Efforts by the city of Harlem to preserve its history recently received national recognition by a White House-founded national heritage initiative.
The city is one of 14 nationwide added in June to the list of Preserve America communities. The White House initiative supports efforts to preserve "cultural and natural heritage" for "greater shared knowledge about the nation's past, strengthened regional identities and local pride, increased local participation in preserving the country's cultural and natural heritage assets, and support for the economic vitality of our communities," according to the Preserve America Web site.
The city was notified of the honor by a letter sent June 1 from first lady Laura Bush. As a Preserve America community, the city will receive White House recognition and a Preserve America sign, is eligible for Preserve America grants and will be listed on the initiative's Web-based directory, according to a news release from the organization.
Denise Carter, a grant researcher for the city, helped write the proposal for Preserve America consideration. She said the city's Civil War heritage, its origins in the 1800s as a getaway destination from Augusta and its being the birthplace of Oliver Hardy played heavily into its application.
The city also highlighted its Historic Preservation Committee, its creation of a historic district and its efforts to preserve the old Columbia Theatre on Louisville Street.
Carter said the city wants to retain its small-town heritage.
"We want to keep it that small-town area it was then (in the 1800s) ... and that's what we are trying to restore and preserve," she said.
Preserve America is a partnership among the White House, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and seven federal cabinet-level departments.
Harlem Mayor Scott Dean will travel to Washington, D.C., on July 12 to receive the honor on behalf of Harlem, City Manager Jean Dove said. She said the city has looked at applying for Preserve America for a few years, but couldn't until formal inventories of historic sites and a historic preservation committee could be established.
"I think this is a great honor for Harlem to receive this award and the recognition throughout the United States," she said.
She said the city will look to acquire grants to help finance the restoration of the old Columbia Theater, which is estimated to cost between $500,000 to $700,000.
Photo by J. Scott Trubey
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