NEWTON, NC (July 29, 2013) – A year after the Newton Downtown Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Catawba County Historical Association on Sunday at its annual meeting awarded the City of Newton with the Becky Hart Preservation Award.
CCHA Executive Director Melinda Herzog said the selection of the City for the award was two-fold. First, the City helped the museum, housed in the 1924 Courthouse, complete electrical work which included rewiring and implementing energy efficient systems. Herzog said those efforts have greatly helped the artifacts.
“And that effort alone would have done it, but then they went one step further,” Herzog said. “It’s been an effort with Mayor (Robert) Mullinax and now our esteemed Mayor (Anne P. Stedman) today who has been working to fulfill this process to make downtown Newton a square on the National Register. This is no small feat.”
Mayor Stedman said, “Part of the effort was to educate the public. There’s been a misconception of what a historic district means, so educating the public and getting their buy-in was key to making this happen. So I want to thank them. I want to thank all of the City Council and you (Herzog and the CCHA), too. You played a part in this as well.”
The Newton City Council and then-mayor Mullinax began pursuing the designation in October 2010. In May 2012, the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office announced the inclusion of the Newton Downtown Historic District on the National Register. The district is roughly bounded by Second Street, North Forney Avenue, A Street and North Ashe Avenue. The district is anchored by the 1924 Courthouse building and is comprised of 58 buildings.
The designation opens up downtown Newton for future economic development, Herzog said, as tax credit programs will now be available to people who want to restore buildings in the district.
Herzog said this is the first time the CCHA has presented the Becky Hart Preservation Award to a community instead of an individual. She commended the City for engaging in the process through economically straining times.
CCHA Board of Trustees President Shuford Abernethy III said, “We felt it was important to make an exception this year, that rather than to be an individual award, to make it to the City itself. The historical association is so privileged to be the caretaker of a big part of the 1924 Courthouse, which happens to be the centerpiece of downtown Newton.”