News and Notes

News presents briefs about current and forthcoming programs, events, exhibits and activities of historical and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania.

Martin P. Snyder Honored

Martin P. Snyder was honored February 7, 1977. as reci­pient of the Athenaeum Award of Philadelphia for 1975. Mr. Snyder received the distinguished award for the best book by a Philadelphia author. The book is City of Inde­pendence, published by Praeger.


New Tax Benefits for Preservationists

The Tax Reform Act of 1976, signed Into law on October 4, 1976, contains several changes to the tax law which should be of great interest to preservationists. Section 2124 of the Act provides several new tax incentives for historic preservation and changes certain provisions in the code which previously worked against preservation. Generally speaking, there are five major provisions In Section 2124:

  1. Permits quick {five year) amortization of the cost of rehabilitation for certified historic buildings on the National Register of Historic Places or located within a National Register or state and locally designated historic districts. This five-year write-off applies only to those properties used in the owner’s business, or held for commercial or Income purposes.
    To take advantage of this provision, rehabilitation expenditures must occur after June 14. 1976, and be­fore June 15, 1981.
  2. Denies accelerated depreciations for buildings newly constructed on sites previously occupied by historic buildings.
  3. Disallows the current deduction of the cost of demolition of historic buildings.
    Provisions 2 and 3 apply to demolitions beginning after June 30, 1976, and before January 1, 1981.
  4. Permits accelerated depreciation for rehabilitated commercial buildings which would continue in com­mercial use.
    The period of eligibility under this provision is from June 30, 1976 to July 1, 1981.
  5. Allows deductions for less-than-fee real property interests (lease, option to buy, easements) for conservation purposes.
    To take advantage of this provision, the charitable contributions and/or transfers must be made after June 13, 1976, and before June 14, 1977.

The law defines a certified historic structure as a building or structure which can be depreciated under section 167 of the tax code (the property must have some commercial characteristics; residential property may qualify if it is rented), and which

  1. is listed on the National Register of Historic Places
  2. is located in a Registered Historic District and is certified by the Secretary of the Interior as being of historic significance to the district or
  3. is located in a historic district designated under a statute of the appropriate state or local government if the statute is certified by the Secretary of the Interior as containing criteria that will substantially achieve the purpose of preserving and rehabilitating buildings of historic significance to the district.

Under the provisions of the law the rehabilitation work must also be certified as being consistent with the historic character of the property or the district in which the property is located. The Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation, National Park Service has been designated as the agency responsible for the certification process. How­ever, inquiries concerning the new law, eligibility, or certification should be addressed to the Office of Historic Preservation, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Box 1026, Harrisburg, PA 17120.


Rachel Carson’s Home on National Register

The birthplace In Springdale of Rachel Carson has been added to The National Register of Historic Places. The four­-room house. located at 413 Marion Avenue. was con­structed circa 1870. Springdale is in Allegheny County.

Miss Carson was born on May 27, 1907, in Springdale and grew up in Springdale and nearby Parnassus.

The house of her birth, now called the Rachel Carson House, was part of her father’s farm, Architecturally, it is a good example of the simple forthright construction of the mid-nineteenth century farm house.

Rachel Carson’s birthplace in Springdale has been pur­chased and is presently being restored, maintained and operated by the Rachel Carson Homestead Association. When completed, the house will be a monument to Rachel Carson and will serve as an ecology library and land labora­tory. It will also be a repository for memorabilia pertaining to Rachel Carson’s life.

February Exhibit Honors Black History Month

“The Black Presence in Pennsylvania” exhibit at William Penn Memorial Museum helped to commemorate Black History Month of 1977. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) sponsored the exhibit with the Urban Black Coalition of Harrisburg.

The Hon. K. LeRoy Irvis, majority leader of the House of Representatives of the State, formally opened the exhibit February 6 [1977]. William J. Wewer, executive director, PHMC, introduced Representative Irvis.

The exhibit illustrated aspects of life and the Black experience in Pennsylvania during the nineteenth century. Charles Blockson, noted collector, lent most of the items for the exhibit from his collection. Blockson, of Norristown, is also author of Pennsylvania’s Black History. He has collected historical materials as they relate to Black history for many years.

Included in the exhibit were newspapers, lithographs, drawings and artifacts. Also cooperating in the exhibit were Juniata College, Huntingdon County Historical Society, Dr. and Mrs. George Little, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Burkholder, the National Museum of History and Technology and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

The National Museum of History and Technology lent seven lithographs from the Harry T. Peters “America on Stone” Lithography Collection, related to Black history.

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania lent four objects which augment various categories In the exhibition.

The exhibition was organized by William O. Hickok V, assistant curator of Science, Industry and Technology, William Penn Memorial Museum, under the direction of James Mitchell, director of the William Penn Museum. Carl Oblinger associate historian, also assisted in the exhibit’s preparation.

