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Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board to consider status of Memorial Hall at Friday meeting

COLUMBUS – Ironton’s Memorial Hall is on a list of nine proposed sites that will be reviewed Friday by the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board for possible nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

If the board finds that the proposed nominations appear to meet the criteria for listing on the National Register, it will recommend to Ohio’s State Historic Preservation Officer, Burt Logan, that they be forwarded to the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places for consideration.

To be eligible for listing on the National Register an entry must be associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history, or be associated with the lives of people significant in our past, or embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction, or represent the work of a master, or possess high artistic values or represent a significant, distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction (e.g. a historic district), or have yielded, or be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history, according to a prepared statement from the Ohio Historic Preservation Society.

Memorial Hall was built in 1892 for the use of the local post of the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization of Union veterans of the Civil War. In addition, it housed the public library, city offices and courts and, later, other veterans groups such as Spanish American War veterans and the American Legion. Designed by Columbus architect J.W. Yost, the sandstone and brick structure is an example of Richardsonian Romanesque, a Victorian architectural style of the 1870s-1890s. The building was struck by lightning and gutted by fire in 1905. Memorial Hall was rebuilt with a few alterations in 1908 under the direction of Ironton architect T.S. Murray.

Memorial Hall has sat empty since city offices moved to a new building several years ago. In the last few years, there has been frequent discussion about what to do with the old building. One idea was to renovate the building and use it for veterans services. Most recently, the county discussed obtaining the building from the city and turning it into a communications center.

The 17-member board is appointed by the governor to advise the Ohio Historical Society and the state on historic preservation matters. It includes professionals in history, architecture, archaeology and other historic preservation related disciplines as well as citizen members. The board meets three times each year to consider proposed Ohio nominations to the National Register of Historic Places and conduct other business.

The National Register lists places that should be preserved because of their significance in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering and culture. It includes buildings, sites, structures, objects and historic districts of national, state and local importance.

National Register listing often raises community awareness of a property. However, listing does not obligate owners to repair or improve their properties and does not prevent them from remodeling, altering, selling, or even demolishing them if they choose to do so.

Owners or long-term tenants who rehabilitate income-producing properties listed on the National Register can qualify for a 20 percent federal income tax credit if the work they do follows the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, guidelines used nationwide for repairs and alterations to historic buildings. A similar 25 percent state income tax credit is also offered through the Ohio Department of Development’s Office of Redevelopment, with assistance provided by the Ohio Historic Preservation Office of the Ohio Historical Society and the Ohio Department of Taxation.

In Ohio anyone may prepare a National Register nomination. Nominations are made through the Ohio Historic Preservation Office of the Ohio Historical Society. Proposed nominations are reviewed by the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board, a governor-appointed panel of citizens and professionals in history, architecture, archaeology and related fields. The board reviews each nomination to see whether it appears to be eligible for listing on the National Register, then makes a recommendation to the State Historic Preservation Officer.

The final decision to add a property to the register is made by the National Park Service, which administers the program nationwide.

The Ohio Historic Preservation Office is Ohio’s official historic preservation agency. A part of the Ohio Historical Society, it identifies historic places in Ohio, nominates properties to the National Register of Historic Places, reviews federally-assisted projects for effects on historic, architectural, and archaeological resources in Ohio, consults on the conservation of older buildings and sites and offers educational programs and publications.