SHERIDAN — As the community continues to discuss ways to accommodate its growth and renovate some of its key sectors, stakeholders from Sheridan County and the city of Sheridan gathered to hear a presentation about preserving the historic aspects of the community at the Downtown Sheridan Association office Thursday.
Mary Humstone — who has worked for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, operated her own preservation consulting firm and currently teaches historical preservation and architectural history at the University of Wyoming — and Lesley Gilmore — the director of historic preservation services for Cushing, Terrell and Associates Architects and Engineers — used their presentation to highlight some of the benefits of preserving historic sites and discuss strategies the community can use to promote preservation efforts.
Humstone suggested that preserving historic sites can bring both aesthetic and economic benefits to the community. Aesthetically, Humstone said historic sites maintain the unique character of a community by both preserving the community’s history and retaining its distinctive architecture.
Maintaining that character creates economic benefits by attracting more tourists, who are likely to extend their stays if the community offers several historic attractions, and through hiring local labor to update and maintain those sites.
With those considerations in mind, the attendees — which included county commissioners, a city council representative, Kim Ostermeyer, who manages the Wyoming Room at The Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library; and representatives from several local organizations — classified local historic sites into three categories.
The first category listed the sites the group identified as the most important for the community to preserve. They included the Sheridan Veterans Affairs Medical Center, which is the former site of Fort Mackenzie; Trail End State Historic Site; the Residence Hill houses on Thurmond Street; the courthouse, and Sheridan’s downtown and adjacent streets.
In the second category, the group listed sites that have been successfully preserved, which included the county courthouse, the Black Tooth Brewing Company building, the Sheridan Inn, the Frackelton’s building, the Montgomery building and the J.C. Penney Company building.
The last category listed sites the group felt could be in danger if the community does not dedicate resources toward preserving them. Those sites were the Sheridan County Fairgrounds, the VA — particularly because Sheridan is one of the proposed sites for a new veterans nursing facility — the flour mill elevators next to the Mill Inn, the Acme Power Plant, the Holly Sugar building and the Sheridan Iron Works building.
Addressing those threatened sites, however, will require the community to dedicate manpower and funding to the preservation efforts.
Nickel said one of the challenges the county faces is the absence of an organizing body that can take ownership of local preservation efforts.
“I think our biggest challenge from the county level is getting the interest and getting a group of people interested to support that and maybe put things together,’’ Nickel said. “We need a group of people whose hearts are into this and that will spend the time and effort to coordinate the efforts.”
Humstone and Gilmore suggested the attendees use the presentation as an opportunity to form a network that will continue to discuss these issues, but offered a more concrete solution as well.
The Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office will designate cities or counties with historical preservation commitments as certifiedlocal governments. That designation grants the community eligibility to receive matching grant funds from the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office and connects it with education and training resources related to historic preservation.
Achieving a CLG designation would require the local governments to create dedicated historic preservation programs and encourage the broadest possible support from the community.
However the community decides to proceed, managing the community’s historic character is another consideration local entities will have to weigh as they chart their future.