Editor’s note: On behalf of National Historical Preservation Month, Each week this month, The Chronicle will publish articles relating to historical preservation on the editorial page. This week, Chronicle Publisher Noel Nash was invited by Creswell Heritage Foundation President Verlean McCoy to write his take on the importance of historical preservation.
History is alive and breathing … it doesn’t go away, even if its structures might. We all know about the temporal nature of “things” in this world – wood, hay and stubble, as it’s been written. Those things come and go, we’re cautioned, and an over-attachment to our physical world can be misplaced.
So, of course, we put greater value in the memories we keep in our hearts, the recollections of people and places, the hope of something more beyond our short time on Earth. The recent fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is a timely reminder of these truths.
We look beyond the surface level of lumber, nails, mortar, metal and the like. We want to make the things we cherish most immune to the vagaries of the physical world.
And yet …
Preserving meaningful places and structures is part of the human experience – we want to be able to touch and feel what it was like before we were here, and it’s inspiring to know others will experience the same things after we’re gone. Continuity, common experience, linking past to future are all ways we feel more connected to our family, friends and community.
For those reasons, we try and preserve history wherever we can. Heck, the western United States has an advantage; its more recent history, and there’s more of an opportunity to save historical places – right now – not later on down the road. It might be too late if we wait.
We preserve history in different ways. Old newspaper clippings, a program from a high school graduation ceremony, a pamphlet from a church or community event, photo albums ... and buildings. Each is important in its own way.
I’ve been fortunate to travel around the country and visit many preserved buildings. Vizcaya was an amazing place in Miami, about 30 minutes away from my childhood neighborhood, yet an entirely different world. And then there was Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West, along with Ernest Hemingway’s home and his army of six-toed cats.
In Alabama, everything from Civil War sites to key moments associated with Civil Rights are well-preserved. Utah’s national parks are well-known, and so are its historic church buildings. Texas also had plenty of great treasures to visit, including the Alamo and the original Dr Pepper bottling plant in Waco.
Living in the northeast exposed Dee Dee and me to some of the oldest buildings and historically significant monuments. The town we lived in was founded in 1670, 106 years before the Declaration of Independence. It was a thrill to visit Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston, a place my dad talked about visiting when he was a kid growing up.
Closer to home now, it’s great to see Creswell’s Old Schoolhouse being restored. I’ve read the history on it, and the efforts to save it, and spoke with several longtime residents – people who represented both sides of the issue before the Old Schoolhouse was saved. It’s noteworthy that not one regretted saving this monument.
Permanence, where we can find it, is a worthy endeavor.