UNION BRIDGE -- Two county planners have spent several days in town, surveying, taking notes and snapping pictures.
"When they saw us looking at their houses, some people thought we might be the tax man," said Ken Short, historic planner. "They would come out and talk to us."
During those conversations residents shared old photos and post cards, with street views of the town from years ago.
That was just what the planners needed in the preliminary steps to nominating the town to the National Register of Historic Places.
Steven C. Horn, the county planner who worked with Short, said zTC he became involved in the project through his work with the Town Hall Search Committee. It selected the old Pump House on Locust Street as the site for the new offices. The 1904 building needs extensive renovations.
Horn looked to the National Historical Trust for money for the renovations. Joining the register is the first step in getting funding from the trust, he said.
A place on the register also leads to a 20 percent federal investment income tax credit for commercial property owners.
"That would be of great benefit to rehabilitating struggling Main Street businesses," Horn said.
A state tax credit also is available for any owner of a historic property who completes restoration work according to the register's guidelines, which Horn said are broad.
"You can't put in a Jacuzzi," said Horn. "But a resident, who does rehabilitation work in keeping with the historical character of the property, can write off the project over a five-year period."
One other advantage is the "added measure of control" the town could have over any federal project, he said.
"The town would have the right to review any federal or state road projects, for instance, to mitigate the impact here," said Horn.
"There is no question that Union Bridge is eligible," said Short, citing several historically significant structures. "One home on Broadway has an original bake oven, one of only two in the county, and smokehouse."
The council approved the work Monday. Before the final application is sent to the register, the town will have a public hearing.
"The council and most of the people I have talked to are receptive to joining the register," said Mayor Perry L. Jones Jr. "It would be beneficial to the town and could help us revitalize Main Street."
Horn said the town would get a good "payback" for the investment of time and research: "Union Bridge needs to capitalize on what's neat in this town, its unique architecture and an excellent working railroad station."