IFLA: Cultural Landscapes Committee

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Mount Zion Historical Neighborhood

Cultural Landscape Type: Evolved Continuing

Project Name: Mount Zion Historical Neighborhood Cultural Landscape Report

Project Type: Planning Project, Cultural Landscape Report

Location: Somers, New York, U.S.

Cultural Landscape Size: 390 acres, 156.6 hectares

Property Owner/Steward: Multiple Private Property Owners within Somers, New York

Funding: $24,000 USD

Relevant Historical Dates: 17th Century

Historic Landscape Architect, Designers: N/A

Contact: Patricia M. O’Donnell, Principal, Heritage Landscapes, odonnell@heritagelandscapes.cc

Mount Zion Historical NeighborhoodMount Zion Historical Neighborhood

Project Description:

Throughout the United States, there is a growing awareness of the value and fragility of the unique qualities of communities. Often a period of growth and expansion causes loss of beloved natural and cultural resources, shocking local advocates into action. This action all too frequently takes place after the fact when historic structures and cultural landscapes have already been radically altered. This reactionary approach, focused on a specific loss, is a limited way of addressing the issue of community change. A more ideal approach begins with an understanding of the community’s cultural resources before they are altered. The Mount Zion Historical Neighborhood Project developed this type of understanding while significant changes to the Town of Somers were being planned rather than questioned after they are fully accomplished.

Heritage Landscapes was commissioned to investigate the historically valuable townscape of the Mount Zion historical village. By understanding its long and intriguing history influenced by the evolution of Native American lifeways and 17th century homesteads centered on the Mt. Zion Church and Cemetery, Heritage Landscapes was able to make recommendations for preservation and conservation action. A series of preservation tools were applied to address what private citizens, community groups, non-profit organizations, and town and local governments can achieve.

Preservation tools applied for the project included:

  • Educational & Community Involvement Tools - Publicity, Community Projects, Informational Meetings, Exhibitions, Peer Pressure, Private Building & Property Maintenance, Skill Development Workshops
  • Financial Tools - Easements, Transfer of Development Rights, Donations, Public Capital Improvements, Purchase & Resale, Revolving Loan Fund, Loan Term Lease, Mutual Convenants, Outright Purchase Key Properties
  • Advisory Tools - Documentation & Planning for Conservation, Preservation & Management of Traffic, Streets, Street Trees, Public Facilities, Parks & Open Space, Natural & Cultural Resources within context of overall Town Plan 
  • Regulatory Tools - Design Review, Easement Law, Zoning Ordinance, Historic Commission, Tree Ordinance, Scenic and/or Historic Overlay District

The report process and findings raised community awareness about this historical neighborhood, its current conditions, appropriate maintenance and management, and future goals.

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Communities and landscape are intertwined. People define and steward place shaping their lifeways through time in partnerships with the landscape.

ICOMOS Natchitoches Declaration on Heritage Landscapes, 2004