Saturday, January 14, 2012

Why preservation architecture?

I received word this past Thursday that a few neighbors of the critically endangered National Register District Aetna Springs Resort will oppose any effort to restore and rehabilitate the most important historic site in Napa County.

Whatever the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) rationale, there is no objective reason to prevent restoration of the historic resort. In Napa County we have a voter initiative called Measure P that prevents re-zoning of any agricultural lands without a vote of the people. The 672 acre Aetna Springs Resort is zoned agricultural. However, resort use of the property has existed for 130 years or so - many years before there was a Measure P.  No change in zoning has been proposed, no new buildings or changes in uses of any of the buildings is proposed, there is an existing Use Permit for the site, and the historic uses are protected under the California Historic Buildings Code and the Napa County Historic Preservation Ordinance.

The extent of the current Use Permit modification is to relocate several structures out of the Swarz Creek set-back to protect the creek; to repair the outmoded septic system and water system; and to provide for accessibility to some of the structures. The nationally acclaimed architectural firm Architectural Resources Group has prepared the restoration/rehabilitation plan according to the Secretary of the Interior Standards.

Why do I care about this, and why should you?

I care about this because I witnessed the destruction of acres of Colonial through Victorian buildings, sites and landscapes in my home town of Greensboro, NC. This destruction of the historic fabric of the community continues to this day. See the apologia for destruction of this neighborhood near the UNC-G campus. I witnessed the bulldozing of tracts of historic homes in Raleigh, NC, while I attended the School of Design at NCSU. I salvaged parts of historic buildings as the rumbling "big yellow toys" prepared to scrape sites clear of historical encumbrances. I began working on historical buildings as a construction worker while attending the University. I have lived in and restored historical homes for over 35 years. My avocation has been historic preservation action for many decades. See Napa County Landmarks' website. My vocation - architecture - has included hundreds of projects involving preservation, restoration and rehabilitation of historic buildings. My passion for preservation of historical neighborhoods and sites has increased over the decades as I have seen the cultural value of the history and physical continuity of "place". We create our own genius loci - or spirit of place - when we create places. Architecture and place-making are some of the most important "callings" of our species.

I hope that all who likewise care about place, genius loci, embodied history, historic preservation, and community will attend the hearing on Wednesday, January 18, 2012.

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