This presentation is part of the online document Acknowledging Landscapes: Presentations from the National Register Landscape Initiative.
Barbara Wyatt: For this discussion, we’re going to focus on Pennsylvania’s rural landscapes and what we’ve been doing to address them, and what we’re hoping to address in the not too distant future. We don’t actually have many recent actual landscape nominations, so I’m going to venture into current issues and needs as well.
Pennsylvania’s landscape is varied, with open farmland and mountain ridges, but of course it isn’t all pretty, rural scenery. The population is heaviest in southeastern Pennsylvania, surrounding Philadelphia and extending out to Harrisburg and Allentown, and also heavy around Pittsburgh. The northern half of the state and southwestern PA is much more lightly or sporadically populated, with vast areas of forest, most of which has been cleared for timber, at least once if not several times, and has seen industrial impacts of coal mining and, in the northwest, oil drilling. Throughout all these regions, however, we find farms.
Farms in PA can be very, very diverse, depending on the region, and were a big challenge faced by our DOT, which was frequently struggling to assess eligibility for upcoming projects. They helped fund a major undertaking that took years to complete, a multiple property nomination for our ag resources with separate chapters for sixteen different regions found across the state. The regions range from small specialty areas, such as fruit trees or potatoes, to large areas of diversified farms, or subsistence-level farms. The goal was to provide some consistency and predictability for what typical farms in these regions should have, as far as buildings and landscape features, and provide the guidance for establishing which farms might be important examples of local regional trends. I just want to add a little footnote there that my colleague at the National Register, Patrick Andrus just raves about this nomination and how useful it is for nominating the various property types identified in the multiple.
The context is organized with a general overview and history of the settlement era, when all farms were largely alike, and then goes into greater detail by region, identifying specific eras for each region as trends shifted. The context includes a lot of detail about expected or typical landscape features, field patterns and sizes, orchards, windbreaks, etc., in addition to regional building types.
The much larger districts, with farms plus other types of resources, like villages, cemeteries, grange, or VFW buildings, small businesses, schools, etc., we’re finding we have trouble with some aspects of the guidance. For example, we’re being challenged by DOT regarding woodlots, steep slopes, ridges, and how to verify use connection to farmers, whether they should be contributing. The context guidance for districts doesn’t really reference the other types of resources found in rural communities, and it doesn’t specifically direct users to refer to Bulletin 30 to fill in the blanks.
To justify the boundary in the previous example,[inaudible], the preparer referred to Bulletin 30, not the Ag Context. An inexperienced preparer or a state or federal agency may not know to do that. If it’s a nomination, we can direct them to do that. For compliance reviews, when they feel they only need to rely on the Ag Context, we’re having more of an issue.
What we’ve found is the Ag Context has been a great tool, especially for individual properties. We need to beef up our guidance regarding boundaries for larger districts, and direct preparers to Bulletin 30. Also, the Context doesn’t really address larger, working landscapes that include more than just strictly agricultural resources. Some preparers get confused about how to treat non-farm properties that complete a rural landscape. Some are really concerned about the inclusion of lands not definitely connected to farming or cultural use by residents of the district, but assumed to be associated due to non-academic or non-legal sources, such as tax parcels and deeds or published county histories.
This image highlights a recurring conversation. Where should we end the boundary for a large agricultural district? At the edge of a well-defined field? Low on the slope? With a woodlot with clear ownership? At the top of the ridge? In addition, the Ag Context doesn’t provide registration requirements or a way to address non-ag resources, or how to handle a new subdivision when considering integrity of the larger landscape. We don’t have a context or similar guidance for non-agricultural landscapes. Plus, rural landscapes that aren’t farm-specific or farming-intensive haven’t been addressed.
