Old buildings attract people.
Is it the warmth of the materials, the heart pine, marble, or old brick — or the resonance of other people, other activities? Maybe older buildings are just more interesting. The different levels, the vestiges of other uses, the awkward corners, the mixtures of styles, they’re at least something to talk about.
America’s downtown revivals suggest that people like old buildings. Whether the feeling is patriotic, homey, warm, or reassuring, older architecture tends to fit the bill. Regardless of how they actually spend their lives, Americans prefer to picture themselves living around old buildings. Some eyes glaze over when preservationists talk about “historic building stock,” but what they really mean is a community’s inventory of old buildings ready to fulfill new uses.
Old buildings have intrinsic value. Buildings of a certain era, namely pre-World War II, tend to be built with higher-quality materials such as rare hardwoods (especially heart pine) and wood from old-growth forests that no longer exist. Prewar buildings were also built by different standards. A century-old building might be a better long-term bet than its brand-new counterpart.
New businesses prefer old buildings. In 1961, urban activist Jane Jacobs startled city planners with The Death and Life of Great American Cities, in which Jacobs discussed economic advantages that certain types of businesses have when located in older buildings. Historic buildings have an intrinsic charm and a story to tell and they make sense for businesses such as coffee shops, restaurants, bookstores, brew pubs and many other types of small businesses. They also provide a sense of civic pride and community awareness as well as making downtown areas more attractive and appealing.
Cultural Benefit. 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. Just as banks prefer to build stately, old-fashioned facades, even when located in commercial malls, a city needs old buildings to maintain a sense of permanency and heritage.
Architecture is a direct and substantial representation of history and place. By preserving historic structures, we are able to share the very spaces and environments in which the generations before us lived. Historic preservation is the visual and tangible conservation of cultural identity. Architecture is one aspect of our heritage with which we can interact and adapt. Some buildings have specific historic context and must be meticulously and exactly preserved.
Most buildings, however, can be occupied by a business, lived in, and interacted with. These buildings change with us, thus recording a piece of each generation’s story. We have an obligation to respect this community resource and preserve it for future generations. Preservation works within the established history and location of cities and towns to build on the rich culture already at hand.
The preservation of historic buildings is a one-way street. There is no chance to renovate or to 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
The F&D International preservation professionals have extensive expertise in the assessment, repair and conservation of a wide range of historic building types and materials. Using sophisticated inspection methods and testing techniques, we apply the science of preservation to develop innovative solutions to restore historically significant properties.