Iced tea, conversation and compliments flowed at an appreciation dinner for New Castle Main Street supporters last week at the refurbished Locker building.
Preservation Board Chairman Joseph Yates introduced the evening’s speaker, Kentucky Heritage Council Executive Director Mark Dennen.
Yates credited Dennen with opening the eyes and minds of New Castle residents to the city’s possibilities.
According to Dennen, the group has accomplished much, but there is more to be done and there will be more opportunities for the organization to continue its work.
Dennen said that while funding opportunities are fewer, there still are programs to assist with historical work. Buildings listed on the National Register of Historical Places automatically qualify for a Kentucky State Tax Credit.
The register’s Web site said Kentucky is home to more than 42,000 structures with historical features making it the fourth largest on the registry. There already are 3,200 listed districts.
“Virtually anyone can use this credit,” he said.
To qualify for the credit, New Castle would need to establish a National Register District.
Dennen said the previous cap was $3 million, but expects it will be raised to $5 million this year.
“It allows for qualified owners to simply get a refund from the state,” he said. “It is a relatively significant incentive.”
New Castle has four listings on the Register. Dennen feels there are many more structures that would qualify.
“I always look forward to getting to New Castle,” he said. “It’s what people think a small town should look like with a wonderful block of buildings, some unique to New Castle.”
Dennen said he couldn’t think of another town that is home to three original log buildings.
He also pointed to the Odd Fellows building as an example of one of New Castle’s unique buildings. He said although it needs a lot of work, it is not as bad as it appears. “This building is a gem,” he said. “It could be spectacular.”
Dennen showed a photo of another neglected storefront with chipping paint. “It’s solid as can be,” he said, “and those are original windows.” Dennen said these are the kinds of buildings that can push a town’s reemergence. “I think it’s another piece that can be done at a relatively small cost,” he said.
Dennen also talked about Princeton, another small Kentucky town. He said the residents there created “Paint the Town,” a project that rescued a declining downtown area. There were six retail buildings up for sale when the project began. “Now there are no vacant buildings,” he said.
The painting project was completed without utilizing any grant money and volunteers were recruited to do the work.
Since the rehabilitation, property values are up and people are making their homes in the downtown area again.
Princeton did receive money to rebuild crumbling sidewalks, repave streets and replace streetlights from a Streetscape grant. New Castle Commission member Wanda Thurman said New Castle also could benefit from that program. “I’m hoping New Castle will get Main Street repaved and new lights,” she said.
Main Street Manager Jeff Thoke said $1,642,718 already has been raised and spent on renovating building facades, fix-up projects and keeping and establishing businesses downtown.
“It is a truly impressive figure,” he said.
Thoke singled out around a dozen local boosters who contributed to the effort including Main Street Board Chairman Bob Wagoner. He also recognized Wayne Harrelson, who he said completed much of the interior work at the Locker and donated much of that time.
New Castle Mayor Judy Diederich gave out the final award of the evening, the Martha Prather Stahl Award for Outstanding Service to the New Castle Main Street Program.
Diederich said Stahl was a tireless worker and advocate for New Castle.
“Marty had a vision of what this city’s future could be,” she said.
According to Diederich said Stahl never tired of giving back to the community. “When a new idea or project was proposed, Marty would say, ‘I’ll put that on the list,’” she said. “We soon discovered that the list never got shorter. For every item she checked off, she would add two or three more.”
Diederich said former Main Street Manager, Barbara Ann Callahan, embodied the same qualities that drove Stahl.
“Her energy, dedication and accomplishments are second to none,” she said. “She not only worked the part-time hours of her position, but also contributed countless hours of her own time and sweat equity, as well as personal funds and resources.”
Diederich outlined many accomplishments and events spearheaded by Callahan including holiday extravaganzas such as the Forest of Holiday Trees event, media attention that Callahan procured as well as events outside Henry County that drew attention to its attributes.
“She promoted New Castle beyond the city limits,” Diederich said.
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