Library Survey recommends three buildings for historical records
By Jesse Williams / Zip06.com • 07/21/2021 9:00 AM EST
An inventory of historical resources and historical narrative commissioned by the EC Scranton Library was recently completed after nearly two years of work, recommending three buildings for national or state registers and adding specialist research and documentation to the website of the library as part of a compromise reached on the demolition of a historic structure to make way for the new library.
Norwalk-based Heritage Resources worked with the Library Building Committee on the documents, which tell a detailed and illustrated history of downtown Madison as well as a more technical quantitative survey of the entire downtown area that could potentially be used to apply for grants. or historical recognition by the state.
Tod Bryant, director of Heritage Resources who led the investigation, said there was a lot of interesting information that came out of his work, and there are still many opportunities to develop it in the future.
“It’s a nice little story of the city,” he said.
Bryant also explicitly suggests RJ Julia Booksellers and the Monroe Building, which currently houses Walker Loden and Blue Moon by the Sea, for the State Register of Historic Places and the post office for the National Register of Historic Places.
It would be up to the owner of those properties to go ahead with these requests, said Henry Griggs, a member of the Library Building Committee. If recognized, there are potential tax credits and financial assistance for the maintenance of these buildings, according to Griggs.
“Ideally, what would happen is those recommendations… would be implemented,” said Bryant. “Ideally, this would also further stimulate these historic resource inventories in other parts of the city. Basically, they are planning tools.
Griggs said he believes the investigation itself is a special and exciting new resource for anyone in town interested in the history of Madison, and in particular the granular evolutions of downtown where much of it has been. preserved from the look and feel of past centuries.
“If you drive Route 1 all the way to New Haven, it’s an endless parade of big box stores,” he said. “Then you get to Madison … and there’s a really pretty bucolic stretch.”
After controversy and the threat of lost funding in 2019, Scranton negotiated an agreement with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) that required the library to order and pay for these and other surveys, with the idea that this would compensate the loss. of the current historical structure.
Carrying out a poll like this wasn’t “heavy” according to Griggs, and it’s something the library would have liked to do anyway. The investigation and report is the final step in meeting the SHPO’s demands, he added, with the library having previously donated to the Madison Historical Society and managed programs related to local history.
Bryant described his work as having very broad and fundamental implications for planning in the city, and is the “lowest level” of a potentially longer process that could see more downtown structures in the city. Madison receive historical designations.
Griggs said the documents and survey are a relatively straightforward and non-invasive way to categorize and understand both broad historical trends and the specific historical place that certain structures or neighborhoods have there.
“I am very happy and relieved that we are finally able to make this known to the public,” he said. “I think it will be a valuable resource on the road. “
Other cities have been working on building a full inventory of every building and neighborhood in the city, according to Bryant, with grants available to fund further efforts in this direction.
Each of those investigations, which often include as many as 150 structures, would also likely include a tale telling the story of the structures and how they fit into Madison’s evolution, according to Bryant.
According to the survey, other buildings in the city center should also be assessed for their ability to be improved in terms of energy efficiency, ensuring that the original materials and architecture are retained.
Bryant identified other buildings as having specific architectural significance in various ways and traced their origins sometimes to the mid-1800s, including recent businesses or tenants and the effects of several destructive fires.
While he said there was nothing new discovered, working with prominent local historian Griggs and members of the Madison Historical Society, the investigation gives residents a fascinating and accessible glimpse of the downtown city.
Personally, Bryant said he was particularly interested in how the fires – two of which hit the downtown area in the 1980s – as well as the effect of tourism and restrictive zoning shaped what the city looks like now. .
“It keeps this downtown unit,” said Bryant. “A lot of it is new construction, because the buildings have just been set on fire. There was nothing you could do about it. “
Residents can stage both the resource inventory and the story through the library’s website at www.scrantonlibrary.org.