The at the corner of West and Mott Avenues on Wednesday began sporting the first "Wall Street Historic District" plaque, a snazzy, plate-sized sign in brown and brushed steel.
A brief ceremony surrounding installation of the first plaque was primarily a celebration of the two-year-old historic district itself.
The disc-shapped plaque was affixed to the front of the 1860 Gothic Revival church building after the brief ceremony, which was held outside on the busy corner across Mott Avenue from . The church's parish house was scheduled to get the second one.
"Historic preservation is really the starting point for which ay redevelopment effort should be contemplated," said Timothy Sheehan, executive director of the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, which had the plaques manufactured. "Having plaques is a sign of commitment to our sense of historic preservation."
Tod Bryant, president of Norwalk Preservation Trust, then told the crowd of about 20 people, "To hear what Tim Sheehan just said is tremendously gratifying, because [...] that wasn't always the mindset."
Before Mayor Richard A. Moccia presented the first plaque to the church's pastor, the Rev. Tisha Jermin, he said: "I've learned a lot about historic preservation over the years, thanks to everyone involved here. [...] We can move forward without destroying the past."
Another 25 plaques are now available to go up around the district, which was started in March 2009, when the district was added to the state register of historic places (that September it was listed on the national register).
The district covers 42 properties between the old trolley barn (where Meigas restaurant is located) and the church. Most of the district is on the south side of Wall Street, with part of it also on upper Commerce Street.
The redevelopment agency encourages any owners of historic property in the district to contact it if they would like a plaque.
On a practical level, the designation of the historic district means businesses can get tax breaks for maintaining their properties and nonprofit organizations, including the Norwalk United Methodist Church, can get matching federal grants for historic preservation.
In fact, the church is exploring getting a historic preservation grant to fix its , Jermin said in an interview after the ceremony.
Scott Kuykendall, a graphic designer at Oxygen Design of East Norwalk who created the plaque, is also a past president of the Norwalk Historical Society.
A picture in the center of the plaque comes from an old postcard depicting Wall Street, probably from around 1898, Kuykendall said. The picture is based on a photograph taken while looking west on the street, he said.
"It was one of the few scenes we could find that truely gave a sense of liveliness on the street," he said in an interview after the ceremony. The picture shows three horse-drawn carriages or carts on the road in front of storefronts. Most other postcard pictures of the street either had people posing or didn't have people in them at all, he said.
"What's interesting," he added, "is that the buildings in the foreground are gone."