Love History? Benton County Wants to Hear From You
Historic Preservation Grants are awarded for the preservation and restoration of existing historic buildings and items. The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation provides funding to organizations engaged in historic preservation around the state.
But at one time, some people felt the grant money wasn't being spent wisely.
"It was basically going to museums and kind of just supplanting their budget. Once you give an entity or any organization money more than twice, it becomes an entitlement. And I didn't like what was happening." said Duane Davidson, former Benton County and Washington State Treasurer.
Davidson felt more could be done for historical preservation in Benton County, so he and others created a committee to take some of the politics out of the process such as county commissioners reviewing and approving grants.
"I'm telling you, there has been some really neat projects. We've preserved quilts that were related to quilters that were out at the Hanford area. The quilts itself tell a story," Davidson said. "We've done such a variety of projects. And some of them are kind of almost a little bit on the point of being a little bit bizarre, but they wouldn't fall under what you would normally associate with museum type activities."
For instance, dresses that belonged to Mrs. Prosser, the founder of the City of Prosser, were being displayed in a museum on mannequins that used to be in a showroom at J-C Penney. They're not designed for long term display, so the committee purchased special mannequins made out of foam.
Another bizarre, but historical significance occurred at the graveyard in the White Bluffs-Hanford area where bodies were transported to the small town of Kiona near Benton City. That graveyard was relocated to Prosser, and the bodies dug up again to make room for Interstate-82.
"By this time, nobody knows what happened to the endowment funds. The graves were really not maintained. Folks from Prosser came to me and said, hey, there's some people that really need some help out here. And we were able to direct funds to there. So, these types of projects that are kind of unique is what the is what the goal is." Davidson said.
Today, the county has allocated somewhere between $20,000 and $35,000 for historical projects. It could be an interpretive sign for a historical building or a kind of document or photograph preservation.
The Historic Preservation Grant Program in Benton County is currently accepting applications for 2024 funding. You have until Friday, October 6th to apply. Applications can be found here.
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Gallery Credit: Rik Mikals