Town of Tryon receives historic district recognition from the National Park Service

Published 9:43 pm Monday, February 1, 2016

Downtown Tryon has received the commendation of being a historic district by the National Park Service. The decision for the commendation was finalized during the National Registry for Historic Places' December meeting. The district's boundaries stretch from 94 N. Trade Street to 55 S. Trade Street and includes the Rotary Clock plaza and the Nina Simone plaza. (Photo by Michael O’Hearn)

Downtown Tryon has received the commendation of being a historic district by the National Park Service. The decision for the commendation was finalized during the National Registry for Historic Places’ December meeting. The district’s boundaries stretch from 98 N. Trade Street to 55 S. Trade Street and includes the Rotary Clock plaza and the Nina Simone plaza. (Photo by Michael O’Hearn)

The Town of Tryon has received the distinction of being a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.

The decision came out of the National Park Service’s December meeting, and includes both sides of North and South Trade Streets and the Norfolk Southern Railroad right-of-way between 98 N. and 55 S. Trade Streets, according to Tryon commissioner Crys Armbrust.

This historic district includes both the rotary clock tower plaza and the Nina Simone plaza.

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“Well, it’s been a want in the town of Tryon for nigh on 20 years, actually,” Armbrust explained. “The first architectural survey of Tryon was done in 1979, I think, by Claudia Brown who is now in charge of one of the divisions of preservation for the state. I think the architectural survey was one of her first works.”

Armbrust said Brown was helpful in obtaining Tryon’s goal, which has picked up speed in the last decade, of becoming a historical district after Tryon received the designation of Small Town Main Street.

“We moved forward in a quite focused way to accomplish the goal, which was the historic district designation,” Armbrust said. “Our first application was geographically too large because we couldn’t get the numbers of contributing and non-contributing buildings to work out to where it gave us the inadequate number of contributing buildings.”

Armbrust explained the process is “formulaic” in having a district passed, in which a certain number of contributing and non-contributing buildings have to register in order to be considered.

“We went back and redefined the district on our second application, for which I wrote the study list nomination some several years ago using Clay Griffith of ACME Preservations for our general application,” Armbrust said. “Clay did Tryon’s second architectural survey, which was a needful thing since it had been so long since the original 1979 survey.”

Study lists, according to Armbrust, contain “serious entities for further study” and are used to designate areas as historic districts.

Another area of Tryon has been added to the study list, according to Armbrust, and it is the Melrose Avenue neighborhood district. Armbrust said that because the study list happened to be local in Tryon, it was a “major hurdle” that had been overcome for getting Tryon on the register.

“At this point, the Melrose Avenue district is only study listed,” Armbrust said. “We have the need to go the next step to do the application.”

Tax credits are an incentive to being on the historic district register, according to Armbrust.

“Not every building contributed between 98 N. and 55 S. Trade Streets, however for every contributing building there is up to 40 percent tax credits on renovations and upgrades for those individuals who go through the process, and it’s a long process,” Armbrust said. “There is a 20 percent federal tax credit and, at present, a 15 percent state tax credit with criteria for an additional five percent. It is a wonderful way for upgrading the architectural fabric while maintaining its historical character.”

The difference between contributing and noncontributing buildings, according to Armbrust, is used by the National Trust and is twofold. The building must have its original entrances and the original windows in the second level in order for it to be considered a contributing building.

Suggested modes of preservation are also encouraged. For example, no sand blasting can be done on the building’s brick walls to take painted buildings back to its original design. Old signage is also suggested by the Trust to keep intact with the buildings.

“We might see an example of that in the completed Missildine’s project on Oak Street,” Armbrust said. “There is a bit of interesting signage on the upper level on the right hand side closest to Trade Street.”

Wanda K. May is the president of the Tryon Downtown Development Association and said the town is thrilled to have finally achieved the designation.

“As soon as the ‘brown sign’ goes up on Interstate 26, we expect our traffic to increase in a quantifiable way,” May explained. “We are so excited at the designation and the benefits that will accrue. A number of dedicated citizens have worked on this application process for 20 years and we are so appreciative of their efforts.”

An increase in tourists is something Armbrust hopes will result from the new commendation.

“For example, the day Saluda received it’s brown sign on the interstate, Saluda’s traffic doubled in the downtown,” Armbrust said. “I expect that the same will happen in Tryon because there is a class of tourists who just follow the brown signs and not only can we derive an economic benefit from that, but we can also benefit from tourists as well.”

Armbrust said he urges the business sector to play into the new recognition in order to get an increase of tourist traffic in the town.

“I think there will be economic advantages not only to their individual businesses but also to the collective downtown through consolidated promotions of our town,” Armbrust predicted.

Paula Kempton, Tryon’s community development director, said the designation helps connect the town to both the future and the past.

“A historic designation gives communities a voice in their future while also providing a tangible link to their past,” Kempton said. “The Town of Tryon can encourage business recruitment by protecting its historic district and enhancing on an already vibrant community. The planning and development of an aesthetically well-promoted district can be a community’s most important attraction. This will be a positive impact on the economy through tourism, education and public awareness.”