RALEIGH – Two panels of experts and civic activists – some who personally worked 40 years ago to defeat a proposed highway that would have paved over one of the region’s premier historic neighborhoods – will offer their perspectives as the first event of a multi-day celebration in late September.
“In the late 1960s, Raleigh’s central neighborhoods faced several destructive road and highway projects. In Oakwood and Chavis Heights the North-South Highway was that threat. Thanks to the efforts of many, the highway was defeated and these historic neighborhoods survived. Today, we want to share our experience to benefit others,” said Sarah David, chair of the Historic Oakwood Celebrates Civic Action/ SPHO 40th Anniversary Celebration.
The first panel,Vision. Action. Perspective – How We Did It will be presented September 28 from 1:30 – 2:45 p.m. Betsy Buford, an Oakwood resident since the 1970s, will moderate this session that covers the background of urban renewal in Raleigh with a focus on how, in 1972, Oakwood residents formed an organization that together with other groups helped to defeat the proposed highway. Panelists include:
- Linda Edmiston: member of the Raleigh City Planning Department in the early 1970s and the city’s first historic preservation planner; Edmiston worked with residents of the Oakwood neighborhood to have the area zoned as the first historic district in the city. Today she is a member of the Raleigh City Planning Commission and Preservation North Carolina.
- Randy Hester: member of the Raleigh City Council at the time of the proposed highway. Today he is emeritus professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at the University of California Berkeley; Hester now lives and works again in North Carolina.
Vision. Action. Perspective – How You Can Do It will be presented September 28 from 3:15 – 4:45 p.m. Moderator Lisa Finaldi, an Oakwood resident and former president of the Society for the Preservation of Historic Oakwood, will guide panelists’ discussions about the opportunities and challenges of preserving historic neighborhoods. Panelists and their topics:
- Preservation’s role in downtown development – Edna Ballentine, past member, Raleigh Historic Development Commission
- Preservation lessons from across NC – Myrick Howard, President, Preservation North Carolina
- Preservation and affordable housing?– Nancy Welsh, CEO, Builders of Hope
- Person Street Partnership: lessons for the future – Philip Bernard, Organizer, Person Street Partnership.
Poster sessions on related topics will also be offered Friday, and a reception with light refreshments will follow the second panel Friday afternoon. Saturday’s events feature Vignettes of Historic Oakwood, by Burning Coal Theatre. Both days’ activities will be held at Burning Coal Theatre, 224 Polk St., Raleigh 27601. Register for forum events at http://www.historicoakwood.org
About the Society for the Preservation of Historic Oakwood
The SPHO is a nonprofit, volunteer organization dedicated for the past 40 years to the preservation and improvement of Oakwood and the surrounding areas. Oakwood is the only intact nineteenth century neighborhood in Raleigh. In recognition of Oakwood’s importance as a valuable, tangible reminder of Southern urban life during the 19th and 20th centuries, the neighborhood was listed in 1974 as an historic district in the National Register of Historic Places. Also in 1974, the Oakwood area was down-zoned from 20 to 30 residences per acre to permit only 10 per acre. The City of Raleigh designated Oakwood as its first “local historic district” in 1975 to ensure that the physical charm and special character of the neighborhood is maintained. As part of the “local historic district” designation, all exterior changes in the neighborhood are subject to design review by the Raleigh Historic Districts Commission. Each year since 1972, the SPHO has sponsored a holiday candlelight tour that shares Oakwood’s and Raleigh’s history with thousands of visitors.