Six Practical Reasons to Save Old Buildings

Posted by Lacey Butner on 07/17/2016

Seminole’s Main Street District is filled with historic buildings. So much history is hiding beneath the metal in our downtown. National Trust for Historic Preservation wrote an article over why it’s important to save our preserve our historic characteristic and how it can benefit our economy. Below are their Six Practical Reasons to Save Old Buildings:

1. Old buildings have intrinsic value.

Buildings of a certain era, namely pre-World War II, tend to be built with higher-quality materials such as rare hardwoods (especially heart pine) and wood from old-growth forests that no longer exist. Prewar buildings were also built by different standards. A century-old building might be a better long-term bet than its brand-new counterparts.

2. When you tear down an old building, you never know what’s being destroyed.

Vacant buildings can often be an eyesore until someone sees the true beauty hiding behind the years of wear and tear.  Renovations often lead to discovering the building’s hidden gems: drop-ceilings made with heart-pine wood, a large clerestory, a front awning adorned with unusual tinted “opalescent” glass, and a facade lined with bright copper. Beyond surviving demolition and revealing a treasure trove of details, historic buildings tell us that even eyesores can be valuable for a community’s future.

3. New businesses prefer old buildings.

In 1961, urban activist Jane Jacobs startled city planners with The Death and Life of Great American Cities, in which Jacobs discussed economic advantages that certain types of businesses have when located in older buildings. Jacobs asserted that new buildings make sense for major chain stores, but other businesses–-such as bookstores, ethnic restaurants, antique stores, neighborhood pubs, and especially small start-ups―thrive in old buildings.

4. Old buildings attract people.

Is it the warmth of the materials, the heart pine, marble, or old brick―or the resonance of other people, other activities? Maybe older buildings are just more interesting. The different levels, the vestiges of other uses, the awkward corners, the mixtures of styles, they’re at least something to talk about. America’s downtown revivals suggest that people like old buildings.

5. Old buildings are reminders of a city’s culture and complexity.

By seeing historic buildings―whether related to something famous or recognizably dramatic―tourists and longtime residents are able to witness the aesthetic and cultural history of an area. Just as banks prefer to build stately, old-fashioned facades, even when located in commercial malls, a city needs old buildings to maintain a sense of permanency and heritage.

6. Regret goes only one way.

The preservation of historic buildings is a one-way street. There is no chance to renovate or to save a historic site once it’s gone. And we can never be certain what will be valued in the future. This reality brings to light the importance of locating and saving buildings of historic significance―because once a piece of history is destroyed, it is lost forever.


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