Preserving Tennessee's heritage

Preserving Tennessee's heritage

June 12th, 2012 in Opinion Times

Preserving Tennessee's historic and archeological sites, neighborhoods, towns, districts and structures is vital work that requires expertise and significant investments in time and money. State residents have proved consistently over the years that they will willingly share their expertise, time and funds for such projects. Individuals and communities, though, often are hard-pressed to raise enough money to underwrite such projects. The Tennessee Historical Commission often is able to provide assistance. This year is no exception.

The commission and Gov. Bill Haslam recently announced the award of 28 grants to community and other organizations within the state for such projects. The grants, totaling more than $600,000, come from federal moneys allocated to the state under the rules of the National Historic Preservation Act. The state's historical commission oversees the application process and administers the grants. The commission attracts little public attention, but it should. It serves the state and its residents well.

The grants do not come without strings attached. The awards pay for up to 60 percent of the costs of approved projects. Grant recipients -- typically a town, county, regional group or trust -- are required to provide remaining funds. That's a wise requirement. Groups required to invest their own money in a project are likely to work diligently to see it to fruition.

Several of the recent grants should directly benefit residents of the region. Rhea County will receive $15,000 to assist in the repair and restoration of windows and doors at the famed county courthouse. Also in the county, Friends of the Cumberland Trail will use a $12,000 grant to prepare a multiple property submission for historic resources associated with the Dayton Coal and Iron Co.

The city of Harriman, in Roane County, will use a $25,000 grant to help stabilize and repair the Temperance Building there.

Grants of $15,000 to the Tennessee Preservation Trust and $8,000 to Tennessee History for Kids will help each organizations continue its work. The latter is especially noteworthy since it will help promote the preservation of the state's patrimony in schools and in libraries throughout the state.

Grants to the Southeast Tennessee Development District ($52,000) and to the East Tennessee Development District ($32,000), which directly serve counties and communities in this region, will provide funds that will allow each to expand staff that engages in preservation work., a prospect that should benefit all in their service areas.

One of the beauties of the historical grant program is that they are given annually. Another round will be awarded in the next fiscal year. Groups interested in preserving local and regional historic sites should take note. The application process is underway.