Tom Mayes

Why Do Old Places Matter? Community

Posted on: March 10th, 2015 by Tom Mayes

 

Tom Mayes, a 2013 Rome Prize winner in Historic Preservation from the American Academy in Rome is back in Washington, D.C., these days. But he hasn't stopped thinking and writing about why old places matter. His series of essays about his experiences and research continues here.

Old places foster community.

Caption Needed | Credit: Needed

Old places, like long established neighborhood stores provide much-needed gathering places for residents | Credit: Elizabeth Byrd Wood

One of the first people I interviewed about why old places matter was Dennis Hockman, editor-in-chief of Preservation magazine, who lives in an old neighborhood near Baltimore, Maryland. Dennis told me that one reason old places matter is because of community. Dennis described a cluster of ideas about how old places foster community, from a shared sense of place, to the storytelling that happens in old neighborhoods, to the way people meet and gather on common ground. “People matter more than buildings, than things,” Dennis told me, “but the spirit of the people—the heartbeat of the community—is in the old things.”

We see how old places foster community in the way many old neighborhoods seem to have their own personalities,1 in the way Main Streets and historic post offices act as the daily gathering place for people,2 and in the way people in some old towns seem to be able to run into exactly the person they need to see exactly when they need to see them. People are proud of where they live. They identify with where they live. They are able to run their lives efficiently where they live. They feel connected and interconnected and embedded where they live. And when they leave, they may feel homesick, as I was when I first left the Ramah community near Huntersville, North Carolina, to go to the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. I missed not only my family and our farm, but the whole familiar interconnected web of people and place that made up Ramah, from the taste of pound cake at dinners at our old, white frame church, to the cedar trees that lined the barbed wire fences at Mr. Ed Barnhardt’s farm.... Read More →

About Tom Mayes

Tom Mayes is the deputy general counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 2013 Mayes was awarded the Rome Prize in Historic Preservation from the American Academy in Rome.

Why Do Old Places Matter? Ancestors

Posted on: January 9th, 2015 by Tom Mayes 2 Comments

 

Tom Mayes, a 2013 Rome Prize winner in Historic Preservation from the American Academy in Rome is back in Washington, D.C., these days. But he hasn't stopped thinking and writing about why old places matter. His series of essays about his experiences and research continues here.

Old Places Connect Us to our Ancestors.

South Carolina Monument, Battle of the Crater, Petersburg National Battlefield, Petersburg, Virginia | Credit: Ken Lund via Flickr Creative Commons

South Carolina Monument, Battle of the Crater, Petersburg National Battlefield, Petersburg, Virginia | Credit: Ken Lund via Flickr Creative Commons

Old places connect us to our ancestors and our ancestors connect us to old places, giving us a sense of belonging and identity. Whether our ancestors came through Ellis Island and lived on the Lower-East Side, traveled through the middle passage of the slave trade to a cabin in eastern North Carolina, lived here all along in pueblos and villages throughout America, or arrived on the Mayflower and lived in 18th-century mansions in Salem, Massachusetts, the old places where our ancestors lived tell us about ourselves.

There is an enormous interest in genealogy in the United States today, as we can see with the popularity of Ancestry.com, Finding Your Roots, Who Do You Think You Are, and other television and online programs and applications. People of all backgrounds are devoted to finding out who—and where—they came from, and discovering, recovering, or forging new ties between themselves and their ancestors. Ancestry.com states that, based on a poll in 2005 by Market Strategies, Inc., 73 percent of all Americans are interested in their family history.1 In searching for their family’s past, the where is important to people, and being able to experience the where is often deeply moving.... Read More →

About Tom Mayes

Tom Mayes is the deputy general counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 2013 Mayes was awarded the Rome Prize in Historic Preservation from the American Academy in Rome.

Why Do Old Places Matter? Sustainability

Posted on: October 30th, 2014 by Tom Mayes 4 Comments

 

The lightwell at the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle. | Credit: Jules Antonio via Flickr, under a Creative Commons License.

The lightwell at the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle. | Credit: Jules Antonio via Flickr, under a Creative Commons License.

Tom Mayes, a 2013 Rome Prize winner in Historic Preservation from the American Academy in Rome is back in Washington, D.C., these days. But he hasn't stopped thinking and writing about why old places matter. His series of essays about his experiences and research continues here. If you are in Savannah in two weeks for PastForward, The 2014 National Preservation Conference make sure to check out his session on November 13.

Keeping and using old places is one of the most environmentally-sound things a person or community can do—more than building or buying anything new that claims to be “green.” As Carl Elefante, of Quinn-Evans Architects, brilliantly said, “the greenest building is… one that is already built.”1 Yet it’s my perception that society at large doesn’t yet fully acknowledge the “green” values of keeping and reusing existing buildings and communities—in fact, old buildings are often viewed as throwaways and teardowns. Fortunately, a reuse ethic seems to be growing, and the benefits of reusing existing buildings and communities are becoming recognized more widely.

In this post, I hope to summarize some of the key takeaways from the work by the National Trust’s Preservation Green Lab, the Urban Land Institute, the Green Building Council, Smart Growth America, and others2 in the hope that it will give people a brief look at the reasons that keeping and reusing old buildings and communities is “green.” But I also want to suggest that old places should themselves be viewed as part of the ecology we hope to sustain.

Here’s my quick summary of the reasons the continued use of old buildings and communities is environmentally sound:... Read More →

About Tom Mayes

Tom Mayes is the deputy general counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 2013 Mayes was awarded the Rome Prize in Historic Preservation from the American Academy in Rome.