Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Preserving the Past or Freezing the Future?

Posted by bsflag2007 on Monday, March 19, 2007

Preserving the past or freezing the future?

There are a lot of beautiful and intrinsically valuable things in and about Howard County which I would personally love to see preserved – as in, not changed, saved as is. I suspect my list would differ from that of others. In fact, I suspect each of us has some variation in our list and in how we prioritize it.

Preservation Howard County has put the former Rouse Headquarters and the former Exhibit Center near the top of theirs.

I have no problem with this. The people at PresHoCo work long, hard, relatively thankless hours looking after Howard County’s past and future.

I can’t say I’m a big fan of the buildings they have put on their list. In spite of the eloquent case being made about the famous architect and the “slice of life” aspects of these structures, I doubt many folks are as interested in preserving these particular buildings as they are in preserving the scale and atmosphere of downtown Columbia.

By preserving these buildings – the aura of the area will be preserved. The scale, the pace, the tone, the feel of Columbia will be safe from change. It will be literally frozen in time.

I just returned from Massachusetts. We spent the night in the same historic hotel where we spent our wedding night a million years ago, next door to the church where we were married – down the street from the Salem Witch Museum (no jokes please)– on the Salem Common. Nothing there has changed in about 200 years. It was perfect. It was beautiful — to my eye at least. This weekend it was quite literally frozen in time.

As beautiful and peaceful as it is for me to visit, however, it is not necessarily the same for the folks who have to live in a time capsule. Property that could be developed for enormous sums of money are limited- the prospects of the owners also frozen. Renovations to equip the quaint dwellings, shops and traffic patterns with modern day convenience and appointments are nearly impossible to accomplish. While in Massachusetts I also drove the kids past my old apartment in Boston’s Historic North End and the Old North Church. No parking, a fourth floor walkup, narrow crowded streets with tourists blocking the path, just like it has been since Paul Revere’s day (ok, british troops instead of tourists). Life as a tourist attraction has it’s drawbacks. But it is still worthwhile preservation.

I just wish the buildings involved in Columbia were more “my taste”. Then I could get more into the spirit of the effort. I may not be crazy about the buildings – but I applaud the effort to preserve the feel of downtown Columbia. It doesn’t have to be frozen to be preserved. We have the technology to maintain viability and a dynamic enironment – do we have the will?

Cindy Vaillancourt.


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