Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Latest Proposal on Saving the Priestley House

According to Jan Bowman, Northumberland Borough Secretary, "The Borough Council met last evening [August 18, 2009] with Tom Bresenhan, Co-President of the Friends of the Joseph Priestley House.  This group is negotiating with the State to be permitted to open the Priestley House with volunteers giving tours." 

While I commend both the Borough of Northumberland and the Friends of the Joseph Priestley House for their efforts, this can only be a stopgap effort.  Clearly, the upkeep and development of the site needs full-time skilled professionals that can only be accomplished with sufficient funding. I still feel that making Joseph Priestley House a National Historic Site under the administration of the U.S. Park Service is the only way to insure that the site is properly protected.

According to Mr. Bresenhan the Priestley House already carries the designation of National Historic Landmark (January,.1965) of the U.S. Park Service.

My only real experience with National Historic Sites of the U.S. Park Service is with Weir Farm in Ridgefield, CT. Until Weir Farm was established there were no National Historic Sites or Parks within the state of CT. Once designated, the U.S. Park Service came in with money to provide much of the infrastructure changes needed to handle the staffing, traffic, land acquisition, etc. to bring it up to the standards that they have for any site. I was very impressed with what they did. They did not come in with big bulldozers, so to speak. They  were very sensitive to the needs of the community and the history of the site.

I don't know what the difference between a National Historic Site and National Historic Landmark, but I will investigate this, and I'll bet that it is in that difference that we will find out why the U.S. Park Service has not been as actively involved in the Priestley House.

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