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Celebrate Preservation Month on Main Street

May 1, 2019 | Celebrate Preservation Month on Main Street | By Jenna Temkin, Associate Manager of Marketing & Outreach, National Main Street Center 
The Comal County Courthouse in New Braunfels, Texas was constructed in 1898 in the Romanesque Revival Style. Credit: City of New Braunfels

May is Preservation Month, a time for communities to celebrate the historic places that are meaningful to them. The National Trust for Historic Preservation established Preservation Week in 1973 and extended the festivities to the full month of May in 2005 to allow for more time to raise awareness about the importance of preservation. We took inspiration from Main Streets across the country to come up with a list of three ways your downtown can celebrate Preservation Month. From history talks and scavenger hunts to walking tours and social media campaigns, there are plenty of ways to recognize local history and preservation on Main Street all month long.

1. Rethink your walking tour.

Historic walking tours of Main Streets are a great way to encourage community members to engage with their local history. Consider adding an unexpected twist or theme to your tour to take it to the next level.

Downtown Washington, Missouri, hosts a haunted historic walking tour each year, where a costumed guide takes participants to haunted sites downtown. The tours take guests into historic buildings and are 70 percent history (with a preservation angle) and 30 percent ghost stories. The tour is part of Missouri Main Street Connection’s month-long Road Show for Preservation Month.

The City of Westminster, Maryland, added a twist to their historic Main Street photo scavenger hunt by focusing on glass features on historic homes and buildings. Dubbed “History Through Rose and Other-Colored Glasses,” the hunt included photos and clues for different glass features around town. Community members who could provide the right location for the photos received a prize.

Communities can also use technology to take their walking tour in a unique direction. New Braunfels, Texas unveiled a digital downtown walking tour of historic places, created with esri, in honor of Preservation Month.


Danielle Grotewiel, Communications Specialist for Downtown, Washington Missouri, leads guests on a Haunted History tour. Credit: Chimera Creative Works

2. Partner with another organization or build off an existing calendar item for your engagement events.

Planning fun and unique engagement events doesn’t have to take up all your time. Make Preservation Month activities an easier lift by partnering with another organization or adding a historic preservation element to an existing event on your downtown’s schedule.

May is National Bike Month, so the Cincinnati Preservation Collective organizes an annual preservation bike ride of historic neighborhoods in Cincinnati. They partnered with the local bike share program to waive fees on bikes and with a local restaurant that hosted them after the ride. Check out the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s post for more details about the ride and tips for planning your own.

Downtown Wayland, Michigan, partnered with their local library on a digital photo collection campaign. They encouraged community members to bring in historic photos to get digitized and entered into a photo collection that documents the history of Wayland. The photo project ultimately led to a storytelling campaign.

Downtown Boone Development Association in North Carolina, used their First Friday Art Crawl in May as a venue to share oral histories of five downtown buildings. They posted the scripts and photos of buildings on their website, as well.


A local historian speaks to First Friday guests about downtown Boone, North Carolina’s historic Appalachian Theater. Credit: Downtown Boone Development Association

3. Get creative with social media.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has a comprehensive This Place Matters Toolkit with printable signage, digital shareables, and merchandise you can use to promote Preservation Month throughout May. Main Street communities can get creative to encourage their community members to share the places that matter to them using #thisplacematters. If you'd like a daily action list, here are 31 Ways to Celebrate Preservation Month

Dahlonega Main Street Program & DDA in Georgia holds a yearly Photo Contest during Preservation Month. Contestants submit photos of historic spots in town, the Main Street program posts them to a Facebook album, and the photo that receives the most “likes” wins the People’s Choice Award.

Main Street DeLand, Florida, scattered This Place Matters signs on stakes around town to make it easy for residents to stop and take photos at historic sites on Main Street. They featured people’s photos on their social media pages.

Grundy Center Chamber-Main Street in Iowa encouraged their social media followers to post photos of places in town that inspire them and compiled the photos they received in a Facebook album. They even had their local paper do a write up on the campaign. They plan to put This Place Matter signs at each of the stops on their Historic Homes Tour this year.
DeLand Main Street Events & Promotions Coordinator Desireé Freeland poses in front of a mural by Courtney Canova at Painters Pond. Credit: Desireé Freeland

For even more ideas about incorporating preservation into your work, check out our historic preservation resources. You can read NMSC President and CEO Patrice Frey’s article in CityLab, “Why Historic Preservation Needs a New Approach,” about the need to modernize the historic preservation movement toolbox. We also encourage you to register for our New National Main Street Center Design Services webinar on May 7 at 1pm Central, which will offer a preview of our new design-focused technical services. In the meantime, you can take a look at our Main Street Design Handbook to get ideas about historic preservation-based design strategies. Finally, if you’re a Main Street America member, you can post tips and questions about celebrating Preservation Month on The Point, our member networking platform.