Thankful for Historic Places

Since it is Thanksgiving week, I thought it only appropriate to add historic preservation to the list of things we can be thankful for (have you written to your senators to save the historic tax credit?). Today, I’m featuring five places historic preservation has brought me over the years and what I learned from them.

At the National Trust for Historic Preservation conference in Chicago last week, Richard Driehaus said that historic buildings are like grandparents: they tell us more about who we are and where we came from. As you gather with family and friends this week, maybe give some extra thanks to both the people and the buildings that have made you who you are.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Historic preservation has made me look at familiar places in a whole new light. I grew up visiting Reno’s Fleischmann Planetarium and would approach it eager for what it held inside. Now it is the outside that fascinates me, the swooping roof and its curious facade that suggests what is going on inside has more to do what is outside than you may think. (Read more: The Building That Reached for the Stars.)


I never gave a second thought to Modernism growing up, but in grad school I gained a reputation as the supporter of Midcentury Modern design. Perhaps spurred on in part by my work with the Modern Downtown Reno Library, I grew an appreciation for the style that was only reinforced by a Midcentury Modern tour I took in Houston last year (pictured above). There’s something to be said for thinking outside the box… or walls! (Read more: Midcentury Modern Houston.)


The Nuclear Reactor Building at the University of Washington is no longer standing, but it remains my favorite Brutalist building anywhere. Talk about styles that are hard to like–Brutalism has it the hardest of all these days. But who can’t appreciate this little gem?! The glass walls seem to float the concrete above. It is an impressive building with an impressive history. (Read more: Saying Goodbye to the Nuclear Reactor Building and Nuclear Reactor Building–Unique 1961 Building Threatened with Demolition.)


Historic preservation has taught me that history and stories are everywhere, if you look close enough. Historic preservation isn’t limited to buildings! It is sometimes the other features that intrigue the most. The beautiful balustrade on Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard, for example. It’s much more than just a pretty railing. (Read more: Tampa’s Historic Bayshore Boulevard.)

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More than anything else, historic preservation has taught me to keep my eyes open (and always read the plaque). You never know what you might find! Across Chicago, I come across familiar features and names at an almost ridiculous rate. On a walk through Lincoln Park I was amazed to find a historic bathroom bearing the name of an architect whom I’d actually heard of.  (Read more: Spotted–Joseph Lyman Silsbee in Lincoln Park.)

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