13 January 2017

Going, Going, Gone -- Historic Properties Are Disappearing!

Going, Going, Gone -- Historic Properties Are Disappearing!

As does paper, photographs, people, and much more – most structures, deteriorate with time.  It’s just the nature of things.  We often talk about records access and preservation and the same for physical structures is also important – Historic preservation maps can be invaluable to genealogists.

Whereas we haven’t yet figured out how to extend our own lives beyond a certain point, it’s obvious that historic buildings and structures can remain extant for hundreds if not more years.  That said, it does take some TLC (tender loving care) to ensure their continued existence.

When buildings don’t receive some TLC, they fall into disrepair, become unsafe, and most often are then demolished.  Another piece of history lost to us.

I was reminded of this when I read a 24 November 2015 report of a Franklin County (NC) Architectural Survey Update.  Essentially, an initial architectural survey of resources was done c. 1974-5 and then 40 years later, this one.  What struck me the most is that of the previously identified 233 “resources”, 114 do not survive!  Essentially half of the original list.  Additionally, that being listed on the National Register (of Historic Places) does not guarantee survival – fortunately, only 1 was demolished, while two properties included on the list of those properties being considered for inclusion on the National Register were lost.  Though, this survey did lead me to an impressive collection of Architectural Survey Reports for the state of North Carolina.

Beyond physically maintaining historically important architecture, producing a book about a communities historic architecture, such as the recently published “The Historic Architecture of Johnston County, North Carolina,” benefit keeping the stories of buildings alive.

When digging around, I discovered that the Library of Congress maintains a digital collection, Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey … “Administered since 1933 through cooperative agreements with the National Park Service, the Library of Congress, and the private sector, ongoing programs of the National Park Service have recorded America's built environment in multiformat surveys comprising more than 556,900 measured drawings, large-format photographs, and written histories for more than 38,600 historic structures and sites dating from Pre-Columbian times to the twentieth century.”

Just as important as records preservation and access is the preservation of historic buildings. After all, those ancestors documented on paper did live, shop, work, worship, etc, in what would now be considered historic buildings (assuming they are still standing).

What is your community doing to maintain historic properties?

Has your community undergone an architectural survey recently and identified at risk buildings?

Does your state mandate historical architectural surveys?

What historic building near you has fallen into such disrepair that it was recently demolished?

Has a book about historic architecture for your community been published?

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