I know this is probably a loaded question, but at some point as preservationists we have to admit that we cannot save everything. And for those opposed to preservation who make the comment that "you cannot save everything,"-- Don't worry, we won't. Far far too much is already lost.
But looking at the cold hard fact that yes, we must tear down some of our buildings at some point I grapple with the question of at what point is a building not worth saving anymore? This is a very hard line to draw--it certainly is not black and white.
Is it when the building is literally falling down in a heap of materials?
|This house may be deteriorated, but it is not beyond repair and restoration. However, its type is common throughout rural North Carolina, and there are probably other better examples of it in it's home county.|
|an example of a dwelling that is literally falling apart and probably too far gone for any type of rescue|
Or when it has been so altered physically and functionally that it's historic integrity has been completely compromised?
|this house does not look as it would have originally been built with many severe alterations including replacement windows, enclosed porches, and changes in fenestration patterns.|
Or perhaps the building or house is a run-of-the-mill house with no distinctive or outstanding stylistic elements or historic significance?
I think the demolition of an old building can be warranted for all of these above reasons. It is certainly true many times that historically significant and architecturally outstanding buildings are sadly demolished. But the same is true for architecturally boring and standard buildings with no meaningful historical narrative or important connection of which we would want to preserve for the future. I'm not so sure we need to save old buildings that don't warrant preservation for a good reason. We can be focusing our energy on other important causes in our field.
Of course there are always exceptions to my opinions stated above. For some properties there may be a personal connection to a family and therefore that family has an interest in preserving it for their own sense of history. That is a decision that should be left up to the family.
Also, common house types that are found in historic districts may contribute to the district's significance as a whole, and therefore should be preserved as a whole. They may not be all that significant on their own but are important in defining character for a particular town and it's historic streetscape.
So, what do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts!