Harrisburg, PA - The Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (PA SHPO) recently announced its Community Initiative Awards for 2022. The four recipients and their projects showcase a range of preservation success stories, demonstrating the value of volunteers, creativity, and community engagement.
The Community Initiative Awards recognize the hard work and dedication of outstanding organizations, municipalities, agencies, and individuals whose work embodies the theme of Pennsylvania’s statewide historic preservation plan. The plan provides a framework of activities and goals that will help Pennsylvanians better understand historic preservation and its benefits, appreciate their shared histories as told through historic places, and balance history and economic development to manage change within their communities.
There is no formal application for the Community Initiative Awards. PA SHPO, a bureau within the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, selects candidates for consideration by reviewing success stories submitted via PA-SHARE, tracking use of the #PreservationHappensHere hashtag, monitoring social media and traditional press coverage, and reporting on active projects that utilize federal or state programs.
This year’s winners are:
Blairsville Area Underground Railroad, Blairsville, Indiana County
Blairsville Area Underground Railroad (BAUR), an entirely volunteer organization of people from Indiana and Westmoreland counties, is recognized for its ongoing dedication to educating residents and visitors about an underrepresented part of the region’s history and its partnership with a local brewery to reach audiences in a creative and accessible way.
BAUR maintains a museum, archives, and history center in the former 1917 Second Baptist Church building and highlights many of the area’s Underground Railroad stories through written histories and tours. In 2021 BAUR began an innovative partnership with Levity Brewing Co., based in Indiana, to produce the Freedom Seekers beer series, featuring labels with pictures and stories of the people who were involved in the Underground Railroad in Indiana County. In addition to fundraising for BAUR, the series has increased awareness of this significant part of the area’s history.
Concord Township and the Preservation of Spring Valley AME Church, Concord Township, Delaware County
Concord Township is recognized for its stewardship of the historic Spring Valley African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, the focal point for the area’s Black community for a century, and engagement with the descendant congregation.
In 2014, as part of their Open Space Planning program, Concord Township purchased the church, which had been damaged by fire and sat vacant for more than two decades. In 2019 former congregation members reconnected with the church, giving the Township the opportunity to engage with the local Black community and learn more about the building and the associated cemetery that had lost its markers. The township used Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for interior and exterior rehabilitation work, which was completed in 2022.
Friends of Sheepford Road Bridge/West Shore Historical Society, Lower Allen Township, Cumberland County, and Fairview Township, York County
The Friends of Sheepford Road Bridge, a committee of the West Shore Historical Society, is recognized for its grassroots effort to save the 1887 Sheepford Road Bridge, significant as a rare Phoenix column through metal truss bridge, after investigations showed the structure was no longer safe for vehicular use.
After organizing in 2020, the Friends were successful in delaying removal of the bridge and worked for two years to find a new owner and to raise the funds to restore it. In April 2022 York County received $1.4 million in Transportation Alternative Set Aside (TASA) funds to rehab the bridge for bicycle and pedestrian use. The West Shore Historical Society, the new stewards, are currently planning preconstruction activities for restoring the bridge.
Hay Creek Valley Historical Association, Robeson Township, Berks County
Hay Creek Valley Historical Association (HCVHA), a mostly volunteer organization, is recognized for exemplary stewardship of the 1791 Joanna Furnace and ongoing programming. Established in 1975, HCVHA promotes local history and interprets life in this 18th- and 19th-century ironmaking community.
HCVHA volunteers worked diligently to reclaim and maintain Joanna’s buildings and grounds and continue to study the site’s layers of relevance. HCVHA shares the site with a wide range of visitors annually through classes, workshops, tours, archeological investigations, and the ever-popular Hay Creek Festival, celebrating its 47th year in September.
For more information or to see the list of past award winners, visit the Community Initiative Awards webpage.
PA SHPO coordinates state and federal historic preservation programs including the National Register of Historic Places, state and federal tax credits, and review of state and federal projects for their impact on historic resources. For news on the PA SHPO’s preservation efforts subscribe to the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation blog.
The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission is the official history agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Learn more by visiting PHMC online or following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn.