By Tony Edmondson
For more than a year, the Washington County Historic Preservation Commission worked with contractors, community stakeholders and public officials, and members of the public at large to develop a Historic Preservation Plan for Washington County. Much like the Comprehensive Plan used by planning officials in land use matters, a preservation plan includes a brief history of our community and documents known historic sites and resources such as residences, farm or ranch structures, bridges, townsites, transportation corridors, or locations of important historical events, landmarks, and archeological resources. Not only does this help define our community character and provide recommended goals for preserving these treasures, it contributes to the story of our state as a whole. At some point, most every county and many of the cities in Idaho will have their own Historic Preservation Plan.
After several revisions, our Plan was presented to the Washington County Board of Commissioners who approved and adopted it late last year. You find details of this process and a copy of the full plan on the County website or jump directly to the Plan via this link. https://washington-county-historic-preservation-plan-gatewaymapping.hub.arcgis.com/
That ended Phase one of a grant project undertaken in conjunction with the upcoming replacement of the historic Cove Bridge at the end of Main Street in east Weiser. The Historic Preservation Commission then kicked into gear with the second of this three Phase grant project. In Phase two, we commissioners identified about 100 properties around the county that might have historic value related to their unique or traditional uses, architecture, or other features. Because many of the previously documented properties we now think of as “historic” are residences, we narrowed our focus to things like dams and reservoirs, schools, transportation links like bridges and highways, agricultural related buildings such as barns, grange halls, or homesteads, and lastly, residential, commercial, and industrial developments which were constructed after World War 11. This last category responds to the reality that many mid-century properties have now passed the 50-year-old threshold, making them potentially historically eligible. As a boomer myself, that stings a little, but the reality is, many of these have never been recognized.
We’ve therefore contracted with TAG Historical Research and Consulting to take our list of properties and complete a brief historic assessment of them. Technically termed “reconnaissance level surveys”, they’ll document basic facts such as construction date, historical use, architectural details, or other important details mostly obtained through public records. They will then go into the field to locate these properties and take several photos that will be mated to the written documentation. For any who are curious or concerned, about 30 years ago, some of we commissioners completed about 100+ similar surveys of county properties. We even went into the field ourselves to take photos, which the public can access in the Weiser or Cambridge libraries or the State Historical Society. These latest surveys will eventually be added to our inventory of surveyed properties.
Spring is the ideal time before trees leaf out, to take these photos, so sisters Barbara Perry Bauer and Elizabeth Jacox plan to be in the field across our county with field work commencing on Wednesday March 29th and Thursday March 30, and continuing for several weeks through the spring. If you see a strange car parked on the road near your property and a couple of middle-aged women with a camera in their hands, please know they are harmless and respectful of your private property! They will not knowingly enter a property without first obtaining permission. They will be checking in with the Sheriff before they begin, so if you have concerns about their identity, feel free to give Sheriff Thomas a call. If it’s of any comfort, both women have done field work in our community through the years. They are harmless and lovely people so feel free to engage them if you have questions or want to share information about your property or get ahold of one of our Historic Preservation Commissioners. Thel Pierson in Cambridge, Dennis Cooper on Mann Creek, Brenda Aldrich on Cove, or Dennis Lance or myself in Weiser.
Lastly, when Phase Two is completed, TAG will complete the work associated with developing an interpretive sign which will be located near the site of the historic Cove Bridge once it’s been replaced.