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Q & A: Preserving Farmington's past

On May 17, the Farmington City Council presented Heritage Preservation Awards to Farmington residents Gary and Cynthia Raynor, owners of the home at 421 Oak St., and to former Heritage Preservation Commission member Edgar Samuelson.

According to city of Farmington administrative services director Lisa Shadick, the HPC has given out the awards since 2000. In that time, 13 locations and individuals around the city have received the award.

The Raynors were recognized for their attentiveness to their home and for serving as a model for preservation efforts in their home. Samuelson was nominated for his years of service on the HPC and his dedication to Farmington's history.

The program has gotten to be kind of a second-nature to Shadick and HPC members, but this week, we asked Shadick to explain it a little more to the rest of the community.

Why does Farmington have Heritage Preservation awards?

Basically, I guess it's a way that the HPC can recognize certain properties, buildings, structures within the community or individuals within the community that contribute to Farmington's history and historic preservation issues. Many of the awards over the years have been given to a number of homes in the Oak Street area, much like the Raynor house, for the way the property owners have rehabilitated and restored their historic properties.

What kinds of qualifications are considered?

People who have worked in preservation and worked to preserve Farmington's history, Farmington's past, as well as worked to preserve a specific property. There really aren't any specific qualifications other than that. The HPC selects award recipients through nominations. We advertise for nominations on the web site, on our cable channel bulletin board and in the newspaper, so anyone can nominate.

What is the HPC, and what do they do?

The HPC is the Heritage Preservation Commission and they are a citizen advisory board appointed by the city council. They serve as a forum to make recommendations to the city council on preservation issues, protection issues for historic buildings. They also serve as a resource for property owners of historic properties. Many of the property owners come to the HPC or us at the city if they want to do work on their property - what they can and cannot do without compromising the integrity of their building. There's certain standards they follow through the Secretary of the Interior regarding historic preservation. You can get information on what different types of materials to use, colors of paint to use that may be more appropriate for the era of their home, if they want to keep it an authentic building.

We have 14 designated Heritage Landmarks. What's a Heritage Landmark?

The HPC brings recommendations to the city council to designate specific properties for landmark status. The designations are studies that are done on properties, studies that research things like historical significance, architecture, built in certain eras like the early 1900s, and so on. The landmark designation process for the city is the local equivalent of the National Register of Historic Places. We do, however, have three properties that are on the National Register in town. They're designated locally as well as on the National Register. That's the Exchange Bank, the Akin house and Church of the Advent.

Do homeowners or winners get anything for the distinction?

They receive an award presented at the council meeting for their property or their work in heritage preservation, whichever applies. If it's a property that's nominated, we have a traveling yard sign that says "Preservation Award Winner." This year, that will be in the Raynor's yard at 421 Oak, if they choose to put it up. We ask them to put it at their site at least through the month of May, which is Preservation Month.

Do you have a favorite historic place in Farmington?

I don't have a favorite, but I do like the houses. I think there's some beautiful homes, and beautifully restored homes in Farmington. You really have to credit the property owners, the residents, for that.

Any chance Farmington will run out of historic places?

No. No, I don't believe so, because as time goes by, a house built, say 50 years ago, will be considered historic a few years down the road, maybe 10 or 20 years down the road. "Historic" doesn't just mean the late 1800s or the early 1900s, that time frame. So no, I don't believe we will run out as time goes by.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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