One person’s significant place is another person’s headache

How do we decide the significance of a place? I mean, I know how we do it – the book told me. There’s a thermometer. But after we’ve saved 10 significant homes, how do we decide whether or not to save the 11th? What if it’s just as architecturally beautiful? What if it’s just as historically significant to the neighborhood? What if great-grandma’s uncle’s first born son once lived there? TL;DR: I’m having a hard time grasping the line between “worth saving,” and “we’ve saved enough.”

There’s this horrible Facebook group that my dad keeps adding me to (and I keep deleting) that attempts to celebrate the “history” of Boise. Sometimes it’s somewhat interesting (though largely unsourced), but it seems like the majority of posts that I see are made by old fogeys wondering where the old KMart used to be and bemoaning the loss of history every time the city knocks down an office building from the 70s. They’re all that I could think of when I read this book. I know they don’t make the call when it comes to preservation, but they get awfully upset about it, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s what some of these committee meetings might sound like.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m 110% in favor of saving and preserving historic buildings and places, but it has to be done right. When I went to New Orleans a few years ago, I wanted to spend all of my time in the Vieux Carré district, soaking up the history and culture. After a long afternoon of wandering, I became aware of the fact that the French Quarter is a money pit. Yes – it’s beautiful, but it’s only kept beautiful for the tourists, and I’m glad the book touched on this, and places like it. The French façades only hide t-shirt shops, tacky ghost stories, and ridiculously expensive drinks. Venturing outside of the Quarter is where you’ll meet the people who know the city’s real history. Unfortunately, I can’t imagine a world in which historic preservation isn’t largely used for capitalist interests, so I guess I’m glad that they’re being saved at all, whatever the ulterior motive may be…

2 thoughts on “One person’s significant place is another person’s headache”

  1. I feel like I had such warmth towards this book and its subject before reading about the downtown revitalization projects. And I started thinking about all of the capitalist gains comes from these projects. So, I definitely understand your concerns as well. Do you think us as tourists can help stop this? Like by not going to the touristy destinations?

  2. I also wondered about caps on preservation projects. I suppose that the decision to preserve more or fewer buildings depends entirely on the climate of the community that has to look at those preserved buildings every day. It bothers me that so many of the places that get preserved are forced to play into touristy attractions, but at the same time a portion of the money generated from such places goes toward further preservation efforts. Once again the necessity for money rears its ugly head. I wish more places could be saved purely based on their own merit, but I understand why that isn’t feasible.

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