What Is Historic Integrity Worth to the General Public? Evidence from a Proposed Relocation of a West Virginia Agricultural Mill

By Maskey, Vishakha; Brown, Cheryl et al. | Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, April 2007 | Go to article overview
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What Is Historic Integrity Worth to the General Public? Evidence from a Proposed Relocation of a West Virginia Agricultural Mill


Maskey, Vishakha, Brown, Cheryl, Collins, Alan R., Nassar, Hala F., Agricultural and Resource Economics Review


While historians believe that preserving a historic building in its original location is important to maintain its historic integrity, the general public's opinion is unknown. Survey data were gathered from local residents regarding a proposed relocation of a historic mill in rural West Virginia. Only a minority of the sample population supported preserving the mill at its original location. Willingness to pay for preservation was estimated at $8.45 for a one-time donation for the sample and $2.29 after adjusting for non-respondents using characteristics of the local population.

Key Words: contingent valuation, historic preservation, Tobit model, willingness to pay

Historic resources possess cultural, historic, and educational significance. Historic landscapes are culturally significant because they present the ways in which people lived, worked, organized to meet their needs, and coped as members of society in general and of their communities in particular. Culturally significant landscapes are "the expression of human culture and history in the physical environment" (King 2002, p. 12). Thus, cultural historic landscapes are a symbol of heritage, which is a factor in the location of economic activity (Graham, Ashworth, and Tunbridge 2000).

Heritage is also part of a location's identity, which is valued differently by local people than by outsiders such as tourists. According to the Historic Environment Review Steering Group (2003), historic landscapes have a number of values, including existence, option, altruistic, community identity, and recreational. In addition, they represent a potential revenue source through tourism and use of the buildings. Research has shown that historic buildings revitalize neighborhoods and generate economic opportunity through heritage tourism (Leichenko, Coulson, and Listokin 2001, Listokin, Listokin, and Lahr 1998). Mixed results have been found regarding the impact on a property's market price of historic designation where positive or negative impacts may occur depending upon historical significance and restrictions imposed upon property owners (Schaeffer and Millerick 1991). The existing valuation studies of cultural goods suggest that people have positive values regarding the conservation or restoration of cultural resources (Noonan 2003, Navrud and Ready 2002).

Norton and Hannon (1997) consider how location influences environmental and cultural values and what this means for environmental management. Their theory of a hierarchy (from local to global) of place-based values indicates that protection will be strongest at the local level but also extends to the larger community. In the case of relocation of a historic building, the value placed on the original location may depend on how individuals geographically define their community. According to McClelland et al. (1990), one of the seven qualities of historic integrity is location and setting; thus, a change in location compromises historic integrity. Historic preservation guidelines indicate that relocation of a historic building should be the last resort when all other attempts to preserve it fail because relocation will compromise historic integrity. Historians believe that the relocation of a historic building decreases its historic integrity for the National Register of Historic Places, depending on the degree of loss in historic context.

In order to sustain the value of historic resources, preservation, restoration, reconstruction, and relocation projects have been undertaken. Historic buildings have been relocated on a number of occasions for their protection or to generate economic opportunity through heritage tourism (for examples, see Gonter 2004, Associated Press 2004, Heritage Society of Austin 2003). Decisions to move historic structures involve the be lief that it is better to relocate and preserve these structures than lose them forever. Educational and recreational values associated with historic buildings often explain their relocation and/or preservation (de la Torre and Mason 1998).

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