Tom Mayes

Why Do Old Places Matter? Economics

Posted on: April 16th, 2015 by Tom Mayes 3 Comments

 

Editor's Note: Click here for full coverage on the Why Do Old Places Matter? series including the Spring 2015 issue of Forum Journal.

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 concludes here. Check back next week for information on the spring 2015 issue of Forum Journal which looks at "Why Do Old Places Matter?" from a variety of different perspectives.

View of downtown Athens, GA | Credit: National Trust for Historic Preservation

View of downtown Athens, Georgia.| Credit: National Trust for Historic Preservation

Old places support a sound, sustainable and vibrant economy.

In writing this series of essays about why old places matter, I have intentionally saved the discussion of how old places support a sustainable and vibrant economy to the last. Why? Because the other fundamental reasons for keeping, using, reusing and preserving old places are given short shrift, and professional preservationists often jump right to the argument that saving old places is economically beneficial, assuming that the economic argument is the only one decision-makers will want to hear. But it seems to me that starting a discussion about the importance of saving an old place with the economic rationale, immediately positions people who care about old places on the defensive, as if old places are only worth keeping for economic reasons or if they can justify themselves economically. And often the economic justification is assessed by narrow and limited economic measurements that don’t fully take the broader economic—and other—values of old places into account.1

Old places are deeply beneficial to people because of the way they give us a sense of continuity, identity and belonging, because they inspire us with awe, beauty and sacredness, because they tell us about history, ancestry and learning, and because they foster healthy, sustainable communities. Not all of these “non-use values,” can (yet) be fully measured economically—although increasingly, people are trying. Keeping and using old places is good for people for those reasons even if the historic places can’t fully pay for themselves or if they require subsidies or other public support. Fortunately, there seems to be a growing desire to measure and weigh “non-use values,” as economists call these not-easily-measurable values.... 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? Community

Posted on: March 10th, 2015 by Tom Mayes

 

Editor's Note: Click here for full coverage on the Why Do Old Places Matter? series including the Spring 2015 issue of Forum Journal.

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

 

Editor's Note: Click here for full coverage on the Why Do Old Places Matter? series including the Spring 2015 issue of Forum Journal.

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.