Renovators’ Open House Wins Preservation Award

I am proud to plead guilty to the charge of being an “hysterical preservationist,” as some cynics insist on calling those of us who value our history, architecture and timeless resources. As such, I am deeply involved with our local historic preservation organization, Landmarks Foundation of Montgomery.

You may never have heard of Landmarks. But I’m betting you have heard of — and perhaps even visited — Old Alabama Town. That is a 50-structure collection of living (houses, church) and working (doctor’s office, pharmacy, barn) buildings open to the public. It’s also the Landmarks Foundation headquarters.

Landmarks expends a lot of time, energy and money encouraging preservation efforts around town. Neighborhood preservation and revitalization are among our core values. And we are forever trying to come up with ways to win more folks to our cause of appreciating, saving, renovating/restoring and maintaining our old buildings and neighborhoods.

Just over a year ago, we realized that “rewarding the behavior you want repeated” was one of the basic rules of psychology. The principle applies whether you are encouraging people in a team, organization or the wider society. So we began look for ways to put a spotlight on people and businesses whom we thought were getting it right where preservation is concerned.

As luck would have it, I’d heard of a program done by a preservation group in New Orleans called “Beams and Brews,” which opens a renovation/restoration-in-progress for interested people to tour. We have proudly copied that program. Ours is called “Renovators’ Open House.” We’ve had many celebrations historic preservation on-site at either works in progress or recently completed. We invite folks to come, see, enjoy, snack and imbibe. We’ve visited both residential and business sites and will continue to do so the last Thursday of the odd months on the calendar.

I guess it’s just human nature to want to see what others are doing with their homes or commercial businesses. And that’s certainly the case with our Renovators’ Open Houses, most of which have drawn a LOT of people. Some of them have even thrown in with us and joined Landmarks Foundation. In a word, it’s working!

Now the City has taken note of our efforts. On May 15, Montgomery’s Historic Development Commission gave Renovators’ Open House the City’s award for Heritage Education and Outreach Programming. Hats off to all the homeowners and building owners who made it possible!

Sandra Nickel has been listing and selling residential real estate for over 30 years, most with an intense focus on Montgomery’s Midtown neighborhoods. Sandra serves on the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, the Cloverdale Business Coalition, Historic Southview, the Volunteer and Information Center, Landmarks Foundation and her own neighborhood Garden District Preservation Association.

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