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Ben White
Ben White »

Historic Preservation, as it pertains to Main Street efforts, is a collective effort to protect and preserve the historic character and heritage of a downtown area. It involves the involvement of community members, local organizations, and government entities to protect historic buildings, landmarks, and cultural sites, as well as promote the overall revitalization and sustainability of the downtown area.


May is designated as Preservation Month by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a month of celebration and advocacy. As May comes to an end the advocacy, celebration, and hard work to preserve the historic character and heritage of our historic commercial districts and downtown areas does not stop, here are some strategies to implement for downtown historic preservation efforts throughout the year:

Local Historic District Designation: Identifying and designating specific areas as historic districts helps ensure that the unique architectural and cultural features are preserved through local policy and enforcement. Local governments often establish guidelines and regulations for the preservation, restoration, and renovation of buildings within these designated districts.

Public Education and Outreach: Educating the community about the value of historic preservation is crucial. Workshops, seminars, walking tours, and educational programs can help raise awareness about the significance of historic buildings and their contribution to the community's identity and sense of place. 

Pictured Above: Students in Clinton, Missouri.

Partnerships and Collaboration: Collaboration between local government agencies, historic preservation organizations, community groups, and property owners is essential for successful preservation efforts. By working together, they can share resources, expertise, and funding opportunities to support preservation initiatives.

Incentives and Funding: Providing financial incentives, grants, and tax credits can encourage property owners to invest in the preservation and restoration of historic buildings. These incentives can help offset the costs associated with maintaining and rehabilitating older structures.

Design Guidelines and Regulations: Establishing clear design guidelines and regulations ensures that any changes or renovations made to historic buildings are in line with their original architectural style and character. This helps maintain the historical integrity of the downtown area. 


Pictured Above: Fossil Forge before and after in Lee's Summit, MO.

Adaptive Reuse: Encouraging adaptive reuse of historic buildings promotes their continued use and revitalization. Converting old buildings into new functional spaces such as restaurants, galleries, offices, or residential units can breathe new life into the downtown area while preserving its historical fabric. 


Pictured Above: Washington Farmers Market before and after in Washington, MO. 

Heritage Tourism: Promoting your Main Street’s heritage to attract tourists who enjoy vacationing or visiting locations with rich heritages can help generate economic benefits for the community while raising awareness about the historical significance of downtown. Cultural events, festivals, and guided tours can attract visitors, support local businesses, and create a sense of pride among community members.

Maintenance and Restoration: Regular maintenance and timely restoration of historic buildings are essential to ensure their long-term preservation. Encouraging property owners to undertake necessary repairs and providing technical assistance and resources can help in this regard. Missouri Main Street Connection has resources on building material and maintenance best practices and recently completed a webinar on these resources which can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAAkfykBDA4

Documentation and Research: Conducting thorough documentation and research of historic buildings and sites contributes to a better understanding of the community's history and aids in preservation efforts. Archival records, oral histories, and archaeological studies help establish a comprehensive knowledge base for future preservation work. 


Pictured Above: Plaque next to a historic property in Warrensburg Main Street's district.


Advocacy and Planning: Active community involvement and advocacy play a vital role in preserving downtown's historic character. Engaging stakeholders, attending public hearings, and participating in urban planning processes can help influence policies and decisions that affect historic preservation.

By embracing these strategies, Main Street organizations can work towards the sustainable preservation of their downtown areas, protecting their heritage for future generations while fostering economic vitality and cultural pride.

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Ben White »

Campbell Main Street has been a Main Street program for just over 2 years. In that time, they have been in the Community Empowerment Grant program, a competitively selected grant for services that assist in establishing a locally empowered organization focused on downtown development through adopted strategies, developed from community input. In that time, the organization has been successful in creating new events and projects that have reinvigorated the downtown area and brought the community together.  

To further these early efforts, Missouri Main Street Connection and Campbell Main Street partnered together to elevate the already outstanding work being completed by the people in this community. As part of the Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) grant through USDA, Campbell, MO received branding services. This process allowed the community to come together through input sessions on what is important for the future of downtown and the community and turn those elements into a community and downtown brand.

Ben Muldrow of Arnett Muldrow & Associates brought his expertise to:

  • Present on the Promotion point of Main Street

  • Solicit input, needs, and wants of the community to provide a comprehensive and cohesive branding service that brought a cohesive identity to the community



  • Recommend a new brand scheme for multiple entities, including Main Street Campbell, the Peach Fair Festival, and the City of Campbell.


This service helped to bring targeted short-term and long-term recommendations for the downtown and community. Campbell Main Street received a new brand scheme that can be implemented to promote Campbell as a place to live, work, and visit. The Main Street Board will now review the brand scheme they received and vote to adopt it. Look out for Campbell Main Street’s new branding soon. Through this service, this passionate community of just 1,500 now has the direction and resources to continue to grow and build on the expanding economic ecosystem being cultivated in downtown.

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Ben White »

Historic preservation is at the heart of the Main Street movement. It’s what sets Main Street apart from other economic development initiatives in communities. Despite being the heart of the movement, what does historic preservation mean and how do Main Street organizations identify, advocate, and educate community members about the historic assets that make their community unique?

The National Park Service says, “Through historic preservation, we look at history in different ways, ask different questions of the past, and learn new things about our history and ourselves. Historic preservation is an important way for us to transmit our understanding of the past to future generations. Historic preservation helps tell our stories which involve celebrating events, people, places, and ideas that we are proud of.” But how do we bring this mentality to the local level and advocate and educate the community on local assets? The first question is, “What are your local assets?”

Every historic downtown is unique by nature. The buildings, people, and businesses are all unique and have a different story to tell that has shaped what downtown is today and will be in the future. First, there is a history behind why your community was made and many times understanding your downtown, the original development in a community, helps to shape that story and narrative. This is where Main Street organizations can start to showcase the historic assets in their downtown; look back at how the downtown was developed and tell those stories to the community. This fosters an appreciation of those historic assets and educates the community on why your downtown’s story is unique starting at its conception.

There are also other stories to tell that may not have to do with that original development. Did you know that what we consider history is not just 100+ years old; history is made every day. The invention of pre-sliced and packaged sliced bread in Chillicothe in 1928 created a new historic asset that added to the fabric of the community.



Chillicothe is a great example of a big event happening, but not every story or event has to be so dramatic in nature. There are many unidentified assets that are waiting to be identified. After identifying your historic assets, Main Street organizations can craft their downtown’s story to be told through educational materials to the community, such as Route 66 coming through downtown, a building that has housed or is currently housing a significant business, or an historic courthouse; these are all historic assets that make a downtown unique.



For instance, Carthage celebrates its unique history using art, by creating a mural that celebrates the important artists and people from the community.


In Laclede’s Landing in St. Louis, they celebrate the story of Ester, an emancipated slave and one of--if not the--first black, female landowner in St Louis, with the renaming and activation of an alley.


Main Street organizations, while primarily an economic development organization, have the responsibility to identify and share those unique historic assets in their downtown. Historic preservation is layered into how Main Street organizations can distinguish themselves as being different from other economic development entities. In addition, heritage travelers, who, according to Global Urban Development, spend 2.5 times more money in a community, are looking for historic assets that set your downtown apart. Every downtown is different; that story needs to be identified and told to the community and to potential visitors.  

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Ben White »

Missouri Main Street Connection’s Historic Preservation committee continues to provide Missouri Main Street organizations, building owners, and business owners with an innovative consultation service, the “Doctor Is In.” This service offers participants a great opportunity to get expert advice from a diverse group of professionals from MMSC’s Board and Advisory Board who volunteer their time to address preservation-related issues in Missouri’s communities. The “Doctor Is In” consultation provided information about historic tax credits to Abi Almandinger, the Executive Director of Vision Carthage in Carthage, Missouri. 


