Buchanan achieves national historic statusPublished 5:00am Saturday, September 5, 2009
BUCHANAN – After months of anticipation, official confirmation came Thursday that the downtown district of Buchanan had achieved the designation and listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
In an email dated Sept. 3, to members of the city’s Downtown Development Authority, executive director Debra Patzer, said, “I am beyond pleased to let you know that the City of Buchanan downtown historic district nomination was approved by the National Park Service and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on Wednesday, September 2, 2009.”
In an interview immediately following, Patzer discussed the importance of this designation.
“This is about Buchanan’s past, certainly, but as much or more, it’s about its future,” she said. “This national register designation, among a compliment of preservation tools, including downtown Buchanan’s recent selection as a Michigan Main Street Community is all about economic development and downtown revitalization.”
On Wednesday, the National Park Service made the designation, one of the nation’s highest honors, effectively immediately.
The nomination was reviewed and approved several months ago by the State’s Preservation Review Board. The State Historic Preservation Office then forwarded it to the National Park Service for final approval in July.
The nomination was undertaken by the Buchanan Downtown Development Authority with support from downtown property owners.
Pam O’Connor, of Preservation Practices in Kalamazoo prepared the nomination. This designation follows that of two other Buchanan properties.
In August 2007, Alan Robandt’s 1863 Union Block building was the first, designated individually, which provided impetus for DDA action in favor of the downtown nomination.
The Union Block was followed early this summer by the individual designation of the Zinc Collar Pad Building, owned by Beth Barnett and Allen Gara a former factory building just outside of the new downtown district.
The district is comprised of approximately 45 buildings, sites and structures, including buildings on Front Street downtown, roughly from just east of Days Avenue to the Buchanan Art Center on West Front Street, and sections of Days, North Oak and Main streets.
Among the sites and structures included are the c1848 Pears Mill Race, the c1856 Mill Alley, directly south of Main Street, and the 1883 McCoy’s Creek stone arch and culvert, which runs under the intersection at Front Street and Days Ave.
Most of the district’s buildings post-date a ruinous 1862 fire which burned down about half of Buchanan’s business district.
Brick, mostly Italianate-styled commercial buildings replaced those properties, and most of those that had not burned down were replaced with brick buildings beginning five years after the fire. Existing buildings that pre-date the fire include the 1855 Conant-Parkinson, later known as The Donut Shop, at 111 Main, the 1856 Ross-Sanders House at Front and Oak streets, later used for City Hall and which now houses the City’s Police and Fire departments, and Pears Mill, constructed in 1857-58.
The nomination’s “Areas of Significance” which qualified it for designation are what make it important today.
It is the historic center of the community’s commerce, social history, entertainment, recreation and commercial architecture.
Because Buchanan’s population is under 5,000, the National Register designation qualifies property owners within to apply for the 20 percent Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit, as well as Michigan’s regular and Enhanced Tax Credit programs, which can add up to another 20 percent in incentives. Several weeks ago, Buchanan hosted a well-attended tax credit workshop to prepare its own downtown building owners, developers and officials, as well as others from nearby communities, including Niles and St. Joseph.
As part of Buchanan’s next step forward, O’Connor is preparing a large residential national register nomination for the city, to include more than 250 homes north, west and southwest of downtown.