Why Preservation Matters

Why Preservation Matters

By Megan Viertel, Communications & Marketing Coordinator at Heritage Works 

It has been over three months since I started my role as Communications and Marketing Coordinator at Heritage Works. I walked in on my first day as a recent college graduate with only a basic understanding of the impact that preservation has on the community. After some time on the job, let me tell you what I’ve learned about preservation and why my generation needs to care.

What is preservation? 

Preservation is the conservation of materials and architectural elements in a historic structure. The goal of preservation is to revitalize historic, sometimes underutilized, buildings so that they can generate economic and cultural value as they once did. Preservation benefits cities in a variety of ways.


Historic architecture has unique design and charm that has stood the test of time. Revitalized historic buildings add character and authentic beauty to our streets, drawing in residents and tourists alike. Who doesn’t want to live in a beautiful community, after all?


Imagine walking down the street and being transported to a different time period. Imagine being surrounded by some of the same buildings that people lived and worked in decades – even centuries – ago. Once these structures are gone, they are gone for good. Preserving historic architecture preserves the past so that it can be enjoyed for generations to come. This is the “feel good” part about preservation; saving places that connect us to our community’s history.

Built to last

Old buildings were built to last for hundreds of years. Newer buildings, on the other hand, are not built in the same way with the same high quality materials. It is not environmentally or financially responsible to demolish buildings with years of life left in them.

Less waste

Demolition creates unnecessary waste and pollution, only to use up more raw materials, energy and funds on new buildings. It is much more sustainable to preserve materials and structures that already exist. For instance, demolitions result in millions of tons of historic building materials ending up in landfills every year. Instead of demolishing historic buildings, it is better to restore buildings and maintain historic character while reducing waste.

Economic development

Historic preservation sparks economic growth. Rehabilitation work creates jobs and gives vacant or underutilized buildings a purpose. Rather than sitting unused, revitalized buildings bring in people and generate income as commercial and residential spaces. And where does that income go? Right back into our local economy!

Preservation makes communities more authentic. We know that younger generations desire authentic experiences. A vibrant, historic town plays a role in attracting and retaining a youthful, talented workforce.


Before (top) and after (bottom) photos the revitalization of a commercial space on Central Avenue.

Before (top) and after (bottom) photos the revitalization of a residential space on Central Avenue.


Downtowns are a place for local businesses, community events, art and culture, stimulating economic growth and a sense of togetherness. Vibrant, authentic communities foster pride in their citizens and offer a space for heritage to be remembered and celebrated.

As someone born and raised in Dubuque, I love seeing how our historic city has transformed over the years. With a bustling downtown, plenty of job opportunities and affordable housing, it was an easy decision to continue living here after college. The revitalization of our unique town has made it a more lively and attractive place to live, work and play for all ages. Investment in preservation leads to more investment, attracting people and creating jobs. It is, without a doubt, an exciting time to live in a historic town. If we want to keep the momentum going, preservation work needs to continue. The younger generations are the ones who are going to need to make it happen.

At Heritage Works, it is our mission to provide resources for those engaging in preservation work. We offer consulting services, assistance with the tax credit application process and training opportunities for the next generation of preservationists. If you are interested in learning more about historic preservation and our work, visit www.heritageworksdbq.com. To contribute to our continued preservation efforts, educational programming and fulfillment of our mission, consider becoming a Heritage Works member at https://heritageworksdbq.com/donate.

Energy Efficiency in Historic Homes

Energy Efficiency in Historic Homes

Living in a historic home is both uniquely challenging and rewarding. The way in which we live today is far different from how people lived when historic homes were built. It is a fair assumption that most historic homeowners will want to modernize their homes to conserve energy. Fortunately, there are ways to do so that save money and do not compromise the structure’s character.

Before making any decisions, it is important to assess the home. During this process, ask the following three questions:


  • What gives your home its character?  
    First, identify the visual aspects of the home. This could be anything frowindows to chimneys to the overall architectural design. Second, examine the exterior details, like the surface quality of materials, for example. Finally, identify the visual character of interior spaces, features and finishes.
  • Does your home have inherent energy efficient features?
    Examples include existing storm windows and doors, wide overhanging eaves and shade trees.
  • What is your home’s current energy use? A professional energy audit is recommended, as it will help measure the effectiveness of energy enhancements.

    A thorough assessment of every aspect of a home is essential before considering updates.

    After a close examination is completed, it is time to begin enhancements. In order to increase the effectiveness of any upgrades that are made, it is important to reduce the use of energy in your home and commit to those habits. Then, seal any gaps in the barriers of the home so that air cannot escape or enter the envelope of the house. Once energy-saving behaviors have been implemented and all barriers leading to the outdoors have been sealed, it is time to make necessary upgrades. These upgrades could include restoring historic window sashes, adding or replacing storm windows and doors, replacing the boiler or furnace, or adding solar or geothermal power to the home. Replacing material such as historic windows and doors is likely the least cost-effective method of upgrading an older home’s energy efficiency and should be done only as a last resort.


