Friday, May 1, 2015 brought not only a beautiful spring day, but also the Nebraska State Historical Society’s Preservation: Plain and Simple Conference, held in Lincoln at the Holiday Inn Downtown. After an opening welcome featuring speeches by our Director, Michael J. Smith, and Lt. Governor Mike Foley, the attendees were introduced to the
morning session speakers, Paul Nelson and Dave Ulferts, who delighted us with tales of the trials and triumphs of rehabilitating Travers Row, a set of eleven rowhouses in Omaha. The men emphasized that preservation was an integral part to making the project financially viable, and stressed that projects such as these should be approached with some creativity and flexibility as every project will likely have different obstacles to overcome.
The luncheon Keynote Speaker was Dr. Randall Cantrell, a professor of rural sociology at
the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. He and his colleagues have been studying rural Nebraska for decades, and have gathered a wealth of information about our rural communities. The purpose of the talk was to identify demographic trends shaping our communities, and to identify ways that communities could use the built environment to compete for attention, business and residents. Some of the challenges to preservation in these communities is a relatively small number of leaders to draw upon within these smaller towns, and a sense of powerlessness that they could create a meaningful change.
The breakout sessions lent themselves to two different tracks. On the one hand, experts in the hands-on, nitty gritty work of preservation were available to discuss their various areas of expertise. They included Brooks Gentleman of Re-View Historic Windows to discuss repairing versus replacing historic windows, Matt Henderson of PROSOCO, which creates products to gently clean masonry, and Gary Keshner of Cathedral Stone Products, who shared how to sensitively patch masonry.
The other track included a variety of specialized subjects, including two sessions on brick streets; one a history of the paving material by Robin Williams of SCAD, and a local case study of Tecumseh’s brick streets by Shayne Huxoll and Doug Goracke. There was a session about a form based zoning program that is being established in Omaha, given by Jed Moulton and Trina Westman of Omaha City Planning. Angela Shearer, a tax credit reviewer with the National Park Service, shared her knowledge of mid-century architecture, and attorney David Levy spoke about Nebraska’s new Historic Tax Credit Program.
– Jill Dolberg, Nebraska State Historic Preservation Office