By Sue Moore
A movement to place downtown Vicksburg and some surrounding neighborhoods on the National Register of Historic Places has begun. Information about the effort has been presented to the Village Council on several occasions. The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) brought in speakers from the State of Michigan’s Community Development offices at its annual meeting in November to provide more details.
Sometime in late February or early March, Cheri Szcodronski of Firefly, a preservation consulting firm, will be in Vicksburg to take photographs of historic homes to include in the application. “There are some misconceptions about forming an historic district,” she told the DDA audience. “The buildings to be included do not have to adhere to strict building limits. This is often misunderstood. It has nothing to do with zoning changes either.” The Mill at Vicksburg and the old cemetery are currently on the National Historic Register, having won that designation in 2016.
The process, she said, involves a drive-by “windshield assessment” followed by research at the Depot Museum’s Historical Society to determine the history of the village more accurately. She determined which buildings that were at least 50 years old had historical and architectural integrity in order to set the district’s boundaries. This work has been submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) for approval. The office is the controlling entity for deciding if the project can move forward to the national office for approval.
Szcodronski’s next step is to take pictures of the approximately 245 homes and businesses so they can be submitted as part of the application. She will write descriptions of each property and include information on the historical context of the buildings. There are 150 to 200 pages in the nomination form that will take her until the end of April to put together. It will then be submitted to SHPO in May for its approval.
The National Register designation is honorary, not protective according to Todd Walsh, who spoke at the DDA meeting. He is the coordinator for the state with the national office. “It’s an honor to be selected. Communities can use the designation to drive tourism, along with state of Michigan green marker signs that explain the history. There are also federal tax credits available for rehabilitating properties that might otherwise fall to the wrecking ball. Local historical societies can have a ceremony to celebrate what is important in the community. All of this helps people to see their community with new eyes,” he said.
In the meantime, Szcodronski would appreciate homeowners sharing information with her. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 919-590-5636.