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Organization Forms In Response to HARB’s Destruction

New Castle City Council authorized the creation of the Historic Architecture Review Board, (HARB), in 2009.  HARB was formed as an advisory board whose purpose was to provide recommendations to City Council regarding the advisability of issuing any permit required to be issued in accordance with historic preservation guidelines.

Given the North Hill Historic District’s designation on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as the district’s status as the third largest historical district in Pennsylvania – surpassed only by historic districts in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh – the establishment of HARB was an appropriate and positive recognition of the historic and economic value of the district.

Numerous HARBs are established in Pennsylvania, including groups in York, Mechanicsburg, Lancaster, Reading, and Doylestown.  In western Pennsylvania, active HARBs exist in Franklin, Harmony and Greensburg, and until recently, in New Castle.

In its eight (8) years of existence, the HARB promoted the historic district in numerous ways:

  1. Applied for and received grants to purchase and install historic district signs that define the boundaries of the district, which contains nearly 1700 homes and buildings.

  2. Designed, and mailed brochures notifying home and building owners within the historic zones of the ordinance and boundaries. 

  3. Designed and placed advertisements on New Castle Transit commuter buses to Pittsburgh, promoting the availability and affordability of historic houses for sale in our bedroom community just an hour north of Pittsburgh.

  4. Held public workshops with Bill Callahan of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission to educate the community on historic preservation and availability of tax credits. 

  5. Received recognition in 2012 from the Young Preservationists Association (YPA) of Pittsburgh identifying the North Hill Historic District as #2 – of the Top Ten Best Preservation Opportunities in the Pittsburgh Area. The YPA recognition was in response to the threat from City Council to eliminate the board and weaken historic ordinance.

  6. Collaborated with PennDOT to provide input on the design of three (3) bridges in New Castle to create structures that would complement the historic character of the area. 

  7. Saved houses and buildings from demolition, by finding owners who purchased and restored them, thus keeping properties on the tax rolls. 

  8. Visited historic home and building owners to provide guidance on the preservation of the house, and buildings throughout the historic area, consistent with the ordinance.   

Many of the original HARB members live in the North Hill Historic District and have restored and maintained the houses where they live today, understand how the district enhances quality of life, and are vocal advocates for the value of historic preservation.

Unfortunately, in August 2017, New Castle City Council voted to eliminate HARB, as well as significantly weaken the ordinances that protect historic structures in the city, including the elimination of the downtown overlay which protected historical structures in New Castle’s central business district.  The vote, in our opinion, was misguided and was not based on forward thinking and a vision for New Castle. Hopefully, and for the long-term benefit of the community, a future administration and council will reinstate the HARB.

In response to the actions of council, Lawrence County Partners for Preservation, (LCPP), was formed in the fall of 2017 by founder and president Joe Goodge, and several former HARB members are now founding board members of LCPP.

The scope of LCPP is expanded and includes all of Lawrence County, with a continuing interest in preserving and promoting the North Hill Historic District in New Castle.  

LCPP is attempting to actively partner with other historic groups throughout the county to increase awareness of our efforts to promote the economic benefits of preserving both history and architecture in our local communities.

LCPP is currently seeking additional board members with specific areas of subject matter expertise, including, but not limited to, an attorney, architect, and real estate professional, to complement the existing board and create additional champions for our efforts.  We also continue to look to grow our membership and encourage like-minded individuals and businesses who understand the value of historical preservation, to join our group.

Please continue to periodically check the LCPP webpage and Facebook page for continuing updates on our progress to improve our communities, as well as on upcoming events.

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