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When the E.C Scranton Library negotiated with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) over the removal of the Hull Building a year ago, the library agreed to provide several programs that would benefit the town of Madison in compensation, one of which was the commission of a historical study of downtown. That study is now getting underway.
Last week, the Library Building Committee contracted Norwalk-based architectural historian Tod Bryant, along with his associate Daryn Reyman-Lock, to document any and all notable elements of historical significance in those buildings and properties. The study will continue for the next couple of weeks as they delve into the long history of Madison’s downtown.
Bryant had also worked on a similar report for the town focusing on the Hull Building, according to Laura Downes, who served as interim library director until the recent hiring of Sunnie Scarpa.
Though he is still relatively early in the survey, Bryant said that Madison’s commercial hub is ripe for the kind of discoveries a historian is apt to dig up in these types of projects.
“I’m sure that given the age of the town and the age of the buildings, many of them have had several lives during their existence,” Bryant said.
The type of study Bryant is leading is defined by the state as a “historic resource inventory,” he said. Bryant and his team will put together a 20-page narrative covering the whole district, make recommendations for state and national historic listings, create a section on women and minority history, and fill out a form with photographs, historical information, and architectural designs for each building that can be used in various state applications.
Downes said that giving property owners all that information together, formatted in the correct way, was enough to encourage them to apply for historic registries.
“There’s a bit of paperwork that has to be done, and sometimes that’s the blocking factor,” said Downes. “It’s just too much work for people to do, or to pay somebody to do.”
Another benefit for downtown business owners Bryant said was the ability to promote themselves.
“If it happened to be a business owned by a famous person, they could leverage that in their marketing,” Byrant said. “It gives the whole building and the whole street a little bit more prestige and a little bit more of a sense of community.”
Both Bryant and Downes agreed the community as a whole would see other tangential benefits. This survey is often a starting point to have buildings or entire districts added to state and national registries, Byrant said, which comes with tax benefits.
Downes said that the people of Madison are enriched by knowing more about their town.
“People love...to learn about where they live,” said Downes. “What it used to be like to live here.”
The culmination of Bryant’s survey will be a public presentation, putting forth some of the study’s findings. Though that part is a required component of the project, Bryant said he hopes additionally to host a walking tour, which might eventually be “amended” to the current tour that explores the Madison Green Historic District.
The presentation and tour will take place immediately at the conclusion of the survey, Bryant said, which will be within the month. Downes said she also hoped to include plenty of Bryant’s work in programming at the library when it reopens next summer.
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