housing was booming, the construction of interstate highways was cutting swaths of destruction through the American landscape, and historic buildings and neighborhoods were being leveled in cities across the country as urban "renewal" policies were implemented in an effort to address blight and suburban flight.
The wholesale loss of these historic resources sparked a grassroots effort among citizens to seek a new and more comprehensive approach to preservation. In 1965, a special committee of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the White House and several members of Congress produced a report and plan of action, ""With Heritage So Rich."
This report laid the foundation for federal government intervention, and the National Historic Preservation Act was passed into law and signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on October 15, 1966. For the first time, federal law defined a comprehensive government role in preservation policy, leadership and program responsibility, and also provided a federal-state framework by creating a means for state historic preservation offices to be established to help implement this policy.
The legislation also established the Section 106 process requiring federal agencies to take into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties; created the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, an independent federal agency to advise the President and Congress; and set up the National Register of Historic Places.
The Kentucky Heritage Commission was created by the state legislature not long after, and in the 1980s the name was changed to the Kentucky Heritage Council. It is not an understatement to say that our Commonwealth would look very different today without the work of this agency.
It's funny to consider that in 1971, the first statewide survey of "historic" sites in Kentucky was completed, consisting of a mere 1,951 buildings - mostly the high-style architecture that one would expect. Today we are approaching a database of nearly 100,000 surveyed historic sites, including archaeological deposits, places associated with Kentucky's African American and Native American heritage, battlefields, schools, churches, rural hamlets, houses of every type, and historic downtowns in communities of all sizes - among many other diverse resources.
As an agency, the Kentucky Heritage Council has a lot to celebrate in 2016. Watch here for frequent updates about upcoming events and highlighting successful initiatives.
The National Park Service has created Preservation 50 , a campaign to promote the anniversary and events going on in various states throughout next year. Visit www.preservation50.org  for more and also to download a prospectus about what you can do to commemorate and bring attention to this important anniversary in your own community.
The Preservation Payoff
Each year the Kentucky Heritage Council compiles information about the impact of historic preservation in each of Kentucky's six Congressional districts. These data sheets (at right) quantify the financial and cultural value that KHC programs such as rehabilitation tax credits and the Kentucky Main Street Program generate in economic investment back into communities. This information is presented both cumulatively (statewide) and by district, and a rehab tax credit project in each district of particular interest is highlighted.
Please use these to help illustrate the economic and cultural impact that historic preservation programs are having in your community!
In 2012, Annville Institute in Jackson County was listed in the National Register of Historic Places
Does your legislator, local elected official, family member, friend or neighbor want to know more about historic preservation? Would you like to learn about how current preservation projects across the state are creating jobs, attracting private investment, generating tax revenue, promoting environmental sustainability, contributing to community planning and improving our quality of life? Then check out Preservation Works! Historic Preservation Projects and Case Studies [PDF - 976KB], produced by the Kentucky Heritage Council. For a hard copy, email Vicki Birenberg, CLG and Planning Coordinator, or call 502-564-7005, ext. 126.
... to the Kentucky Heritage Council / State Historic Preservation Office website. Our mission is to identify, preserve and protect the cultural resources of Kentucky. Heritage Council staff administer all state and federal historic preservation and incentive programs in Kentucky, including the National Register of Historic Places. Sixteen Kentucky Heritage Council members from every geographic region are appointed by the governor to serve four-year terms.
The Heritage Council is repository of a priceless assemblage of survey forms, maps, photographs and other images in its unique archival collection of inventories of historic structures and archaeological sites across the state. Our rural heritage is well represented in all of our programs including the Kentucky Archaeological Survey, a partnership with the University of Kentucky Department of Anthropology, which promotes the preservation of archaeological sites and educates the public about archaeology and the importance of site protection.
The Heritage Council seeks to build a greater awareness of Kentucky's historic places and to encourage the long-term preservation of Kentucky's significant cultural resources.