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Historic Preservation 101

Historic preservation is the act of continually caring for the historic resources in our community.

Historic buildings and sites are aesthetically pleasing, convey a unique sense of community and tell the stories of our past.  They make up our collective community memory.  They attract tourists because visitors want an authentic and unique experience, distinctive from “anywhere” USA.  Preserving existing buildings is the epitome of sustainability.

Preserving our historic resources affords each person the opportunity to interpret and appreciate the values and ways of life of those who lived and worked here before us, establishes a sense of place to which each of us can connect and reveals what we as a community value.  Dedicated individuals and property owners working together in the community create a tangible link from the past, through the present, to the future.

"Preservation…is not just a romantic indulgence in nostalgia. It is a physical restatement of the long-hallowed American values of frugality, good craftsmanship, and community responsibility."
Bruce Chapman, National Trust for Historic Preservation

Initially, historic preservation was oriented toward individual structures and sites reflecting patriotic values, with emphasis on establishing museums for the display of artifacts. In the 1960s, a great many of the nation’s stock of older buildings were lost to development programs and replaced by often incompatible structures. Most of these programs affected traditional inner-city areas; actively destroying established residential neighborhoods and commercial areas. Such destruction greatly contributed to urban sprawl through loss of inner-city amenities, and encouraged residential dislocation into suburban areas.

However, a new attitude has emerged in the last few years. Realization of the cost in resources and problems of urban dislocation has led to an awareness of the need to enhance and recycle historic areas; of understanding that where people have traditionally lived and worked is as worthy of preservation as are individual landmarks and memorial sites. Many building groups contribute to the unique character of communities, and today historic preservation has grown to include conservation of whole neighborhoods. Most of these resources cannot be preserved through individual efforts alone. It takes the cooperation of both the private and public sectors to ensure the retention of these irreplaceable assets.

Each one of us remembers and perhaps regrets the loss of old buildings in our hometown. It is sad to see the newspaper and filmed accounts of the demolitions of houses, churches, schools and shops we remember on Oregon’s many Main Streets and other well-known streets. Some communities were more fortunate than others, but each community could write its own "Lost History" story. Those lost buildings are gone forever and there is little point on focusing on what is no longer there. What is more important is to identify, protect and preserve the history that remains today in our community.
There are also other, perhaps more tangible reasons we should preserve our historic resources:

  • Recreation and Tourism: Historical, archaeological and natural areas provide recreational opportunities for local residents and visitors.
  • Economic Development: Historic preservation is part of a sound development policy. Restoration and rehabilitation of older buildings provide for more usable space for residents and businesses, work for local builders and increased assessed value as properties are improved.
  • Housing: Because of the rising cost of new housing and land development, preservation of older housing and residential neighborhoods is necessary. Healthy communities need the good housing provided by older, established neighborhoods.
  • Energy Conservation: Historic preservation includes recycling older buildings and conserving or adapting them for new uses. Older neighborhoods are usually closer to mass transit systems, established commercial centers and public facilities. Many older buildings require less energy for cooling and air circulation and, with a sound insulation program, can easily and inexpensively be made fuel-efficient resulting in less costly residential units.
  • Land Conservation: Recycling of older business structures and preservation of older residential neighborhoods ensures maximum appropriate use of urban areas, which will help discourage the untimely conversion of more land to urban use. Deterioration of urban areas actively encourages new development outside of Metro’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) as people move outward in search of enhanced livability.

Historic preservation provides us with a strong sense of history and identity, reinforces civic pride, and yields real economic benefits. Local awareness and involvement in preservation is needed to prevent the deterioration of historic and cultural resources that usually occurs through the accumulation of many seemingly insignificant minor changes. Historic preservation promotes awareness of Clackamas County’s significance in the state and the nation.

Adapted from: Historic Preservation League of Oregon, Landmarks Commission Workbook

Content provided by Planning & Zoning

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