Forum Connect

"Systemic Racism of Preservation"

  • 1.  "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 06-02-2020 21:59
    In light of what's happening with race and inequity in the world today, everyone should read this tweet and Facebook post on the "Systemic Racism of Preservation." The author (Franklin Vagnone) is possibly putting his job on the line to speak truth to power. So far, most people are supportive of what he's doing. Vagnone has undertaken a courageous act in uncertain times in solidarity with those people who experience injustice in today's world. There's plain language here that thousands of words from scholarly articles dance around, but never quite get to stating clearly.   -Jeremy

    ------------------------------
    Jeremy Wells, Ph.D., Assistant Professor
    pronouns: he/his/him
    Historic Preservation Program, School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, University of Maryland, College Park
    http://www.heritagestudies.org
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 06-03-2020 08:53
    I think Franklin Vagnone's statement is an over-reaction. While the preservation field and individual preservationists are not immune to bias and actions that perpetuate inequality and injustice, that is hardly unique to the field. Preservation that was specifically targeted to assisting low income communities of color has a long history, at least back to the 1970s. I am proud to have been associated with the Savannah Landmark Rehabilitation Project, which was an anti-gentrification preservation program before gentrification was a recognized problem in most places. Also, communities of color in NYC, including low income communities, are often advocates for historic preservation in their communities. The real damage to historic resources here comes from rich and privileged owners and developers, whose concerns are neither justice nor historic preservation.

    ------------------------------
    Jeremy Woodoff

    Brooklyn, NY
    ------------------------------



  • 3.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 29 days ago
    Hi Jeremy, I appreciate the conversation.  You should be proud of all of the things you presented.  macon GA is also doing a great job.  I think from my perspective is that these things still exist throughout the Preservation field.  I have been thinking about these ideas so that we can openly discuss how things are working well (as you present) and then we can look those things that are not healthy.  I also think your idea that Preservation is not at fault, but perhaps those using the system for personal gain.  I would suggest that there might be things embedded within our process and profession that could not be helpful in seeking equity within our built environment.  These, of course, are simply my ideas and I don't suggest they are absolutes.  I am happy to have these discussions modified.

    ------------------------------
    Franklin Vagnone
    President
    Twisted Preservation
    Winston Salem NC
    ------------------------------



  • 4.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 3 days ago
    Alot of time people are for HPRB because they want to preserve homes in the neighborhood but are unaware of the consequences for their own homes by letting them come into the neighborhood.

    ------------------------------
    shelly parker
    N/A
    washington DC
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 06-03-2020 15:11
    Jeremy,

    Thanks for sharing this. There is a lot of good that comes out of historic preservation for all our communities, but the way we practice historic preservation in this country does need to evolve. We may have become more inclusive in recent years in terms of what we preserve, but the makeup of historic preservation professionals (and students in our programs) is still painfully exclusive. That part of his twitter post really stuck with me.

    -Eleni

    ------------------------------
    Eleni Glekas
    Boston Architectural College
    Boston MA
    www.the-bac.edu
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 06-03-2020 17:02
    For sure, there is a lot of good that has come out of historic preservation; being familiar with Franklin Vagnone's advocacy work, I think he'd agree. Most disciplines have white supremacist elements in their doctrines, however. It should be OK to call this out for what it is with the goal of rectifying the injustice. For instance, the discipline of architecture is built on a doctrine of white supremacy (e.g., nearly complete emphasis on European architectural history, over-emphasis on white architects, theory is from white people--usually men), but no one could make the claim that architecture as a whole is "bad": that's just not true, and the same is the case for HP. This nuance is important when discussing racism and white supremacy in HP. (For those of you who are interested in a critique of the white supremacist elements in the architectural discipline, I'd recommend reading "White Out: Architecture's Enduring Resistance to Blackness" by B.D. Wortham-Galvin and Jackie McFarland.)


    ------------------------------
    Jeremy Wells, Ph.D., Assistant Professor
    pronouns: he/his/him
    Historic Preservation Program, School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, University of Maryland, College Park
    http://www.heritagestudies.org
    ------------------------------



  • 7.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 06-03-2020 17:53
    Thanks for the book recommendation! At the BAC we are compiling resources to share with our faculty on systemic racism in our society, this will be an excellent addition.


