Historic local cemetery a focus as experts discuss preserving and revitalizing sacred places

Pontiac’s historic Oak Hill Cemetery will be featured at the 2018 Heritage Conference as national and local experts discuss strategies to revitalize sacred spaces, ensuring they have sustainability as special places and community assets.

“Sacred Spaces, Special Places” is set for Nov. 5 at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, 171 Pike St. in Pontiac. Registration is $25 and includes a continental breakfast and lunch. Online registration is available at AdvantageOakland.EventBrite.com.

The conference focus ranges from church buildings to cemeteries and their landscapes as sacred spaces and their value as special places for communities. The keynote speaker is Bob Jaeger, co-founder and president of Partners for Sacred Places, a Philadelphia-based non-profit that focuses on transforming and revitalizing historic and sacred spaces into special places that nurture, uplift and better serve their communities.

“For anyone interested in Oakland County or who wants to learn about some of our historical assets and strategies to preserve them – this is a must-attend conference,” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said.

Two members of the county’s planning division will present workshops at the conference:

  • Ron Campbell, a principal planner, architect and expert in historic preservation, will give a presentation entitled, “The Architecture of Death: An Integral Part of Life Today. The aspect of death has motivated some of the most iconic structures in a community and created some of the most memorable spaces.
  • John Bry, a principal planner and Main Street Oakland County coordinator, has more than 20 year’s experience in historic preservation, heritage tourism and community revitalization. His presentation is entitled, “Thinking Outside the Fence: How to Preserve Your Historic Cemetery.

The conference includes a tour of Oak Hill Cemetery. Oak Hill was established in 1822 by the city of Pontiac and was named to the National Register for Historic Places in 1989. The remains of six veterans from the Revolutionary War, more than 27 soldiers from the Civil War, including Gen. Israel B. Richardson, and Michigan Gov. Moses Wisner are all interred there.

Bry said municipal cemeteries are often huge financial burdens for communities, requiring partnerships that may include the city, a non-profit and a third party to pay for ongoing maintenance and repair. He estimated the annual cost for upkeep on Oak Hill is more than $200,000.

There is a reception following the conference at Fillmore 13 Brewery, 7 N. Saginaw St. in Pontiac, which is sponsored by the Oakland County Historical Commission.

The conference is sponsored by the Oakland County Department of Economic Development & Community Affairs, Oakland County Parks, the Historical Commission and produced with the support of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners.