WHY A HISTORIC DISTRICT?
The importance of keeping your cabin historic
By Jim Spitze
Friends of Wilsonia
As some of us not too fondly recall, in the 1970s and 1980s, the National Park Service actively sought to purchase and remove cabins in Wilsonia. Well more than fifty cabins were purchased an totally removed – concrete foundations included. If nothing had been done, Wilsonia would have vanished within 5-10 years. At a 1991 meeting in our clubhouse, Fran Preston (a long-term cabin owner) proposed the formation of a Historic District that would effectively halt the NPS “buy & remove” activities. A motion was made to move forward with the idea. Jim Spitze volunteered to serve as the committee President and Fran Preston volunteered to serve as its Treasurer – two roles that both of them were to play for well over ten years. A few days later an evening meeting was held in Bob Dean’s cabin and Fern Tripp passed the hat to raise money to hire a lawyer to get the thing rolling. Milt Miner joined the committee and did Bob Dean. It took several years and several thousands of dollars but in 1995 an ultimately successful application was made to the State of California’s Historic Preservation Office which, in turn, asked for Historic District protection from the US Department of Interior. That too was successful and on March 15, 1996 we received word from Washington DC that the entire community of Wilsonia had been designated by the US Department of Interior as a HISTORIC DISTRICT which put an immediate halt to the NPS “buy and remove” effort.
However, this is not permanent protection. At least 66% of our still standing cabins must continue to be historic in nature. If a cabin is extensively modernized, so much so that it no longer has its historic appearance, it can no longer qualify as historic. Obviously, if a historic cabin is torn down, it too looses its historic designation. If our percent of cabins designated as “Historic” ever drops below 66%, the US Department of Interior can take away our “Historic District” designation which would then enable the NPS to resume their “buy & remove” program. We must be eternally vigilant to make sure this never happens.
Jim Spitze, Co-Founder & 1st President of the Wilsonia Historic District Trust