    ------------------------------
    Eleni Glekas
    Boston MA
    ------------------------------



  • 8.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Ambassador
    Posted 06-03-2020 19:26
    My first thought upon reading Mr. Vagnone's post was just what he asked not be expressed, which is that historic preservation, as currently practiced, was racist in its early days, but is slowly getting better. I definitely see efforts by NTHP to move away from HP as only relating to the built environment into highlighting the history of places of diversity that the inhabitants valued even as they suffered from discrimination, inequality and social injustice. I see these efforts trickling down to local organizations, as evidenced by the historical museum in the small town where I live expending scarce resources on documenting and creating an exhibit on an African-American neighborhood that no longer exists except in faded photographs, memories, and stories.

    It wouldn't surprise me if there is a backlash to this movement away from bricks and mortar, concrete and steel, toward making heard the history of the voiceless, as it seems that in our country, as it's now constituted, we cannot move ahead in a direct path, but must swerve from left to right until a way forward presents itself.

    On one thing, I strongly agree with him: the racism inherent in capitalism. To counteract this reality is why we need a strong, well-funded public sector. Unfortunately, in the last several decades we have been moving in the opposite direction, and the pandemic is making a bad situation into a catastrophic one.  My consulting work depends to a great extent on public programs which fund repairs, energy efficiency improvements, and accessibility renovations to older homes inhabited by low income families. For the last thirty years, funding for these state and federal programs has been declining, and now may disappear completely. When that happens, only wealthy individuals and families living in older homes will be able to maintain them, move freely into and through them, and afford to heat and cool them.

    I fear that unless a drastic lurch to the left occurs, and soon, historic preservation may revert to what it once was: an appeal to the philanthropy of the rich to please preserve something of our past. Racism will play an even larger role in that future.

    ------------------------------
    Jim Sparks
    Sparks Architecture
    Glasgow, KY
    ------------------------------



  • 9.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 30 days ago
    Good Morning:
    Reading the thread from Franklin Vagnone's post, I was amused and amazed at how far we have to go to obtain equity and equality.  People have grew up from children, to practice implicit bias and is not aware of it. (ex. Black Lives Matter, the response, All Lives Matter. yet, black lives don't matter, neither does the way of life, that many are forced to live under. What really caught my eye was the statement that "there are good things for all communities). Really? There are no good things in black communities,with historic sites, or anything else that was not hard fought for, with projects taking over 15 years to manifest.  Sometimes we  really can't see the forest for the trees. Jim Sparks, I adore you.

    The Historic Preservation office in my state of Missouri, employees are cut from a different cloth. They pressed me to get that nomination in, and coached me to understand and not be dismayed if its not listed. Sometimes, it takes, 2 to 3 tries.  Loving People. Our School was nominated in September, 2017 and listed November 22, 2017.  They are amazed at me and I am amazed at them and so grateful. Franklin Vagnone's post, is accurate. very accurate. He speaks to the experience of the black communities and the historic properties that need critical repair amid very low funding options. I agree with all 9 points that Franklin made, so many attempts have been made for parity, yet to no avail.  Point #2 is very concerning. 3 & 6 are glaring and # 5 is an historical given in and of itself.

    When black and white people get sick of lies, mistreatment, and out right murder of anybody, they will take to the streets. We live from the Historical vestiges of our past. The Smithsonian Institute and the National Archives, and other countries will record the History. People don't like for their practices to be revealed, for they know its wrong and bring the kind of attention, they do not seek. If Franklin don't quit, I too, believe he will be fired.  The show must go on, History awaits. ​​​

    ------------------------------
    L Vannessa Frazier
    Howardville MO
    ------------------------------



  • 10.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 29 days ago
    Vanessa, Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I am always open to conversation about these ideas.

    ------------------------------
    Franklin Vagnone
    President
    Twisted Preservation
    Winston Salem NC
    ------------------------------



  • 11.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 3 days ago
    I want to thank you for your article. It was eye opening and explained something I couldn't articulate myself of why I disliked the notion of Historic Preservation. I especially now dislike them with so many people home for such a long period of time, we live in our homes differently then we did in 1910. How does historical preservation fit in with what is going on now

    ------------------------------
    shelly parker
    N/A
    washington DC
    ------------------------------



  • 12.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 29 days ago
    Thanks Jim.  You are correct.  My initial comment was that I know good things exist in the field (I love history and preservation!).  I just feel like perhaps elements exist that are not helpful in trying to move forward in a more equitable built environment.  That is why I am writing about these things.  I a, as always, happy and encourage discussion.  Thes things are only my thoughts and I don't propose they are absolutes.  stay safe!