As mentioned before, Pennsylvania has vast areas of forest and wooded lands, some privately owned and some publicly owned. Other than some CCC camps and occasionally a site of a logging operation or something similar, we haven’t really addressed these landscapes adequately. We haven’t systematically surveyed and considered which of our state parks, forests, and game lands might be eligible for the National Register, and outlined the reasons why they or private lands might be important for our pre-history, settlement era, industrial use, conservation or reclamation efforts, et cetera.
We’re now facing a dramatic return of some of this land to heavy industrial use, due to the Marcellus and Utica Shale drilling and associated pipeline construction. The area shown in purple is the current Marcellus drilling range. The dark green represents state forests. In addition, there are state parks and game lands and the Allegheny National Forest not shown on this map. We’re trying to get appropriate documentation when we can, not all of the projects trigger Section 106 review, but haven’t been able to address these really large landscapes adequately. We have provided some basic survey guidance for consultants to references for pipeline projects that are in development, which is at least a start.
Other landscape-related projects our staff is involved in include these three examples. At the top is a photo from Pennsylvania’s Northern Tier, which had vast forests, including an area now designated as the Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania’s only national forest. It has about 463,000 forested acres. 42,000 acres are non-forest, and 11,000 acres are covered by water, primarily the Allegheny Reservoir. Over the years we’ve received some information about the various resources found in the forest, but have never been able to assemble all these various pieces into something meaningful about larger hold. We’re now in our second year of a project having an intern pulling everything together into something that we can use going forward to really understand the potential for significance and eligibility.
In the center is an aerial view of a Pennsylvania portion of the AT, with two red dash lines indicating the boundary we’ve mapped. It’s a 1,000-foot wide corridor. We found the AT to be eligible in Pennsylvania several years ago, Appalachian Trail by the way, but we weren’t sure how to define the boundary. The Park Service is now working on a multiple to address the trail in its entirety, from Georgia to Maine.
Our one urban example is in Philadelphia. Fairmount Park was an early effort by the city to protect its water supply from industrial pollution. That initiative grew to include not just the Schuylkill River itself, but the creeks that fed into that watershed. The park’s listing did not fully address the Watershed Park Initiative, so now, thanks to a phased approach to mitigation, we’re updating the earlier documentation so that we can build on to eventually evaluate all of the watershed parks for listing.
There are very few natural places in Pennsylvania. Most of the state was cleared at least once for industrial purposes. We need to better understand the cultural resources found in these wooded lands so that we can assess eligibility. We need to encourage state agencies to understand the potential of these landscapes as historic districts, and provide specific guidance to assess which reforested or public private lands might be eligible for their industrial past. For conservation efforts to reclaim them, for WPA /CCC works, et cetera. Collecting examples from other states as precedent will be important, especially if many of the industrial and agency players are the same.
I’m impressed with the thoughtfulness that Pennsylvania is giving to their landscape issues. They certainly know what they need to do. Getting there is difficult, particularly when they have, as a model, this incredible, lengthy, comprehensive, multiple property that they’ve done for their agricultural lands. I’m going to … You can find it yourself on their website, and I would like to put a link up to all of the nominations that we’re discussing today on the web page I mentioned earlier, but take a look at that agricultural one. You’ll, no doubt, be impressed. Anybody else have any comments on what’s going on in Pennsylvania?
Doug Harris: I’m the Deputy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office in Rhode Island, and a major category of omission in Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania report, is ceremonial stone landscapes. We’ve been, for the last, more than ten years, working on that category in New England in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and in Vermont. I know that Norman Mueller, who is the art curator at the Princeton Museum is an advocational surveyor, who has been doing a great deal of work in eastern Pennsylvania. I’ve seen his photographs of the ceremonial stone groups instructors in eastern Pennsylvania, and hopefully in the future, that would be a category that would be developed and protected under the National Register.
Barbara: Well, you’re pointing out something that is truly an omission, and I can’t speak to what Pennsylvania has done in this regard, but when we get into these issues, particularly in February, it’d be nice to talk about this a little bit more. Thanks for bringing that up, Doug.