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  • Writer's pictureHistoric Ithaca

Heritage Conservation in the Face of our Climate Crisis: Julie Nucci’s Journey to Preservationist

Many of you will remember Tropical Storm Lee in 2011 and the devastating flooding that accompanied the heavy rainfall. All across the world, individuals are experiencing firsthand the effects of the climate crisis via “once in a lifetime” flooding, fires, blizzards and more. Once the extreme weather ends, people are left with the seemingly endless task of rebuilding their homes. In the Village of Owego, Julie Nucci's historic Greek Revival home stands as a testament to the intersection of heritage conservation, climate change, and resilience. As the Preservation League of New York State noted, “[Dr. Nucci's house] is the first National Register-listed home in NYS elevated for flood mitigation and is included in the Secretary’s Guidelines on Flood Adaptation for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings.”

Armed with a background in Materials Engineering and extensive research experience, Julie Nucci navigated the complexities of elevating her historic home. Her journey reflects the synergy between scientific knowledge and the practicalities of preserving historic structures in the face of climate change. During this project, Dr. Nucci was a conscious shopper and stopped into Significant Elements. While visiting she stumbled upon a piece of history with deep personal significance; to her delight, she found a door for sale that was salvaged from Warren Hall on Cornell’s campus where she and her daughter had taught and studied. It’s a lovely full circle item for her and her family.

Building upon knowledge gained from her own experience, Julie Nucci assumed the role of Flood Resiliency Coordinator for the Village of Owego. In this voluntary position, she collaborates with village, town, and county governments, integrating flood resilience measures. Nucci's advocacy extends to the state and national levels, emphasizing the interconnectedness of caring for both buildings and their inhabitants.

As the chair of the Village's Climate Smart Communities Task Force, Dr. Nucci promotes sustainable practices and climate-conscious policies. Her approach acknowledges the vulnerability of historic communities, particularly those along waterways, and emphasizes the need for adaptability while preserving architectural heritage.

Julie Nucci recently formed J. Nucci Consulting, LLC and is working with the National Hazard Mitigation Association and FEMA on engagement and resilience strategies for under-served communities. Her journey serves as an inspiring example of how individuals, communities, and preservationists can come together to face the challenges of climate change. Her legacy extends beyond physical structures, emphasizing the importance of caring for the people who inhabit historic homes. As historic communities nationwide confront the escalating impacts of the climate crisis, Dr. Nucci's story stands as a beacon of hope, illustrating that with resilience and adaptation, our architectural heritage can endure the test of time.

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