Dickens got it right, didn’t he?
Things get better, then they get worse; we take one step forward and two steps back. Or is that two steps forward and one step back? Either way, it’s an ongoing battle and looking away, even for a moment, is dangerous.
Historic preservation is like that. Every time I think we’re doing well, that things are moving forward and the public at large is beginning to understand why we do what we do, something comes up and throws me into a tailspin. This time it was two somethings.
The first came on 2 September (2010) when the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company burned. It was originally built in 1838, is listed on the National Register and was designated a Randolph County historic landmark in 2009. Franklinville Fire Chief Kyle Dixon said at the time it was believed to be arson because there was no power to the structure. Thankfully the Picker House, Picker House Annex and Opening Room were saved; they’re part of Phase I of the restoration plan.
Still, it’s a loss — to the Randolph Heritage Conservancy, which owns the mill and has been raising money to restore it, to the family of the people who once worked there (the mill ceased manufacturing in the 1970s) and to the people of Randolph County. A part of our heritage was lost that morning to someone else’s carelessness.
The second came from partway across the country, from Waukesha, Wisconsin. The local Landmarks Commission and local YMCA are battling over the fate of 1929 Tudor Revival gas station. Yes, you read that part correctly; once upon a time, gas stations were often built to mimic the residences in the neighborhood (a practice that, in my opinion, should never have gone out of style). While certainly less tragic, it hit me hard — not because I have any connections to the place or champion early 20th century gas stations, but because I thought we as a society had come further than that. I thought we were learning to compromise.