Some Preservation Ramblings

I found our readings in Norman Tyler’s book this week to be incredibly helpful, so much so that It should be required reading for someone going into the public history field. No matter what you will run into terms such as “Section 106” review, and it wasn’t until reading this book that I feel like I have a decent understanding of what it is. I also find that grass roots groups and property owners tend to name-drop emphasis the National Register of Historic Places to defend the significance of a site. I thought Tyler did a great job of demonstrating that the NRHP doesn’t fully protect historic places.

I’ve always found the subject of “facadism” fascinating. It really brings into question the true purpose of historic preservation. If you ask yourself what is the point of protecting or preserving a historic structure or district, then that would dictate the methods in which you preserve something. If you remove everything but a building façade, does that mean the external architecture is the only reason the site is important? It seems to me that if you preserve only a façade, then the true purpose of that project would be to maintain a sense of place from the outside. This makes something like the “Red Lion Row” in Washington, D.C. ridiculous.

A perfect example of facadism here in Boise is the Mode building (which was discussed in the PreservationNation article on endangered Boise). That building was saved and maintained, but mainly on the outside which is interesting because the building is valued for what was inside, such as the Tea Room and the state of the art display functions. I wrote a pretty comprehensive history of the Mode (and some nearby buildings) for a class and a publication a few years ago, and the story is pretty interesting to follow.

In closing, I wanted to remind the class that we spend time in one of those “endangered” parts of Boise each week – the 1000 block of Main Street, which includes the Alaska Building/Center on Main is included in the article.

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