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Thread: Historical versus Just Old

  1. #1

    Historical versus Just Old

    Just want to throw this out there to all and see what bounces back. I know being in the planning world I should be wanting to preserve a garbage pile if its over 50 years old so excuse my sacrilegious question --but what do you all classify as WORTHY of historical preservation? It's my first time actually working in a town with significant "historical" structures in my 12 years of doing this and man I have to say it's pretty frustrating. I was born and raised in a town that was booming in the late 1800's to early 1900's due to coal mining and other industries (not doing so hot now unfortunately). And the architecture of some buildings are really something and I completely understand the need to preserve that beauty. But now this town I work in has some beat up houses that are in the middle of our downtown district with very limited versatility and really they just don't look good! I know that is very subjective, I get it, but they have zero architectural "features". Literally just looks like an old farm house on the main drag of our downtown and really some of the best real estate in the area. Even lipsticking the pig won't help too much.

    So the thought that keeps running through my head is just because its old doesn't mean it's historical. To me at least. I believe there should be something worth preserving, like architecture or masonry work that is atypical in today's world ..or if there was some historical event relevance to a structure I get that too. I don't know .... I guess I'm just a cold-hearted bastardo!

    I can just imagine in 50 years someone wanting to preserve a 1994 era brown EIFS strip mall. "BUT ITS BEEN THERE FOR SO LONG! That's where Johnny's Liquor and Cigs was!"

  2. #2
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    I think you just nailed the big part of historic. Something has to be historic about it. Architecture, a person lived there, an event happened, something. I say the same thing to people around here. An old farmhouse is just an old building. We have plenty of old farm houses. In town we have some nice older style homes. Not being an architecture expert I couldn't name off all the styles, but they do have some style. Our city preserves the ones that were important like the founder's homes, maybe the old governor's house, stuff like that, but ours are in neighborhoods with other houses around them. It's not like they're out of place. We also have plenty of crappy looking homes that have style and I would love to save, but no one is going to put the time or money up to do that, including me. Sorry, sometimes old is just old. Is there a nice project house just off main street that people could focus on? Something worth saving? Or maybe an old commercial building?
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Generally, a 'historic' structure contributes to cultural significance - place, time, person/people, etc. I would recommend you review NPS's and your SHPO's criteria for what constitutes a historic structure and use that as a basis for your evaluation of the structure. I mean, that's what Section 106 is all about (right?).

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Bubba's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mercdude View post
    Generally, a 'historic' structure contributes to cultural significance - place, time, person/people, etc. I would recommend you review NPS's and your SHPO's criteria for what constitutes a historic structure and use that as a basis for your evaluation of the structure. I mean, that's what Section 106 is all about (right?).
    Yep, and I'll expand on this.

    For the original poster, a few steps to take:

    1. Remove the word "historical" and the term "historical preservation" from your professional vocabulary. Historical covers anything that occurred in the past; historic means occurred in the past and is significant.

    2. Read through the NPS' NRB 15 (https://www.nps.gov/nr/publications/bulletins/nrb15/) as a starter for getting your head around how to look at a building's historic significance. This is the standard used for NHPA Section 106 compliance - local preservation does not need to strictly follow these criteria (lower thresholds at times for city/county preservation efforts), but it is a starting point.

    3. Check with your State Historic Preservation Office (google your state + SHPO if you don't know where to look). Look for architectural and/or historic contexts, check their staff directory for the CLG coordinator, etc.

    4. Don't type "historical". Don't be that person.
    I found you a new motto from a sign hanging on their wall…"Drink coffee: do stupid things faster and with more energy"

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Related

    FEMA Independent Study:

    IS-253.A: Overview of FEMA's Environmental and Historic Preservation Review
    http://training.fema.gov/is/courseov...?code=IS-253.a

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    To co-miserate with the OP - yes, HP can be a pain. It can place higher value on the past than the future, sometimes to the detriment of progress - i.e. no, you can't install energy efficient windows because those aren't historic (khan!!!). Take heart, this is an age-old question: maintain old vs. make room for new.

    Just so you know, HP is huge in the southwestern US and I'd bet most of Europe to boot. So it's not something to sneeze at, it's just something you have to deal with and learn as much as you can so you don't come across as dismissive to historical societies and cultural groups... and those pesky archaeologists too. Btw, if it were up to them, only they would prepare 106 or cultural landscape reports aka planners/arch's, sit down and shut up.

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