Historic Tyler continues with historic preservation projects through the pandemic

Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 10:53 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - May is National Historic Preservation month and Historic Tyler has stayed busy the last year supporting local preservation projects and creating ways to keep the history of Tyler accessible to all.

“People don’t travel to Tyler to see big box stores. They come because Tyler has a unique feel and it is the charm of the historic area,” said Historic Tyler’s Executive Director, Ashley Washmon.

At the start of their fiscal year Washmon said they helped the Goodman-LeGrand House and Museum.

“They started a campaign for extensive exterior renovations and we were able to kickstart that campaign off and give them some funds to go towards their needs,” she said.

Nearly ten years ago the Riviere House, in North Tyler caught fire and remained on the property after the fire. Washmon says the city went through the proper channels to demolish it, and around Christmas, “We hired an architectural historian to spend two days on site and he gathered all the history of that home,” Washmon said. “That’s like a last act of preservation, so we preserved the history of that structure for future generations through photography and through research and surveying the property.”

Most recently Historic Tyler advocated for the preservation of the oldest house in Tyler at 421 College Avenue when Washmon says they were alerted of the zone change when a resident called in.

“So we only found out about it like a week prior to the planning and zoning meeting. So there wasn’t a lot of time to do research,” Washmon said. “I think a positive outcome from that meeting was our president, Claudia Carrol, asked the planning and zoning meeting if it would be possible if there was a planning and zoning request that significantly affected a historic property, if it could go to the city’s historic preservation board or Historic Tyler could be alerted, just so we would know.”

It’s important that they remain in the loop, Washmon said, so they know what’s going on.

“These historic districts are significant in their entirety and so once you start chipping away at this individual house, this individual house, you’ll look back and the district will be compromised because all the houses make up the historic district and they should be preserved in their entirety.”

They have also helped with preserving the 1881 Jail, the Carnegie Library, which is Currently the Smith County Historical Society, and even the old oak trees that line Broadway when years ago, Washmon said the city planned to remove them to widen the street.

“Those are historic trees so Historic Tyler tied yellow ribbons around the trees to save the old oak trees and city council understood and heard, and came up with a different plan, so the old oak trees were saved,” Washmon said. “Which sounds little until you stop to think of that section of street without the trees. It would look drastically different.”

She said one of the most notable projects Historic Tyler has accomplished are the designation of six national historic districts.

“The first one that we had designated is the Charnwood District, which is right here. My office is located in the Charnwood District and that was in 1998,” she said. “Since then there’s been the Azalea District, there’s the Donnybrook Duplexes. There’s six districts and we’re currently working on one in the Pollard Farm, Andy Woods area.

Not only is their work important for current and future generations to learn about the history of Tyler, but Washmon said it is also be environmentally friendly.

“Taking an old building and repurposing it is so much better for the environment than knocking it down and starting over again,” she said. “And then the materials have an intrinsic historic value because the wood that they used back when the property was built is better quality than the wood today.”

Washmon said they still have lots going on this year, the next event is tours of the historic homes.

“One of the only chances you get to see the interior of some of these historic homes. We pick five properties to be day tour homes and then one, kind of like a showcase home, that we have only open on Friday night for our candlelight party and home tour,” Washmon said.

For more information on their work and events you can visit Historic Tyler’s website.

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