Sunday, May 10, 2009

Historic Resource Inventory, Phase II: Historic Barns and Outbuildings

Article 18 N: Historic Resource Inventory, Phase II: Historic Barns and Outbuildings: $ 15,000

This measure, like the preceding one involving districts, is mandated by the Preservation Plan (p. 36) as a continuation of ongoing standard activity:
"Update the existing [Historic Resource] inventory by . . . completing [Massachusetts Historical Commission] forms for the . . . landscapes and structures which were not included in previous efforts."
Rigorously prepared inventories, entailing documentation of the nature and history of landscapes and the built environment, are a key element in the training, and constitute the the bread-and-butter work, of preservation professionals.

The proposal here addresses our rapidly disappearing agricultural heritage. As active farming has declined, many property owners find themselves without a need, or in many cases, even the ability, to preserve the barns, sheds, and other outbuildings that were once ubiquitous. The disappearance of these structures means the disappearance or radical transformation of much of the historical character of the town. The first task, as always, is to document what remains, so that appropriate assessment and action can follow.

To cite one example of the importance of proper inventories in preservation: Only thanks to the fact that our predecessors on the Historical Commission had begun to establish a thorough inventory that included agricultural structures was a group of preservationists able to halt careless and illegal state demolitions on the UMass campus in recent years.

The Historical Commission hopes hereby not only to preserve our heritage, but to encourage sustainability. Calling attention to farm buildings can help to encourage local agriculture or assist farmers in securing help with preservation. Adaptive reuse of such buildings for other purposes is moreover an example of green building and smart growth at their best.

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