Seeking to preserve reminders of its past, Mooresville is preparing for a comprehensive survey of historic properties in and around town.
The survey will take inventory of buildings and other properties that have existed since at least 1970 and that have remained relatively unchanged, taking into account their historic and architectural significance.
Coming as the town is preparing for commercial and residential growth, it is meant to “preserve what was here as we keep growing,” said Andy Poore, the town historian.
It is the first time Mooresville will see such an extensive review. The last one that was conducted throughout Iredell County, in the 1970s, did not include properties from the 20th century.
Expected to start as soon as next month, the survey will cost about $25,000, more than half of which the town will pay for with a matching grant from the federal Historic Preservation Fund, part of the National Park Service. The grant will go toward hiring a consultant to conduct the survey, which is expected to finish no later than August 2016.
The survey will entail a report describing how each property was judged, “to put all the individual records into a larger context,” said Ramona Bartos, administrator of the N.C. State Historic Preservation Office, which is overseeing the process. She suggested that much of the survey will likely take place in winter months, saying, “It’s a lot easier for consultants to see buildings when there are no leaves on the trees.”
In addition to possibly receiving historic designations, certain buildings could end up qualifying for a tax credit program the office had long offered for restoring historic structures, she noted, should state legislators decide to reinstate it after it expired at the beginning of the year.
Since the late 1960s, the historic preservation office has conducted such surveys throughout North Carolina. It is part of the Office of Archives and History, which has an inventory of nearly 3,000 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Bartos said. She noted the records are compiled into a database and shared with local governments.
They are meant not only to keep track of historic buildings but also to offer a window into how cities and towns developed over the years.
Incorporated in 1873, Mooresville has more than 620 properties on the National Register, an honorary designation, according to state records. More than 100 are designated landmarks by the town and the county, some of them on the National Register.
Many of them are within the town’s two nationally designated historic districts. The largest one, Mill Village, was built around an old cotton mill and placed on the National Register in 2012.
“They are real places with real histories that are poised to create new stories,” said Kevin Cherry, the state’s historic preservation officer and deputy secretary of its Department of Cultural Resources. Having grown up in nearby Denver, he cited the restoration of older buildings over the years, including mills.
The survey was a focal point for the town’s Historic Preservation Commission, which applied for the grant and which was created about 15 years ago, when the town started experiencing growth, said Poore, the historian who is also a member of the commission.
He credited the late Commissioner Mac Herring with gathering support among his fellow commissioners to designate the commission a quasi-judicial body, meaning it can pass regulations to help protect historic districts and properties.
To Poore, a lifelong Mooresville resident who also serves as the curator of special collections at the Mooresville Public Library, preserving the town’s history is important not only for its residents but also for visitors.
“When new people come to town,” he said, “they want to know the history.”
Jake Flannick is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org