Efforts to preserve Waynesville neighborhood underway

Waynesville is attempting to preserve the neighborhood bounded by Walnut and North Main streets by seeking official recognition from the National Register of Historic Places.

The town recently received a grant through the Certified Local Government Program to prepare a National Register nomination for the district.

If town officials succeed, the “Spread Out Historic District” would join the Main Street and Frog Level historic districts, which already enjoy National Register status.

“We’d hate some of these older homes be torn down,” said Bette Sprecher, a member of the Waynesville Historic Preservation Commission. “We just wanted to preserve the whole area. All the things that have been torn down through the years, you gotta preserve something.”

Sprecher has been interested in historic preservation ever since her own home on Haywood Street was supplanted by the post office in the 1960s.

“It was a beautiful house. My grandfather picked out every piece of lumber in there,” said Sprecher. “We want to avoid things like that.”

Before the Spread Out Historic District can receive official recognition, however, a study must be conducted to see whether National Register status would be justified. Property owners must also decide where they stand.

Until now, there’s been a mixed reaction, according to Sprecher. Some property owners are “all for it,” while others want their homes to be left alone.

According to the North Carolina Historic Preservation Office, however, being on the National Register doesn’t mean private property owners need permission from the federal government to make changes. Homeowners in the district can freely make alterations to the property as long as they use their own money.  

The National Register status does make certain tax credits and grants available to property owners who undertake maintenance projects — whenever federal funding is available.

“The last caveat is obviously an issue right now,” said Paul Loether, National Register chief.

Homeowners must follow federal standards only if they receive this federal assistance.

Being listed on the National Register also helps local, state and federal governments in their planning processes. For example, government will make their best efforts to avoid highway construction in historic districts.

Moreover, conferring National Register status to a district is a way of honoring its past.

“It’s honorific,” said Loether. “It’s a legal recognition that a property is historic …. It’s not so much to control it, but to prevent something being destroyed that the folks in the town and neighborhood have worked so hard to preserve.”


What do you think?

A public meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 15, at Waynesville town hall. Town officials will provide an overview of the Spread Out Historic District nomination and explain the National Register program to residents.

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