How to Save a Roadside Place

How to Save a Roadside Place

Interested in saving an endangered roadside place? No matter the type of place – from diners to motels to neon signs, and more – roadside heroes across America build support and find solutions to save historic roadside places every day. Unsure where to start tackling your own preservation project? This guide will start you on your own journey toward saving a meaningful roadside icon in your community.

Build Allies

Building a coalition of support is the key to any successful preservation project. Begin by contacting local and state preservation organizations in your area. Make sure to share details about the resource (i.e. the building you want to save), including the nature of the threat and photographs.

  • State historic preservation offices (SHPOs) administer a variety of programs, including the National Register of Historic Places, tax incentives, and grants that may be helpful options for you.
  • Statewide nonprofit preservation organizations exist in most states and provide some level of advocacy support, grants, technical assistance, outreach, and more.
  • Local preservation organizations, including nonprofits, Main Street programs, and preservation commissions may also be able to assist your effort in some way. A nationwide directory of preservation organizations is located here.

There are a variety of organizations that are directly interested in specific types of resources, as well. These include the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association, National Historic Route 66 Federation, Theatre Historical Society of America, and many more. Try Googling the type of resource you’re trying to save along with words like “preservation,” “association,” “society,” etc. (i.e. “theater preservation”). You may be surprised to learn there are many others who share your passion! These resource-based groups may be able to connect you to others who have successfully saved the same type of place.

Find Funding

Raising money to save a place might seem like a challenging proposal, but grants, tax incentives, and other opportunities can be the difference in making your project a reality. Each state and some local government has different funding mechanisms that may support your efforts. Contact your state and local organizations and ask them directly what funding sources may be available for your project.

A few general resources include:

Strategize

Historic roadside places can be challenging preservation projects. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has developed Tips and Tools for saving places, such as preserving places from the recent past, restoring historic theaters, and how to save historic food establishments.
The National Park Service publishes preservation briefs that outline best practices in preserving, rehabilitating, and restoring historic buildings. These include how to preserve signs and the preservation and reuse of historic gas stations.

Get the Word Out!

You can spread the word about your endangered places through a variety of methods. Crafting a targeted strategy to get the word out will help you successfully reach those audiences that care about the place. While social media may be able to help you get the word out, don’t dismiss the benefits of traditional media in sharing the story of your historic place.
Learn more about how to:

We encourage you to contact us regarding your endangered roadside place. We regularly take news submission for our Facebook page, our e-newsletter the Roadside Roundup, and our print publications the SCA Journal and SCA Road Notes. We also may be able to direct you towards other interested partners. Contact us at main@sca-roadside.org with details about your project, including photos, news articles, or any other relevant information.

Don’t Give Up

Perhaps most important of all is to buckle down, remain committed, and continue to plow forward. Saving places is lots of fun, but it is also hard work and requires time, tenacity, and flexibility. You will experience setbacks, and at times the task ahead of you may seem impossible. These are totally normal feelings, but do not let them discourage you to the point of giving up. Use those feelings to stir creative thinking, renew passion, and motivate action. It is only with dedication that preservation projects succeed, but the reward of knowing that you helped save a place full of irreplaceable memories, stories, and character for future generations is worth every moment. These places matter!