Preservation Wars: Overview



Historic preservation holds increasing sway over how cities and towns in the U.S. grow and evolve. Its rise to power began in the early 1960s, but the groundwork was laid in the 1700s. The effects on our culture, living spaces, and lifestyles continue to play out in real time, affecting the lives of people who live in, read about, or share an interest in historically preserved neighborhoods.




The rise of historic preservation is filled with conflicts, fisticuffs, and occasionally bloodshed. It is a subject that inspires passions, spawns lawsuits, and lights up the comments sections of daily newspapers.


The topic broadens into discussions about race, politics, gentrification, history, and housing affordability. Urban renewal, HOA-imposed covenants, white flight, and the rise of the suburbs can all be traced to efforts designed to maintain community standards: a goal often intertwined and confused with historic preservation.


The U.S. Civil War served as a catalyst for denying and eventually promoting historic preservation efforts. Antisemitism played a large role in the eventual preservation of Monticello. Long before Critical Race Theory became an issue, Colonial Williamsburg came under fire for presenting a sanitized version of history by downplaying slavery.


Why are some places protected by historic preservation while others are not? What are the tax benefits associated with having a home listed as a historic property? Does preservation encourage gentrification? Why are building facades spared the wrecking ball at great expense? Is building a modern farmhouse a form of cultural appropriation?


Politics, money, aesthetics, class wars, housing discrimination, social awakenings, and worldwide architectural movements all influenced why things look and feel the way they do today. Preservation Wars will tell this story using examples curated from historical records and contemporary society.


For anybody who has bought their first house, condo, or townhome, and suddenly realized there are rules about window replacement, exterior paint color choices, or room additions, this book will explain why those rules exist.


For anybody interested in real estate development, investment, or housing policy, who may be wondering how and why we ended up with deed restrictions, covenants, and historic preservation regulations, this book will provide context and answers.


For anybody interested in the history behind the preservation of presidential homes, public buildings, private homes, and entire neighborhoods, this book will be invaluable.


The book progresses chronologically starting at Independence Hall, which narrowly escaped demolition, and covering major architectural and social movements through history. Each chapter uses a particular building or setting as an anchor point for the story.



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