By WRILEY NELSON
Otsego 2000 has invited historic churches and other houses of worship to participate in the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s 13th annual Sacred Sites Open House on May 20 and 21. Sacred Sites, the NYLC’s only major statewide program, celebrates the diversity and history of New York’s houses of worship. The open house has attracted thousands of visitors to religious buildings over the last decade to learn about their art, architecture, history and programming. This year’s theme, “Congregations and Communities: 50 Years of Sacred Sites,” seeks to highlight how sacred sites create community connections through the services they offer, social ties they create, and the spaces they provide for people from all walks of life.
Otsego 2000 has been heavily involved in programs publicizing Otsego County’s rich historical and architectural heritage.
“We’ve sponsored this event in the past through publicity,” said Otsego 2000 Executive Director Ellen Pope. “[Dr. Cynthia] Falk and I have done several guided walks in the Village of Cooperstown to show off historic buildings, including one focusing on our churches’ stained glass… This is one of the area’s greatest assets: its broad collection of historically and culturally significant buildings.”
Pope explained the significant social and economic advantages that local families, congregations, and communities can reap from scenic or heritage sites. Many historic buildings, such as churches, barns, and homes, are eligible for significant grants and tax incentives. Otsego 2000 provides free advice and technical assistance to homeowners and business owners in Otsego County Historic Districts who wish to apply for tax credits.
More importantly, these storied buildings and landscapes are what make Otsego County unique. They are why permanent residents, first-time tourists and snowbirds alike love the area.
“We have all this [historic preservation] acreage celebrating the historic vernacular,” Pope said. “It gives our communities character.”
Houses of worship in particular can claim maintenance and repair grants if they qualify for the National Registry of Historic Places. Events like Sacred Sites allow them to re-introduce themselves to their communities and to bring residents together in celebration of their shared landscape.
“There is no cost to participate,” Pope continued, “it’s just a matter of having a rector, deacon or other congregation member on-site to welcome visitors in.”
The NYLC recommends that congregations provide information about public events and programming as well as their historic buildings. Many participants offer guided tours, refreshments, organ demonstrations or other musical performances. Although the deadline to appear in the statewide promotional materials has passed, Pope said Otsego 2000 will publicize and promote any local congregations that wish to participate. The NYLC offers a detailed guide to assist participants in setting up a memorable open house. For more information on the statewide event, visit https://nylandmarks.org/sacred-sites-open-house/.
Otsego 2000 has a number of upcoming events celebrating local history. Pope and Falk will host “Ask an Old House Expert” on May 13 at the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.). Community members are invited to bring in photos and learn about their homes’ architectural style, history, preservation efforts, and tax credits. The program is free of charge. To sign up for Sacred Sites or learn more about upcoming events, visit otsego2000.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org