Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Preservation Vision": Something we all need to be "20/20" on.

Another restoration (not demolition)under way
Last weekend I popped over to Findlay Market. While I was there I stopped by a friends project on Elm to view the progress. Of course at that point the back wall of the back building had been methodically disassembled. The restoration faces the West Findlay Market parking lot and as Greg and I were talking about the work going on I saw a couple exiting a Land Rover obviously on their way to Findlay.market. One of the many suburbanites who 'venture' to the market to buy veggies and fresh meats and recount their stories about going to the "Ghetto" to buy organic foods and impress their friends about how "forward thinking" they are.
People without "Preservation Vision" would just assume that this was a demolition in progress, but over the next few weeks and months they will see history reborn.

I saw the lady point to the building and the man remarked to me as they went by " I see the city is tearing down that rat-trap."

To which I replied,  "Not at all, the back wall is being restored as part of a historic restoration. It will be a carriage house and studio for the building in front that is also being restored by some people who plan on  living there".

They both looked at me like I had just landed from out of space. "Really? Someones putting money into that. Thats gotta cost an arm and leg.  They are going to live THERE? Why would anyone do that."?

To which I replied, "Have you ever been to Charleston or New Orleans? The people who bought this building have vision and realize what this neighborhood will be like in a few years."

I watched them walking away, shaking their heads, but I am sure they will have dinner party conversations about "Crazy people spending money in OTR!"

I've seen this before, people without "Preservation Vision" who just can't grasp the ideals of those who do. But I bet EVERY Week that couple looks over at that building to see the progress. And maybe my friends are crazy for buying that building? I am the one who convinced them to look at Cincinnati in the first place. Another out of town Preservationist drawn to Cincinnati by its incredible architecture and promise. But I think at the end of the day when its all done and they can look out their bedroom window overlooking the Findlay Market they will be pretty happy about their decision. Because, well,they have done this before. Impossible restorations are not new to them, or most of us, with "Preservation Vision".

"Preservation Vision" is something that most people do not understand. Certainly most of our city officials do not have Preservation Vision. They would have just as easily taken a bulldozer to this building as they have to so many all over the city. Funded by Federal Tax dollars (out of our own pockets) being used to destroy our own city so we can keep their city employees employed with those golden pension. But when those of us with "Preservation Vision" look at at those impossible restorations, we don't see the falling plaster and decay, we see wonderfully restored rooms resplendent with period wallpapers, lighting and furniture. From day one, we can see the finished product.

Restoration is going on everywhere, not just OTR. Take a drive up to Price Hill, Walnut Hills, Fairmount and you will see it, a house here, a house there, slowly transforming from "Slumlord" apartment back to single family home.
By the end of summer this  view will be replaced with a bright 4 color preservation paint job and a new period porch as another house vacant for years is reborn!

I see it in my own neighborhood of Knox Hill as I can look out my Parlor window  now and see a restoration across the street. Another Second Empire Cottage, vacant for a decade, now with neatly cut yard. The 1950's awning already off the front dormer and side windows. Soon that old siding will be gone and the original clapboards underneath will be painted. That front porch will be gone and a proper Victorian porch replacing it. The yard will be awash in wildflowers and I will have a new view from my house. For you see, that homes new owner has 'Preservation Vision" too. He is already talking about reglazing the original wavy glass windows and refinishing the floors and looking through the "Painted Ladies" book I loaned him, selecting color combinations he likes.

So as you hurry from point A to Point B, slow down a bit and look at all the restoration going on around you. Maybe someday you too will have 20/20 Preservation Vision!

1 comment:

Joshua said...

Paul - I have seen you mock suburbanites that patronize Findlay numerous times on this blog, and while I agree that some of them do deserve some ribbing (like the couple in this story), please let's not lose sight of the fact that the urban core needs these people and I for one am glad they are choosing to shop at Findlay. The people that really deserve derision are those that have not been downtown in 10+ years but love to talk about how bad downtown is and how unsafe OTR is, etc. It does surprise me that there are some patrons of Findlay that would be as ignorant of preservation as these two. I would like to think that most people who come to shop there would have more appreciation for the neighborhood.