WASHINGTON – The good news spread among leaders of the Lily Dale Assembly this month not through telepathy, but by email and word of mouth: The historic spiritualist community in Chautauqua County was now government-certified as truly historic.
Capping a yearslong effort, the Lily Dale Assembly now ranks as one of the latest additions to the National Register of Historic Places. Quietly and without even a news release, the National Park Service granted the Lily Dale Assembly Historic District that special status on Jan. 28, announcing the move, as it typically does, in a little-noticed weekly list of sites newly deemed as historic.
“I just found out this past week” through emails from people who noticed the online notice of the historical designation, said Shelley Takei, the Lily Dale Assembly member who led the effort to win a spot on the national register. “It was like: ‘Oh my gosh, I think we are!’ I’m sure that they’ll make a bigger deal about it.”
Placement on the historic register is a big deal. It’s the federal government’s stamp of approval for historic sites, opening them up to the possibility of more tourism as well as fundraising opportunities.
The designation will help the assembly as it seeks grants to preserve its historic community buildings, such as the assembly hall and auditorium, Takei said. What’s more, the designation will allow owners of Lily Dale’s historic homes to qualify for a 20% tax credit when they make improvements to those aging structures.