Why I’m a Preservationist

I’m often asked why I’m a historic preservationist, why I decided to study preservation, or how I got into preservation.  Cue crickets.

For me, these are difficult questions. I’m not really sure why – I just felt the pull. It was gravitational.  It’s hard to explain… so I usually just blame it all on my mom.

From the very first post on Bricks + Mortar, It’s All Mom’s Fault:

When I was a kid, it seemed like my mom dragged me to every historical home in our small town that was put on the market.  She scoured the Sunday paper for new listings, then stalked the Queen Anns, Italianates, Federals, Romanesques, Neoclassicals, bungalows etc. until the Open House was announced.  If it had columns or “gingerbread” or wavy glass, my mom wanted to see inside.

Sunday afternoons would find us hot and sticky poking around someone’s old house with the AC off and the windows only recently opened.  I should have been bored. I should have wanted to go play with my friends or toys, watch cartoons from the couch, play fetch with the dog – anything. But I wasn’t. I was fascinated.

We would ooh and ahh over original trim, mantles with intricate carving, fireplace tiles, crazy wall papers, hardwood floors (look at the nail heads! the wooden pegs! inlay!), stained glass, newel posts and bannisters and imagine what it would have been like to live back then. And how awesome it would be to live there now.

And when we would later learn that a house we’d looked at was torn down to make way for another McDonalds or another parking lot (a common occurrence in our town, unfortunately), we would lament together about what was lost.

We never did buy a historical house. My mom still lives in the late 70s ranch I grew up in, but I was hooked.

It took me some time to find my way into the preservation profession.  I earned bachelors degrees, first in political science, then in French. I minored in international studies and history.  I taught for awhile. I traveled.  But eventually I found my way back to my early love of historical places and back to Kentucky.


  1. Meg Baco

    Great blog, Rachel! Let’s connect, I run Histpres – and would love to share your words/thoughts/images with our readers. Email anytime info[at]histpres[dot]com, and keep it up!

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