Carlton Hall has been recognized as one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's “40 Under 40: People Saving Places.”
From his window in the State Historic Preservation Office, Carlton Hall can see one of the most significant buildings in Dover: the old State House.
Built between 1787 and 1792, the former home of the state legislature also is a monument to the drive to preserve historic buildings.
Making sure this and other notable structures can be seen by future generations is one of Hall’s jobs, and one of the reasons he just was recognized as one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “40 Under 40: People Saving Places.”
Hall said his interest in history came to the fore as he was graduating from the Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, the country’s oldest historically black institution of higher education.
“It really fascinated me and, in my senior year, it really started to come out,” he said. “I wanted to get into doing historical research and learn the steps it would take to do that.”
Hall was nominated for National Trust recognition by Sarah Zimmerman, superintendent of Dover’s First State Heritage Park, for his 2015 research into the Negro Motorist’s Green Book. First printed in 1936, the paperback for almost 30 years was a black vacationer’s guide to state-by-state listings of hotels, restaurants and even service stations where African American travelers could expect to be accommodated.
“This all was during my grandparents’ generation,” Hall said, talking about what he learned. “I knew about segregation and that [black] people couldn’t just walk into any restaurant or motel.”
African American drivers usually had to pack extra food or take additional gasoline on their travels if they expected to find only “whites only” establishments, he said, “but now, thinking about if my grandfather had to take a trip 60 years ago, I don’t know if I’d be able to do that.”
What’s the next step in Hall’s career? He admits he hasn’t had time to think about it.
“I want to get better at my job as a historian and architectural historian,” he said. “I’ve finally gotten to where I’ve been wanting to be for the past eight years. I find this work meaningful and this field I’m in is bigger than myself.”
Researching into prior events is important, Hall said.
“Learning about the past prevents us from making the same mistakes over and over again,” Hall said. “As far as preserving buildings goes, the world would be a very boring place if we only had modern buildings. Dover’s historic districts just add to the beauty of the city.
“There’s something about looking at a building like the old State House. There are so many stories to be told.”
“Maybe I’m biased,” Hall admits from his SHPO desk.
“That building has been remodeled so many times. It was built in the Georgian style, then changed to a Victorian style in the late 1800s. If you see the old black and white pictures, it doesn’t even look like the same building.”
The State House underwent a second renovation in the early 20th century, and then it was completely rebuilt in time for the nation’s 1976 bicentennial celebrations.
“It’s been remodeled to look like its earliest days, and that’s pretty amazing,” Hall said.