The Eternal City—what better place to find answers to the question: Why do old places matter? Tom Mayes, a 2013 Rome Prize winner in Historic Preservation from the American Academy, is in Rome these days and is contributing a series of posts about his experiences and research. Join us for his periodic essays and add your thoughts to the discussion. You can also read more about his project in an interview at the American Academy in Rome.
Above: A view from Kykuit a National Trust for Historic Preservation historic site.
Old places are beautiful.
When asked once why old places matter, Mark McDonald, president of the Georgia Trust, exclaimed without hesitation, “Because they are beautiful!” Google the phrase “beautiful places,” and the results typically show old cities, old towns, and old buildings, along with natural places and a smattering of newer places. From the Zen gardens of Kyoto, to Bernini’s colonnade at St. Peter’s Square, to the Ruins of Windsor in Port Gibson, Miss.,—beautiful old places are treasured throughout the world as places where people experience the power of beauty.
Beauty—and the threat to beautiful places—was the driving force for many early preservation efforts. In Charleston, S.C., the people who formed the art movement known as the Charleston Renaissance sought to keep the beautiful and picturesque. As the Morris Museum of Art website states, "Alice R. H. Smith, Elizabeth O'Neill Verner, and other Charleston artists helped inspire the historic preservation movement, awakening their neighbors to the charm and significance of the city's architectural heritage, through their images. As a result, the city's architectural and cultural heritage became the focus of pioneering efforts in historic preservation.”
Similarly, in Texas, the San Antonio Conservation Society was created by artists who were concerned about the loss of beautiful places in their city. In places throughout the world, artists who care about beauty were—and are—often at the forefront of saving threatened places. Today Charleston and San Antonio now reap a rich harvest of benefits—including economic benefits—because they kept their beautiful old places.... Read More →