    ------------------------------
    Franklin Vagnone
    President
    Twisted Preservation
    Winston Salem NC
    ------------------------------



  • 13.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 3 days ago
    This is 100% true, I see it in DC all the time. Someone wealthy and white decides the neighborhood should be historic. They get enough signatures from the white neighbors, many of black residents work or don't have time to attend meetings and sign petitions. When they can look more into it they discover it isn't a good thing, want to protest but have no resources to do that. Next thing they know the neighborhood is declared historic. They have old windows and want to replace them, go through permitting process only to get to last leg of the HPRB who says not the windows they want and can afford and they give them a list of windows they will approve and all are 10X the amt they could afford. So no windows replaced. This goes on and on and on, eventually they have to sell the drafty house with the drafty windows for below market value. Builder swoops in buys the place, replaces with the windows the HPRB wants and in march more whites into the neighborhood, which was the intent of the HPRB in the first place

    ------------------------------
    shelly parker
    N/A
    washington DC
    ------------------------------



  • 14.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 3 days ago
    Greetings All -

    This discussion is close to us here in McKnight, as our community would not even be here at all if it wWhat ere not for community activists, Black and White, fighting the power structure to maintain the livability of the community.

    However, we have gentrification pressures also, and we hear stories like Ms. Parker's, and we attribute these narrative's to good people being inattentive to what is going on.

    In my experience people want their communities to be historic in order to retain the character they are comfortable with. Then you get to the point where people are being pressured by the White power structure, including often Federally-financed code inspectors and Federally-subsidized salespeople, to "Improve" their homes in ways that they cannot afford. This creates the kind of pressures described, but only because preservationists have taken their eyes off the ball.

    What we did was reach out to less-affluent neighbors, including Black families, and help them preserve their homes at lower expense using group purchasing power. Now we are trying to work to use Section 106 and discrimination laws to question why "Code enforcement" programs becomes "Minority harassment"programs and why "Energy conservation"programs will subsidize new windows, which do not conform to the "Secretary's standards", but not energy-saving window treatments and maintenance work that does comply and has a lower "Life cycle cost" than the new 'temporary' windows being sold by window vendors to replace 100-year-old windows that can last longer than the new 'temporary' windows.

    What we need is not people carrying on about how racist preservation is, because it is not inherently racist. In fact, if properly managed it can be the opposite of racist, as it can preserve and amplify the story of accomplishment, by all of our communities, that is that actual history of America.

    Instead we need more support in preservation for those people who are not trying to use preservation as a 'Gentrification tool'. We have been doing it for decades, but get hardly any recognition. The Trust's grant program for preservation projects focusing on the African American community received far more proposals that could be supported earlier this year, so others are attempting to do this work as well.

    This is the part of the narrative that is not being told about in this discussion.

    ------------------------------
    David Gaby
    Project Coordinator
    McKnight CDC
    Springfield MA
    ------------------------------



  • 15.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 2 days ago

    Racism permeates every aspect of American society. Preservationists should be at the forefront of the BLM movement and work to come up with solutions to the gentrification issue. Repairing rather than replacing original construction materials and features is still at the heart of historic preservation. We need to do a better job of education about the intrinsic and practical value of old growth wood windows and other old house components and provide targeted assistance to avoid displacement.  

     

    Mike Cowhig
    Planning Department
    City of Greensboro

    Phone: 336-373-2755

    PO Box 3136, Greensboro, NC 27402
    www.greensboro-nc.gov

     

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  • 16.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 06-04-2020 07:16
    Thank you all for your comments, they are very useful to my studies.

    Examining how preservation as a discipline preserves and promotes violence, both structural and physical, is the crux of my dissertation. These conversations are critical if we are to evolve to a place where historic and cultural sites can be used to mediate peace, rather than perpetuate structural violence and/or promote physical violence.

    The topic itself promotes conflict in our discipline. Conflict is not a bad thing. If we are attentive, it causes us to see from different perspectives. I hope that these conversations continue so that we do not slip into complacency.

    ------------------------------
    Anne Chance
    Marietta GA
    ------------------------------



  • 17.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 30 days ago
    As one who's community has used preservation since the 1970s to empower a minority-majority community, I emphatically beg do differ.

    All of the statements can be true, and have been true too often, but that is not inherent in preservation. That is a result of the unwise actions of preservation practitioners.

    Everyone here on the planet has ancestors, and a heritage, so our job should be to help preserve and build on that.

    As we see it Preservation is the key to individual and community empowerment, as well as true sustainability, and the alternative is rootlessness and unmediated helpless subservience to capitalist interests based on Wall Street.

    I will submit more later, but goo preservationists should be building on this moment, and building coalitions, not crying about the poor practices of some myopic elitists that got away with purveying nonsense in the past.

