A Case Study of Overall Historic Character and Preservation Initiatives: Oley Township Historic District, Berks County, Pa

Open Access
Pyle, Zachary L
Graduate Program:
Landscape Architecture
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
July 02, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Cecilia Jaswa Rusnak, Thesis Advisor
  • Thomas George Yahner, Thesis Advisor
  • Caru Bowns, Thesis Advisor
  • Historic District
  • Zoning
  • Farmland Preservation
As one of the first historic districts to cover an entire township, Oley Township Historic District in Berks County, Pennsylvania was nominated for inclusion in the National Register in 1982. Through the years since its nomination, local residents and organizations have established a variety of measures to ensure the preservation of Oley’s historic character. While other historic areas in Pennsylvania suffer from uncontrolled suburban sprawl and industrial development, Oley has engaged zoning regulations, farmland preservation programs, and its local residents. In effect, the township exhibits an intact and discernible historic landscape. The goal of this research is to broadly examine Oley’s historic resources in terms of their existence at the present date and connect this continued existence to specific preservation initiatives at the township and county level. This research identifies what factors have contributed to Oley’s intact historic state and suggests how other areas can borrow or learn from this case study. Specific areas covered include local zoning ordinances, farmland preservation initiatives, comprehensive planning, and community involvement. The study of rural historic districts holds special significance to historic preservation because there is a need for a deeper understanding of landscape and cultural dynamics, management techniques, and most of all, the extent to which current preservation strategies have proven effective (Melnick 2008). Oley township residents, as well as several outside agencies and concerned individuals, have implemented many different conservation and preservation strategies within the township, but how have these impacted the historic landscape in Oley? While it’s apparent Oley has retained its historic character, how did this happen when neighboring townships seem to have favored development over protecting historic character?