The Preservation on Main Street Conference turned Downtown DeLand into a national celebration of preserving our past July 25-30. Speakers included preservationists from across the country, like author and professor Christine Madrid French, as well as elected officials like Florida Sen. Tom Wright and Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd.
For the third year in a row, the conference combined two separate events: the Florida Main Street Conference and the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation conference. Bringing the events to Florida was a big deal, MainStreet DeLand Association Executive Director Wayne Carter told The Beacon.
“The conference is a big deal,” he said. “DeLand last hosted the Florida Main Street program in 2016.”
With a focus on what makes Main Streets and historical preservation an important part of a community, DeLand was an obvious pick to host the conference. Preservationist extraordinaire and Florida Victorian Architectural Salvage owner Mark Shuttleworth said the conference was a great opportunity to showcase what makes preserving history so special.
“The whole conference was really to showcase West Volusia’s success in making historic preservation economically viable and productive and to have it contribute to maintaining not just the Downtown, but the general economics of the city,” he said.
Shuttleworth attended some workshops, like one on the benefits of preserving antique windows in old buildings, and he sat on a panel for a workshop about the preservation of the J.W. Wright Building in DeLand, and social justice in historic preservation. Shuttleworth has been instrumental in getting the old building, once a hub for African American residents, registered as a historic building and fixed up for future use.
He was joined on the panel by former Florida Rep. Joyce Cusack, who shared memories of growing up in the Spring Hill neighborhood and participating in sit-ins in DeLand during the 1950s and ’60s.
Shuttleworth hoped the conference’s attendees learned a thing or two about how cultivating a main street can not only foster a city’s economic growth, but its historic preservation, too.
On top of all the fun — from interactive lectures to a welcoming reception on Artisan Alley — the MainStreet DeLand Association took home two of the secretary of state’s 2022 Florida Main Street Awards: an Achievement Award for Outstanding Private/Public Partnership and the Top Excellence Award for Outstanding Florida Main Street Sales Promotion.
The Private/Public Partnership award recognized the Downtown DeLand CRA’s recently built wayfinding signs, and the promotion award lauded Stroll Our Streets, the West Volusia Tourism Advertising Authority’s event series encouraging people to enjoy Downtown DeLand on foot.
Plus, Downtown business got a boost, too.
“The hotels near Downtown had great occupancy, attendees shopped and ate in restaurants, and purchases were made from other DeLand vendors and caterers,” Wayne Carter said.