City council discusses process of protecting historic structures

The Huntington Common Council discussed the process of protecting historic structures during its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 8.

Huntington resident Max Kaylor spoke at the meeting and lamented the recent demolition of the Milligan stone structure. According to Huntington Alert Inc., a local historic preservation group, the structure dated back to circa 1860 and was originally located on property owned by Lambdin P. Milligan, a Huntington resident who gained notoriety for his involvement in the United States Supreme Court case Ex parte Milligan in 1866.

The structure, which was relocated to West Park Drive near Sunken Gardens in 1985, was razed by the city on Dec. 3 of last year. In a press release from Mayor Brooks Fetters disseminated that day, he stated that the demolition was associated with a plan by the Huntington Parks and Recreation Department to improve accessibility and amenities at Sunken Gardens and the Memorial Park Veterans Memorial.

Given the history of the structure, Kaylor contended that the public should have been informed of the demolition plan and given an opportunity to speak out against it. To that end, he proposed that council adopt a policy that would obligate the city to give the public 30 days notice whenever buildings of a historic nature are at risk.

“We need a period where people can make their voices heard and the community knows what’s going on,” said Kaylor.

Bryn Keplinger, director of the Huntington Department of Community Development and Redevelopment, explained that the public actually already has the means to protect historic structures. Keplinger noted that citizens can petition council to have Huntington’s Historic Review Board conduct assessments of structures on public property that they believe deserve historical protections. Following an assessment, which consists of a survey and historical research, the Historic Review Board then makes a recommendation to council as to whether or not the structure in question deserves to be protected. If the board makes a positive recommendation, council has the power to give the structure a historic designation, which would protect it.

As for the Milligan stone structure, Keplinger said it was not historically designated. Following the structure’s relocation, which saw it reconstructed using original and new materials, according to Huntington Alert, the groups behind that initiative did not petition council and the Historic Review Board, which was formed in 1981, to give it a historical designation.

Council President Charles Chapman noted that Fetters and Huntington Alert would be meeting soon to discuss the Milligan incident. Chapman suggested that the meeting could be an opportunity for the parties to identify structures on public property that are deserving of consideration for historical designations.

“I’m sure the historians would be glad to consult with the mayor,” said Chapman. “Come up with a list.”

At that point, Chapman said the list could be submitted to council, which would then turn it over to the Historic Review Board so that each structure on the list could be assessed.