Elizabethtown College Puts On Hurricane Agnes Historical Event

Written by Jean-Paul Benowitz, Elizabethtown College
On Sunday April 16, 2023, Elizabethtown College Honors students, enrolled in a Public Heritage Studies Guided Research and Writing Community Based Learning Course, showcased their Civically Engaged Research project, launching a National Trust for Historic Preservation “This Place Matters” campaign, for the National Historic District of Marietta, Pennsylvania. The event called “Fifty Years Since Hurricane Agnes (1972-2022) This Place Matters! National Trust for Historic Preservation: Celebrating Historic Preservation & Economic Development in Marietta” was held in the Marietta Community House.
Employing the National Honors Collegiate Council’s pedagogy “Place as Text,”™ Honors students engaged in fourteen weeks conducting field work examining, interpreting, recording the architecture of historically significant properties in Marietta. Students delved into historic records conducting meticulous archival research using primary and secondary sources and government records.
As part of the NCHC Place as Text experience, students conducted numerous oral history interviews with the owners of historically significant properties assigned to them as the focus of their course project. Using the National Historic Preservation Act Section 106 Process, students authored thorough reports about the architecture, biographical narrative of all the property owners over a course of more than 200 years, the historical context and significance of the property and the property owners and documented the resilience of a river community’s history of addressing flooding, re-building, historic preservation, and economic development.
Fifty years ago, June 14-July 6, 1972, Hurricane Agnes devastated Marietta. Based on federal, state, and local legislation for historic preservation, passed just before Hurricane Agnes, Marietta was well positioned to re-build after Agnes and set the example, nationally, for historic preservation and economic development. The students told this story through poster board presentations entitled, “Fifty Years of Preservation and Perseverance in Marietta, Pennsylvania: The Aftermath of Hurricane Agnes (1972-2022).”
Every summer Elizabethtown College sponsors student and faculty research collaboration projects through a program called the Summer Scholarship Creative Arts and Research Program. Since 2019, for four consecutive summers, Kyle Cappucci, Elizabethtown College Class of 2022 and Eric Schubert, Elizabethtown College Class of 2023; were involved with SCARP projects building the foundation for launching a National Trust for Historic Preservation “This Place Matters” campaign, for the National Historic District of Marietta.
Through their research, scholarship, and leadership they established a partnership with Elizabethtown College’s Honors program and Public Heritage Studies program with thirteen community partners: The Lancaster Economic Development Company, The Lancaster County Planning Department, The Lancaster County Redevelopment Authority, The National Main Street Center, The Pennsylvania Downtown Center, The National Trust for Historic Preservation, Preservation Pennsylvania, The Trust for Historic Preservation Lancaster County, The Marietta Restoration Associates, Our Marietta, River Stewards, Susquehanna Riverlands, Marietta Area Business Association, and the Marietta Borough.
This partnership has been working together for (1) identifying, conserving, and preserving Marietta’s heritage resources (2) retaining and enhancing strong community character and sense of place (3) integrating the conservation and preservation of heritage resources in Marietta’s economic development and revitalization (4) ensuring new economic development respecting and complementing the patterns, character, and scale of Marietta’s traditional communities and rural landscapes (5) promoting strong leadership, collaboration, awareness, and responsibility in conserving Marietta’s heritage resources among the public, private, and non-profit sectors (6) celebrating and promoting Marietta’s heritage resources. This work contributes to ensuring adequate financial resources and incentives are available for implementing Marietta’s heritage preservation goals.
The Elizabethtown College Public Heritage Studies program works with Marietta Borough in implementing their “Placemaking Heritage Plan.” Placemaking is a people-centered approach to the planning process, design, and management of public spaces. Put simply, it makes people feel good about where they live, work or play. The concepts behind placemaking originated in the 1960s, when activist Jane Jacobs (1916-2006), in her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), offered groundbreaking ideas about designing communities catering to people. Jane Jacobs’ work focused on the importance of lively neighborhoods and inviting public spaces.
The term came into use in the 1970s by landscape architects, architects, and urban planners to describe the process of creating squares, plazas, parks, streets, and waterfronts attracting people because these places are pleasurable or interesting. The work continues through the Jane Jacobs Center for the Living City which serves as a model for the Civically Engaged Research and Community Based Learning projects of Honors students enrolled in Public Heritage Studies courses at Elizabethtown College.
At this event on Sunday Cappucci and Schubert gave a PowerPoint presentation entitled “Fifty Years Since Hurricane Agnes (1972-2022) This Place Matters! National Trust for Historic Preservation: Celebrating Historic Preservation & Economic Development in Marietta.” In this presentation Marietta Mayor Rebecca Carroll Baltozer spoke about Marietta Restoration Associates and 50 years of historic preservation in Marietta. Historic preservationist architect Daniel Gagliano, representing The Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County, spoke about 50 years of historic preservation in Lancaster County. PennDOT Architectural Historian, Jeremy Ammerman spoke about 50 years of historic preservation in Pennsylvania. Carl Doan Elizabethtown College Class of 1973 spoke about his time as a history major at Elizabethtown College in the 1960s when President Lyndon Johnson passed national legislation for historic preservation and how, when, he was a student he conducted fieldwork, research, photography, writing documenting historically significant properties in Marietta in the months just prior to Hurricane Agnes. Marietta Borough Council President and Chair of Public Works, Freddy States, spoke about past, present, and future historic preservation, and economic development projects for Marietta. Jean-Paul Benowitz, Elizabethtown College Director of Prestigious Scholarships and Fellowships and Public Heritage Studies spoke about the history of Marietta and the history of historic preservation and asset based economic development.
As part of this event, a civic engagement information fair was hosted by representatives from Marietta Restoration Associates, Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County, Main Street Program (Pennsylvania Downtown Center), Lancaster County Planning Department, and the Susquehanna National Heritage Area at Columbia Crossing.
The scholarship produced by the students in this class and past semesters, for many years, and the four years of SCARP projects has been made available on online ArcGIS maps where the student’s property reports are published. The students’ scholarship has been used by local, state, and federal agencies to inform public policy for historic preservation, ecological conservation, and economic development projects for the National Historic District of Marietta. The student’s hope their scholarship can contribute to the Susquehanna National Heritage Area management plan for the Susquehanna National Heritage Area. Lancaster and York Counties were officially designated as a Susquehanna National Heritage Area and America’s 55th National Heritage Area in 2019. The National Historic District of Marietta is part of the SNHA which involves collaboration with the National Parks Service for heritage interpretation, education, historic preservation, land conservation, and cultural heritage tourism.
This is an extraordinary example of Elizabethtown College’s motto Educate for Service and of the Honors Program motto: “Learn, Serve, Lead.” It is an excellent example of Elizabethtown College’s Core Curriculum “Community Based Learning” and “Guided Research and Writing” courses.