Monday, April 25, 2011

Preservation Analogy

A friend of mine, and fellow preservationist, was recently rhumenating in response to the disappointing public hearing that occurred in Town Hall regarding amending the current landmarks legislation. With their permission, I am delighted to share.

Some time ago, I read a book called "The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Art Treasures Under the Nazis," and sometime after that viewed the documentary by the same name. Details can be skipped. Suffice it to say that war is hard on cultural assets.

While in the car [recently] driving along Montauk Highway in Water Mill, I remembered the book, and an analogy of sorts came to mind. The thought was that if there were a team of arsonists loose in Southampton-regularly targeting the Town's heritage-one and all would be very upset and share in the communal loss. There would be outrage. Something would have to be done, and right away, to ensure that nothing else burned to the ground.

Forget for a moment the arsonists' obvious criminality. Consider only that an army of bulldozers (enabled by what amount to over-the-counter demolition permits) are achieving the exact same 'to-the-ground' result. Strangely, though, only a few 'hysterical' (i.e. historic preservation) types bother to notice and then struggle to convey that something is terribly wrong in the land. For their effort, however, these sentimentalists are basically told that despite the same loss outcome-and while the actions of the first are very bad-those of the second are good, right, just, proper, and legal, as well as progressive for the economy and the general cause of preserving individual liberty in the face of an oppressive bureaucratic environment.

I couldn't have put it better myself. The images at the top of this post will be the next historic structures to go: the original accessory buildings on the Villa Maria site, built in 1887.

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