Published on March 10, 2014
SIX REASONS TO SAVE OLD BUILDINGS
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 what’s being destroyed. 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.
New businesses 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 buildings.
“Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. 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 one way. 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, Flickr 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.
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