New non-profit in Orange HOPEs to preserve history

New non-profit in Orange HOPEs to preserve history

Local citizens striving to make improvements to the city, starting with the Historic District, have formed a new non-profit organization in Orange, the Historic Orange Preservation Empowerment (HOPE) group.

According to information provided by the organization, HOPE was formed to "support, facilitate, and improve the economic, cultural, aesthetic, historic, social and environmental setting, the well-being, and quality of life in Orange and Orange County, Texas."

"While our mission sounds broad, our initial focus will be on the Orange Historic District," said Orange attorney and HOPE founder Leslie Barras. "We want people to think of this neighborhood as 'HOPEtown' rather than 'Old Town.' We will look for ways to help homeowners keep up with maintenance and repair of their historic homes. Most of HOPEtown's homes were built to last, using materials that cannot be replaced today. More and more, buyers seek homes like these that have a unique, historic character."

Barras said most of the structure they are looking at are homes, but her group also wants to digitally archive historical documents, often found in the historic buildings.

Board member and former Orange city council person Annette Pernell added, "There is a lot of education needed on the value of historic buildings and neighborhoods. It would be an injustice to those who worked hard to get those homes buitl ust to watch them be torn down needlessly and unnecessarily. Most people look at these old, beautiful houses and immediately think, (1) this house is a money pit, and (2) this area is too run-down. Both assessments are true to a point, but as we educate ourselves and others of the significance of having a thriving Historic District, we also bring more light to our city and the beauty that is hidden within.

Pernell said she, herself, resides in the Historic District and takes pride in her charge as a guardian of history.

"Being a homeowner in HOPEtown makes me smile because I am one of the keepers of my unique and historic home," she related. "It's our job to keep it well-maintained so it can be passed on for another generation to enjoy."

Fellow HOPE board member Kevin McAdams, a retired IT professional with experience developing Historic District Architectural Guidelines in Louisville, KY, agrees the endeavor is valuable to the community and warns that without that effort numerous significant homes and artifacts that could be lost to time.

"Orange's historic fabric and architectural treasures are irreplaceable but overlooked - HOPE will help fix that," said McAdams.

Barras says there is already a short list of buildings being considered for HOPE’s endeavors. According to her, one house is at the “top of the list.”

“There is a house that is being considered by the City for demolition that is a candidate for HOPE's attention: 1105 Orange,” Barras related. “It was built in the early 1900s for the county tax assessor and has now been in the same family since World War II. The hurricanes (Rita and Ike) dealt quite a blow to it, but it is a beautiful structure with magnificent oaks.”

Barras said HOPE members have already removed more than 20 trees and shrubs from the property and plan to do much more.

For more information regarding the organization, contact Barras at (409) 768-0767 or lebarras [at] gmail [dot] com.

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