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Making strides in designation

A portion of downtown Farmington is one step closer to being placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Janet Douglas, executive director of the Downtown Development Association, was in Jefferson City last Friday to find out the results from a meeting being held by the Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

Under consideration was what has been titled the “St. Francois County Courthouse Historic District,” beginning at Washington Street and going west to the former Christopher Chevrolet Body Shop. The area also goes to the north at Spring Street and stops at Harrison Street to the south. The streets of Liberty and Columbia Streets are also included. During its meeting, the council approved the area, moving it one step closer.

“The committee approved the area without any hesitation,” said Douglas.

With that approval, the district’s request has now been submitted to the federal level to be reviewed by the U.S. Department of Interior and the National Park Service officials. A ruling will be issued within 45 days of their review. Approval means that the district will then be placed on the National Registry of Historic Districts.

Making the presentation to the council on behalf of the city was Debbie Sheals, an architectural historian who visited Farmington in 2003 and compiled photos and historic research on the areas she felt would best fit the criteria for the National Registry of Historic Places. Sheals had identified two downtown areas that would be eligible for consideration, those being the courthouse district and an East Columbia Street historic district, which includes just east of Washington St., a portion of South Jefferson near the Post Office and going on to South Henry Street.

This second district was recently submitted for consideration. There are already two locations in Farmington on the registry, the former St. Francois County jail and the McCormick House on West Columbia Street.

One criteria for considering a historic designation is that a building must be at least 50 years old. During her visit last year, Sheals documented 113 buildings downtown that met that requirement. Sheals also presented her findings to a number of business owners and city officials during a presentation last summer. Douglas shared that Sheals had a number of complimentary things to say to the council on behalf of the community.

“Debbie commented that she was very impressed when she came for the hearing last summer. Although there was a terrible storm that day, she felt that the turn out was phenomenal. There were a number of business owners and other individuals interested in hearing her report,” said Douglas. She also shared that the committee was impressed by the support given by the DDA and the city toward the naming of the districts.

Within the courthouse district, there are 21 buildings more than 50 years old. For the owners of these buildings, the area being named on the National Registry of Historic Places will allow those owners to be eligible for historic tax credits. While this is an asset to those business owners, the naming of the district to the registry is also an asset to the whole community.

“The benefits of being named on the National Registry of Historic Places is the distinction that the naming gives the community. The naming will also draw a number of tourist to the community for that reason. (Being on the registry) shows that a community takes pride in itself,” said Douglas.

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