Success of historic preservation based on community’s commitment to future

The forces that drive the life and future of a community are many and diverse and historic Boulder City holds no exceptions. Keeping history alive and relevant is a challenging undertaking and, as of today, our city has had remarkable success in achieving it.

Last month, this column described the effort that was required to establish the city as a historic place on the National Register of Historic Places and to finally, after a failed first attempt, to have the City Council adopt an ordinance and appoint a Historic Preservation Committee.

The adoption of the ordinance, which provided for voluntary compliance, was met with mixed and vehement reactions. On one side, there were those who objected because they saw it as a first step toward an ordinance that required mandatory adherence. The need to preserve owners’ rights as to the use of their property is one of those forces. On the other side, many were outraged that the ordinance had no “teeth” in it. They believed that enforcement was the only way to achieve preservation of the historic assets of the city. The need for community compliance is another force to be reckoned with. Both sides were passionate about their positions.

The five-member committee that was appointed by the City Council in July 2006 was tasked with the job of making the voluntary nature of ordinance effective. After extensive review and discussion, guidelines were established that would assist property owners with their plans to restore or upgrade their properties. A repository of historical hardware and other items was recreated for residents who were replacing broken or missing pieces of historical value in their homes, along with a list of other sources.

The voluntary nature of the ordinance was a gift to the community in many ways. Homes that had been neglected have been painted, repaired and relandscaped. Owning a home in a beautiful historic neighborhood became incentive enough to take action. Pride in the community is another powerful force that provides a strong motivation to follow the committee’s guidelines.

Most homeowners want their property to be an asset to their neighborhoods; the value of preserved or properly restored historic property is not merely aesthetic, it also represents revenue for the city through increased property values.

Thankfully, residents in the historic district are well on their way to restoring and maintaining their neighborhoods and the city did excellent work in restoring and repurposing the original elementary school to serve as City Hall. The new challenge to preservation in Boulder City is the saving, restoring and repurposing of its remaining public buildings. Hopefully, as a result of an outpouring of public concern, Boulder City High School will be restored or rebuilt to reflect the historical architectural features of the original building and grounds.

However, the fate of the abandoned Six Cos. hospital is yet to be determined. The city’s Historic Preservation Committee has an important role to play in the resolution, but there is also new energy being infused into the search for a satisfactory outcome. This energy is coming from a younger generation and it is coming from private resources. As stated on its home page, the Historic Boulder City Foundation, was founded this month “with the intention of preserving and advancing Boulder City’s historic heritage and other items of significance for future generations to enjoy.” This effort is yet another example of the strength and force of the community’s commitment to preserving its historic heritage.

Throughout the decades, the 31ers and their children and grandchildren have actively kept the history of Boulder City alive and relevant and, as others have moved into the community and raised their children here, the spirit has endured. Now, a new generation of adults who were raised in Boulder City has voluntarily set the bar even higher. The spirit of the 31ers has endured and is perhaps even stronger today, having survived and thrived through all the intervening years.

Susan Stice McIntyre is a native of Boulder City, a first-generation 31er, and former member and chairman of the Boulder City Historic Preservation Committee.

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