Courthouse boosts Jackson's proposed historic district

Friday, January 21, 2005

The Cape Girardeau County Commission voted Thursday to allow the courthouse to be included in Jackson's proposed historical district.

The commission originally objected about maintenance and construction restrictions if the Missouri Department of Natural Resources got its hands on it.

On Thursday, the commission was assured by a letter from the DNR's state historic preservation office that the state or federal government would have no control over the building until or unless the county applied for tax credits.

With that assurance, the commission passed the measure, meaning two more buildings -- Jones Drug Store and Harold's Jewelry -- are eligible for the district.

The courthouse is the connector piece that attaches the two Court Street buildings with the rest of the proposed historic district along Main and High streets.

Tourism draw

Buildings that are put on the National Register of Historic Places are eligible for tax credits for restoring that property to its original look. Proponents also say that such recognition will draw more tourism to the area.

In addition to the need for the historical connector piece, the courthouse should be included for more obvious reasons, said Jackson resident Melinda Winchester, who is researching the history of the district.

"The courthouse is so significant to Jackson's history that it really needs to be in the district," she said.

Now that the courthouse is on board, the historic district committee, which was formed by the chamber of commerce, will work on a contract with Lasfer and Associates, the firm Winchester works for.

Tom Strickland, an uptown business and property owner who has organized the effort, said the committee will meet some time next week to talk about collections for the consultant.

There are 20 buildings that could be in the district. Strickland said some outside contributions have come in and he expects each business or building owner would have to contribute roughly $600.

Winchester has already talked with state historic preservation officials and said they've pretty well approved the buildings. Some buildings, if they want to be included in the district, may have to be modified. Building owners may have to remove part of a facade.

Once the contract is in place, Winchester will put all of her research into written form and officially submit an application package.

Winchester said August is a likely time frame for the approval of the district.

Presiding County Commissioner Gerald Jones said the district will "be an excellent thing and will really help Jackson; it would be beautiful. It's just that the federal government can get pretty picky sometimes and we just wanted to make sure we wouldn't have to get special permission to replace a window or something like that."

Barbara Lohr, an active member of the Jackson Heritage Association, said it's vital to recognize and respect old buildings.

"I think it's important that we are able to look back and have some focus on what came before, some focus on how the city came about," she said. "It's very important to know your history and in this case, preserving history might provide some financial breaks."

bmiller@semissourian.com

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