Forum Journal & Forum Focus

Beyond Buildings: Preserving Cultural Landscapes 

02-06-2019 11:06

To preserve Martin Luther King’s house is to preserve a building. To preserve the block where he lived is to preserve a cultural landscape. Buildings form but a part of the human environment; the land, the space between buildings, the trees and plants, the patterns of the land— the infinite ways that man impacts his world— are also parts of our historical legacy. The way our houses and apartment buildings are built expresses a sense of connection to the land— or a lack there of. It conveys a sense of connection to the past and to each other—or a lack thereof. It reflects ethnic traditions, economic means, and human aspirations— or a lack thereof.

As our understanding of the interconnectedness of man and nature grows, so too, does our desire to preserve more than man’s part of the equation. The natural part of the equation powerfully, if subtly, affects our perception of the world. The cultural landscape, which encompasses man and nature, becomes the most complete way by which to understand the past.

The Midwest Region of the National Trust shares with you these papers, which are based on sessions that took place during our regional conference, “Beyond Buildings: Preserving Cultural Landscapes,” held last spring in St. Paul.

Landscape architecture professor Arnold R. Alanen explains what a cultural landscape is and how the National Park Service defines landscapes for the National Register of Historic Places.

Americans love their scenic places and their historic buildings, but often feel that they don’t comingle. The Mines of Spain Recreation Area near Dubuque, Iowa, contains an unusual mix of land features, rare plant and animal species, and remnants of both Indian and white settlements. Historic researcher Patrick Nunnally explains how this rich mix of nature and history has defied bureaucratic classifications.

Ethnic researcher and historic preservation consultant Alan C. Pape describes how the houses and farmsteads of Wisconsin reveal the Old-World origins of the immigrants who built them— and how they can be used today to tell the ethnic story.

Edward T. McMahon, formerly the executive director of Scenic America, tells it like it is: America is saving its historic buildings and losing its landscape.

Publication Date: January/February 1991


Author(s):Linda Mack