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Jul 16

Meet the Historic Architectural Review Board

Posted on July 16, 2020 at 9:01 AM by Linda Rooney

Historic Architecutral Review Board Encompassing most of the central business district lies Lansdowne’s Historic District. Rich in history, this section of Lansdowne is preserved by the Lansdowne Borough Historic Architectural Review Board.  “Old buildings are a reminder of an area's culture and complexity,” says Chairman of the Lansdowne Borough Historic Architectural Review Board, Gene Wayne. Preserving Lansdowne’s culture and complexity is just what the HARB is meant to do.

Gene has been involved in the Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB) since its inception. While president of Borough Council, he helped establish the HARB and later joined and was elected chairman. HARB currently consists of 7 individuals, including Gene. These individuals range from architects to real estate agents, to members with experience in historic preservation and building codes. With their variety of experience, HARB’s goal is to protect history and architectural accomplishments within the historic district of Lansdowne. 

The board plays an advisory role with the Borough Council on whether they should issue what's known as a certificate of appropriateness. If an individual comes to the borough with a project, it must comply with all historic preservation guidelines. These guidelines specifically focus on building facades. If anyone wants to change the facade of a historical building within the district, they must come before the HARB for review and obtain approval.

Gene notes that the Historic Architectural Review Board is a very important economic development tool for Lansdowne. “We feel that historic preservation is essential to cultural, social, and economic stability,” he explains. Even stronger than that, by Jane Jacobs and by the National Trust for Historic Preservation that show historic preservation attracts businesses as well as visitors. HARB has an underlying philosophy with several different components.

Firstly, HARB preserves old buildings that have intrinsic value. Within Lansdowne, there are two buildings on the National Register of Historic Places in the business district and two Historic Districts, Lansdowne Park and the Henry Albertson Subdivision, in residential areas. These historical buildings date back to pre-WWII and tend to be built with better quality materials. Pre-WWII buildings were built to a different standard and therefore have more intrinsic value. 

Historical preservation also acknowledges  that we don’t always know what historical pieces might live within a building when it is torn down. There may be any number of specific architectural gems within a given building. Because of this, Gene notes that “Regret only goes one way. The preservation of historical buildings is crucial.”

HARB finds that new small businesses prefer old buildings. Businesses like bookstores, restaurants, and small start ups tend to thrive in old buildings because of the added interest of the historical facade. These are the types of businesses in Lansdowne and can therefore attract more visitors.

Businesses and historical buildings combine to attract visitors to Lansdowne. Gene attributes this to the “warmth of the materials and the rich history of the building itself.” 

The Historic Architectural Review Board plays a vital role in the past, present, and future of Lansdowne borough. By preserving the past in older buildings, HARB offers opportunities for the Lansdowne Borough community’s future.