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Two city areas eyed for national historic status

Two areas in Mount Airy have moved a step closer to being added to the National Register of Historic Places.

These include the Lebanon Hill Historic District and Country Club Estates Historic District. The N.C. National Register Advisory Committee recommended the approval of register nominations for both during a virtual meeting earlier this month when sites around the state were considered.

The national listing includes properties deemed worthy of preservation, which must be at least 50 years old in order to be added. Along with being recognized as historically valuable, owners of such sites are eligible to receive federal and state tax credits to make property improvements.

This month’s action in Raleigh by the state National Register Advisory Committee — which is part of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources — means the nominations of the Mount Airy districts have passed the state level. The two soon will proceed to final consideration at the federal level.

In all, six potential new historic districts in Mount Airy were identified and recommended after an exhaustive study completed in 2018, which contain properties that could qualify for the National Register of Historic Places. The survey was undertaken by a recognized expert in his field, Dan Pezzoni, an architectural historian with Landmark Preservation Associates in Lexington, Virginia.

The Lebanon Hill Historic District is the oldest of the six areas. It includes East and West Lebanon streets; North Main Street to the Catholic Church; and Byerly, Poplar, Taylor (west of Lebanon), Willow, Mitchell and Orchard streets from North Main to the Dairy Center dining establishment.

Meanwhile, the Country Club Estates Historic District encompasses residential structures around the periphery of Mount Airy Country Club.

The recent state-level approval of the two districts doesn’t spell the end of the line for others in Mount Airy, which are to be considered during another round in the nomination process.

“Our office is working with Dan Pezzoni on the remaining Mount Airy nominations,” explained Jennifer R. Brosz, national register coordinator in the State Historic Preservation Office.

“We all hope to have them in final form by early December,” Brosz added. “Our goal is to wrap these great Mount Airy projects with the next available NRAC (National Register Advisory Committee meeting) in February 2021.”

Others grouped by Pezzoni are Gasoline Town, a complex of distributorships and other fuel facilities owing its existence to the growing fleet of cars and trucks in the 1920s and the presence of a rail line that allowed bulk shipments of fuel; Taylor Park, including the Taylor Park subdivision developed in the 1930s, which extends from North Main Street almost to West Lebanon. It includes Marion, Grace and Howard streets and the 1925 Grace Moravian Church.

Also, a northern boundary increase to an original historic district in the city, including a small area adjoining the north end of the existing district which centers on Maple, West Elm and Willow streets and Rawley Avenue; and a southern boundary expansion of the original district, a large area adjoining its south end centering on Rockford and West Church streets and sections of adjacent streets, with a second smaller portion along Bank Street.

Before the most recent one by the Lexington, Virginia, architectural historian, no such survey had been conducted in Mount Airy since 1985. Since then, more local structures have become potential designees for national historic status due to meeting the 50-year-old minimum threshold.

What happens now?

The State Historic Preservation Office has a 90 day-window to finalize and submit the recent meeting materials to the National Park Service (NPS). In addition to overseeing the parks, the NPS partners with state and other preservation offices to identify, nominate and list properties for the National Register of Historic Places.

It now contains more than 95,000 entries encompassing 1.8 million-plus sites, buildings, structures and objects, which can be found in nearly every county in the nation.

Upon receipt of the Mount Airy-related materials, the NPS has 45 days to review and make a final decision. The agency can approve, ask for clarification within the 45 days, return the nominations for revisions or tell the state office that the nominations do not meet the criteria for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

“Of course, we assume and hope for the first action,” Brosz commented regarding the possible approval.



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