Nearly 50 buildings added to Saxonburg historic district
SAXONBURG: Almost 50 buildings along Main Street soon will join John Roebling's home as members of the National Register of Historic Places.
The historic district, which extends from Rebecca Street to Butler Street, should be recognized officially by the National Parks Service next spring, said Bob Kaltenhauser, chairman of the Saxonburg Historic Main Street Committee.
The committee and its former incarnations have worked for years to get Main Street's buildings, many of which date back to the 1830s, listed on the register, Kaltenhauser said.
"This is more to encourage and inspire local people," Kaltenhauser said when asked if the designation was sought as a draw for tourists. "We want to enhance pride in the area."
Another benefit of the National Register recognition is the availability of federal and state money for property owners interested in restoring and preserving historic structures.
Kaltenhauser said the designation does not put any restrictions on what owners can and can't do with the property.
However, borough manager Mike Thomas said once the buildings are placed on the National Register and if the borough takes steps to have the building recognized on a state level, council can enact historic district ordinances which can protect the area from unwanted development.
"That can prevent people from coming in and destroying historic structures," Thomas said.
Thomas said pursuing state recognition and creating a preventive ordinance are in the borough's plans.
Thomas said even if the borough did not pursue the ordinances, having the national recognition would provide more weight in court should development be denied and the borough subsequently sued.
But Kaltenhauser added that he's not opposed to generating regional interest. He said the borough holds annual festivals that accentuate the "small-town village atmosphere" and that several walking tours have strolled down Main Street in the last year.
Saxonburg Mayor Brian Antoszyk said he's happy the designation finally is going through.
"It'll really help with marketing the town," Antoszyk said. "And as far as maintaining the look of the town, it's almost a must."
Kaltenhauser's committee is working to develop methods of preservation and restoration for existing buildings.
The next step is to complete a conceptual design for Main Street, complete with working gas lights, Kaltenhauser said.
Years of research went into the 75-page application that detailed the history of each building.
The National Parks Service, which maintains the registry, provides several possible criteria a site must meet in order to receive recognition.
Kaltenhauser said Saxonburg's historic district meets three standards, largely due to the borough's association with John Roebling.
Roebling is credited with developing the wire cable used in suspension bridges and went on to design and build numerous spans nationwide, including the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.
In the early 1830s, Roebling bought a large plot of land and set about creating what Kaltenhauser called a planned community. Due to Roebling's influence, many buildings in Saxonburg were built around the same time and have similar characteristics, which allows the historic district to meet another benchmark for national recognition.
Kaltenhauser said at least 10 buildings, including the Hotel Saxonburg, were built in the 1830s, 10 more structures date back to the 1860s and another dozen buildings were raised in the 1880s.
Roebling's house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, according to the register's Web site.
|Historic sites in the Valley|
More than 20 buildings and historic districts around the Valley are recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.