Vision Carthage, the Main Street organization in Carthage, MO, used this consultation service to learn more about historic tax credits. During the consultation, the Historic Preservation Committee reviewed eligibility qualifications for building owners to use historic tax credits, including having the building on the National Register of Historic Places and eligible renovation costs. Vision Carthage received recommendations on they type of professionals needed for a historic tax credit project, including an architect and accountant. Additionally, the committee provided specific professionals and companies that could assist Vision Carthage and its business and property owners with an historic tax credit project.  

Historic tax credits are one historic preservation topic available during a consultation with Missouri Main Street Connection’s Historic Preservation Committee. To learn more about how to start the conversation and book your “Doctor Is In” consultation, visit our “Dr Is In” page. The fillable pdf submission should state the reason for the consultation visit with the Historic Preservation Committee. We ask that you send any relevant photos or attachments with the submission. After submission, Ben White, Senior Program Specialist, will work with you on scheduling a Zoom meeting that works for you and the Historic Preservation Committee. If you have any questions, please reach out to Ben at ben@momainstreet.org.

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Ben White »

May is Preservation Month, which is a time to celebrate a community’s unique cultural and historic assets. According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation ”Preservation Month began as National Preservation Week in 1973. [Then] in 2005, [they] extended the celebration to the entire month of May and declared it Preservation Month to provide an even greater opportunity to celebrate the diverse and unique heritage of our country’s cities and states.” Preservation Month celebrations present both an opportunity to create events that tell the history and heritage in the historic district as well as advocate for preservation efforts. If Main Street doesn’t advocate for itself and its historic district, it will end up just like so many of the forgotten historic buildings that were demolished by neglect.

Main Street organizations can start planning early on how to implement historic educational programming and preservation advocacy efforts. These efforts should have the goal to bring awareness to the historic assets in their district and provide information on how vital preservation-based economic development is to their local economy.



Historic Educational Programming

There are so many ways that Missouri Main Streets have utilized historic educational programming to celebrate Preservation Month. Local Main Street organizations should first look at their own history and district to see what opportunities they can promote and then look other communities for examples. One effective event that many communities plan for is a walking tour of the historic assets in a downtown and community.

  • In Marceline, the Downtown Marceline Foundation held a self-guided walking tour with guides in historic buildings. These guides were able to tell the story of each of their district’s important downtown buildings, citing the history of the buildings, and the businesses that have called it home over the years.


  • In Chillicothe, Main Street Chillicothe held a walking tour with 4th graders. This event provided an opportunity to educate the youth on the history and importance of downtown. In addition, the organization gave the school kids an architectural scavenger hunt to help emphasize important architectural features. This activity kept the children engaged and excited about history.

  • In Washington, Downtown Washington, Inc. put a unique twist on the historic tour model through a Haunted History Ride. This horse-drawn wagon tour of downtown Washington featured some of its most well-known historic sites and the hauntings surrounding them.  The guide told of the bizarre accidents and strange murders of the past, as well as more recent paranormal activity. This tour also included Washington's everyday history and how downtown has changed over the years.



Preservation Advocacy Efforts

Each example of the historic educational programming above presents an opportunity to also advocate for preservation. During each educational program there is an opportunity to share with a captivated audience at the fun event as to how they can join in advocating the preservation of the history. These two are interconnected while also standing alone as Main Street organizations can put together advocacy campaigns to demonstrate the importance of their preservation-based economic development efforts in their local economy.


  • The Main Street Chillicothe Walking Tour, mentioned above, provided an opportunity for a tour guide to advocate for the historic resources in the downtown district. While telling the history of downtown Chillicothe, the tour guide tried to instill a sense of pride and ownership in downtown Chillicothe throughout the tour.

  • In 2018, Old Town Cape, Inc. in Cape Girardeau used Preservation Month as an opportunity to expose the community to one of their prominent buildings in downtown, the H&H Building. This presentation advocated for saving and adaptively reusing the building to become an asset again.

There are many ways to celebrate Preservation Month in your community. Education and advocacy efforts can come in different forms, but it’s vitally important to tell the history and significance of downtown so that the community and heritage travelers gain a better understanding and appreciation for what is unique to your community.

