Local Lifestyle

Town of Paw Paw is working to preserve its historic buildings

by Kate Evans

The Town of Paw Paw is moving to preserve some historical buildings as part of its history.  The town recently submitted documents to nominate the Old Mayor’s Office and Jail (the old Town Hall) to the National Register of Historic Places.

According to a press release from registered architect and historian David Abruzzi who is helping the town with its efforts, the Town of Paw Paw contracted the firm Practical Preservation in 2021 for a Paw Paw historical survey and recommendation of eligibility report.

The former Mayor’s Office on Lee St., the former St. Charles Catholic Church and the Paw Paw Train Depot were considered worthy of individual nominations to the National Register, Abruzzi said.

In February Abruzzi, a preservation consultant, came across the report and offered to donate his time to write the nomination for the Paw Paw Old Mayor’s Office and Jail that was built in 1893.  Each individual nomination requires around 100 hours of time, estimates the National Park Service.

Abruzzi just completed the nomination paperwork for the Old Mayor’s Office and Jail and is researching two other properties and beginning a nomination package for another building.

Historic buildings

Abruzzi believes there are at least 12 historic buildings in Paw Paw that are worthy of research and doing the initial Historic Property Inventory forms.  They include the former Mayor’s Office, the former Catholic Church and the train depot.

Abruzzi’s company Cacapon Preservation Solutions LLC evaluated the Old Black School on Amelia St. in the spring.  It was also deemed worthy of pursuing a National Register of Historic Places individual nomination.  It’s been a residence for quite a few years, Abruzzi said.

Abruzzi said that the United Methodist Church on Lee St., a row of five homes that were built for tannery managers and buildings associated with the orchard industry were other buildings that were worthy of being evaluated.  Those buildings could include the  Consolidated Orchard warehouse, orchard bunkhouses or the blacksmith’s house.

There is also a small black neighborhood of 15-20 families that could qualify as a small historic black neighborhood, Abruzzi said.

Mayor’s Office renovations

Paw Paw Town Manager Ron Davis said that the exterior of the former Mayor’s Office and Jail (the old Town Hall)  has been painted, the roof has been fixed and the foundation has been upgraded.  The interior floor needs to be fixed and the inside still needs work and its contents organized.  The work has been going slowly.

The town wants to turn the Old Town Hall into a little museum. Davis confirmed that Abruzzi is working with the town to get the building on the National Register of Historic Places.  Davis hoped that could help them get some grant money to help them renovate the building.

The long-term project could be to create a brochure or a walking tour of Paw Paw historic buildings, Davis said.  He noted that there is substantial paperwork involved for each building’s nomination to the National Register.

Matching grants, tax credits

According to Abruzzi, once a building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places it is eligible for matching grants and tax credits (20% on residential properties and 45% on commercial properties)  that property owners can use to maintain and repair the historic structures.

A National Register listing doesn’t level any protections/restrictions or limits on what a property owner can do with the building, Abruzzi noted.

Abruzzi said that the justification for an individual nomination is much more rigorous than for a building that is listed as a contributing property in a historic district.  Approximately 6% of 1.5 million properties on the National Register are listed individually.

Criteria, process

Nomination criteria that Abruzzi described include buildings that have made a significant contribution to history, that are associated with the lives of people significant in a community’s past or that have distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction or that represent the work of a master.

Paw Paw buildings could be significant due to the history of transportation, major roads and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, industries or founding families.

Abruzzi said that they could get feedback within 60 days from the state National Register regarding the Old Mayor’s Office and meet with their board in October before the nomination is approved.  He noted that it brings pride to a community when a building is chosen as a National Register listing.

Paw Paw’s former Mayor’s Office and Jail, also known as the
Old Town Hall, has been nominated for the National Register of Historic Places.
photo by Ron Davis