    ------------------------------
    David Gaby
    Project Coordinator
    McKnight CDC
    Springfield MA
    ------------------------------

    ------------------------------
    David Gaby
    Project Coordinator
    McKnight CDC
    Springfield MA
    ------------------------------



  • 18.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 29 days ago
    Hi David.  Thank you for your comments.  I am sorry that my thoughts have come across as crying about past practices.  I apologize as that was not my intent.  These are things that I have personally experienced or have thought about.  Perhaps none of them exist (or never did exist) - I of course am open to dialogue about all of this.  I am just happy to be part of the conversation. Stay Safe.

    ------------------------------
    Franklin Vagnone
    President
    Twisted Preservation
    Winston Salem NC
    ------------------------------



  • 19.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 3 days ago
    I beg to differ on this. Yes history does afford us a lot to reflect on but some things in history need to be noted and not to repeat that historical moment. I think that the notion of historical preservation to often sounds like "keep america great again". Yes the intent was to sound like that other statement that is so popular now. To often HPRB work to make things stay exactly as a small group of people want without consideration of how people are living in their homes now. I live in the city of DC where some of the architecture in the neighborhoods is stunning. No I don't think you should be able to cleave off the turret in your home just because you want a more modern house, but I don't think the HPRB should stop a home owner from making changes to their home that are more subtle and they should work with the homeowner for the aesthetics they are looking for and not just a resounding "NO" as it works in DC. Much of the problem is about trying to keep things exactly the way it was in1901 and less about how people are actually living in their homes now and a lot of time, at least in DC, no work is done because the HPRB is very binary and when they do have suggestions or alternatives it tends to be worst in appearance and 10X more costly. But then again I think that is their intent in the first place

    ------------------------------
    shelly parker
    N/A
    washington DC
    ------------------------------



  • 20.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 3 days ago
    It is important not to think of historic preservation as simply being one person's (or review board's) aesthetic judgment against another. Preservation is in large part a discipline based on science, technology, and history. It is meant to preserve significant aspects of our built environment, including the history, technology, craftsmanship and memories of the lives of those who occupied those places in the past. Some people care about these things and others--probably most others--don't.

    Preservation ordinances sometimes require work that costs more than otherwise, but they also prevent unnecessary changes that serve short-lived purposes and alterations that in the long run are cost ineffective, such as the use of cheap replacement windows that last 5 or 10 years and then have to be replaced again. What is needed is a vast reduction in inequality so that occupants of historic urban neighborhoods can afford to properly maintain their houses, or robust funding assistance so that the burden of preserving these buildings, which benefits the larger public, are not put solely on their occupants.

    It is always tragic when a resident of an historic house in a historic neighborhood gets pushed out, whether for economic or other reasons. But the much bigger tragedy, in my view, has been the vast destruction of historic neighborhoods, often occupied by low income people and/or people of color, first by government action (highways and urban renewal) and now by the government-enabled substitute of the private sector, which has no problem buying up non-protected housing, kicking out the residents, demolishing the buildings, and building housing for higher income residents. 





  • 21.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 2 days ago
    Aspect of what you say are very true. I take issue with this statement "memories of the lives of those who occupied those places in the past" when this comes in to play this is what is used to move people out of neighborhoods by HPRBs. Many of the homes in historic areas of DC had covenants that specifically denied entrance to people of color, Jewish people and single women. So reflecting back to who use to live in these homes is quite unpleasant. Knowing you could only work in that home but not own it.

    ------------------------------
    shelly parker
    N/A
    washington DC
    ------------------------------



  • 22.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 2 days ago
    That's true about the covenants, and that aspect of the history of these places needs to be made clear and well-known. But it works both ways. I am especially troubled by what's going in in Harlem. The first residents of this neighborhood were white, but Harlem's great significance lies in its time as an African-American neighborhood from the 1920s through recent years. Yet today, countless buildings associated with that era and the Harlem Renaissance--churches, ballrooms, jazz joints, and so on--are being demolished because they are not landmark-protected and the sites used for expensive housing.

    To me, looking at the physical remains of history that reflects evil policies or evil people or just unpleasant aspects of the past can be very powerful, both as a learning tool and for its cathartic effect. Think of the lunch counter that has been preserved at the old Woolworth's in Greensboro. How much evil does that counter represent, including no doubt individual instances of hateful behavior? That isn't why we celebrate that physical remnant; we celebrate it because of its important role in the history of civil rights. But it should be remembered for both reasons.





