Darien officials hope historic designation will transform downtown
DARIEN Downtown Darien is a pretty quiet place.
The city hall and tavern see most of the business, and in the fall the grain elevator brings an influx of trucks.
But years ago the place was hopping. The village was a stop on a well-frequented rural road, and it had a grocery store, hardware store pharmacy and post office.
This month, the Wisconsin Historical Society put downtown Darien on the state register of historic places in recognition of the value of its buildings and their stories.
“This project is going to be a stepping stone for some amazing redevelopment and economic growth that this village needs,” Darien Village Administrator Diana Dykstra wrote in an email.
The process for gaining recognition involved hiring an historical archaeologist to determine the backgrounds and value of all the elements of the downtown.
The report, which was prepared by historical resources consultant Carol Lohry Cartwright, highlighted the downtown area’s best structures—including the Young and Heyer buildings.
These two buildings were home to the village’s oldest stores—the Heyer Hardware store and the grocery store that was in business until late 1970s.
The report next was sent to the state historical society, which then reviewed it and approved the village’s application.
The designation is important for two reasons.
“Just the very basic element of drawing attention to the area is important,” Dykstra said. “This is the limelight we need to showcase the downtown.”
Dykstra acknowledged the area still has a long way to go in the process, but she believes the new village hall will help get things started.
The new facility will include remodeled portions of the existing building, which was built by the Works Progress Administration in the late 1930s. The new addition will mimic the architectural style of the original building.
Work is expected to start on the new village hall in September.
The other reason is more pragmatic: The historic district status means there will be tax incentives and “funding opportunities” for business owners in the area.
At the same time, the designation does not restrict what property owners can do to their buildings, Dykstra said.
“We did ask that question,” she said. “Those things only apply when you are seeking tax incentives or funding.”