May is National Preservation Month and the theme this year is "Discover America's Hidden Gems". This month go visit your local historical landmarks. Each landmark has its own personal story to tell in relation to the history of your local area. The Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado tells a story of the Ancient Pueblo people. The Concord Point Lighthouse in Havre de Grace, Maryland tells a maritime story. Each story is a chapter in our American history and heritage.
May is National Preservation Month and the theme this year is "Discover America's Hidden Gems". Historic preservation is an effective tool for managing growth and sustainable development as well as revitalizing neighborhoods, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The National Park Service (NPS) calls preservation “the backbone of sustainable communities.”
America’s Hidden Gems are all over the nation. There are over 80,000 listings on the National Register of Historic Places and another 2,461 National Historic Landmarks. There are 40 National Heritage Areas. The NPS cares for 27,000 historic structures and 68,000 archeological sites.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation established National Preservation Month back in 1973. Many local, state and civic organizations joined forces with the Trust and today thousands celebrate our nation’s heritage in this manner. If you live in a historic house, keep it in good condition. Contact the Trust for ways to preserve and rehabilitate your house. If your house does not qualify but you would still like to be active in the preservation movement, claim a historic lighthouse or preserve a historic cemetery.
The National Historic Landmark program will offer two webinars during May. Both are open to the public. The first is 22 May and is “Finding the Right Person to Write Your National Historic Landmark Nomination.” The second will be held 24 May and will cover “Understanding Cultural Landscapes: National Register of Historic Placed and National Historic Landmarks Program.
Landmarks are unique pieces or glimpse into American history. They could capture a period or an event or a person. For example, inSavannah,Georgiaseveral places are grouped together are known as the Juliette Gordon Low Historic District. Low was the founder of the Girl Scouts. The Fulton Opera House in Lancaster,Pennsylvania, is a national historic landmark. In Wyoming, the Heart Mountain Relocation Centeris included. The Center was one of 10 such centers in which Japanese Americans were held during World War II. Many were imprisoned when they resisted the draft.
These landmarks are not necessarily government owned. Many are owned by individuals or local or state governments and in some cases corporations or organizations. The Concord Point Lighthouse in Havre deGrace,Marylandis owned by the Friends of Concord Point Lighthouse, Inc. Built in 1827, this lighthouse is one of the oldest lighthouses in continuous operation. The group opens up the lighthouse for tours to the public on weekends from April to October.
Many state organizations depict historical landmarks with state markers. In Pennsylvania, for example they are a blue sign with gold lettering. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) in fact just added 15 new state historical markers to the almost 2,000 current ones. Since 1946, PHMC’s historical markers have featured such subjects as Native Americans and settlers, government and politics, athletes, entertainers, artists, struggles for freedom and equality, factories and businesses, and a multitude of other notable topics.
Archeology plays a role in the National Preservation Month as well. Unfortunately, the word archeology usually brings to mind images of people in foreign desert lands combing through sand to find artifacts. Fortunately, national parks such as Mesa Verde in Colorado are preserved to offer us a glimpse back in time here on our own soil. Mesa Verde is incredible. It is a little village basically of cliff dwellers –Puebloswho used the cliffs as their homes from 600 to 1300 AD. The Mesa Verde National Park preserves over 4,500 archeological sites which include 600 cliff dwellings. When you take a tour through the dwellings, the tour guides will talk you through a typical day. They will explain the fire pits in the ground and how the meals were prepared. They explain how the people lived day to day. These dwellings are literally built into the cliffs – hence the term cliff dwellers – in such a manner that they would have been difficult to notice unless you knew they were there. In fact, they were not discovered until 1888 when two ranchers went in search of stray cattle during a snow storm.
Preserving our nation’s history allows future generations to appreciate our nation’s diverse background. We can still learn much from those long passed.
ABOUT JEANNE RUCZHAK-ECKMAN
Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman began writing in 1985, with her work appearing in several local newspapers. From 2003-2009, she spearheaded an online newspaper company, which had two newspapers, the PA Farm News and SolancoNews.com. The latter covered everything from hometown heroes and new businesses to the Nickel Mines Shooting. She received her Bachelor of Arts in journalism from LockHavenUniversity. Her interests include history/travel, learning more about diabetes and how to deal with it, genealogy, Orthodoxy, preparedness and gaming. You may contact Jeanne with your comments and questions.