  • 23.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 2 days ago
    So true about what is occurring in Harlem. That is why I think it is wrong to decide historical preservation based on a large swarth of homes via the boundaries developed by the city. Like the lunch counter you mentioned, yes that should be historically preserved, but not every building around it. There in lies the issue, yes there are building of significance that need to be identified for who lived in them or events that occurred in them, but every building for the next 6 blocks around doesn't need to fall under the premise of historical preservation. Had something like that occurred in DC it would have been wonderful for families because they wouldn't have been forced out of their homes and give up that inherited wealth that seems to escape POC. Maybe historical boards in cities and states should be on an individual building and not just stamping home randomly as part of historical preservation area. Now under the rules and regulations of people who have no idea who is living in a home and giving power to a group of people who you have no notion of what their intent is.

    ------------------------------
    shelly parker
    N/A
    washington DC
    ------------------------------



  • 24.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 2 days ago
    Special to Ms. Parker -

    You are probably very correct and there are tools that should be able to make those things happen, to preserve communities without forcing people out, which are apparently it happening in your area. 

    We have been working on these tools For many years, while experiencing obstruction from people we  feel are racists.

    Would you like to collaborate to see if some of our experience is applicable there, and develop a shared strategy?

    On Thursday, July 2, 2020, shelly parker via Preservation Leadership Forum <Mail@connectedcommunity.org> wrote:
    So true about what is occurring in Harlem. That is why I think it is wrong to decide historical preservation based on a large swarth of homes via... -replied to the "Forum Connect" community

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    Re: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"
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    shelly parker
    Jul 2, 2020 12:14 PM
    shelly parker
    So true about what is occurring in Harlem. That is why I think it is wrong to decide historical preservation based on a large swarth of homes via the boundaries developed by the city. Like the lunch counter you mentioned, yes that should be historically preserved, but not every building around it. There in lies the issue, yes there are building of significance that need to be identified for who lived in them or events that occurred in them, but every building for the next 6 blocks around doesn't need to fall under the premise of historical preservation. Had something like that occurred in DC it would have been wonderful for families because they wouldn't have been forced out of their homes and give up that inherited wealth that seems to escape POC. Maybe historical boards in cities and states should be on an individual building and not just stamping home randomly as part of historical preservation area. Now under the rules and regulations of people who have no idea who is living in a home and giving power to a group of people who you have no notion of what their intent is.

    ------------------------------
    shelly parker
    N/A
    washington DC
    ------------------------------
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    Original Message:
    Sent: 7/2/2020 12:14:00 PM
    From: shelly parker
    Subject: RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    So true about what is occurring in Harlem. That is why I think it is wrong to decide historical preservation based on a large swarth of homes via the boundaries developed by the city. Like the lunch counter you mentioned, yes that should be historically preserved, but not every building around it. There in lies the issue, yes there are building of significance that need to be identified for who lived in them or events that occurred in them, but every building for the next 6 blocks around doesn't need to fall under the premise of historical preservation. Had something like that occurred in DC it would have been wonderful for families because they wouldn't have been forced out of their homes and give up that inherited wealth that seems to escape POC. Maybe historical boards in cities and states should be on an individual building and not just stamping home randomly as part of historical preservation area. Now under the rules and regulations of people who have no idea who is living in a home and giving power to a group of people who you have no notion of what their intent is.

    ------------------------------
    shelly parker
    N/A
    washington DC
    ------------------------------

    Original Message:
    Sent: 07-02-2020 10:29
    From: Jeremy Woodoff
    Subject: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    That's true about the covenants, and that aspect of the history of these places needs to be made clear and well-known. But it works both ways. I am especially troubled by what's going in in Harlem. The first residents of this neighborhood were white, but Harlem's great significance lies in its time as an African-American neighborhood from the 1920s through recent years. Yet today, countless buildings associated with that era and the Harlem Renaissance--churches, ballrooms, jazz joints, and so on--are being demolished because they are not landmark-protected and the sites used for expensive housing.

    To me, looking at the physical remains of history that reflects evil policies or evil people or just unpleasant aspects of the past can be very powerful, both as a learning tool and for its cathartic effect. Think of the lunch counter that has been preserved at the old Woolworth's in Greensboro. How much evil does that counter represent, including no doubt individual instances of hateful behavior? That isn't why we celebrate that physical remnant; we celebrate it because of its important role in the history of civil rights. But it should be remembered for both reasons.



    Original Message:
    Sent: 7/2/2020 9:40:00 AM
    From: shelly parker
    Subject: RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Aspect of what you say are very true. I take issue with this statement "memories of the lives of those who occupied those places in the past" when this comes in to play this is what is used to move people out of neighborhoods by HPRBs. Many of the homes in historic areas of DC had covenants that specifically denied entrance to people of color, Jewish people and single women. So reflecting back to who use to live in these homes is quite unpleasant. Knowing you could only work in that home but not own it.

