Myths and Misconceptions About Historic Preservation

Myths and Misconceptions About Historic Preservation

With a complex process like historic preservation comes misunderstandings, especially for property owners who are new to the process and all that it entails. Individuals jump at utilizing information that they found through a cursory Google search instead of doing a more thorough search and finding something better, and as a result frequently hold incorrect or oversimplified views about the historic preservation process, from insurance to costs. Ken Bernstein came up with a list of the top ten myths and misconceptions about historic preservation, and understanding these inaccuracies and where they come from can be beneficial for both historic property owners as well as the insurance agents who work with clients to protect these properties.

If it’s designated as a historic landmark, it is protected forever and can never be demolished.

While a historic property is a little more protected through reviews of demolition proposals, this doesn’t mean it can’t be demolished at all. It’s easier in some states to demolish historic properties than others.

Historic designation will reduce property values.

Studies have shown quite the opposite, meaning that investing in preservation is a sound idea.

If my property becomes a historic site, it can’t be changed in anyway, and I don’t want it to become a museum.

You can make major changes to a site, don’t worry. The tool to manage change is the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.

Preservation is for the rich and elite, and for high-style buildings.

Preservation is for everyone and goes far beyond museums these days. Things of focus include architectural landmarks and smaller sites of social and cultural significance.

Historic preservation is bad for business.

Historic preservation brings in a boost to the economy, as well as bringing in a business attraction to a community. An example of this would be San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, or the more southern historic district of Charleston. Heritage tourism is big, and people thoroughly enjoy it.  The National Main Street Center has proven that preservation-based programs have created over 231,000 new jobs and resulted in over $17 billion in reinvestment to date.

It’s more expensive than new construction.

While true at times, it’s actually mainly cost-effective, if anything. Upgrades are less expensive than building an entirely new place.

Buying a historic property means there’s a lot of government money available to fix it up.

This isn’t true. What is available is tax incentives for private owners of historic buildings.

Old buildings are less safe.

While structural retrofits might be needed sometimes, these builds are no more or less safe than any other modern properties.

Preservation is an un-American violation of property rights.

Historic preservation laws simply don’t infringe on any other laws. There’s nothing to worry about. Additionally, there are zoning laws that’ll prevent you replacing a small home with a mansion or apartment building. Some laws, like this one, were put in place to prevent major changes from happening in your backyard.

Preservationists are only fighting new development, solely caring about the past.

While historic preservationists do care about the past, they aren’t about stopping change entirely. It’s not trying to stifle new, creative architecture and modern development. Preservation helps retain the best of shared heritage by preserving a site, revitalizing a neighborhood, jumpstarting the economy and creating a better community.