Tom Mayes

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.

Why Do Old Places Matter? Learning

Posted on: October 2nd, 2014 by Tom Mayes 15 Comments

 

Homes at Old Salem, NC; | Credit:  Usually Melancholy via Flickr,Creative Commons

Old Salem, North Carolina | Credit: Usually Melancholy via Flickr,Creative Commons

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.

People learn from old places, and they learn information that is not accessible to them in any other way. Like most people, when I think about learning at old places, I immediately think about visits to historic sites as a school child, places such as Old Salem, in my home state of North Carolina, where I remember a woman singing a Moravian song a cappella in a vaulted and plastered room, and the taste of sugar cake served at the Moravian love feast afterward. This experience fixed in me an awareness of the longstanding tradition of religious diversity, tolerance and freedom in our country. These types of visceral experiences at old places facilitate our potential to understand—and remember—complex ideas, and are available every day at hundreds of historic sites around the country.

Historic sites like Old Salem have an express educational mission, and have developed interpretive programs that are designed to teach history, using an old place as the educational tool.1 In the earlier essay on History, I emphasized that history can be understood at the real place where history actually happened in a way that it can’t be understood through documents and books alone. Education is a traditional role for historic preservation, and is one of the main reasons expressed for why historic preservation is supported through laws and public policy. This traditional and invaluable—and undervalued—educational activity continues to be a primary reason for valuing and saving old places.2 As Callie Hawkins, associate director of Programs at President Lincoln's Cottage and Soldier’s Home National Monument put it, “Educators at historic sites put considerable time and effort into planning programs that reinforce local and national learning standards. These standards-based programs demonstrate to classroom teachers that time spent out of the classroom is time well spent. Most importantly, though, this type of informal learning environment helps cultivate in students a deep appreciation of how the past informs the present and shapes the future beyond what any textbook could achieve.”3... 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? Creativity

Posted on: August 13th, 2014 by Tom Mayes 6 Comments

 

Creativity--Chesterwood, the estate and studio of American sculptor Daniel Chester French (1850-1931) | Credit: Carol M. Highsmith

Chesterwood, the estate and studio of American sculptor Daniel Chester French (1850-1931) | Credit: Carol M. Highsmith

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.

Richard Florida, in his studies and writings on the rise of the creative class, noted that the creative class is drawn to certain types of places, and he’s tried to identify the qualities of places that are attractive to creative people. One of the key ingredients of creative places, according to Florida, is authenticity. Florida says: “Authenticity—and in real buildings, real people, real history—is key. A place that’s full of chain stores, chain restaurants, and chain nightclubs is seen as inauthentic. Not only do those venues look pretty much the same everywhere, but they also offer the same experiences you could have anywhere.”1

Although Florida may have been one of the first to articulate the attraction that creative people have to certain places (which, by the way, he also says is a key measure of the possible success of a city in the future), it’s not a new concept. Many of the people who started the preservation movement in America were artists and writers, such as the people from the Charleston Renaissance who were key to the beginning of the preservation movement in Charleston. We find this overlap throughout the country. And artists’ colonies are often historic places that become tourist attractions, like Carmel, Provincetown, Ogunquit, Greenwich Village and increasingly, to many people’s surprise, Brooklyn and Detroit. All were places that creative people were drawn to because they were distinctive and interesting (and at one time cheap) —and because other creative people were there.... 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.