    ------------------------------
    shelly parker
    N/A
    washington DC

    Original Message:
    Sent: 07-01-2020 16:44
    From: Jeremy Woodoff
    Subject: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    It is important not to think of historic preservation as simply being one person's (or review board's) aesthetic judgment against another. Preservation is in large part a discipline based on science, technology, and history. It is meant to preserve significant aspects of our built environment, including the history, technology, craftsmanship and memories of the lives of those who occupied those places in the past. Some people care about these things and others--probably most others--don't.

    Preservation ordinances sometimes require work that costs more than otherwise, but they also prevent unnecessary changes that serve short-lived purposes and alterations that in the long run are cost ineffective, such as the use of cheap replacement windows that last 5 or 10 years and then have to be replaced again. What is needed is a vast reduction in inequality so that occupants of historic urban neighborhoods can afford to properly maintain their houses, or robust funding assistance so that the burden of preserving these buildings, which benefits the larger public, are not put solely on their occupants.

    It is always tragic when a resident of an historic house in a historic neighborhood gets pushed out, whether for economic or other reasons. But the much bigger tragedy, in my view, has been the vast destruction of historic neighborhoods, often occupied by low income people and/or people of color, first by government action (highways and urban renewal) and now by the government-enabled substitute of the private sector, which has no problem buying up non-protected housing, kicking out the residents, demolishing the buildings, and building housing for higher income residents. 



    Original Message:
    Sent: 7/1/2020 4:03:00 PM
    From: shelly parker
    Subject: RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    I beg to differ on this. Yes history does afford us a lot to reflect on but some things in history need to be noted and not to repeat that historical moment. I think that the notion of historical preservation to often sounds like "keep america great again". Yes the intent was to sound like that other statement that is so popular now. To often HPRB work to make things stay exactly as a small group of people want without consideration of how people are living in their homes now. I live in the city of DC where some of the architecture in the neighborhoods is stunning. No I don't think you should be able to cleave off the turret in your home just because you want a more modern house, but I don't think the HPRB should stop a home owner from making changes to their home that are more subtle and they should work with the homeowner for the aesthetics they are looking for and not just a resounding "NO" as it works in DC. Much of the problem is about trying to keep things exactly the way it was in1901 and less about how people are actually living in their homes now and a lot of time, at least in DC, no work is done because the HPRB is very binary and when they do have suggestions or alternatives it tends to be worst in appearance and 10X more costly. But then again I think that is their intent in the first place

    ------------------------------
    shelly parker
    N/A
    washington DC

    Original Message:
    Sent: 06-04-2020 13:18
    From: David Gaby
    Subject: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    As one who's community has used preservation since the 1970s to empower a minority-majority community, I emphatically beg do differ.

    All of the statements can be true, and have been true too often, but that is not inherent in preservation. That is a result of the unwise actions of preservation practitioners.

    Everyone here on the planet has ancestors, and a heritage, so our job should be to help preserve and build on that.

    As we see it Preservation is the key to individual and community empowerment, as well as true sustainability, and the alternative is rootlessness and unmediated helpless subservience to capitalist interests based on Wall Street.

    I will submit more later, but goo preservationists should be building on this moment, and building coalitions, not crying about the poor practices of some myopic elitists that got away with purveying nonsense in the past.

    ------------------------------
    David Gaby
    Project Coordinator
    McKnight CDC
    Springfield MA
    ------------------------------

    ------------------------------
    David Gaby
    Project Coordinator
    McKnight CDC
    Springfield MA

    Original Message:
    Sent: 06-04-2020 07:15
    From: Anne Chance
    Subject: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Thank you all for your comments, they are very useful to my studies.

    Examining how preservation as a discipline preserves and promotes violence, both structural and physical, is the crux of my dissertation. These conversations are critical if we are to evolve to a place where historic and cultural sites can be used to mediate peace, rather than perpetuate structural violence and/or promote physical violence.

    The topic itself promotes conflict in our discipline. Conflict is not a bad thing. If we are attentive, it causes us to see from different perspectives. I hope that these conversations continue so that we do not slip into complacency.

