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State Historic Preservation Office Recognizes Preservation Efforts across the State with Community Initiative Awards


Harrisburg, PA - The Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (PA SHPO) has announced its Community Initiative Awards for 2021. Recipients include a rehabilitation project spearheaded by a Community Development Corporation, archaeology and advocacy led by a nonprofit Friends group, and a walking tour developed by a municipal Department of Health.

The three recipients and their projects showcase a range of preservation success stories, demonstrating the power of perseverance, collaboration and partnership.

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 in the following ways:

  • reviewing success stories submitted via PA-SHARE
  • tracking use of the #PreservationHappensHere hashtag
  • monitoring social media coverage and traditional press reporting
  • reporting on active projects that utilize federal or state programs

This year's winners are:

Wilkinsburg Train Station Restoration Project, Wilkinsburg, Allegheny County

Built in 1916 in downtown Wilkinsburg as a station for the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Wilkinsburg Train Station is an iconic community landmark. The Beaux Arts building, designed by architect Walter H. Cookson, closed in the mid-1970s as passenger rail service began to decline. Despite many attempts to reuse the station in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, the building remained vacant and significantly deteriorated through the first two decades of the 21st century.

Beginning in 2015, the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation (WCDC) and its many partners and supporters started the ambitious project to save the train station and return it to use as a hub for the Wilkinsburg community. Although the building's condition after 50 years of vacancy would deter some, WCDC moved forward with construction starting in 2017, with an eye toward preserving historic fabric where it survived and sensitively adding new materials, spaces and systems. The rehabilitated station opened in 2021. This project is an example of how a leap of faith and dedication, despite long odds, can result in a transformational project for the entire community.

Preservation and Discovery by the Friends of Fort Halifax Park, Halifax, Dauphin County

The nonprofit Friends of Fort Halifax Park led two important preservation and discovery efforts at Fort Halifax Park in 2021. The Friends successfully applied for, received and managed grants from several funders to underwrite an ambitious archaeology project in a community park. The Friends' interest in and dedication to the Juniata College field project was commendable as they raised funds and organized volunteers to feed the field school students and staff every day and contributed countless hours of volunteer fieldwork to help see the project to a successful conclusion, which was not only the recovery of thousands of artifacts but also finding the location of Colonial Fort Halifax.

At the same time, the Friends' advocacy was instrumental in mediating and negotiating with Halifax Township, Preservation Pennsylvania, the Central Pennsylvania Conservancy, and PA SHPO to prevent the imminent demolition of the 19th-century barn and house at the park. Those negotiations continue as a path to preservation, and adaptive reuse for the farm buildings is charted.

Walkitecture Tour, Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County

Wilkes-Barre Walkitecture is a self-guided, 2.2-mile walk through Wilkes-Barre's historic district that highlights architecture and local history through engaging current and historic images and stories. Residents and tourists can download the free Walkitecture app or follow the tour using a companion booklet that can be found at many locations throughout the city or online.

Funded through the Pennsylvania Department of Health Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant, this project is a successful collaboration between public health, local history and historic preservation to encourage exercise and support healthy lifestyles for city residents. Using information provided by the Wilkes-Barre Preservation Society, the Walkitecture project packages local history and learning about historic places into a format that is attractive and accessible for the public and that encourages deeper connection to and interest in their community.

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.

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