Everyone has places that are important to them; places they care about, places with significance enough that communities rally to save them. “This Place Matters” is a national campaign that encourages people to celebrate the places that are meaningful to them and to their communities, is an initiative set forth by theNational Trust for Historic Preservation [National Trust]. This Place Matters became an exciting mission to join after Historical Society board members, Christy Sherman and Amanda Styer—who also serve as City staff liaisons to the City’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC)—attended Georgia’s annual Historic PreservationConference last September in Rome, Georgia. The two decided to bring the campaign idea home to Richmond Hill, and subsequently helped initiate the idea to name the month of May “Historic Preservation Month” in Richmond Hill. Mayor Russ Carpenter announced the proclamation to do so soon after, saying, “This proclamation was intended to promote historic places, instill community pride, encourage heritage tourism and show the benefits of historic preservation.”
Not too long after the proclamation was announced, Amanda and Christy asked the rest of The Richmond Hill Historical Society to collaborate on a few special events to celebrate the month. “One of our goals is to bring attention to the collection of historic places in town,” explains Amanda Styer. “Oftentimes, we pass by these significant places without a thought—maybe because we don’t realize how much they matter, or maybe because you are lost in today’s news. We saw an opportunity with the initiative to really have a chance at making these locations known.” The signage, made available by The National Trust, was placed on location at historic sites to remind us of our past, and how important these buildings are to the heritage of Richmond Hill.
Though the signage was a huge part of the celebration, there was also a calendar filled with family-worthy activities that was ultimately completely shut down due toCOVID 19. The planning and details were in place in collaboration with several other local philanthropic groups and nearly ready to be marketed and enjoyed when the shelter in place orders were set forth. Events such as Paws & Preservation, an animal adoption event and History & Hamburgers on National Hamburger Day (May 28), trolley tours, Family ArtNight, and History and Handlebars (a bike ride through Ford Plantation), were a few that were unable to happen this year.
This can only mean one thing… we can most likely expect my 2021 to be loaded with amazing community activities. Christy Sherman, a past president of the society and the current Executive Director of Tourism in Richmond Hill, decided to take action and share the places that matter on the historical Society’s social media outlets since so many of us were sheltered in place. She shared one place, along with its significance, every day in May. For 31 days, stories and photos of places that matter were posted, and she notes that she could have kept going! “Historic preservation is important in so many ways. It preserves the heritage and aesthetic character of Richmond Hill and connects us to people, places, and events. Once buildings (or character-defining features of buildings or sites) are gone, they are gone forever. We are seeing a real sense of community pride as a result of our efforts so far,” Christy further explains. “Even more exciting than the stories we know, are the ones that we did not know—the ones that were shared as a result of the posts!”Historic districts and local landmarks increase our property values and give us a better quality of life. Historic sites promote heritage tourism, which is also good for our economy. We must commit to thinking deeply and opening the dialogue about the importance of place and preservation in all of our lives. Share your favorite sites and tag Richmond Hill (Georgia Historical Society on Facebook).