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National Historic Landmark Coming Soon to Greendale

The NPS Advisory Board meets in Colorado on May 22 and 23 to consider making its final recommendation to the Secretary of the Interior.

Did you know that May is Historic Preservation Month?  At their quarterly meeting last Thursday evening Greendale Historical Society members learned about the long process of having the Village of Greendale receive National Historic Landmark designation and the good news that a final decision will be made soon.

On July 29, 2005 the Village of Greendale was already considered to be at the national level of significance with the U.S. Department of the Interior when it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  This means it has “exceptional value” in U.S. history to its community, the state and the nation.

Seven years later and many steps in the nomination process through the National Park Service (NPS) system, which included letters of support from the Greendale Historical Society and others, residents will soon learn of a decision. The NPS Advisory Board meets in Colorado on May 22 and 23 to consider making its final recommendation to the Secretary of the Interior.

Guest speaker, Daina Penkiunas, National Register Coordinator with the Wisconsin State Historical Society, summarized the presentation she and colleague Linda McClellan gave to the National Park Service Advisory Board last fall. Her slide show, with familiar historical photographs of Greendale, described the criteria that needs to be met which includes a community that expresses cultural values in its architecture, landscape and urban planning as well as “peopling places” offered like pathways through green spaces. 

Additional criteria includes Clarence Perry’s conceptual plan of 1929 for a “neighborhood unit” with a hierarchy of streets, spacious private yards, a civic and commercial center, and an important component of the original plan--a provision for an “auto conscious” decision to provide parking.  Penkiunas noted that based on their research the National Historic Landmark boundaries have been expanded to include green space and both schools.

The Village of Greendale is recognized as a special place that is maintained very well. She pointed out that the advisory panel was “…impressed with the exceptional integrity of the housing retaining its original form.”  Historic districts are defined as having a unique concentration of elements that tell a story.  Penkiunas, who spent time in Greendale walking throughout the village and taking photographs, described the unique experience as “you know when you’re in it and you know when you’ve left it”.

Beyond qualifying for state and federal tax credits that come with it, receiving National Historic Landmark Status is an elite designation and a great honor to a community.  This elite status is not official until the NPS Advisory Board recommendations are reviewed and signed by the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and, if awarded, a representative always comes to the community to present the plaque. The 75th Celebrations Committee and the Greendale Historical Society have their fingers crossed and are soliciting for nationwide television coverage during the 75th Anniversary kickoff a year from now.

The month of May as Historic Preservation Month is a special time to appreciate the charm and historic prominence of Greendale. To learn more about Wisconsin history and the National Historic Landmark program go to http://www.nps.gov or www.wisconsinhistory.org

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