Feds assessing Hobson

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 23, 2004

A National Park Service official is visiting Hobson Friday, part of a grassroots effort to have the former oystering village added to the state and federal historic registers.

Patrick Andrus, a historian with the National Register of Historic Places, and officials from the state Department of Historic Resources will accompany resident Mary Hill on a driving tour of the community around 10:30 a.m.

After the tour, Andrus is likely to make some recommendations and options as to best way for Hobson, a historically black village, to move ahead with its efforts, said Marc Wagner, a spokesman with the state historic resources department. No decision will be made Friday.

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Due to budget constraints, it’s unusual for federal officials to make visits, Wagner said

&uot;We don’t have the funding to get people in the field very often,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s becoming very rare, particularly for preliminary applications like this.

&uot;Visits usually aren’t made unless its an urgent situation.&uot;

Both the state and federal agencies are putting an increasing emphasis on the preservation of properties rich in diversity, Wagner said.

Over the past year, state DHR officials studying the community have identified 117 buildings in the village on Crittenden Road. Of those, 47 are designated as contributing to the historic character of the area.

The city has become increasingly aggressive in enforcing city code violations, issuing citations for high grass and dilapidated housing. At least twice, the city has razed vacant homes after repeated citations to property owners were ignored.

Hill said the group would like the city to designate Hobson as a historic district, which would reduce the chance of dilapidated buildings being destroyed. The group isn’t interested in the less restrictive conservation status, largely because it would not prevent Neighborhood Development from using its enforcement measures.

Although the state and federal historic designations are strictly honorary, Hill is hopeful the recognitions would help the community win grant funding from other sources to help repair and restore some structures in Hobson.

That’s the reason why Hobson residents initiated efforts to get on the historic registers on its own, said Hill.

&uot;We feel we earned the designation,&uot; she said. &uot;But we also feel the recognition will open the doors to state and federal resources that can be used to turn Hobson back into a vibrant community.&uot;

Five member of the Suffolk City Council, including Mayor Bobby Ralph, and several other city officials have written letters supporting the community’s effort, Hill said.

In its budget this year, Suffolk, for the first time, has earmarked funding for Hobson through the city’s village development program.

The fact that the money would only be used for public projects concerns Hill, who said many of the village’s elderly residents need funding assistance to address blight issues identified by Neighborhood Development.

&uot;I believe the city has an agenda and I don’t see us on it,&uot; Hill said.