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What is historic, and worth saving, varies with the beholder, but some definition is urgent. Simply put, “historic” means “old and worth the trouble.” It applies to a building that’s part of a community’s tangible past. And to a degree that may surprise cynics, old buildings can offer opportunities for a community’s future.
This article examines both the cultural and practical values of old buildings and looks at why preserving them is beneficial not only for a community’s culture, but also for its local economy.
[Preservation Tips & Tools] Six Practical Reasons to Save Old Buildings
SIX REASONS TO SAVE
Old buildings have intrinsic value.
Buildings of a certain era tend to be built with higher-quality materials
and at different standards. A century-old building might be a better
long-term bet than its brand-new counterpart.
When you tear
down a building,
you never know
Once a vacant eyesore in
Knoxville, Tenn., the Daylight
Building survived demolition and
revealed a treasure trove of
details: drop-ceilings with heart-
pine wood, opalescent glass, and
a façade lined with bright copper.
prefer old buildings.
Urban activist Jane Jacobs asserted
that new buildings make sense for
major chain stores, but other
businesses – bookstores, restaurants,
pubs, small start-ups – thrive in old
“Old ideas can
New ideas must
use old buildings.”
Old buildings attract people.
Is it the warmth of the heart pine, marble, or old brick -- or the
resonance of other people, other uses, other activities? America’s
downtown revivals suggest that people like old buildings and prefer to
picture themselves living in and around them.
Older buildings are reminders of a city’s
culture and complexity.
By seeing historic buildings -- whether related to something famous or recognizably
dramatic -- tourists and longtime residents are able to witness the aesthetic and
cultural history of an area. A city needs old buildings to maintain a sense of
permanency and heritage.
Regret only goes
The preservation of historic buildings is a one-way street. There is no
chance to renovate or save a historic site once it’s gone, and we can never
be certain what will be valued in the future. This reality brings to light the
importance of locating and saving buildings of historic significance --
because once a piece of history is destroyed, it is lost forever.
Photos courtesy Doha Sam, dok1, Corey
Templeton, flickr; cxcynth, Flickr; Brian
Stansberry, Wikimedia Commons; Wikimedia
Commons; Tess Shebaylo, Flickr; Ed Uthman,
Text adapted from “Nine Practical Reasons to
Save Old Buildings,” by Jack Neely.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America’s
historic places. Preservation Tips & Tools helps others do the same
in their own communities.
For more information, visit blog.preservationnation.org.