Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Need to Debunk Historic Preservation Stereotypes and Myths

Supporters of historic preservation have often been deemed obstructionists, something that probably dates back to when the movement in the US first began, in the mid-19th century. But does standing (sometimes literally) in the way of a building demolition really equate to “standing in the way of progress?”

A recent article on the Next American City “Buzz” blog draws attention to the various stereotypes that exist about preservationists. Anyone who has been involved in preservation here in Portland, OR has probably heard these at one time or another:

“here’s the gray-haired old lady laying herself down in front of an oncoming bulldozer, the guy dedicated to rescuing decrepit buildings and saving historical artifacts, and the   Not-In-My-Back-Yard types preventing economic development at every turn.”

As the article points out, there are some folks who probably do fit these stereotypes, but it is also completely inaccurate to generalize historic preservationists as foes to progress.

A January 10, 2010 OregonLive.com article about the future of the Dirty Duck Tavern building in NW Portland, echoes the sort of stereotypes mentioned above, bringing things home to Portland:

“Preservationists like many single issue groups in Portland are anarchists that believe that their way is correct and compromise or collaboration is not a process in which they want to participate. It is opposition for the sake of opposition. They are satisfied to leave the building empty as long as it serves their ends.”

Over the past 150 years, preservationists have certainly evolved. Ask one these days and you’ll find that probably most have moved away from a focus on preserving only the grandest of buildings and toward the preservation of whole communities, where architecture might not even play much of a role, except to give residents a “sense of place.” The trouble with this new paradigm is that preservationists (at least to some extent) have not brought the public along with them. The movement needs to make sure that as we look at preservation through the more recent lenses of community and sustainability that we do not forget to help people along the way, to better understand where we are going and why.

This Preservation in Pink blog post, addresses 10 myths preservationists often face. These myths need debunking just as some of the stereotypes mentioned above.

As always, we’d love to hear from you.

What do you think about these stereotypes and myths?

What can we do to better in order to break these down?

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Historic Preservation League of Oregon Seeking Nominations for Endangered Places List

A few weeks back the Historic Preservation League of Oregon sent out a call for nominations for their first ever Most Endangered Places of Oregon list. During the HPLO’s Preservation Roundtable on historic districts last summer, participants brought to the HPLO’s attention a number of threatened historic places around the state in need of additional visibility and community support. In order to learn about and actively support these properties the HPLO has assembled an endangered places list modeled after successful examples found around the country, such as those administered by the National and Washington Trusts for Historic Preservation.

The Simon Building facade and Sinnott House Building in Portland's Old Town

Like these other endangered places lists, the HPLO is asking friends of preservation to first nominate the vulnerable and valuable historic places that matter to their communities. Nominations can be prepared by anyone for any place that embodies local, state, or national history and is under some natural or man-made pressure of demolition, alteration, or neglect. Nominated places that are selected for this year’s list will then be made an integral part of the HPLO’s field programming for 2011, providing the slate of loved places with individual technical assistance and collective statewide attention.

Additional information about the Most Endangered Places program, as well as a nomination form, can be found here.

Nominations are being accepted through March 21st, with an announcement made in late May.

Demolition of the Rosefriend Apartments in 2007. Photo courtesy of Brian Libby.

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Efforts to Create a National Register Historic District in Buckman Continue

For more than a year, the all-volunteer Buckman Historic Association has been working on the preliminary phase of a National Register of Historic Places nomination for the oldest portion of this southeast Portland neighborhood. During this time they’ve criss-crossed every street within the proposed historic district, probably more than twice, in an effort to effectively  survey the existing buildings and to get a better sense of the area’s history and significance. Now that they have submitted their initial survey work to the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), it’s time for neighbors to learn more about what such a nomination would mean (or not mean) and to weigh in on the matter.

Next Thursday, March 10th, the Buckman Community Association (BCA) and the Bosco-Milligan Foundation/Architectural Heritage Center are sponsoring a discussion on the proposed historic district, during the BCA’s March general meeting. At this meeting, area residents will learn more about the pros and cons of a historic district, from City of Portland and SHPO staff.  Also speaking will be Art deMuro of Venerable Properties and Stephen Zylstra, a resident of Ladd’s Addition – also a historic district.  Questions are encouraged.

The meeting is at Central Catholic High School, 2401 SE Stark St. at 7:30 pm on Thursday, March 10th. The presentation will be preceded by the regular BCA meeting at 7:00 pm.

After gauging support for the district from this initial outreach meeting, next steps will include intensive level surveys of specific buildings and more detailed physical descriptions of the proposed district. Once that work is drafted, the project will then be turned over to a consultant who will write the final nomination.

In the meantime, if you are interested in assisting with historical research, physical descriptions, outreach or fundraising, you can contact the Buckman Historic Association at Historic.Buckman@gmail.com.

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