“To build a world out of rocks and chaos.” – Chuck Palahniuk
Anyone who has ventured to any number of other downtown areas would have noticed that historic preservation fosters diversity among tenants. These historic locations encourage small businesses and are a boon to the economy of the community through mixed usage, which promotes conversation and community involvement. Built of quality materials that have stood the test of time, old buildings were constructed to take advantage of the specific, natural landscape of their surroundings. The original architects considered orientation to provide natural light, sufficient awnings to provide cover, proper ventilation, and character. These building elements only work well today when they are not destroyed and defaced through careless owners, contractors, or individuals. Old buildings can also be outfitted with modern technology to make them even more energy efficient, which adds to the money-saving measures because reusing historic buildings costs less than building a new one. Needless to say, the value of historic preservation adds to the surrounding community and differentiates one town from another in this age of disposable, cloned big box stores and gated communities.
“George Washington Slept Here”
Historic preservation is the key to downtown revitalization and promotes a national identity. Preserving the structures of yesteryear in America (and Van Alstyne, Texas) began as a result of people wanting to preserve Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, and other places associated with the American Revolution. Such action does not ignite in a vacuum but occurs when people join together and act upon the importance of preservation, restoration, or remodeling historic buildings. Had former generations not acted upon the foresight to preserve Mount Vernon, Monticello, or The Old State House, these places could not be experienced today. Can anyone imagine Texas without the Alamo chapel? It was once at risk of the wrecking ball. Preservation is not a thing of the past, but something to be practiced in the present for the benefit of the future.
“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” – Ray Bradbury
History doesn’t only exist in books. History is also recorded in buildings and is where it truly comes in contact with the present. When these buildings are left in disrepair, their facades remodeled to reflect today’s tastes, or simply demolished, it is as though the pages of our history have been ripped-out. When the people of the community are not good stewards of their surroundings then these pages will become lost forever. Eventually, the entire book will cease to exist. Here in Van Alstyne a person may walk the same flight of stairs as Wyatt Earp or stand behind the same pulpit as Theodore Roosevelt. A person may walk their dog down the same street where Wild Bill Longley was arrested, or live in a home built by a pioneer. When the cultural heritage of a town is not circulated and passed down the pages that contained the history of the town will be thrown away.