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Ben White »

Missouri Main Street Connection’s Community Empowerment Grant (CEG) program continues to guide Main Street revitalization through its tailored programing. Currently, there are 16 community organizations receiving technical assistance through this program. The CEG program guides the development of a strong Main Street Board of Directors and programs while establishing strategies and implementation measures based on community feedback.


Brookfield is a community of just over 4,000 people in Linn County. Main Street Brookfield chose to make the most of their final CEG specialized service by pairing it with assistance from another grant, the USDA’s Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) grant program. In addition, the community agreed to provide matching funds to bring branding and design services to Brookfield. This process, brought by the specialized service, allowed the community to come together, through input sessions, on what is important to the future of downtown and their community.



To facilitate the branding portion of the specialized service, Ben Muldrow of Arnett Muldrow and Associates, was brought in with his expertise and recommended a new brand scheme for Main Street Brookfield, the City of Brookfield, and other local organizations. Ben Muldrow’s process solicited the needs and wants of the community to provide a comprehensive and cohesive branding service that brought an identity to the community. Previous efforts were disjointed as logos and branding were completed at different times. This effort presents a united effort by local organizations towards the betterment of Brookfield.



Randy Wilson, Community Design Solutions, provided the design portion of the specialized service to Main Street Brookfield. Randy worked with two building owners on façade renderings to showcase the untapped potential of their properties. This helped visualize the potential for two key buildings downtown. The two building owners are eager to make improvements to their buildings. One of the building owners is in the early stages of implementing Randy’s recommendations. Another component of Randy’s deliverables provided during this specialized service was design-related recommendations including ordinance review, beautification, vibrancy amenities, façade improvements, and how to handle dilapidated buildings. As part of these recommendations, Randy provided a streetscape rendering.



Using this service, Main Street Brookfield was able to leverage Randy’s recommendations to establish a formal contract for services with the City of Brookfield that will be used to provide beautification upgrades. This service provided a road map for the City of Brookfield to provide funding for tangible efforts.



This service helped to bring unity and targeted short-term and long-term recommendations for downtown and the community. Through this service, this passionate community received direction from experts that provided implementation steps now and into the future.

If you are interested in revitalizing your downtown using the structured services and resources of the Community Empowerment Grant program, please reach out to Senior Program Specialist Ben White at ben@momainstreet.org for more information.

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Ben White »

Winter can be one of the hardest seasons on an historic building, especially in Missouri. The constant freezing and thawing can warp building materials and cause damage if not properly prepared for or dealt with quickly. Building owners need to be diligent in protecting historic buildings during the harsh winter months. Here are some helpful suggestions to alleviate problems before they occur:


-Check weather stripping around windows and doors. Install to prevent air filtration (1 hour, depending on type)

-If applicable, install interior storm windows for winter (2 hours)

-Caulk any gaps in wood for a temporary water tight seal (30 min)

-Inspect basement or crawl space for excessive water during wet weather (30 min)

-Sweep debris from flat or low sloping roofs (30 min)

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Ben White »

Regular building maintenance is a crucial, yet easily forgotten, task for building owners. However, deferred maintenance can lead to more expensive, time-consuming measures in the future. It is better to head off any problems in the present than to deal with a larger headache in the future that could greatly impact not only the property owner, but also possibly even affect the business paying rent in the building.


Strategically budgeting for repairs is the first step a property owner should take to maintain their property. Repairs, whether planned for or not, will always happen. Building owners should consider developing a replacement schedule for items such as roof replacement, paint touch-up, window caulking, and more. Knowing when certain projects will need to be addressed helps to budget and get ahead of the problem before it even begins. For instance, a new roof is rated for 15 years. Building owners should budget to replace that roof in about 15 years to avoid issues like water damage that will harm the building further and cause additional, costly fixes. Other projects can include foundation repairs, leaking windows/replacement, and pest damage.


