The Most Common Obstacles in Historic Preservation

The Most Common Obstacles in Historic Preservation

Preserving the legacies of the world is key to the wellbeing of society, but there are many things that threaten to destroy or irrevocably change the cultural landscape of the world, and stand in the way of effective historic preservation. For both owners and operators of historic commercial properties and historic insurance agents working to protect these properties through the preservation process and beyond, understanding these risks is key to preserving these properties’ historic significance. Here’s the top five most common obstacles in historic preservation, courtesy of the 2014 Watch by World Monuments Fund.


While this isn’t an issue that directly affects the states, this is an issue that’s worldwide. War and violence are causing the destruction of so many sites across the globe. One of the most notable examples in recent years is the utter destruction of the country Syria, such as the historic architecture of Aleppo.


Tourism can be deadly to a historic site. For example, Venice has been completely overtaken with a 400 percent rise in tourism over the years. The amount of tourists who filter through the city far outnumber the actual residents there. In fact, there are massive cruise ships that plow through the waterways, blocking everything and causing a distraction. Tourism is something that happens almost everywhere and we need to be careful about how we embrace it.


Just like tourism, modern development poses a threat to historic preservation efforts, with the Hudson River Palisades landing a spot on the list. The land purchased by the Rockefellers is threatened to be totally changed because of zoning laws that have allowed for an 18-story corporation headquarters to be erected on the property.

Ephemeral Value of Heritage

It’s hard to say what deserves cultural heritage as a value, especially when an area is quickly changing. In Yangon, Myanmar, a now developing country that has just escaped a dictatorship and is expanding. But the historic city center was nominated by the Watch to be properly integrated with modern society. The gas lamps in Berlin were nominated to be replaced by fluorescent lamps, also nabbing them a spot on the Watch.

Aging Modernism

Now that our 20th century buildings are starting to become worn down, they need to be preserved. But they’ve been built with already aging materials. Places like the St. Louis Arch (also known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial), which was built in 1965, doesn’t have the same kind of protections that traditional buildings do. Brick and mortar can deteriorate, according to the Wisconsin Historical Society, and the building experienced corrosion that is incredibly difficult to treat. The Chinati Foundation in Texas and the George Nakashima House in Pennsylvania are also deteriorating in ways that cannot be easily fixed.