Friday, February 03, 2017

Historians against heritage?

Tear down these walls?

At Active History, urban historian Richard White argues that it is because he is a historian that he opposes most forms of heritage preservation regulation in cities.
Why then do we want to preserve and inhabit the homes that Edwardians built?
First of all, we do not, really. Owners of these charming old houses knock out walls to create fewer bedrooms (for smaller households), build bathrooms on every floor, increase the size of water-supply pipes, park (multiple) cars on front and back yards, build decks for al fresco dining, punch holes in walls for windows, insulate like mad, re-wire to permit greater electricity consumption, and so on – all of which is permissible because Heritage Conservation District designation, according to provincial law, prohibits the alteration of “any part of the property, other than the interior.” So the truth is that we want our houses to look like, but certainly not to function as, they did a hundred years ago. As a historian who knows and cares about the past this all seems a little dishonest.
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