The Economic Case for Preservation

Shelburne, Nova Scotia

Municipalities that support historic preservation initiatives have bought into a strategy that has been proven the world over to lead to prosperity.

Protection of and support for historic buildings creates a keystone of economic infrastructure and a corner stone of community identity.  There is a richness and authenticity inherent in the craftsmanship of historic wooden, brick, and stone structures, to say nothing of their intriguing individuality.

The all-too-common alternative—and sometimes trendy pressure for turnkey sameness—can be tempting to uninformed property owners and “progressive” municipal leaders. This sameness of replacement architecture creates a dull, uninspired streetscape and a loss of sense of place—not an environment conducive to attracting new merchants and not a place with encouraging prospects for young people.  As Nick Rockel of the Globe and Mail recently pointed out, converting older buildings for new enterprise can improve quality of place and attract new talent.

Historic neighborhoods in Nova Scotia are astonishing in the degree to which they are undervalued and unrecognized as community assets.  This reality is both a huge threat and an enormous opportunity.  A threat, because undervalued properties are often seen as blighted, neglected sites that are candidates for demolition.  And an opportunity, because identification and rehabilitation of those same sites can be a catalyst for neighborhood renewal, a harbinger of a broad revaluing of local heritage, and a boon to economic activity.

As prominent travel writer Arthur Frommer notes:

There is no evidence, not a single indication, of any city that has declined commercially from historic preservation policies.

It’s worth remembering that Frommer’s  travel guides predominantly celebrate those sites steeped in individuality, history, and authenticity.

Posted by Joe Jul 05, 2011 Posted in Economic Sustainability, Featured Comments Off

Early Paint Colors

The Red House on the Corner

This delightful photograph and descriptive caption are but one example of documentary evidence that have been gathered in an ongoing research project at Vineberg & Fulton that serves to collect paint color references of early Nova Scotia in a database used for identifying color palettes and related paint history for different periods and corners of the province.

Mr. Rogers, a man from Shelburne or Cape Negro, has been here some time jobbing, is come to work to paint the roof of my house with tar and spanish brown.

Simeon Perkins Diary, August 17, 1790

Photograph captions, diaries, newspapers, account books, and travel writings are among a wide range of resources that have been tapped for insight into this incredibly rich area of study. We invite your assistance in this huge undertaking. If you know of any pre-1905 paint color references, we encourage you to contact us so that we might add to our growing database.


Posted by Joe Jul 04, 2011 Posted in Built Heritage, Featured, Publications & Research Comments Off

Historic Landscapes

Bay View Park, Yarmouth

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,  stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic.

Evangeline, H.W. Longfellow

Historic landscapes are an often overlooked part of our cultural heritage. While it may be easy for the general public to recognize a historic landscape such as Grand-Pré, the public only understands the importance of such a site because of the extensive interpretation and pervasive education that mark it as significant (and because of the unrelenting heart of Gabriel Lajeunesse).

What of those sites that do not yet benefit from the protecting cloak of site interpretation and public education? What of traditional Mi’kmaq flintknapping sites? What of the stone and iron work in historic cemeteries? What of sites where public hangings took place? Or of individual trees or rocks that once held a place of cultural meaning in local lore?

Parks, bridges, canals, commons, roads, dykes, sports fields, and other “built” landscapes can be so ubiquitous that we almost don’t recognize their significance. Sometimes it takes someone from “away” to point out the uniqueness of a place. Sometimes a place can appear to be so unchanging, so constant, that locals do not fear it losing its heritage value. Heritage value though is not always eradicated by an early morning excavator; it can also be forfeited slowly over generations.


Prince Street, Truro

By now you are beginning to get an inkling of where this commentary is headed. Everything should be turned into a museum so that history huggers have a place to take (and indoctrinate) their children. Nope! Turning everything into a museum is of course not the answer; nor is it the objective of those engaged in historic preservation. It is in fact, ‘continuous use’ that is often the best preserver of all. It is important though that sites are thoroughly researched and documented and appropriate management plans put in place.

The ongoing preservation of cultural landscapes provides scenic, economic, recreational, ecological, and educational opportunities for Nova Scotians and visitors. Such sites provided early residents with a sense of place and have the ability to continue doing so for many years to come.

Posted by Joe Jul 03, 2011 Posted in Cultural Landscapes, Featured Comments Off