Historic Preservation

Historic preservation not only contributes to the region's identity and quality of life. It also stimulates the economy and create jobs.

"The historical and cultural foundations of the Nation should be preserved as a living part of our community life and development . . . the preservation of this irreplaceable heritage is in the public interest so that its vital legacy of cultural, educational, aesthetic, inspirational, economics, and energy benefits will be maintained an enriched for future generations of Americans . . ."

National Historic Preservation Act of 1966

The Gate of the Grove Street Cemetery, a National Historic Landmark.

From the National Historic Landmark Grove Street Cemetery to the clapboard homes of Revolutionary War-era families and centuries-old town greens, Greater New Haven is filled with historically significant buildings, sites and places. They connect the community to its past and enrich the present with beauty and craftsmanship. That many are still here to be enjoyed is the result of local and national historic preservation efforts over the past half century. These efforts not only contribute to the region's identity and quality of life. They also stimulate economic development and create jobs.

The Numbers:

Economic impact of historic preservation projects 2000-20101:

  • $450 Million: Private sector investment in historic buildings
  • $242 Million: Direct salary and wages in Connecticut from rehabilitating historic structures
  • $128 Million: Indirect salary and wages in Connecticut from rehabilitating historic structures
  • 4,144: Direct jobs in Connecticut from rehabilitating historic structures
  • 2,293: Indirect jobs in Connecticut from rehabilitating historic structures

Ahead Of Its Time

The modern era of historic preservation began in 1966 with the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act. A response to the rapid loss of historic sites during Urban Renewal and the creation of the National Highway System, the act for the first time made protection of historically significant sites a national priority.

The act established the National Register of Historic Places and a review process for developments that impacted them. It also created preservation offices in each state, and in the following decade, Congress established grant programs to incentivize restoration and preservation.

"The act has served as the national conscience for historic preservation for many years," said New Haven Preservation Trust Preservation Officer John Herzan.

Five years prior to the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act, New Haven preservation activists had already galvanized to form the New Haven Preservation Trust in order to save the James Dwight Dana House from being torn down and replaced by a Yale mathematics building. The work ultimately resulted in a National Historic Landmark status for the Dana House. The Trust's work with preservationists also helped protect other places such as Union Station, the New Haven Free Public Library, and large swaths of historic homes that would have been destroyed by a proposed "Ring Road." More recently, the Trust successfully advocated against the taking down a section of the Grove Street Cemetery wall to make way for a proposed path leading to the new Yale residential colleges being built on Prospect Street.

Outside of New Haven, preservation efforts are taken up by local historical societies and organizations working with the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, which assists towns and developers across the state. The Derby Historical Society, for example, is undertaking a major renovation of the National Historic Landmark, David Humphreys House.

"Places matter," said Herzan. "They are part of our past and part of our culture. If you tore them all down, then you'd lose your connection to the place where you live."

Designation Criteria

A property must meet several criteria to be considered historic. It has to be at least 50 years old, in good condition, and reflective of the style and taste of its period. Historic designations are made at the local level by organizations such as the New Haven Preservation Trust and at the state level by the State Historic Preservation Office.

Placement on the National Register of Historic Places provides a higher level of protection. The most protected sites of all are National Historic Landmarks, which are administered by the National Park Service and includes places of national significance.

A Force for Economic Development

Preservation policy has created tax incentive and grant programs that make restoration financially attractive to developers and homeowners. In recent years, these incentives have not only brought new life to beautiful buildings. They have also helped revitalize walkable neighborhoods and downtowns while also attracting private investment and creating jobs.

New Haven's Ninth Square Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, is home to a vibrant mix of restaurants, art galleries, and residences.

Restoration projects using tax incentives in the state have attracted more than $450 million in private investment since 2000, according to the Connecticut Historic Preservation Office2. Overwhelmingly, the economic benefits of this investment are to local workers. And historic restoration creates more new jobs than other economic activities, including new construction3.

"Historic preservation is economic development," said Brad Schide, Circuit Rider for the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation. "In the 60s, and 70s, we saw demolition. What's exciting now is that we're seeing revitalized downtowns with historic buildings leading the way. And the state is generating revenue and creating place."

To learn more: For historic preservation incentives in New Haven, visit the New Haven Preservation Trust. For state preservation information and funding incentives, visit the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation and the State Historic Preservation Office.

What The Community Foundation is Doing

The Community Foundation has a long history of supporting historic preservation. In the mid-1940s, the bequest of George Dudley Seymour established a fund to make annual grant distributions to the New Haven Colony Historical Society. Since then, Community Foundation funds have distributed grants to many preservation organizations throughout the region, such as:

  • Shoreline Trolley Museum in Branford -The 44-62 Fund supported a match from FEMA to repair electric trolley motors damaged in Hurricane Irene.
  • Guilford Preservation Alliance - A grant supported the stabilization and future-use planning of the historic engine house and water tower at the Guilford railroad station.
  • New Haven Preservation Trust: Donor Advised Funds at The Community Foundation, such as the Henry S. Johnson, Jean R. Kelley, and Historic Structures funds, support general operating expenses and programs.

What the Valley Community Foundation is Doing

The Community Foundation's partner in philanthropy supports historic preservation in the Lower Naugatuck Valley through its grant making to organizations including:
  • Derby Historical Society - The Valley Community Foundation provided a grant to restore to support the restoration of the exterior of the General David Humphreys House. The Selma L and Harold B Yudkin Fund is also a supporter of the society.
  • Seymour Historical Society - The Henry Hamel Fund provides unrestricted for programs.
  • Shelton Historical Society – A Valley Community Foundation grant supported restoration work at the Brownson House.The society has also received support from the Bassett Family Fund and Shelton Congregational Church Fund.
  • Oxford Historical Society: A Valley Community Foundation grant supported work to replace the roof and chimney on the Twitchell-Rowland Homestead in Oxford, which houses the Oxford Historical Society.

Works Cited

  1. Rypkema, Donovan D. and Cheong, Caroline." Investment in Connecticut: The Economic Benefits of Historic Preservation." State Historic Preservation Office Historic Preservation and Museum Division Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism, 2011.
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid