So, I’ve spent the last 8 days revisiting a place I’ve lived in for 19 years, attempting to approach an all too familiar city within the context of this course. Public history and Boston coexist, and it is nearly impossible to go any amount of time before being reminded of the city’s significance in the country’s history.
The preservation work is absolutely astonishing. I’ll post pictures once I arrive back in Boise (I left my USB cable at home… go figure). The best representation of a building being preserved amongst modernity is a picture I took of Faneuil Hall being surrounded by sky scrapers that barely fit in the frame. Old cathedrals are nestled between more dominating commerce structures, and facades of old are masking buildings of new.
Public history is intertwined with every aspect of daily life. From the coaster under your beer telling the story of the pub you’re in, to the character of the sagging shelves holding up the glasses – all pay tribute to a city that is proud of their heritage and holds dear anything with proof of its longevity.
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel that any older, worn out building has character. Sure, your new Corey Barton home has a fancy granite countertop with impeccable wall to wall hardwood floor, but give me a house with creaky floorboards and brick walls any day (a little lead paint creates some excitement, too!). Something about a structure built for a family or a specific purpose, rather than a cookie-cutter McMansion design makes for a better appreciation for what you have and how you got it.
Of course it’s easier to tear down and rebuilt something shiny and exciting. Like the city I grew up in, I prefer to acknowledge my past and celebrate its influence in my daily life. I am in no way stating that we should all settle for a subpar structure to work or live in, but I do need a better argument than it’s just ‘old’.
“We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.” – Winston Churchill