Last week at the National Trust’s annual conference we talked a lot about how to attract a wider audience to historic preservation. One of the conclusions that we came to is that a lot of people are already preservationists – they just don’t know it! So I’ve put together a little list of preservation related traits to help you spot a preservationist (including yourself!).
You might be a preservationist if…
- You want to live in a walkable neighborhood close to shops, restaurants and businesses.
- You think old buildings have charm.
- You love the unique quirks and places that make your community special.
- You love history.
- You get excited about innovative uses of old spaces – like a microbrewery in an old factory, or condos in a former school building!
- You go out of your way to patronize local businesses – especially if they have a cool location or are downtown.
- You’d rather go to the small old theater with the awesome marquee and real-life stage than the cineplex.
- You enjoy it when locally produced products and local businesses have names inspired by local historical events, people or places.
- You have ever worked to save a place that was important to you or your community because it was associated with an important person or event in your community’s history.
How would you finish this sentence? Leave your answer in the comments!
Five years after an entire city block was razed in downtown Lexington, Kentucky, its people have learned to turn lemons into lemonade.
Google the failed development known as Centrepointe and reams of newspaper articles and blog posts will flood your results screen. It reads like a soap opera- the (some might say greedy) developer, the hometown opposition, and the plot twist: death and financial ruin.
It started out as plan for urban renewal right out of a 1960s handbook. Developer, Dudley Webb wanted to demolish an entire city block in the center of the city’s historic center, in order to build a new mixed-use property with a hotel, restaurants, offices and condos. In the past, Webb spearheaded successful downtown development and even won awards and accolades from preservationists for his Victorian Square project. In light of this, preservationists and concerned citizens hoped to dissuade Webb from demolition. Instead, a tooth and nail battle over the fate of the block ensued.
Though the block contained some of downtown’s oldest buildings and more than a few beloved local business, and despite the fierce opposition faced by Webb, the block came down – only for the city to find that his mysterious main financial backer died suddenly. Without leaving a will.
The whole deal went belly up, leaving Lexington with a large grassy field at its center. Despite dozens of new designs for the development and promises by Webb that construction is eminent, the lot remains nothing but grass behind a wooden fence.
In the meantime, Webb has granted various groups in the city permission to utilize the Centrepointe field for events – a genius PR move. Festivals that once lined the streets have found a new home at Centrepointe including festivities surrounding St. Patrick’s Day and Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Marketed as a once in a lifetime event, the twilight match was rumored to have been conceived of and executed in just 7 days! It was so fun and unique that it’s almost a shame that something will eventually be constructed on the lot. This author votes that downtown Twilight Polo should become a new Lexington tradition! Viva the grassy field!
A weekly round-up of my favorite preservation related stories from around the web and in the news. Click on the title of each story to jump through to the original article/blog post.
SC Johnson Frank Lloyd Wright Research Tower – The Journal Times
“SCJ is currently in the middle of an eight-year, $30 million restoration and conservation plan. ‘Our family’s long partnership with Frank Lloyd Wright led to these architectural treasures that we’re honored to work in every day,’ company President and CEO Fisk. Johnson said Friday via email. ‘The Research Tower represents the completion of the work that Wright began here in the mid-1930s with our Administration Building. As we have made significant investments in these historic buildings and expanded our free public tour program, including the Tower was the natural next step.'”
“Cities where small, locally owned businesses account for a relatively large share of the economy have stronger social networks, more engaged citizens, and better success solving problems, according to several recently published studies. And in the face of climate change, those are just the sort of traits that communities most need if they are to survive massive storms, adapt to changing conditions, find new ways of living more lightly on the planet, and, most important, nurture a vigorous citizenship that can drive major changes in policy.”
