If you have not done so already, I give you a challenge to participate in Preservation Idaho’s bike tour of architectural styles found in Boise. There are three reasons to do so: you get to ride your bike, you get to learn about Boise history, and the best reason of all, is that it is free. (Or at least has been). I have participated in two bike tours. The first was the Art Deco tour of the North End. My life centers on the Bench and so I was amazed about the large number of homes both large and small that contain elements of the Art Deco style. The second tour was about small houses on the Boise Bench created by an architect who cared nothing for architectural rules and regulations. He just put together elements that he liked of all types of architectural styles. (His name escapes me now which does not help with the point that I am trying to make about this being a memorable experience). These homes are largely located in the Rose Hill area. If you Google 4006 Rose Hill Street, you can see an image of his work. As you can imagine, these houses were the laughing stock of proper architecture. Now, they are seen as unique homes full of character.
So this brings me to the book. How can preservationists and new developers come to a consensus on what to preserve, what to build, and in what style? If Mr. No-name architect did not have the opportunity to build in his wonky way, would Boise now lack a distinct house style different from anywhere else in the U.S.? Preservationists, I think, have to have the ability to see value in the past as well as what will be valued history in the future. Also, the preservationist has to see value in architecture (or sites, etc.) for themselves, but for other groups within the community. There is a great responsibility to preserve the collective history. The book mentions later that even though for me, personally, Starbucks is not especially important. But, in how many years will generations younger than I want to preserve the coffee shops as they are today as a representation of the culture of the 2000’s?
Then again, there are the hard questions. At what point do old buildings need to be demolished? Even if I find a building to be too far gone, but it the cultural center for others, who gets the say? Or should get the say? Also, if we look too much to the past, are we limiting future good things?
Hard philosophical questions aside, take a bike tour next time the opportunity arises.