CASPER, Wyo. — Casper’s Historic Preservation Commission have put together a “Historic Preservation Plan” which is intended to identify buildings and sites important to the community’s history.
“It will be used by the city and its preservation partners to guide and monitor preservation efforts in the community,” the plan states. “Businesses, property owners, and members of the general public may also use the HPP to learn about the program and the status of preservation efforts.”
“Preservation is a part of many community interests, including housing,
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sustainability, transportation, livability, and economic development; therefore, the HPP approaches historic preservation as an integral element of community development. It seeks to balance broader community objectives with its core mission of retaining cultural resources.”
During a November city council meeting, one member of the community expressed concerns that the document neglected aspects of Casper’s history.
“This document eliminates the entire black community with the exception of the North Casper Club House,” RC Johnson told the Casper City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
She called the plan “racist” and told the city council that they should not approve the formal adoption of the plan.
“Nothing in this document reflects the fact that there were African American churches [in Casper],” Johnson said. “It acts as if black people don’t exist and don’t exist in this community.”
The city council decided to table their vote on whether to adopt the plan during that meeting. On Tuesday, Jan. 14, City Manager Carter Napier and Councilman Ray Pacheco said that they have met with Johnson to dicuss her concerns.
“Having that dialogue was good,” Pacheco said. “She had legitimate concerns.”
He added that he thinks the dialogue with Johnson “allayed her fears” and “made her feel that she was heard and understood.”
“This plan was not in any way intentionally doing what she was concerned [about],” he added.
Oil City attempted to reach out to Johnson back in November to further discuss her concerns. Reporters again reached out to Johnson on Wednesday to ask about her perspective on discussions with the city, but she did not immediately respond.
Napier said that he thinks one purpose of the plan is to welcome more public input to help “gather some of the facilities and buildings and relics that our citizen brought up in her discussion with the council.”
There has been some confusion as to the role of the Casper Historic Preservation Commission compared with the Natrona County Historical Society.
“Historic Preservation is only intended to capture historic buildings and sites,” Napier said at Tuesday’s work session.
At the November meeting, Johnson suggested that she had raised her concerns with the commission at one of their meetings, but that those weren’t taken seriously.
But members of the commission said they don’t remember holding the meeting she was referring to and thought she may have been confusing the Casper Historic Preservation Commission with the Natrona County Historical Society.
Since Oil City hasn’t been able to contact Johnson, this point remains unclear.
In any case, Napier said he thinks the best thing to do at this point would be to adopt the plan as it will help secure funding for preservation efforts and will act as a guide to identify more of the culturally significant historic sites that Johnson or others think need to be highlighted.
“I would suggest that by taking this to the floor…voting this down again would do way more to stifle identifying what other historical assets we have in the community,” he said. “I think we can move forward to pass it.”
He said the plan was never intended to be a complete gathering of all historic sites in Casper.
“In my estimation, the plan encourages us to add more dots to this map,” Napier said, referring to the following:
Napier also pointed out that the plan does include mention of Casper’s African American history. One action the plan recommends is to develop a survey plan.
The plan says that survey would:
- identify planning needs, citizen interest, available funding, and nature of historic resources
- identify sources for future research, historical themes, expected property types, and geographic areas that appear to contain a high concentration of historic resources
- develop a plan to efficiently document these areas based on Commission priorities
The plan goes on to list themes which such a survey might focus on:
- Depression-era New Deal projects (e.g. WPA and CCC resources)
- cultural influences of immigrants and minorities (e.g. Scandinavian builders, African American history)
- site-specific historic events potentially warranting place markers (e.g.historic trail, important building that is no longer extant)
- Standard Oil Addition (270+ acres SW of downtown)
- Mid-Century Modern architecture, and the works of locally prominent architects/builders (e.g. Leon Goodrich, William Dubois)
- North Casper
- the mixed industrial-residential area east of downtown near the railroad tracks
- Casper Mountain Hogodon Ski Area/Eadsville
- Valley Hills mid-century residential neighborhood
- Casper College
- institutional buildings citywide (i.e. schools, churches, government buildings)
- updates of previous NRHP listings (e.g. Wolcott Historic District, Garbutt & Widener MPDF)
Councilman Steve Cathey said he had some concerns that the plan includes a narrative of Casper’s history if the purpose of the commission is to focus on preservation.
“That to me is not preservation, it is history,” Cathey said. “That is what the historic society is supposed to be doing, not the preservation commission.”
However, other council members said that the narrative was thorough and provides important context.
“I look at that and think it is a neat little back drop,” Councilman Mike Huber said. “I think it is real cool to have that in there.”
Councilman Charlie Powell agreed.
“I just want to compliment whoever put that history together,” he said. “That’s the most thorough, concise review of what’s happened here that I’ve ever come across.”
He added that “any opportunity we have to educate the public about the importance of the history here I think is a good thing.”
The council plans to consider formally adopting the plan at their next regular meeting.
NOTE: Since Oil City reporters have been unable to contact Johnson, perspectives from other members of the public are welcome. Whether you have thoughts you’d like to discuss about the Historic Preservation Plan or other aspects of Casper’s history or the role of minorities in the community, you can consider contacting us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to contact members of the Casper City Council regarding this or any other issue, here is their contact information:
Mayor Steve Freel (Ward III, Term expires 1/3/23):
- (307) 259-1276
Vice Mayor Khrystyn Lutz (Ward I, Term expires 1/3/23):
- (307) 359-3673
Councilman Charlie Powell (Ward II, Term Expires 1/5/21):
- (307) 577-6042
Councilman Shawn Johnson (Ward II, Term expires 1/3/23):
- (307) 337-5057
- (307) 277-7377
Councilman Ken Bates (Ward II, Term expires 1/5/21):
- (307) 473-1247
Councilman Steve Cathey (Ward III, Term Expires 1/5/21):
- (307) 262-8237
Councilman Bob Hopkins (Ward I, Term expires 1/5/21):
- (307) 472-1837
Councilman Mike Huber (Ward I, Term expires 1/5/21):
- (307) 266-4188
Councilman Ray Pacheco (Ward III, Term expires 1/3/23):
- (307) 258-1226
Council members can also be reached by mail at: 200 N. David Street, 82601
If you would like to contact members in your specific ward, but don’t know which ward you are in, a map is available at the City of Casper’s website.