    ------------------------------
    Anne Chance
    Marietta GA

    Original Message:
    Sent: 06-02-2020 21:58
    From: Jeremy Wells
    Subject: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    In light of what's happening with race and inequity in the world today, everyone should read this tweet and Facebook post on the "Systemic Racism of Preservation." The author (Franklin Vagnone) is possibly putting his job on the line to speak truth to power. So far, most people are supportive of what he's doing. Vagnone has undertaken a courageous act in uncertain times in solidarity with those people who experience injustice in today's world. There's plain language here that thousands of words from scholarly articles dance around, but never quite get to stating clearly.   -Jeremy

    ------------------------------
    Jeremy Wells, Ph.D., Assistant Professor
    pronouns: he/his/him
    Historic Preservation Program, School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, University of Maryland, College Park
    http://www.heritagestudies.org
    ------------------------------


  • 25.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 2 days ago
    Absolutely, would love to coordinate and tell you of some of the things going on in DC

    ------------------------------
    shelly parker
    N/A
    washington DC
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  • 26.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 27 days ago
    Greetings,
    Although I don't post much I do read what reaches my email; sometimes, like today, when I wake up at 4am, and wanted a diversion to try to return to slumber (but alas, here I am writing a response--please be kind as I started writing this in the wee hours!).  I would like to comment that broad stroke claims often miss the mark because so many things are extremely complex, and although international, also local, which is what affects us daily.  With dialog we can learn (yeah Forum members!) and through daily actions each of us can help us all move to a better place--more kindness and we'll move faster.

    For me, HP is for preserving the built environment to keep it in use.  Anthropology and history are focused on documenting and understanding.  Museums tell the stories.  Geography documents and analylzes spacial relationships.  The arts allow people to express themselves in ways that other people may never have thought of, or just bring beauty to the world, which is extremely important.  All these disciplines, and more, have developed their methodologies and we move further when we come together toward a common goal.  HP has a history of preserving the grand, which was tied to money and easily identified.  That has resulted in significant losses, impoverishing individuals and the entire world.  We need to save and keep more diverse buildings in use, and we need to work with the other disciplines to be truly successful.

    One discipline that I have observed has having been over influenced by profit (capitalism can be a good system when there is sufficient oversight and regulation to make and keep it equitable) is urban planning.  Planning has produced good but it has also been the root of a lot of hardship on the people who can least afford to be in that position.

    In our community the lowest income neighborhoods were built next to the lumber mills (not built on the valuable land), divided by the railroad tracks, and has an intermittent stream running through.  Many working folk built their own homes often with discarded lumber from the mills, railroad ties, or even rocks picked up in the forest.  These structures were built before we had building and zoning codes and although they have stood for a century, they are often considered sub-standard.  In addition, these areas were red-lined.  In the 40 years I've been here the neighborhoods declined.

    As zoning developed these areas were identified to be redeveloped; entitlements were perfect for housing students from the growing adjacent university.  But too many students change the character of the neighborhood (parties, too many vehicles, etc.). One of these neighborhoods has been allowed to intermittently flood.   But wait!  Families have lived here for generations--families of people who built this community.  Family houses have been purchased and are being replaced by mini-dorms, which further degrades the neighborhood.  Maybe others who read this forum know this scenario, though I hope not. I find this situation to be unacceptable and have expressed this to City Council and staff regularly for decades.

    But fixing it is complex.  I founded and run a community land trust with the mission, "promoting historic preservation and community investment with permanently affordable owner-occupied homes."  I desperately want to get homes in these neighborhoods to show that they are worth rehabilitating them and to increase owner-occupancy and stabilize the areas.  But our investment to rehabilitate homes and steward their affordability forever is significant.  As importantly, would it be right to get people in a lovely home that could end up having a mini-dorm next door?  The zoning is the issue.  The desire for ever increasing density is killing our historic neighborhoods of modest historic homes that should be affordable, and where many legacy families still live, and IMHO deserve better than what they have been dealt.

    Just how complex could this be?  Our Mayor (previously a Council member so she has had some influence and power for quite a while) grew up in and now owns a home built by a family member in one of these neighborhoods.  Over the many years she has been in City government the flooding has continued and the zoning code still allows mini-dorms next to families in single family homes.  The Army Corps of Engineers will supposedly save the day on the flooding but I know their plan will be UGLY and divide the neighborhood.  The tall and large "multi-family" (call them what they are: "mini-dorms") continue to be built.  This is not to say she does not see the issues or care, just that solving them is challenging.

    The point is that these situations are complex, often have historical roots (right, wrong, good and bad) and solutions need the knowledge and methods of many disciplines.  Historic Preservation knows buildings.  Keep buildings' architectural and structural integrity, keep them in use, and work with historians, anthropologists, etc. to capture the stories, educate the public, and address the issues from their angles--because together we will get further.