      The graphic above illustrates the many ways that air can enter or escape a home.
      Source: nps.gov

      It is possible to modernize and increase the comfort, livability and energy efficiency of a home without damaging what makes it unique. For a more in-depth explanation of energy efficiency in historic homes, read our brochure.

      For more information on historic preservation, call us at 563-564-4080 or email us at info@heritageworksdbq.com.

      Historic Properties Redevelopment Program Receives Funding

      Historic Properties Redevelopment Program Receives Funding

      Dubuque’s new non-profit dedicated to historic preservation is preparing to launch a catalytic new program to help redevelop and revitalize Dubuque’s historic neighborhoods. Heritage Works has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the 1772 Foundation for the development of a Historic Properties Redevelopment Program.

      The Historic Properties Redevelopment Program will utilize the preservation expertise of Heritage Works to aid the efforts of the City of Dubuque, community organizations, and private developers on transformational projects in Dubuque’s historic neighborhoods. The program anticipates using a variety of tools, including grants, federal and state historic tax credits, and low-interest loans. In the first phase of the program, Heritage Works will contract with an outside consultant to fully evaluate how Heritage Works’ program can augment existing programs and where opportunities exist for new strategies for catalytic and economically viable neighborhood revitalization. This phase is expected to last through the end of 2016.

      According to 1772 Foundation Executive Director Mary Anthony, “Historic properties redevelopment programs… greatly increase the number of historic buildings we can save and put back into use by the community. Unlike more reactive, traditional preservation models, they are proactive and robust; they move at the speed of the market, using the same tools and financing as for-profit developers. The 1772 Foundation awards grants for real estate education, fellowships, feasibility studies, and business plans in addition to increasing the capacity of existing programs through grants and loans to help grow this increasingly important sector of the historic preservation field.”

      Heritage Works CEO, Duane Hagerty, commented: “This is a very exciting step for our organization and for the community at large. Our Historic Properties Redevelopment Program will open up new opportunities for funding and collaboration. It will help remove the barriers to historic redevelopment projects that individuals and smaller developers are currently facing. More redevelopment projects mean more reinvestment in Dubuque’s historic areas like Jackson Park and the Washington neighborhood.”


      About Heritage Works: Heritage Works leverages Dubuque’s architectural heritage to drive community revitalization and economic development. Through collaboration, assistance with financing, advocacy, and education, Heritage Works preserves our community’s history to invigorate its future. For more information about Heritage Works, visit www.heritageworksdbq.com.

      About The 1772 Foundation: The 1772 Foundation was named in honor of its first restoration project, Liberty Hall in Union, NJ, which was built in 1772 and is the ancestral home of the Livingston and Kean families. The late Stewart B. Kean was the original benefactor of The 1772 Foundation. The 1772 Foundation works to ensure the safe passage of our historic buildings and farmland to future generations. More information about The 1772 Foundation may be found at www.1772foundation.org.

      The Truth About the National Register of Historic Places

      The Truth About the National Register of Historic Places

      One of the most misunderstood areas of historic preservation is the National Register of Historic Places (the “National Register”). People do not know what the National Register is, they do not know how or why a building or site gets listed on the National Register and they certainly do not know the ramifications of a listing on the National Register. In far too many instances, misconceptions about the National Register needlessly impede or delay the rehabilitation of historic buildings.


      The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 authorized the National Register. The National Register is a listing of districts, sites, buildings, structures or objects that are deemed historic (locally, statewide or nationally) either because they: 1.) Are associated with significant events in history; 2.) Are closely associated with an important persons in history; 3.) Exemplify a type, period or method of construction or are the work of a master; or, 4.) Yield, or are likely to yield, important information about history or prehistory. Additionally, a property listed on the National Register must generally be at least 50 years old and should have sufficient “integrity” (meaning that its original materials, design, workmanship, etc are largely intact).



      In order to be listed on the National Register, a property must be nominated and successfully complete the nomination process.  A property can be nominated either individually or as a contributing building within a district.  A district is a grouping of properties within a defined geographic area linked together by history, aesthetics and/or physical development.

      A consultant who has training and expertise in the areas of history, architectural history or historic preservation typically prepares the nomination.  It is first filed with the State Historic Preservation Office (“SHPO”) who will review for preliminary approval.  Once approved by SHPO it is sent to the National Park Service (“NPS”) for final approval.  The process typically takes about a year to complete.

      langworthy house

      Dubuque’s Langworthy House, built in 1856, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.



      There are many potential benefits to a property owner of a property’s listing on the National Register, while the potential negatives are few. Many times, listing on the National Register is a precondition to qualifying for preservation grants and financial incentives. In today’s challenging economic environment, preservation grants and incentives are a valuable bridge to private financing for the rehabilitation of historic buildings. Investors, developers and lenders who specialize in rehabilitation of historic properties will be attracted to properties already listed on the National Register because of the certainty of the established National Register listing and the time and expense saved by not having to go through the National Register nomination process.

