The Town of Seneca Falls has a long-standing commitment to historic preservation. The former Village of Seneca Falls Heritage Preservation Commission was established in the 1980’s and the Town became a Certified Local Government in 2016. The Town contains two National Register Historic Districts which (the Fall Street-Trinity Lane District and the Town of Seneca Falls Historic District) are also designated as Local Historic Districts. Additionally, the Town contains numerous Local Landmarks and properties listed on the National Register. The Town remains committed to preserving the physical and cultural resources within the Town of Seneca Falls.
What is Historic Preservation?
- Historic preservation means safeguarding the existence and appearance of historic elements within our community.
- Historical value can be found in an example of a style of architecture or industrial process that is no longer used, age, or perhaps association with a famous person or event.
- Historic elements may include structures—houses, commercial and industrial buildings, barns, bridges, monuments or any man-made structure that has some historical value or significance.
- Yorktown neighborhoods can be considered historically important because their architecture reflects a previous era. Building features such as signs, wall plaques or murals may also be historically significant. Landscape elements such as trees, stone walls or winding streams – in place for generations – can also be worthy of preservation.
- Although historic preservation most commonly refers to physical places, it can also apply to aspects of cultural heritage, such as the impact of indigenous settlers, or what subsistence farming meant to our community.
Why is Historic Preservation important?
- Preserves the historic, architectural and aesthetic character and heritage of our community, and helps to provide a sense of place and continuity; it helps us keep our identity intact.
- Contributes to community pride; can inform a better understanding of our community’s present.
- Helps prevent community sprawl. Since historic buildings already exist, and since most are in built-up areas, each one that is rehabilitated and used eliminates the need for a new building in an area that is not yet built up.
- Uses resources efficiently. Historic preservation conserves resources, reduces waste, and saves money by repairing and reusing existing buildings instead of tearing them down and building new ones. Reusing a historic structure versus tearing it down and building with new materials helps to greatly reduce the carbon footprint of a building.
- Preserves old methods of workmanship. Because many modern buildings are built on the assumption that they will only be needed for a relatively short time – 25 to 30 years – before they are replaced, workmanship and building methods of all but the most significant buildings are not as careful or durable as methods used in the past, when buildings were expected to last indefinitely.
- Adds character and/or charm to our community. The preservation of old buildings, neighborhoods, and landscapes can determine the look of Yorktown, and can attract tourists as well. If these elements are historically significant or unusual, they can lead to other improvements.
- Makes an attractive investment. Historic buildings can be affordable for businesses to rehabilitate of the possibility of tax incentives, grants, and other support for that activity. In addition, they may attract business in and of themselves, simply because people are often fascinated by them.
- Attracts investment and changes the nature of a deteriorating neighborhood. A rehabilitated historic building or neighborhood might be the focus of a new residential or commercial development. An area restored to its original appearance could serve as a magnet for tourists, and provide jobs for local residents. Local residents could also be employed in rehabilitation or restoration as artisans or workers.
- Provides an opportunity for imaginative reuse of a building. An old restored train station, such as ours, turned into a museum or visitor’s center rescues the structure and provides much-needed housing for the area.
Local Historic Districts, by contrast, are designated and listed at the local level and are subject to highest level of protection against threats. They are established and governed by local laws and/or ordinances which can impose restrictions and regulations on the properties within the boundaries of those districts. Along with these restrictions, however, there may be additional financial opportunities available to these properties.
The Town of Seneca Falls is a designated Heritage Area. Heritage Area Districts differ from Historic Districts in that they incorporate natural, cultural, historic, and recreation areas, instead of simply the built environment. They seek to combine these four elements into a “cohesive, nationally distinctive landscape arising from patterns of human activity shaped by geography. These areas tell nationally important stories about our nation and are representative of the national experience through both the physical features that remain and the traditions that have evolved within them.” In New York, Heritage Area designation is intended specifically to “promote sustainable development and enhance quality of life through programs and activities in historic preservation, resource conservation, recreation, interpretation, and community capacity-building that demonstrate respect for the people, the place, and the past.”
These are districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and have been determined by the National Park Service to be “a geographically definable area, urban or rural, possessing a significant concentration, linkage, or continuity of sites, buildings, structures, or objects united by past events or aesthetically by plan or physical development. A district may also comprise individual elements separated geographically but linked by association or history.” A National Register designation is an official acknowledgment by the federal government that an area holds culturally significant characteristics which are worthy of preservation. Designation as a National Register Historic District provides the area protection from any threats which involve the federal government or federal monies. It also provides access to some federal financial incentives.
The Certified Local Government Program (CLG) supports and strengthens local preservation activities by assisting communities to achieve their preservation goals through the development of an action plan. Read more about the CLG program on the New York State Historic Preservation website.
Seneca Falls became a Certified Local Government in 2016.
Historic Preservation Resources
- New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
- SHPO’S Restoration Information – SHPO’s brief discussion of the issues associated with various historic repairs and modifications.
- National Park Service (NPS) – The National Park Service’s Heritage Preservation Services website.
- NPS Preservation Briefs – The National Park Service’s Technical Preservation Briefs provide excellent tips on historic repairs.
- NPS Standards and Guidelines – The NPS’s descriptions of the different standards and guidelines for preservation, rehabilitation, restoration and reconstruction.
- The National Trust for Historic Preservation – The NTHP Home Page provides information on preservation issues and programs.
- Landmark Society of Western New York
- Preservation League of New York State – The site provides info on state-wide historic resources, workshops and preservation information.
- National Register of Historic Places