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Town working for historical designation

January 22, 2007|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - The Town of Bath Historic Landmark Commission has been working toward becoming a certified historic preservation community, and it recently received honorary status from the state for its efforts.

Nancy Harvey, a Bath Town Council member who heads up the town's landmark commission, said the West Virginia Division of Culture & History's honorary designation was "to recognize the work we've done toward creating a historic area for the Town of Bath."

There is a lot more to be done before official status is received, said David Taylor, the historical surveyor hired by the landmark commission. "We're not there yet," he said.

The architectural survey of the town began last year after the West Virginia Archives and History Commission awarded an $8,000 grant to the Bath Landmark Commission to begin the certification process.

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Harvey said the landmark commission members - Betty Lou Harmison, Andrew Gosline, Faye Rittenburg, Joanne Tomasello, Harvey and her husband, Richard - are in the process of organizing the data of about 100 sites gathered by Taylor.

"These are the first sites of about 150 lots," she said.

Organizing the material is time-consuming, Harvey said, and landmark commission members have been helpful in moving the nomination process forward.

"This is a requirement to establish the town's eligibility as historic and be part of the National Register," Harvey said.

Bath officially became a town in 1776, Harvey said. It is the local government within Berkeley Springs.

The eligibility process began last October with Taylor's preparation of a written historical description of the district.

"Next was the Statement of Significance, which is based on the National Register criteria, a narrative also, describing every single site," he said.

It will be reviewed by the West Virginia Division of Culture & History in Charleston, W.Va., and by the Bath Historic Landmark Commission, he said.

"There is a lot of technical writing," Taylor said.

The application package then goes to the state Archives and History Commission, which is made up of about 18 professionals from across West Virginia who are historians, architects, and archaeologists, he said.

The next step is to hold educational workshops and public meetings. A $15,000 grant has been applied for for this step, Harvey said.

"This is to alert the public and educate the community as to what the National Register is and what it isn't," Taylor said.

There are two kinds of historical districts, he said. The designation being sought is the National Register District, which honors the sites as they are, he said, "with no control, protection or diminished private property rights," Taylor said.

The other kind of historical district is a Local Ordinance District, a designation the landmark commission is not seeking, Taylor said.

Taylor said he will make a presentation to the state nominating committee "probably in the fall or early 2008."

Approval from the U.S. National Park Service, which oversees the process, would then have to be obtained, he said.

Taylor said if state and federal approval is met, there are more tax incentives to encourage rehabilitation of the historic sites. Grant funding also is available, he said.

Taylor said the National Register of Historic Places is part of the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act which was approved by Congress during President Lyndon B. Johnson's administration.

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