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Get Rich by Saving Old Buildings (or, Why Is Historic Preservation so Smart)....

Updated on January 17, 2019
FengShuiStyle profile image

Jennifer is an HGTV-featured Feng Shui Master, Interior Designer, and Color Consultant with 25 years of experience, and hundreds of clients.

The Carson Mansion, Eureka, California

Saving History & Making Money

Tearing down existing infrastructures, not to mention irreplaceable architecture is not only short-sighted, it's the opposite of "going green." You destroy all the energy that went into constructing the building in the first place, and then you recreate all that energy to build a new building. Beyond that, renovation creates two to five times as many jobs than new construction.

"One might be tempted to compare the recent green wave with the rise of modernism more than a half-century ago. Planners and architects back then didn't just want buildings to look different; they also wanted to change the direction society was headed. The old ways of thinking were outmoded. Yesterday's buildings solved yesterday's problems; new buildings were needed to solve the problems of today and tomorrow. Of course, many people will recall what happened to America's historic fabric the last time we undertook a nationwide revamping of the built landscape. The result was urban renewal, and it left many of our best urban areas in tatters and many of our historic buildings in piles of rubble."

[Wayne Curtis, from Preservation Magazine, Jan/Feb 2008]

Have you ever lived in a historic home?

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Jennifer A. Emmer, Feng Shui Master, Interior Designer, Historic Preservationist
Jennifer A. Emmer, Feng Shui Master, Interior Designer, Historic Preservationist

My credentials?

I am always thrilled to meet comrades in the fight to preserve our past. I have studied and practiced Interior Design and Feng Shui for 18 years. I think my love affair with architecture started at Harvard with my "History of Boston" class. I used to love walking around Boston and regaling my friends with the deep dark history of buildings that we ordinarily walked past.

I was also engaged to a guy pursuing his Masters in Architecture at MIT, and I used to do his elevation drawings.

As for me, I went to Massachusetts College of Art and Harvard, so I saw a pretty broad spectrum of opinions and design styles. I've (interior) designed hundreds of homes to date, and have done specific restoration projects on quite a few. Right now, I'm living in an 1895 Queen Anne Victorian in the Bay Area of California, and my office is a 1901 Victorian. I'm in the process of Feng Shui'ing and designing both of them. I've also been a professional photographer, and a graphic artist at various points.

Coming from Boston, I really have no use for anything built much past 1890..... I realize that "true" architecture snobs would probably prefer the cutoff point to be around 1830. I am not that extreme. Furthermore, I LOVE Victorians. Having lived in several spectacular Victorians, I am definitely acquainted with the pleasurable difference between living in a well designed gem, and "a box". I have also lived in Florence Italy, where something built in 1850 is NEW!

I feel quite passionate about preservation, and architecture in general. Toward that end, I offer the following blog to share all the reasons why preservation is so much smarter than tearing down our past.

I have a bi-coastal boutique design firm, and we specialize in restoring and renovating historic homes. Come take a look at Feng Shui Style!

San Jose City Hall, before demolition, 1955

San Jose City Hall, before demolition, 1955
San Jose City Hall, before demolition, 1955

Denver's Lost Theater District

The Strand, 1921
The Strand, 1921

Denver's 'Theater Row'

From @CPVLIVE at http://forum.skyscraperpage.com

With the rebirth of Denver's new Theater District there has been a lot of recent dialog about the district - both pro and con. Often referenced is Curtis Street which was once known as Denver's 'Theater Row'.

I managed to pull together some old photos and commentary that will further describe this piece of Denver history as many folks, even many Denver residents, are completely unfamiliar with it. Apollo Hall was Denver's very first theater and it opened its doors on Curtis Street in 1859 and clearly started a trend. Following the 1881 opening of the Tabor Grand, numerous other theaters sprang up along Curtis Street.

The dazzlingly illuminated theatres inspired Mayor Robert Speer's promotional publication Denver Municipal Facts to tout Curtis Street between Fifteenth and Nineteenth streets as "Denver's Great White Way."

The Empress Theater, Denver, CO. Gone.

The Empress Theater, Denver, CO. Gone.
The Empress Theater, Denver, CO. Gone.

The Isis Theater, Denver, CO. Gone.

The Isis Theater, Denver, CO. Gone.
The Isis Theater, Denver, CO. Gone.

The Princess, 1922. Gone.

The Princess, 1922. Gone.
The Princess, 1922. Gone.

Tabor Grand, 1920. Gone.

Tabor Grand, 1920. Gone.
Tabor Grand, 1920. Gone.

The Orpheum. Gone.

The Orpheum. Gone.
The Orpheum. Gone.

Center Theater, Denver, CO. Gone.

Center Theater, Denver, CO. Gone.
Center Theater, Denver, CO. Gone.

Denver Theater District. Gone.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
America Theater, Denver, COAmerica Theater, 2America Theater, 3Broadway 1927Center Theater, 1910Denver, 1913Denver, 1919Denver, 1921Denver's Great White Way, 1927Empress, 1910
America Theater, Denver, CO
America Theater, Denver, CO
America Theater, 2
America Theater, 2
America Theater, 3
America Theater, 3
Broadway 1927
Broadway 1927
Center Theater, 1910
Center Theater, 1910
Denver, 1913
Denver, 1913
Denver, 1919
Denver, 1919
Denver, 1921
Denver, 1921
Denver's Great White Way, 1927
Denver's Great White Way, 1927
Empress, 1910
Empress, 1910

And now, for some good news!