Never Altered Modern in Cali to be Demolished – Curbed Los Angeles“On Sunday, Los Angeles Modern Auctions is selling off the custom-built furniture from the Kingsley Residence in Pacific Palisades, designed by JR Davidson, the underrated architect who designed three houses for the Case Study House program (Numbers 1, 11, and 15). Why? Because the 1947 house has recently sold and the new owner is planning to demolish it very, very soon, according to the seller (members of the Kingsley family). Boo! Hiss! According to a LAMA press release, this is “One of the last remaining Davidson houses in its original form … The Kingsley residence was never altered in terms of the structure, and aside from minor updates by the architect in the 1950s, the interior of the home remained almost identical to the [Julius] Shulman photographs for over 60 years.”
“In Rhode Island, the issue [shrinking revenues, lost jobs and general economic malaise]has come to a head around the future of the once-iconic Industrial Trust Tower, or, as it is known more affectionately, the Superman building — named for its resemblance to the building the Man of Steel leaped “in a single bound” in the . The building is empty for the first time in 85 years, and casts a shadow over a city struggling to reinvent its economy.”
Repurposing Streets with No Name – Rustwire
“In a number of cities, there are certain derelict streets that are nearly denuded of dwellings or businesses. Desolate and forlorn, these streets resemble something out of a post war apocalypse. Detroit may be the poster child du jour of such stark and sad emptiness, but there are many other examples across the Rust Belt and elsewhere. What to do with neglected streets has long been a source of planning discussion and conjecture. In some instances entire abandoned neighborhoods have or are being converted to urban agriculture or community gardens. However, this avid bicycle commuter has another suggestion for a few of these lowly streets without names – repurpose them to active transportation byways.”
Did you know that historic preservation is green – as in sustainable and environmentally responsible?
“A commonly quoted phrase, ‘the greenest building is the one that’s already built,’ succinctly expresses the relationship between preservation and sustainability. The repair and retrofitting of existing and historic buildings is considered by many to be the ultimate recycling project, and focusing on historic buildings has added benefits for the larger community.”
Last week, NPR host Steve Inskeep interviewed sociologist Eric Klinenberg about how vibrant, tight-knit neighborhoods could fare better in a disaster. Klinenberg is a professor of sociology at New York University and has been studying the fate of two neighborhoods in Chicago during the 1995 heat wave that took the lives of almost 700 people. His article on the subject, “Adaptation,” appears in the current issue of The New Yorker.
The two neighborhoods he studied, Auburn Gresham and Englewood, are adjacent. They have the same micr0-climate, both are very poor and both have a large population of older people living alone. Though the neighborhoods are nearly identical by most measures, the death rate during the heat wave was drastically different. In Englewood, about 33 per 100,000 people died. In Auburn Gresham the death rate was 3 per 100,000. That’s a drastic difference!
According to Klinenberg, what Auburn Gresham has that Englewood does not, and what caused the the drastically different death rates was the existence of a “viable social infrastructure.” Auburn Gresham “has small commercial establishments that draw older people who are vulnerable to heat waves out of their homes and into public life.” The physical environment of the neighborhood – it’s bricks and mortar shops and restaurants – facilitated the development of a community. The community aided those in need and therefore experienced far fewer losses.*
At this point, you might be asking yourself the same question Steve Inskeep asked, “So you’re telling me that if I were to live in an old-style urban neighborhood, where there’s a coffee shop down the street, where there’s a corner store, where there’s a corner dry cleaner, where people walk around and they may know the neighbors, and kids play on the street, that I am more likely to survive a disaster because of the kind of community that I’m in?”
And the answer is, in a lot of cases, yes!
Historic preservationists and people who live in neighborhoods that have retained their sidewalks and small commercial establishments have known for a long time that these simple “old-style” amenities make a huge difference in quality of life. They help people get to know their neighbors and build a sense of community. Take them away and you know longer have a “viable social infrastructure” to depend upon.
*A quick Google image search of “Englewood Chicago” and “Auburn Gresham Chicago” dramatically highlights the radically different atmospheres in the two neighborhoods. The majority of photos that result from the Englewood search show vacant lots, boarded up houses and crime scenes with a sprinkling of historical photos and photos of neighborhood people. The Auburn Gresham search, on the other hand, results in images of people enjoying community events (church activities, school activities, street fairs, etc), with only a sprinkling of derelict or abandoned property and crime scene photos.