For about a year, the Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood Association has been working together with the Landmark Society on a mini-grant program for homeowners in the Susan B. Anthony Preservation District. Funding for this project came from the sale of two houses that were donated to the Landmark Society and sold to new owners a few years ago.*
The mini-grant program got underway in the fall of 2007. We had 12 applications and all applicants were granted monies for exterior repairs to their homes. The program has been successful with over eight completed projects this year and three scheduled for early next spring.
Because the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood is a city-designated Preservation District, all exterior projects must be in-kind replacement or must be approved by the Preservation Board in advance. This can be a challenge. Our local chain hardware stores do not carry the same width or styles of posts that were used on our pre-Civil War era homes.
At the same time, working on these old houses can have unexpected rewards. One project became a community effort to repair front porch steps and railings. On a very cold November day a tent was erected over the front porch at 37 Madison St. The homeowner and several neighbors came together for five days under that tent to recreate the exact porch rails and steps that needed repair or replacement. They spent days on details to recreate the exact posts and rails that were original to the home. The collaboration amongst neighbors ensured that the finished project was designed exactly as it was designed over a century ago. Now the tent is gone and the front porch and stairs look exactly as they were originally designed, and will remain so for many years to come. It was enjoyable as a friend and neighbor to watch every day as they worked together under that tent and progressed on their project. Historic preservation grant programs can do more than preserve properties; they also can nurture and preserve the communities they serve!
By Dawn Noto, President, Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood Association
*An earlier phase of this project, in which architect John Bero met with individual homeowners to discuss maintenance and rehabilitation issues, was partially funded by a grant from the John E. Streb Fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.