Historic District Commission looking for the best way to market local amenities


When the state of Arkansas changed the terms of a Certified Local Government Grant (CLG) that had been awarded to the town of El Dorado, the El Dorado Historic District Commission (EHDC) planned to apply for El Dorado Works Tax funding to complete a project that had been eliminated from the grant.

The commissioners had agreed to use a CLG grant of $ 22,648 which was awarded in 2020 to conduct surveys and inventories on the determination of eligibility (DOE) / cultural resources for the neighborhoods of Retta Brown and Country Club. Colony (CCC) – both of which were recommended as “priority” projects in a city-wide preservation plan that was drafted last year.

DOE surveys help determine whether local historic districts and / or individually listed properties are eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

Of the $ 22,648, $ 9,660 was to be allocated to the Retta Brown subdivision and $ 6,440 to the CCC.

Members of the El Dorado Historic District Commission learned in September that the DOE’s investigation for Country Club Colony – which is bordered by North West Avenue, 19th Street, Calion Road, and the El Dorado Golf and Country Club – was going cost more than expected.

In turn, the state directed the grant towards the CCC investigation and asked the EHDC to submit Retta Brown’s proposal in an application for the next round of the CLG grant.

The Retta Brown neighborhood surrounds the former elementary school of the same name and is located on the north side of East Main between Dixie Drive and North Byrd Street.

On October 14, Elizabeth Eggleston, executive director of the EHDC, said the state had again changed the terms of the CLG grant to include more money for the Retta Brown project.

Eggleston said he informed Commissioner Sara Coffman that the group would no longer need to apply for funding from the El Dorado Works Board, which administers the city’s one-cent sales tax for economic development.

Coffman is also a member of ISF.

Funding of other projects

Eggleston told EHDC members on October 12 that she did not want the commission to lose an opportunity to seek funding from El Dorado Works for other historic preservation projects.

“I have dreamed of having signage in our historic neighborhoods for a long time,” Eggleston said.

The city’s Historic Commercial District, which was listed on the National Register in 2003, largely covers downtown El Dorado, including the blocks surrounding the Union County Courthouse.

The neighborhood stretches east on Main Street and south along Washington Avenue.

There are two historic residential neighborhoods in El Dorado – the Murphy-Hill and Mahony neighborhoods, which were added to the National Register in 2007 and 2011, respectively.

The Murphy-Hill neighborhood consists of 76 homes and is located just north of the city’s central business district. The area is roughly bordered by East Fifth, North Jefferson, East Peach, North Madison, and East Faulkner.

The Mahony district comprises 94 buildings which contribute to its historical significance.

The 14-acre area stretches north and east of the Murphy-Hill District and its boundaries are Champagnolle Road, the area just east of North Madison, East Fifth, and the railroad tracks near North Lee.

A DOE investigation and inventory is underway for 326 properties in the Mellor, McKinney, Bodenhamer, Forest Lawn and Eastridge subdivisions.

The work is also covered by a grant from the CLG.

Signage, provided by the City Shop, was added at a few intersections of existing residential neighborhoods to designate them as historic areas, but Eggleston said the signs were worn out and needed improvement.

She also said that many people don’t notice the toppers and don’t know the historic areas of the city.

Historic District Commissioners agreed they need to raise awareness and emphasize the importance of historic preservation efforts and resources in El Dorado – also a recommendation of the city’s historic preservation plan.

How best to broaden their scope sparked extensive discussion and debate among the Commissioners.

Modern and traditional marketing

Coffman asked Commissioner Steve Biernecki what he thought of the matter.

“I think we have to do something right instead of trying to do 85 things well,” Biernecki said. “There is already signage and the reality is that when you are driving on the road, a small sign will not capture your attention.”

“We should see how to digitize it, modernize it and… get people’s attention to come to the historic district,” he continued.

Biernecki, executive director of the South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society, suggested that the EHDC come up with ideas for marketing El Dorado historic amenities within a 75 mile radius “so that the people of Camden, Magnolia, Farmerville, Louisiana and Ruston (Louisiana) to find out what we have from a historic preservation standpoint. “

“I don’t know if putting more panels is necessarily going to accomplish what we want to accomplish,” he said.

EHDC President Ken Bridges said the EHDC could work with the Arkansas Department of Transportation to place signs along city gateways, highways that cross El Dorado – y including West Avenue / US 167B, Hillsboro / US 82B and Main Street / US 63 – which would direct visitors to historic districts.

Eggleston noted that a sign designating El Dorado as the Preserve America community had previously been posted on the East Main, just west of the US 167 Viaduct, but the sign was removed years ago and has never been been located.

Preserve America is a US government program that encourages and supports efforts to preserve the country’s cultural and natural heritage.

Another suggestion Biernecki came up with was creating social media accounts with activity like monthly social media blasts featuring historic buildings, neighborhoods and other local sites.

Coffman said the EHDC helped print walking tour brochures for historic landmarks in the city’s downtown core.

“There’s one for downtown but not one for the rest of what we have,” Coffman said.

Eggleston said the brochures did not include residential historic quarters.

She also said the walking tour brochures were created years ago, in part because state reception centers contacted her and other local officials to request documents containing information about El Dorado to be placed in the centers.

Biernecki argued that these items, including signs, printed brochures and maps, are “outdated”.

Commissioner Linda Rathbun said she finds it helpful to put together a multi-faceted marketing campaign that includes a mix of signage, print materials and digital media.

“It hits a different market than people who might want to walk and really understand the history of the neighborhood and who aren’t using Facebook,” Rathbun said.

Biernecki countered that “the younger generation” may not be aware of local historical facts and resources and mainly obtain their information through digital / electronic means.

“It’s not that they don’t care. It’s that they don’t even know how to care and with the historic district commission, how do we join the city, the (House of El Dorado-Union County Trade) to make much greater impact from a digital standpoint? ” asked Biernecki.

He said he did not disagree with Rathbun and he pointed to Bridges’ suggestion of road signs, saying the EHDC could take traditional marketing elements and make them “very targeted”, a call for action to direct visitors and local residents to historic sites in the city. Approvals.

Biernecki said “people are excited about the walking tour brochures” and the commissioners discussed possible locations where people can easily pick up the brochures.

Coffman said she also believes signage is an important part of a marketing campaign that includes the ideas of all EHDC members.

Rathbun said the group may check with other communities to see how they are marketing their historic equipment.

Biernecki referred to the city-wide preservation plan, saying the plan recommends other projects, such as the African American context, in which notable people, neighborhoods and buildings of the black community are documented and preserved.

“We have a lot of ideas,” he said.

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