Historic Preservation

July 5, 2019 • Volume 29, Issue 24
Can the past escape the wrecking ball?
By Susan Ladika


The preservation movement, which aims to save buildings and other sites important to the nation's past, is facing stiff challenges. Big-city developers are replacing century-old brick and stone edifices, many that offer rents accessible to people and businesses of modest means, with million-dollar condos and glass-and-steel offices. In small towns and rural areas, old theaters, taverns and mills are in decay, shunned by those who see little merit in saving them. Meanwhile, climate change threatens historic coastal communities and river towns. To meet these challenges, preservationists are seeking investors and developers interested in converting historic buildings into restaurants, marketplaces and shared workspaces. The federal Historic Tax Credit, offered to property owners who preserve a historic structure or repurpose an older building for business use, is helping their effort. Since 1977 the credit has helped save more than 44,000 structures and generated nearly $100 billion in investments. But some preservationists worry that converting an old church or mill into trendy shops or offices undercuts historical authenticity.

A Texas Bank and Trust branch (Getty Images/Visions of America/Joe Sohm)
A Texas Bank and Trust branch occupies a century-old building in San Augustine, Texas. Many small communities are struggling to attract investors willing to renovate historic buildings. (Getty Images/Visions of America/Joe Sohm)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Historic Preservation
Dec. 06, 2019  The Future of Museums
Jul. 05, 2019  Historic Preservation
Oct. 07, 1994  Historic Preservation
Feb. 10, 1984  Historic Preservation
Oct. 04, 1972  Historic Preservation
Economic Development
Historic Preservation
Land Resources and Property Rights
Regional Planning and Urbanization
Regional Planning and Urbanization