The exhibition was divided into three main categories: abolition and pre-Civil War, Civil War and emancipation, and post Civil War. The latter category was sub-divided into Religion, Medicine, Arts and Music.

Included in the Art section were four paintings by James G. Chaplin, who was both a barber and an artist in Hunting­don County near the end of the nineteenth century. Chaplin apparently received formal training to develop his talent. The paintings are owned by persons in the Hunting­don County area.

The Little Scott White Gospel Singers performed in one of two concerts. This family group of Harrisburg presented a program of gospel, spirituals, anthems and hymns, accom­panied by piano and drums. The Lincoln University Chorale of Oxford, under the direction of Orrin Suthern, presented a musical program. Remarks on the program were made by Herman R. Branson, president of Lincoln University.

A lecture, “The Negro Spiritual Evolution; Impact and Continuing Musical Influence,” was delivered by Zelma W. George of Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. George is a nationally­-known musicologist and an expert on Negro spirituals. Her lecture was sponsored by the Harrisburg Chapter of Links, Inc.

The exhibition continued through February 27 [1977].


State Advisory Board Holds First Session

The initial meeting of the State Historical Records Advisory Board, named by Governor Milton J. Shapp to implement the new records program of the National His­torical Publications and Records Commission in Pennsyl­vania, was held at the William Penn Memorial Museum, Harrisburg, November 23. William J. Wewer, executive director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) and State Historical Records coordinator, chair.ed the two-hour session.

William B. Fraley, assistant executive director for Re­cords, NHPRC, discussed the objectives of the national commission and offered recommendations relevant to the Board’s responsibilities under the program. Fraley explained that the program encourages a greater effort at all levels of government and by private historical and educa­tional institutions and organizations to preserve and to make available for use those records, generated in every facet of life, that further an understanding and apprecia­tion of American history.

One of the primary responsibilities of the advisory group is to review and submit recommendations to the NHPRC on grant proposals for programs submitted by records and manuscript repositories within the Commonwealth. The board will also consider the records situation in Pennsylvania on a priority basis and work to develop an overall records plan for the state.

Information explaining the grant categories approved by the NHPRC, procedures in preparing grant proposals, and related matters involved in the records program may be attained by writing Harry E. Whipkey, state archivist and director of the Bureau of Archives and History, PHMC, Box 1026, Harrisburg, PA 17120.


Trussell Writes on Valley Forge

The latest publication of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Birthplace of an Army: A Study of the Valley Forge Encampment, has recently been released. Written by Col. John B. B. Trussell, Jr., an associate historian with the PHMC, its 145 pages provide a concise but carefully documented account of one of the most significant and inspiring episodes of the American Revolution.

Colonel Trussell’s approach differs from most treatments of the subject in that instead of presenting an inherently complicated account simply as a chronological narrative, he addresses each of the major facets of the story individually. Separate chapters deal with such matters as the initial establishment of the encampment; the difficulties in providing housing; shortages of food and clothing, together with the causes of the shortages and the remedies adopted; the frequency, nature, and treatment of sickness; the problems faced respectively by the soldiers, the officers, and George Washington, challenged as he was with a nearly impossible administrative task, potential military attack, a constant fear of mutiny, and an active political plot to bring about his removal; the training program which was adopted and carried out; and the incidence of disciplinary offenses and actions. A section of particular interest traces the weather on almost a day-by-day basis, and reveals that while by no means mild, the winter was not particularly severe.

While giving Valley Forge full credit as a symbol of fortitude and dedication, Colonel Trussell’s basic theme ls that the encampment there achieved its greatest importance in bringing about conversion of the Continentals from what had been an untrained, poorly disciplined agglomeration of men into a dependable, proficient army In the full sense of the word. In so doing, he states, it played a major role in bringing about ultimate victory in the war and indepen­dence for the nation.

Birthplace of an Army can be ordered from the Division of History, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Box 1026, Harrisburg 17120. The price is $3.00 (paper) or $4.50 (cloth) with both prices plus 6 per cent state sales tax on orders from Pennsylvania.


Rural Life, Culture Institute Set

The twenty-first Annual Institute of Pennsylvania Rural Life and Culture will be held at the Pennsylvania Farm Museum near Lancaster June 21-24 [1977].

The Institute’s theme “Reflections Upon Our Cultural Development” will be introduced through the following seminars: Pennsylvania Antiques – 1977 Edition; Securing Grants for Historical Agencies; Introduction to Pennsylvania’s Social History – 1681-1750; Evolution of the Family Farm – 1750 to Present; Folk Artists of York County, A Regional Study; and Back Country Folk Medicine.

Techniques of Traditional Craftsmanship will be de­veloped through the following Workshops: Blacksmithing; Tinsmithing; Basic Techniques of Pewter Care and Repair; Ryestraw Basketry; American Architectural Stencil Decoration; and Scissors Cutting – Pennsylvania German Manner.

Additional information can be obtained by writing to: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission Institute, P. O. Box 1026, 17120.