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Historic preservation group discusses district designation

Friday, October 5, 2012

Members of Saline County Historic Preservation Commission encourage the community to attend their upcoming meetings, and those living in Marshall's unofficial historic district may have an interest.

During a Thursday evening meeting, members discussed the possibilities of garnering historic designation for "old Marshall" -- portions of Eastwood Street, Arrow Street and North Street neighborhoods. The idea was incepted after hearing of previous efforts to start a district in this area.

"So far I've come up with about 10 people that would be" interested in learning more, member Bill Sleeper said. "Everybody is kind of the same. They're interested in saving the neighborhood, saving the old houses, but they don't want a dictatorship."

Having spoken with several residents, Sleeper learned many were under the impression having an official district would restrict some of their freedoms as homeowners --painting their houses or installing fences -- like a strict homeowner's association.

"I would feel that way," said board member Mary Vale Jones, adding she didn't feel there should be such restrictions in place.

Advisory board member Marvin Wilhite explained that shouldn't be the case.

"This district doesn't say that you can't paint your house pink or orange or whatever," he said. "The only way that they can tell you what to do with that property is if you seek tax incentives to help with the restoration of it. Then they can kind of mandate what you do with it because they have an interest in it. Otherwise they're going to pretty well leave you alone."

Another apparent concern for some homeowners is the cost of restoration. At least one home on Eastwood Street is encased in asbestos siding, but to get back to the original clapboard would incur a major expense for homeowners.

The commission did seem to fall onto a small idea that could have a big impact -- unearthing the cobblestone curb.

"That's part of the area," Sleeper said. "Half of the cobblestone curbs you can't see because of the grass growing over them. Maybe if you start cleaning down the street everybody will start coming along."

As brainstorming merged new ideas, commission members planned to host an informal meeting with residents to answer questions and discuss any concerns. The meeting hasn't yet been scheduled but will take place after the holidays.

Other business discussed Thursday included researching historic designation for the Pisgah Church in Elmwood. Although the "rock church" in Marshall is older, Pisgah Church is apparently the oldest Presbyterian church in the county with records. A concern about its eligibility is the metal roof, but the commission will look further into requirements. They also plan to look at local historic designations by researching what other cities have done and the guidelines they've followed.

"It would be nice to get more information ... that might give people options to consider," chairman Eric Crump said. "As Bill has said, a historic district can be a lot of different things from being a National Register historic district to being locally designated to being neighbors who put up signs."

The next regular meeting is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, at Saline County Courthouse.

Contact Sarah Reed at

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