Building owners also benefit from emphasizing quality building maintenance and repairs and avoiding cheap fixes cutting corners. Cheap fixes generally equate to a Band-Aid being on the problem that may or may not actually solve the underlying issue. For example, repointing brick with mortar that will actually hurt the integrity of the brick can cause expensive, unforeseen problems. Building owners should take the time to either look at the problem or have a trained professional with historic building experience identify the issue so that a plan of action can be set into motion for the longevity of the building.


Deferred maintenance or repairs can also negatively affect the business owner that is paying rent in the building. Main Street America studies and findings published in, “An Analysis of the Economic Impact of Physical Improvements on Retail Sales” by Brenda Spencer show that customers are more willing to step foot in and pay money to a business located in a building that is more visually appealing than a building that appears to be rundown and neglected. For the business to make money and pay rent, they need to be located in a building that is maintained and inviting to the public.  


Be on the lookout for the next One-Pager from the Historic Preservation Committee on building maintenance best practices. To see the other completed one-pagers on “Shading Downtown: Awnings and Canopies”, “Masonry 101”, and “Painting 101: Historic Buildings”, please visit the Main Street blog and Main Street Resource Library.

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Ben White »

Exciting things are happening in Missouri Main Street Connection’s Community Empowerment Grant program! Currently, there are 16 communities receiving technical assistance through this program. The Community Empowerment Grant helps develop a strong Main Street board of directors & program while establishing strategies & implementation measures based on community feedback. The two newest communities accepted into the Community Empowerment Grant program are Grain Valley and Gallatin.

Grain Valley is a community of about 15,000 in eastern Jackson County. The City of Grain Valley and local partners have been heavily involved with revitalization efforts in the community. Recently, as part of those revitalization efforts, a survey was conducted asking for feedback on areas for future planning efforts. Downtown revitalization was one area repeatedly identified by respondents. With the community’s support, and in conjunction with local partners, the City of Grain Valley reached out to Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) and applied for the Community Empowerment Grant. Through the technical assistance and trainings provided through the Community Empowerment Grant, they will build a strong, sustainable organization to help lead downtown revitalization efforts. 



Pictured above is a building in Grain Valley’s commercial district which was provided by Grain Valley in their application.

Gallatin, the other community recently accepted into the Community Empowerment Grant program, is a community of about 1,700 and sits as the county seat of Daviess County. The City of Gallatin has been working with building and business owners concerning the direction of the downtown area and determined it was time to reach out to MMSC for assistance. With financial assistance from the Greenhills Regional Planning Commission, the City of Gallatin applied and was accepted into the program. In Gallatin, there is already a dedicated organization working to revitalize the downtown area, so MMSC is working with this organization to transition it into a comprehensive, Main Street-focused organization.



Pictured above is several of their storefronts on their commercial district which was provided by Gallatin in their application.


Each community showed, through its application and in conversations with various stakeholders in the community, how they were poised to implement the Main Street Approach ™ in their respective downtowns. MMSC is excited to bring technical services to each community and watch the growth of their downtowns. 

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Ben White »

Regular maintenance allows building owners to protect their building investment and to prevent larger, more expensive problems in the future. Summer brings excessive heat, storms, and vegetation growth that can compromise the structural integrity of unprotected buildings if not dealt with in a timely manner. Here are some steps that building owners can take for these summer months:


Summer Heat & HVAC Systems

Check and service HVAC systems to prevent failures (30 min).



Summer Storms & Water Damage

Check the grading around the foundation to make sure water will drain away from building and not pool (15 min).

Inspect the interior of the building for leaks during first heavy rain of season (30 min).

Inspect basements or crawl spaces for excessive water during wet weather (30 min).

Examine roof slope to make sure water is not pooling in any areas on the roof (15 min).

Make sure water can flow freely through the gutters and downspouts. Clean out if they are clogged (30 min).

Sweep debris from flat or low sloping roofs (30 min).



Vegetation Growth & Property Inspections:

Remove plants growing on or close to walls and foundation (30 min).

Visually check for moss or lichen, especially around parapets, sills, and downspouts (30 min).

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