Tuesday, January 11, 2005

NOCSIA: Industrial archeology in Cleveland

The Northern Ohio Chapter of the Society for Industrial Archeology has been in existence for five years and is slowly defining what it wants to accomplish and how. Originally set up to tour factories, railroad facilities, bridges, quarries and other industrial venues in the region, it has recently been implementing other educational programs. Last year NOCSIA began a series of dinners with speakers, modeled after the long-running "NOBS Nights" of the Northern Ohio Bibliophilic Society, with lectures on the National Road and the history of ore-unloading operations along Lake Erie's south shore. Plus there has also always been an annual meeting and speaker, last month being Steve Gordon, from the Ohio Preservation Office, talking on designing industrial landmarks to the National Register of Historic Places.

This month NOCSIA is trying something new. Sunday, the 9th, the group held the first of what may become monthly discussions on IA themes. From this came the decision to focus the February meeting on a concerted program of nominating industrial landmarks to the National Register, following up on Steve Gordon's suggestions in December.

Cleveland's approach to preserving its heritage is too often characterized by eleventh-hour attempts to save some structure that is slated for demolition and better advanced planning is necessary to break out of this unsatisfactory mode of response. That requires a better understanding of which properties are important to the city's (or the region's) identity and character, whether for the industrial heritage, or for any facet of local history. The National Register and the Cleveland landmarks designations are fine, but they're often driven by the owners of historic structures seeking tax breaks, or residents of particular districts, and do not reflect a community-wide assessment of all the possible candidates. This is a good step in that direction.

For more information about NOCSIA, contact me.


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