      Some of the benefits to the property owner include:

      • Formal recognition of a property’s historical or architectural significance based on national standards.
      • Qualification of the property for potential preservation incentives such as:
        • Federal preservation grants for planning and rehabilitation.
        • Federal historic rehabilitation tax credits for commercial properties.
        • State historic rehabilitation tax credits (depending on the state). The State of Iowa has a 25% income tax credit all types of historic buildings.
        • Income tax deduction for granting preservation easements to qualified nonprofits.
        • State and local preservation grants and tax incentives (where applicable).
        • Special exemptions or alternatives contained in local historic building codes.
        • Involvement and potential assistance of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation when the actions of a federal agency potentially affect the historic property (Section 106 Review).
        • Access to technical assistance from the NPS and SHPOs related to the rehabilitation of the historic property.



      Over the years, mythological negatives of a property’s listing on the National Register have become an urban legend. These urban legends have the potential of distracting otherwise reasonable people from the factually documented benefits of listing on the National Register.

      redstone inn

      Dubuque’s Redstone Inn, built in 1888, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.


      MYTH NUMBER 1: If my property is listed on the National Register, the government will have oversight over any alterations I make to the property.

      This is FALSE. A listing on the National Register does not confer on any governmental agency (federal, state or local) the power to oversee anything a property owner does to a National Register listed property. In fact, a listing on the National Register does not even prevent a property owner from demolishing a historic property. However, in the instance where a property owner seeks federal financial incentives (federal tax credits, federal grants, federal loans, etc.) to rehabilitate a historic property, then the rehabilitation must be done according to certain standards as a condition of obtaining the federal financial incentive. In that case, the SHPO, and ultimately the NPS will have the power of oversight to make sure the property owner follows those standards.


      MYTH NUMBER 2: National Register listing automatically imposes upon the property local historic district zoning or local landmark designation.

      This is FALSE. The National Register is not coordinated with local landmark designations. Many localities do not have historic landmark ordinances. Each city with historic landmark ordinances has different procedures and different criteria for designation of local landmarks. A listing on the National Register is not a guarantee that the property will also be listed as a local landmark. If a property is only listed on the National Register, it is not subject to local landmark ordinances or zoning.  If a property owner wants the property to be listed as a local landmark, he or she must work with the locality to prepare the necessary paperwork for listing as a local landmark.


      MYTH NUMBER 3: If my property is listed on the National Register, I will have to allow the public access to my property.

      This is FALSE. A listing on the National Register does not confer on the public any right to access the historic property. Properties on the National Register that are private property remain private property. The owner can own and operate the property for any lawful use he or she so desires.


      MYTH NUMBER 4: Religious properties are not eligible for listing on the National Register because of Constitutional limitations.

      This is FALSE. The First Amendment to the US Constitution does not prohibit a religious property from being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A religious property can be listed on the National Register just like any other property so long as it meets the criteria and derives primary significance from architectural or artistic distinction or historical importance.

      ALC students explore hometown history in the Millwork District

      ALC students explore hometown history in the Millwork District

      Dylan Thill stood across the street from a Farley & Loetscher Manufacturing Co. building today with a historic photograph in his hands.

      With classmates nearby, Thill held up the photograph, revealing that a bridge once connected the structure with another nearby.

      “It’s great because then you can see how it changed over time,” said Thill, a senior at the Alternative Learning Center.

      Nearly 40 students in teacher Tim Hitzler’s U.S. history classes toured the Millwork District and Lower Main Street this week. The field trips were designed to help students connect historical events like the Industrial Revolution, prohibition and World War I with the city of Dubuque.

      “It’s history in your own backyard,” Hitzler said. “These students, they walk by these places and drive by these places all the time, but they don’t really know the history of them. I think they get a lot more out of it when they can see history in real life. Walking through the Millwork District is almost like walking back in time to the late 1800s.”

      On Wednesday, students learned about Farley & Loetscher, the Caradco Building and Voices from the Warehouse in the Millwork District.

      “The Millwork District fits into the Industrial Revolution perfectly,” Hitzler said.

      Duane Hagerty, CEO of Heritage Works, led students on tours Tuesday and Wednesday. It was the first time Heritage Works partnered with a school to offer tours.

      “History is happening all the time. (Students are) part of history,” Hagerty said.

      He said leaders of Heritage Works, a new nonprofit resource for historic preservation and redevelopment projects, believe it’s important for youth to be involved in historic preservation and learn about potential careers, such as masonry.

      Paige Lynch, a senior, enjoyed walking through the Millwork District. She said she hadn’t previously explored the district.

      “It’s better to have hands-on (experiences) instead of sitting in the classroom. It makes you more involved in what you’re learning about,” Lynch said.

      Students will combine knowledge gained on the tour with additional research to create exhibits on Dubuque locations that connect national historical events and historic preservation. Hitzler said the exhibits will be displayed in Heritage Works by the end of October.

      “It’s a lot to take in in one day,” Lynch said of the tours. “Every single piece of building is a historical fact. It’s pretty cool.”


      As published in Dubuque Telegraph Herald. View article here.