January 12, 2017
HistoriCorps to establish historic preservation school locally
On the heels of successfully completing its first local historic preservation project, HistoriCorps has secured a proactive grant of $310,000 from The Cameron Foundation to establish a regional office in the Tri-Cities area and to fund additional local preservation projects. HistoriCorps is a nationally recognized organization that uses a project-based, hands-on learning model through its education arm, HistoriCorps Institute, to teach heritage conservation and preservation construction. The Tri-Cities office will serve as the organization’s east coast headquarters.
Last summer, Cameron announced an initial grant to HistoriCorps to lead a preservation field school at historic Summerseat (ca. 1860), located in the Village of Ettrick and owned by Virginia State University. The building is one of few remaining examples of the raised cottage-style architecture in Virginia. The program engaged volunteers, students and professional practitioners to preserve the exterior of the building. The Foundation had worked in partnership with HistoriCorps to identify Summerseat as a local pilot project, which was completed in October. HistoriCorps subsequently researched the viability of establishing a permanent office in the area to conduct additional field schools at other historic sites across the region.
Growing steadily since its founding in 2009, HistoriCorps has preserved more than 200 buildings and structures in 26 states that span all regions of the United States. Its volunteer corps, led by preservation professionals, has logged nearly 100,000 hours on these projects. Summerseat was the first effort that it had undertaken in the local area.
“When we made the initial investment in Summerseat, we did so with optimism that it would succeed as a demonstration project and would support the case for a more long term preservation program to benefit this region,” said Cameron Board Chair Pam Martin Comstock. “We were delighted to learn that HistoriCorps’s feasibility study justified making this additional investment.”
Bob Ogle, Director of HistoriCorps Institute, cited several factors that informed his group’s decision to move forward with establishing a regional office. He said, “In the example of Summerseat, we rehabilitated the building for eventual adaptive reuse. We experienced a great level of community engagement. We developed a number of partnerships with local educational institutions. Additionally, we facilitated the participation of more than 30 students and volunteers from not only the region, but from across the country.” The Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Chesterfield County Technical Center, multiple departments in Chesterfield County and Virginia State University, the nonprofit organization Preservation Virginia, and several local businesses and individuals participated in the Summerseat project. “All of these partners worked together with us to contribute to the success of this effort,” Ogle emphasized.
When exploring the viability of setting up an eastern regional operations and education center, HistoriCorps also examined the inventory of historic structures in the region and the labor force available to provide historic preservation services. In recent years, HistoriCorps, which is based in Colorado, has seen its number of east coast projects expand to become 25 percent of its overall preservation project portfolio and expects this percentage to increase moving forward. “By establishing this regional office, we will be able to reduce our costs for this growing number of projects and better allocate our specialized resources,” Ogle added.
HistoriCorps Institute’s certificate program, which centers on project-based learning, includes six hands-on courses and two online offerings. Participating students also may receive academic credit from partner academic institutions. In the Tri-Cities area, Richard Bland College of William & Mary already has formalized such an agreement with HistoriCorps. Both Chesterfield County Technical Center and Rowanty Vocational and Technical Center also have agreed to work with HistoriCorps on future projects.
Cameron President J. Todd Graham noted, “This commitment to HistoriCorps highlights how Cameron’s proactive grantmaking can be leveraged to support innovative, cross-sector approaches to address regional needs. HistoriCorps’s field school model provides training and workforce skills while at the same time restoring some of the historic fabric within our communities. Furthermore, the organization’s business plan for this east coast headquarters will bring in financial resources from outside the local area to sustain its office. The establishment of this nationally recognized program in the Tri-Cities offers multiple benefits to the region.”