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Home Inclusiveness Shelly Hargrove Interview
Interview with Shelly Hargrove: Main Street Coordinator, Georgetown, Texas
Shelly Hargrove, a native of Lampasas, Texas, graduated from the University of Texas in 1995 with a Bachelor of Journalism. She previously worked in the state tourism office as a Tourism Development Specialist for the Texas Economic Development Department (TxED). Before that, she was the Main Street Manager for the cities of Taylor and Breckenridge, Texas.
Ms. Hargrove has been the Georgetown Main Street Manager since 2003 and during her tenure, the city has received the inaugural First Lady’s Texas Treasures Award and several Texas Downtown Association President’s Awards, as well as been designated a Gold Certified Scenic Texas City, a Preserve America Community, and a National Main Street City. She has also served on the board and as president of the Texas Downtown Association.
What led you to your field?
After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, I took off for London to participate in a Work Abroad program and fell in love with the historic architecture and all the charm that goes along with living in a city that has pieces of the Roman wall still visible. I couldn’t believe the history that was surrounding me while just walking down the street, so I think that’s when I officially got hooked on historic preservation and heritage tourism. In addition, my stepmother was the Main Street director for a period of time in our hometown of Lampasas, Texas, so she introduced me to the Texas Main Street Program and their great staff when I returned from London and I was on the job hunt.
How does what you do relate to historic preservation?
What I do in Main Street is all about creating lasting memories. When people visit the Georgetown Square, whether it be a local or a guest, we want them to make lasting memories so they’ll want to come back again and again and tell others about how great the square is. After all, word of mouth is still our best advertising. Historic preservation creates that unique environment and setting where lifelong memories can be made. It creates a place that is not easily duplicated, and that’s what we want, a place that people know distinctly as Georgetown, Texas, not to be confused with any other location around.
Why do you think historic preservation matters?
I truly believe that each individual building that makes up the Georgetown Square is a unique piece of three dimensional art. There is so much craftsmanship in these buildings that we couldn’t afford today, nor could we come close to duplicating their character, so historic preservation is very important. The dense long leaf pine floors, the texture of the thick blocks of limestone, the details on our many Mesker Brother storefronts, these are all features that when put all together create a space this is uniquely Georgetown. Plus the patina on these buildings only comes after decades of use and adds to the unique space. It gives the Georgetown Square a very authentic appeal.
What courses do you recommend for students interested in this field?
Main Street is a lot about people, so whether you are interacting with downtown business and property owners, your Main Street volunteers or visitors to your downtown, you need to be able to listen and converse with people. Since I studied Public Relations and Business at UT, I think it’s a great fit since my Communication classes have paid off for me when talking to the media or conducting a survey. Then the business side has come in handy when working with our independent business owners, developers, and Realtors. I think diversifying is key, and I wish I would have taken some historic architecture courses as well since that is a passion of mine.
Do you have a favorite preservation project? What about it made it special?
When I was the Main Street manager in Taylor, Texas, we worked on the 1935 City Hall project. It was a WPA project, and so many residents wanted to demolish the building since it wasn’t “pretty,” but that’s when historic preservation gets truly tested. When you have to remind people that even though this may not be your favorite architecture style, and maybe it is in major disrepair, this building is worth saving to set the tone for private sector downtown reinvestment, plus the building holds a lot of community memories.
Can you tell us what you are working on right now?
Downtown Georgetown is crazy busy right now; we are definitely in a great spot for downtown reinvestment! We have people looking at more and more downtown properties to purchase and improve. The city is also currently transforming the first floor of our historic city hall and old fire house building into the Georgetown Art Center which will be a great new downtown hot spot since art tends to bridge all age groups. We’ve also finished up expanding several sidewalks to encourage more outdoor seating. People want to be where other people congregate, so we want to encourage that more and more on the square. Finally, we are in the process of updating our Downtown Master Plan with Nore Winter since it has already been 10 years, so the possibilities are exciting. The future is looking very bright for the Georgetown Square.
How do you think the national historic preservation programs help your community?
I think any positive exposure for historic preservation on the national scale helps raise awareness and gives more validity to what we are doing locally. I think when people hear about great historic preservation projects going on in cities across the nation the same size as Georgetown then they think, “We can do that too!” It never hurts to gets folks to be a little competitive, it’s the American spirit, so positive peer pressure can still work, especially with historic preservation.
The ACHP’s mission is “preserving America’s heritage;” can you give us an example of how your community is preserving their heritage?
Georgetown has a very unique history with Dan Moody being the first person in the U.S. to successfully prosecute the KKK in the Williamson County Courthouse. This is such an amazing and significant story, not only in Texas history but American history. So, a book has been written, a play is performed by our Palace Theatre, and there are more plans to come that will help shine more light on this story. It’s really incredible to have this rich of a story that took place in the center of the Georgetown Square. We need to make sure others hear about it since it’s part of what makes Georgetown, Texas, truly unique!