    And I too agree wholeheartedly with Jim about funding!!!

    Shine the light, keep talking with each other, be kind, stay well, and keep working toward our goals for the common good.



    ------------------------------
    Duffie Westheimer
    Flagstaff Townsite Historic Properties Community Land Trust (Townsite CLT/TCLT)
    Board Member/Director
    Flagstaff, AZ
    www.townsiteclt.org
    townsiteclt@gmail.com
    ------------------------------



  • 27.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 3 days ago
    I think he is 100% right, the Historical Preservation Review Board in washington DC has been notorious for keeping POC out of certain neighborhoods and getting the ones currently there are forced out. I don't understand in the environment now that there is such a thing anymore. Imagine if Germany tried to keep statues of Nazi germany as a reminder of what everyone always says is a "culture". It would never be tolerated. DC needs to get rid of the HPRB, it is racist and it is spreading through the city by duping people into thinking they are increasing their home values but in reality they are forcing out anyone who can't afford the expensive options they will allow for things like fences or window.

    ------------------------------
    shelly parker
    N/A
    washington DC
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  • 28.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 2 days ago
    I don't think it is an overreaction at all, political scientists have written about this kind of power dynamic - Rule by Aesthetics is applicable, and the consistent factor in nearly all heritage studies is the exclusionary tendencies of heritage preservation to selectively reinforce the power of one group at the expense of others. These exclusions doesn't require bias of preservationists to persist because those biases are built into the fabric of the heritage landscape already. If you want to see it, ask yourself where the POC are in your preservation vision. It doesn't require bias to persist because, as we all know, preservation activities are all too often driven by development and growth objectives, which exclude 'undesirables' either by displacement or by targeting non-POC communities. Sometimes it's totally inadvertent, but anytime someone tries to do a project without a stakeholder survey, we should ask why, and when we do use stakeholder surveys, we should look critically at who is counted as a stakeholder. I see some projects are driven by businesses and developers who stand to benefit from their outcome, and they don't want to talk to the communities they're planning to work in at all. They must know that the vision they're selling is not one that that community will buy. The sum effect of all this is that we sometimes uncritically reproduce the landscapes that we view as "heritage," forgetting that there is a more subaltern heritage where the power of preservation can be used for social justice. Choosing which heritage vision to promote changes how we think about the value of spaces and who belongs where.

    One of my all-time favorite preservation studies, for anyone interested, is this one by Chiara De Cesari where she shows how the state of Israel has appropriated land from the Palestinians just by redefining the 'heritage' of some spaces, and how Palenstinian NGOs have responded by preemptively promoting the value of Palestinian heritage in global arenas as a response. There is a little war, all its own, in Israel where heritage preservation is the primary weapon: https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1548-1433.2010.01280.x?casa_token=PwmYI3jFr78AAAAA:Tyabd_ZDEanTDo-iS0hl1MsZ64kxkMZOPtE5Pn73AVuSI_KKMuAxtx4vNfPk62jp4OQBSIwYwjbLYg


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    Rebecca Clendenen
    Chicago IL
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  • 29.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Ambassador
    Posted 2 days ago
    I am a fan of the concept of human-centered design as promoted by the Institute for Human-Centered Design because it redirects our thinking away from design as an abstract concept that can be evaluated on its own, toward an evaluation of how humans are affected who experience and use that design. Similarly, I think the discipline of historic preservation might benefit from moving toward a human-centered historic preservation approach, thinking more in terms of the users of the product of the preservation efforts, and asking questions such as: what is the value of preservation of an historic building if only healthy and able-bodied individuals get to use it? Or, what is the value of preservation of an historic neighborhood if the result is that only middle and upper income households can afford to live there?

    In a better world historic preservation could go on doing what it does best, preserve, and it would be an adequately funded and progressive public sector that would step in and remedy inequalities that resulted from its activities. But that is not the case. Until it is, if ever, the field of historic preservation will have to decide how much value lies in preservation for its own sake, and how much in users and those who cannot use that preservation.




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    Jim Sparks
    Sparks Architecture
    Glasgow, KY
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  • 30.  RE: "Systemic Racism of Preservation"

    Posted 2 days ago
    Greetings All - 

    Per application to "Universal design" to historical preservation project, this is a wonderful idea generally, but one we should be careful about mandating.

    One of the serious problems about historic preservation as practiced is that, while the general idea is to leave things alone, which is not expensive, as practiced historic preservation can become extremely expensive, and as a result preservation is seen as a detriment to projects buildings are lost.