$50,000 grant to facilitate efforts to win designation of Newtown Conservation Historic District on National Register of Historic Places

Funds coming from National Park Service’s Underrepresented Community Grants program

This is New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, one of many historic structures in Newtown, city staff notes. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

The City of Sarasota has won a $50,000 grant from the National Park Service that will help fund efforts to enable the Newtown Conservation Historic District to be designated by the National Register of Historic Places, City Manager Tom Barwin announced in his July 17 newsletter.

In a July 7 news release, the National Park Service explained that it had awarded “$750,000 in Underrepresented Community Grants to support the identification and nomination of sites to the National Register of Historic Places. The Underrepresented Community grant program focuses on documenting the homes, lives, landscapes, and experiences of underrepresented peoples who played a significant role in national history,” the National Park Service release added.

The grants will help pay for 18 projects planned by eight states, six tribes, two local governments, the District of Columbia, and the Federated States of Micronesia, the release pointed out.

“We were the only honoree from Florida” among this year’s recipients, Barwin noted in his newsletter.

“The City of Sarasota began the process of researching, documenting and highlighting the rich cultural history of Newtown, our historically black community, more than a decade ago,” Barwin continued. “Facilitated by Vickie Oldham, the project has included partnering with the community and Newtown Alive to capture the oral history of Newtown’s residents; creating historic markers, a website and a walking tour of Newtown’s landmarks; and completing an architectural survey of the historic homes and structures that make up the district,” he wrote.

The grant will cover about one-third of the expense of the efforts focused on wining a National Register of Historic Places designation for the entire Newtown Conservation Historic District, Barwin added. Such a designation, he pointed out, would “provide even greater visibility for the community and its historical significance. Other benefits include greater access to grant funding and other incentives for future renovations or preservation work on the more than 500 contributing historic structures in Newtown,” Barwin wrote.

“We are hopeful the foundation has been laid to revitalize the North Sarasota economy to the [vibrancy] it enjoyed in the 1960s and 1970s,” he added.

“Kudos to Dr. Clifford Smith, senior planner and our historic preservation expert; Senior Process Analyst Laura Wittenbauer, our grants coordinator; and all those who have played a role in preserving the history and special character of Newtown,” Barwin wrote.