In the mid-1970s, much of Tyler’s past had been bulldozed or renovated beyond recognition.
Historic homes and commercial buildings were gone or threatened, and many members of the community knew that something had to be done.
That something was the Historic Tyler organization, which was founded in 1977 and has led the charge to save literally thousands of the city’s noteworthy structures.
And along the way, it’s helped entire districts and neighborhoods, even some brick streets, retain their character and find their way to the National Register of Historic Places.
“We sort of cover all the bases,” says Janie Menegay, executive director. “We have an active board and great community support, and we have accomplished a lot. When I first got this job in 1989, we had only five properties listed on the National Register; now we have almost 3,000. We’ve definitely come along way.”
The successes include the Charnwood Residential Historic District, which made the register in 1999. Just south of the Smith County Courthouse, Charnwood’s homes were built between 1870 and 1950 and have many unique indoor and outdoor features. The National Azalea District, approved in 2003, gave another noteworthy part of town its own distinction, and in 2004 the Brick Streets Historic District was designated to recognize 29 blocks of residential, commercial and industrial structures, some dating back to 1848.
Even with all of this to show for its efforts, Historic Tyler's work is hardly complete. The organization is gearing up for another property survey to start bringing in buildings that are newer than the 1950s, but still more than 50 years old, for register consideration.
“We have a lot of buildings and neighborhoods that weren’t 50 at the time of the first survey, and we want to bring those in,” Menegay says. “It’s going to be an ongoing effort from now on so that we can keep up to date with all our buildings and neighborhoods.”
Tyler on Tour
To maintain a high profile, Historic Tyler hosts the annual Historic Tyler on Tour to showcase homes, gardens and buildings during the Azalea Trails festival in March, and also presents a yearly Preservation Award to an individual or group who has gone above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to historic preservation.
Historic Tyler also now is partnering with other groups to offer seminars on how to rehab a historic structure, something that the group hopes will get more homeowners and others involved in identifying and restoring properties all around town.
“We try to educate the public about what is historic and why it’s worth preserving,” she says. “If a structure is threatened with demolition or neglect, we have to be ready to advocate. We’re not always successful, but at least we’re a voice there for preservation. And we always keep trying.”
Read more on the history of Tyler, TX.