Petersburg Pilot -

Committee dedicated to preserving local history is underway

 

Jess Field / Petersburg Pilot

Members of Petersburg's Historic Preservation Committee pose after holding their first meeting Monday, May 13. Clockwise from left, John Kangas, Glo Wollen, Janet Holten, Don Nelson, Pauline Lee and Jeigh Stanton Gregor.

The Historic Preservation Committee became official after holding the first meeting in Petersburg earlier this week. On Monday, committee members gathered to set goals for the summer.

"This is going to, just like history itself, take some time," said Janet Holten, who will serve as committee chair.

The responsibilities and duties of the committee are developing a local historic preservation plan for presentation to the borough assembly for consideration and approval. They will work with other boards and the planning commission concerning the preservation of historic districts in the borough. The committee is also tasked with developing an inventory of local historic resources, and decided the inventory should come first.

"There are so many people that are so interested in this, but they are all branched out in multiple groups," said Don Nelson.

Holten agreed with Nelson's point. There are numerous locals with knowledge of Petersburg's past and a desire to share it. Holten brought up the work of Territorial Homes of Petersburg, Alaska, among others.

Committee member John Kangas talked about a Territorial Homes presentation he attended and how eye-opening it was and how well it was presented. Pauline Lee came prepared for the meeting with multiple names of community members with long-standing ties to the community, like Darlene Whitethorn and Jim Schwartz who might be willing to lend their knowledge.

Glo Wollen was chosen to serve as vice chair, and she will be representing the Clausen Museum on the committee. Wollen said finding people willing to participate with the Historic Preservation Committee is key to success.

"And it doesn't necessarily need to be local people," she said.

The meeting was cheerful from start to finish, and the members discussed many interesting aspects of how Petersburg developed into what people see today. Discussions ranged from how street names came about to how Sing Lee Alley got its name, and how first-hand accounts of one local industry that might already be lost to time.

"We are a little bit too late to include the fur farmers," Nelson said. "I think they are all gone now."

The committee will meet again in the fall, and each member will have a list of local resources willing to help the committee thrive. There could be two open seats, because Lee is looking to be replaced.

However, for Lee, the first meeting was special, because she played an integral role in helping to establish the committee, including gathering signatures of support.

"It was a joy. It was a lot of work, but it was a joy," she said. "There were several people that helped, and each one had a lot of enthusiasm."

Lee said most communities already have committees dedicated to preserving local history, and Petersburg is old enough to take on that responsibility. She looks forward to seeing how the community and committee come together to develop programs that identify the borough's historical needs and promote the knowledge represented by the past.

"The first meetings need to be exploratory, to find out where you're going and how you interact together," Lee said. "We found out at this meeting that some of the avenues that historical societies might pay attention to are already addressed. And so we did a little sorting today, but that sorting will go on for quite awhile."

 

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