County Historical Marker Program
One of the hallmarks of our society is producing historical markers that enlighten, educate and inspire the public about significant, tangible remnants of the past. Examples include buildings, properties and physical objects, such as grave monuments. This year, our industrious board members researched and applied for nine markers that span several time periods, from the 50+ year-old Michigan International Speedway to the 150-year-old Jackson Train Station. Our markers, manufactured and installed by partner Fritz Signs, feature 18-inch-high by 24-inch-long metal panels mounted on pedestals that stand 40 inches above the ground. The panels contain text and historic images that allow viewers to not only read about the landmark, but to “see” history through images that range from archival photographs to periodic maps, creating intriguing windows to the past.
Why are we so invested in this program? Historical markers are one of the most iconic parts of an educational family road trip. You can see them placed throughout major highways and at popular tourist spots. Some families even take road trips for the sole purpose of finding these jewels of information. Even when a vacation does not focus on history, many people still use them as stops between Point A and Point B. Needless to say, historical markers act as a crucial element of American travel.
County historical marker programs work a lot like state programs except on a smaller scale. In addition to honoring our past, we get many material and immaterial perks from having historical plaques. When we commemorate where history happened, the entire community grows stronger.
Historical markers boost the surrounding area by enhancing the following parts of a town:
Education: Placing a historical marker brings attention to places and events that Jackson County residents might not know about otherwise. Creating an official historic location can even give local schools an opportunity for a field trip that enhances student learning. Visitors can learn more about the area when we can show them what parts of our community history we value. History gives us context for current events and even guides us in the future. By establishing a new source of knowledge in our area, students of all ages can develop an important connection to the monument.
Tourism. Cultural and heritage tourism has a global value of over one billion dollars. Tourists who visit areas for historical or cultural reasons tend to not only stay longer, but they also spend more money at restaurants and hotels, helping small businesses in Jackson County. As a bonus, the engagement associated with cultural attractions makes it easier for tourists to enjoy and remember their trips. And if they have fun and unforgettable experiences, they’ll be more likely to visit Jackson County again.
Jobs. With increased tourism comes a higher number of jobs. Tourism leads to job openings created when tourists flock to historic monuments. Examples include the increased need for advertising, promotions and step-on tour guides and hospitality industry staff. Sometimes, a historical site becomes so popular that it is a crucial element of the local economy. As a case in point, demand for charter bus tours to local Underground Railroad sites recently prompted the Jackson Chamber of Commerce to publish more brochures highlighting this offering. Even businesses not geared towards visitors can benefit due to more exposure and activity.
Property Values: Thanks to the previously listed benefits, revitalization can occur and property values in a designated historical area can increase compared to regions without heritage sites. For example, the historic district in Savannah, Ga., has property values much higher than the city average. This trend became important when real estate across the nation became unstable. Thanks to its inherent perks, the historic district faced lower rates of foreclosure. In turn, the higher property values led to more public-school funding, enhancing the education of local children. Historic preservation also increased the quality of life in the historic district, making the area more walkable and bikeable.
When community heritage thrives, so does the community itself. Not only will Jackson County residents better appreciate their home, but we can show visitors why our area matters. Our society hopes to bring these and other benefits to Jackson through our Historical Marker Program.