By Ron VandenBoom
Mention Historic Preservation to Emily Mayer-Lossing and you can see a sparkle come to her eyes.
Lossing speaks longingly of a time when farmers used horses to plow their fields and were able to see the gradual development of the automobile.
She marvels at what it must have been like to ride a horse and buggy into town or watch the development of the airplane from its humble beginnings to the jets we have today.
These thoughts take on special importance this week, May 14-20, during National Preservation Week.
"Humans can only take so much change," she said, as she lamented the rapid pace of life in a throw-away society. "It's important that we preserve our past and our heritage so people really feel like they're part of a home."
"It's also important to maintain something to show our youth about the way things were," she said.
These were the passions that led Lossing to push for the creation of the Havre Historic Preservation Commission a branch of local government that she hopes will soon receive certification from the U.S. Park Service and a $5,500 grant to use for salaries and office expenses for the new commission.
"We could receive our funding as early as July 1," said Lossing, who is now the preservation officer for the fledgling group.
Lossing said she got the idea for creating the commission in 1999 when she was taking a survey and happened to notice that Havre at one time had a preservation committee.
"I asked Mayor Leonard about it and really the seed came from her," Lossing said.
Lossing called the State Historical Preservation Office in Helena and received the information necessary to form the commission.
It officially came into existence in March 1999, Lossing said.
While this commission has elected to keep a low profile so far, this will change at 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 20, when the commission will hold a grand opening in the lobby of the Heritage Center.
"Preservation Week is just the right time," Lossing said.
Mayor Phyllis Leonard is expected to cut a the ribbon officially opening the commission office that is located on the third floor of the Heritage Center.
Also planned for the event is the presentation of three Havre Historic Preservation Awards and a slide show by Antoinette (Toni) Hagener that Lossing said would be interactive.
Hagener has photographs of Havre that were taken in 1974, she said. She will show the photo and ask the audience to identify the building in the picture.
The purpose is to show how much of Havre has been lost in a 26 year period.
"I think with the slide show, it will remind people how much we have lost," Lossing said, suggesting that perhaps when the time comes that another building is destined to be torn down, it will motivate people to take a second look at what we are losing."
The commission has established short-term, long-term, and on-going goals the first and foremost being education.
"Our number one goal is education," Lossing said. "There is an incredible misconception on historic preservation that needs to be corrected."
She noted that many people have the impression that if their home is labeled "historic" or if they happen to buy a home in a "historic district," the commission will dictate what they can or cannot do with their property.
Lossing said nothing could be farther from the truth.
"We have nothing to say about what colors you can paint you house, how you should decorate the inside, or make other demands," she said.
The office, Lossing said, works more as an advisory group or an agency that can help with suggestions.
"But that's as far as it goes," Lossing said.
She said that she is not an expert on period decor and while she may not be able to offer the kind of expertise personally to solve all the home owner's problems, she can refer the home owner to someone who is an expert or get the information for them.
Shesaid that currently the commission has no funding and is not able to help anyone finance remodeling.
"But I hope someday we will be able to help with funding," she said.
Another goal is to network with other groups and organizations like classic car clubs or quilting clubs.
"Someone who restores an old car and makes it run may not think they're into historic preservation, but they are," she said.
Other goals include the development of walking trails in residential areas and eventually in business areas, she said.
Another goal includes the preservation of a stage that sits just north of Highland Cemetery that according to Lossing was at one time was used for speeches, veterans' ceremonies, and plays.
She said she expects to be starting on that project sometime next year.
Homes in Havre that represent a bygone form of architecture or that have historic significance are also candidates for preservation and dear to Lossing's heart.
Currently there are only four homes in Havre that are designated as historic, Lossing said: The Havre Public Library, the old Carnegie Library on Fourth Avenue, St. Marks Episcopal Church, and the Verploegen home on Fourth Avenue.
Each home with the historic designation is entitled to have a plaque placed on their home or on a post in front of their home.
According to Lossing the tastefully done black and silver plaque, which costs approximately $400 each, is available to the homeowner for $25.
Lossing also demonstrates that she is willing to practice what she preaches.
Several years ago Lossing and her husband Lyle purchased two 19 century homes on Third Street across from the Havre Postal Service.
The smaller of the two homes, circa 1895 Victoria cottage, is in the process of restoration and Lossing hopes eventually to turn it into a bed-and-breakfast. The home was originally owned by Dr. Daniel Boone and his wife Elizabeth. It was later sold to an oral surgeon Dr. Sidney Dalryntle and his wife Alma.
The home currently occupied by Lossing and her husband is a two story circa 1898 stick style Victorian that sits right next door.
The Lossings have been working on remodeling both homes to their original grandeur ever since they moved in.
"Historic preservation is economic development," Lossing said, adding that renovations not only improve historic districts, but can lead to increased work for carpenters, maintain the value of older neighborhoods, and even create new jobs for those skilled in renovation and remodeling.