Case Study in Preservation Gone RIGHT!

The Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, California

In 1884, a wealthy widow named Sarah L. Winchester began a construction project of such magnitude that it was to occupy the lives of carpenters and craftsmen until her death thirty-eight years later. The Victorian mansion, designed and built by the Winchester Rifle heiress, is filled with so many unexplained oddities, that it has come to be known as the Winchester Mystery House.

Sarah Winchester built a home that is an architectural marvel. Unlike most homes of its era, this 160-room Victorian mansion had modern heating and sewer systems, gas lights that operated by pressing a button, three working elevators, and 47 fireplaces. From rambling roofs and exquisite hand inlaid parquet floors to the gold and silver chandeliers and Tiffany art glass windows, you will be impressed by the staggering amount of creativity, energy, and expense poured into each and every detail.

This economically viable masterpiece is now San Jose's most famous building. Talk about adaptive reuse! With a little creativity, many important historic buildings could be saved this way.

San Jose's Victorian Gem

Amazing Facts!

  • Number of rooms: 160
  • Cost: (circa 1884) $5,500,000
  • Date of Construction: 1884 - September 5, 1922 (38 continuous years!)
  • Number of stories: Prior to 1906 Earthquake - 7; presently 4
  • Number of acres: Originally 161.919; presently 4
  • Number of basements: 2
  • Heating: Steam, forced air, fireplaces
  • Number of windows: Frames 1,257; panes approx. 10,000
  • Number of doors: Doorways 467, doors approx. 950 not including cabinet doors.

Winchester front yard and statue

Winchester front yard and statue
Winchester front yard and statue

Fun Facts!

  • Number of fireplaces: 47 (gas, wood, or coal burning)
  • Number of chimneys: Presently 17 with evidence of 2 others
  • Number of cars at her death: 2 (a 1917 Pierce Arrow Limousine & a 1916 4 cyl. Buick truck)
  • Number of bedrooms: Approx. 40
  • Number of kitchens: 5 or 6
  • Number of staircases: 40, total of stair steps - 367
  • Number of skylights: Approx. 52
  • Number of gallons of paint required to paint entire home: Over 20,000

Yikes! Urban Planning gone wrong!

Yikes! Urban Planning gone wrong!
Yikes! Urban Planning gone wrong!

Chinatown, Los Angeles ~ A shining example of financially viable preservation

Chinatown, Los Angeles ~ A shining example of financially viable preservation
Chinatown, Los Angeles ~ A shining example of financially viable preservation

My Book Review on Amazon

The Old Way of Seeing (And How to Get It Back)
The Old Way of Seeing (And How to Get It Back)

This book should be a starting point, and frankly, required reading for anyone interested in Architecture, Design, or Preservation. It is so bloody good that I secretly wish I had written it myself. After reading this book, I scour the countryside looking for examples of "good design". I feel I have "new eyes" now.

 

Dance Pavilion on the Pier, Venice, CA

Dance Pavilion on the Pier, Venice, CA
Dance Pavilion on the Pier, Venice, CA

Welcome History Buffs, Architects, and Building-Huggers of all shapes and sizes!

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    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 

      7 years ago from New York

      As a decorator who specializes in historic home interiors, a board member of my local landmark and historic societies, and the owner of an 1880 Victorian, I really appreciate the work you've done on this lens. We need to preserve our history and these buildings. Blessings. Your lens has been added to "Wing-ing it on Squidoo," our tribute page to some of the best lenses we've found since donning our wings.

    • profile image

      PamPeterson 

      7 years ago

      Great lens! As a historic home owner I fully support the preservation of these beautiful buildings.

    • profile image

      Ali_Baba 

      7 years ago

      I cannot believe that Denver's amazing theater district fell to the wrecking ball. That is a crime. Thanks for doing this lens. ~ Alison

    • profile image

      editionh 

      10 years ago

      Great lens,I agree the economic reasons for preservation of historic buildings are neglected to often.

    • profile image

      Motocross_Life 

      10 years ago

      Your lens should be mandatory reading in architecture class.....

    • Tiddledeewinks LM profile image

      Tiddledeewinks LM 

      10 years ago

      I love old houses, and agree they should be preserved! Nice informational lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      10 years ago

      nice lens! i found out some good information regarding on preservation of old buildings.I also want to share to you information about electrician house.Please drop by. Thanks!

    • profile image

      jagiyadav 

      10 years ago

      good lens..excellent information on saving the historic building and its importance..the reasons stated by you for preserving the historic building also sounds good..thanks for sharing such a beautiful lens and here is the similar kind of information on Trailer buildings , an interesting site about RV buildings, Portable Buildings cabins and Trailer buildings..pls visit us..

    • profile image

      squidboo 

      11 years ago

      I love your lens! I never knew all the *economic* reasons to save old buildings. I'm going to grab your list and share it! Nice job.

      -Damian

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